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WNT (UK) has revealed how implementing new cutting tool technology has helped Instrument Machining Service (IMS) improve its productivity and workflow.

IMS specialises in the manufacture of components for the aerospace, motorsport and precision components sectors, mainly for the after-market and repair markets, using a variety of conventional and CNC machine tools.

Many of the parts are small in size, such as nuts, bolts, washers, spring guides and bushes.

Over the past few years and under the guidance of managing director Glen Parfett and assistant manager Dean Smith, the business has undertaken a review of its manufacturing processes.

One of the biggest catalysts for change has been a review of its cutting tool application.

As part of this review IMS has made full use of its relationship with WNT (UK), as the application of modern cutting-tool techniques has been central to many of the improvements made.

Smith said: ‘Three years ago, the industry was moving forward at a very fast pace and, to be honest, we were finding it difficult to keep up with the increase in demand.

‘We were faced with replacing a number of our existing machine tools in order to increase productivity – a route that would have been prohibitive due to the cost.

‘This option was arrived at due to the assumption that our existing machine tools would not be able to cope with the demands of modern cutting tools.

‘However, it was around this time that we started to work with WNT (UK), whose advice gave us the confidence to try a new generation of cutters on the machines we had.’
The decision to look at implementing cutting tool technology to achieve improved productivity rather than the ‘conventional’ route of investing in new machine tools proved to be the right choice for IMS.

Parfett said: ‘Utilising the machines we already had by investing in new tooling, and the increases in feeds and speeds that we achieved, made a significant impact on improving our manufacturing capacity, workflow and delivery performance before we even had to consider new machine tool investment.

‘The added bonus was that by eliminating many operations by using the next-generation of tooling, such as WNT’s HPC milling cutters, the multi-function Eco-cut tools and driven toolholders, opened up many more machining possibilities, reduced non-cutting and work-in-progress time, as well as eliminating many second operations, reducing the overall number of tools required and generating additional savings.’
By attacking the problem this way, IMS was then in a better position to assess which machines needed to be replaced and the subsequent capital expenditure was much more focused.

The cutting techniques that it had the foresight to test on its older machines are now being put to even better use on the new ones.

An example of how this co-operation worked at IMS is the use of WNT (UK)’s HPC solid carbide end mills on a machine that is 20 years old.

The machine has a maximum 4000rev/min spindle and the prospect of running the latest in solid carbide cutting tool technology was a daunting one.

However, the machine is now achieving feed rates of 0.75m/min while improving surface finish, maintaining tolerance and taking only a single pass.

This willingness to test new cutting technologies is allowing IMS to maintain existing and win new business.

Another example focuses on a low-volume part that was proving difficult to machine and as a result was subcontracted by IMS.

When the volumes were increased, the subcontractor demanded an increase per part.

The result was that it was brought back in house, the tooling technology was revisited and by working with WNT (UK) the cycle time on these parts was reduced by 66 per cent.

This one-time problem component is now a profitable part for the business.

Smith said: ‘Not only is the performance of the HPC cutter exceptional but the fact that it is available with such a wide range of corner radii is resulting in major savings.

‘Corner radii are very specific in the aerospace sector as they are fracture points.

‘This meant we were spending a large amount on having cutters ground with specific corner radii.

‘Now, with HPC we can get standard cutters that match our requirements, with the added advantage of being able to achieve tolerance and surface finish with a single pass, which has reduced tooling costs as only one cutter is required.

‘This is on top of the cycle time savings that range from 33 to 50 per cent.’
Another typical application is an aviation-grade steel component that has an observation window machined into it.

Due to the interrupted cut, IMS used to require a total of two tools and five passes to machine this feature.

Now, by using an HPC cutter with the correct corner radius, this operation is achieved in a single pass at higher feed rates, resulting in a cycle time reduction from five minutes down to 42 seconds.

Along with the increased productivity also came increased tool life, with the HPC cutter machining more than 250 parts before it required changing compared with only 40 parts from the previous tools.

This equates to a saving in tooling costs of around GBP900 over 250 parts.

To keep this cutting-tool technology under control, IMS has taken the next step and installed a WNT Toolomat tool-vending system.

Previously the company had operated a conventional consignment stock system but this was not monitored or controlled very well.

Smith said: ‘Switching to the Toolomat system we are now fully in control of tool usage.

‘The system is secure, and we always have the right tools in stock but we are only invoiced on what is dispensed.’
Of particular value to IMS is the regular reporting that is provided by the system, which allows close monitoring of tool usage.

When workloads change it enables WNT (UK) to react and adjust stock levels as and when required.

The system can also be tailored to suit an individual company’s requirements as far as dispensing tools and reporting are concerned.

Individual machines, operators or components can be tracked to highlight any patterns of usage that may emerge.

With guaranteed delivery before 10:30, six days a week, for any cutting tools ordered before 18:30 the previous working day (12:30 Saturday), combined with industry-leading technical and customer support, WNT (UK) is the first-choice cutting-tool supplier for the SME engineering manufacturing sector.

The in-depth technical expertise of WNT (UK)'s external and internal technical sales team, who are all apprentice trained with extensive machining experience, provides a valuable tool for its customers. Their role is to deliver major cost savings and productivity gains to WNT (UK)'s customers. Whoever you speak to at WNT (UK) their goal is the same: award-winning customer service.

Behind the people element of WNT (UK) is its Total Tooling concept, which marries optimal service levels with unbeatable product quality a combination that makes a valuable contribution to improving the productivity of its customers. This is backed up by SERVICE², which is the energetic core of the business that moves everything: providing the right tool at the right time for the right application. This includes its Toolomat tool vending system, WNT (UK)'s cost-effective method of providing 24-hour access to tools, seven days a week.

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