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Agie Charmilles has revealed that Mikron five-axis machine tool technology is helping Salcey Precision Engineering improve productivity and performance.

In 2002, the precision subcontractor invested in its first five-axis machine – a Mikron UCP 600, supplied by Agie Charmilles.

Over the last eight years, a further four Mikron five-axis machines – HSM 400Us – have been installed at the company’s facility in Hartwell, Northants, the most recent being in spring 2009.

Salcey Precision manufactures (both positional 3+2, and full simultaneous five-axis) a range of complex parts for the motorsport, aerospace and medical sectors on its Mikron five-axis machines.

The majority (approximately 60 per cent) of Salcey Precision’s business at present comes from the motorsport sector, and it is involved in a number of engine build programmes, building highly specialised, performance-critical Formula One engine components for Mercedes-Benz and Cosworth.

The engine parts manufactured by Salcey Precision are predominantly located in an engine’s Valvetrain (essentially valves that control air and fuel flow into/out of the engine cylinders to facilitate combustion).

These parts, although diverse, share a number of common characteristics.

They are machined from solid (aluminium, titanium, stainless, inconel and so on).

They are manufactured in small-to-medium batch sizes – for example, from one-offs through to 50-off).

They exhibit complex and intricate forms, profiles and features (cross-bores, thread forms, and so on).

They are machined to exacting accuracy (typical tolerance +/-10 micron, with certain features being below 5 micron) and surface finishes (typically 0.6 micron Ra or better).

The parts will also often have extremely tight/short lead times.

Richard Alcock, managing director at Salcey Precision, said: ‘Our five-axis machines help improve our productivity and performance.

‘Complex, high-precision jobs can be set up and machined in one hit.

‘This means less workholding, fewer fixtures and reduced operator involvement, which in turn results in faster turnarounds and cost savings.

‘It also means that we are better able to maintain part accuracies because jobs are not being constantly handled and re-handled.

‘Our five-axis machines also help us avoid production bottlenecks, help improve workflow and make production schedules easier to plan and stick to,’ he added.

Salcey Precision’s first five-axis machine tool investment was a UCP 600 – essentially a standard five-axis machine.

But all subsequent five-axis machines have been ‘High-Speed’ models equipped with integrated automation.

‘Having gone through the five-axis learning curve we could see that more sophisticated five-axis machines, equipped with faster and more powerful spindles; integrated work-piece pallet changers and large-capacity automatic tool changers, could take our manufacturing operation to a new dimension,’ Alcock said.

The four HSM 400U machines that have been installed at Salcey Precision’s facility in recent years fit the bill.

Equipped with 42,000rev/min spindles for optimal stock removal, high-speed contouring and fine finishing operations and also with 20-pallet APCs and 68-position ATCs to enable long, continuous and often unmanned production runs, the HSM 400U machines have helped spearhead Salcey Precision’s growth and success.

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