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Turned parts subcontractor Wealdpark has installed an average of one Star Micronics sliding-head mill-turning centre per year over the last decade and now has 10 on the shop floor.

Phil Smith, a director of Wealdpark, believes an often-overlooked advantage of using CNC sliding-headstock lathes rather than cam-type automatics is a reduction in the consumption of energy and consumables.

In terms of production output, each Star sliding-head mill-turning centre has replaced four to five cam-type turning machines.

Using one machine to produce a given number of parts in one hit, rather than a bank of cam automatics plus milling, drilling and turning machines for subsequent manual operations, gives rise to savings in electricity, cutting oil and tooling.

This is in addition to the economies in labour costs.

Smith said: ‘I am surprised that some sliding-head sales staff do not make more of the savings in consumables that are possible with their products.

‘I suppose the other benefits of single-operation mill-turning on a CNC machine, namely easier set-up, quicker cycles, 24/7 operation, better repeatability and less work-in-progress, are so considerable that they mask the savings in consumables.

‘However, the latter have become much more important these days,’ he added.

He put together some specifics as a guide to others thinking of moving from cam autos to CNC sliders.

When Wealdpark operated 53 single-spindle cam automatics plus second-op machines, more than 2,000 gallons of cutting oil was used every quarter.

The 10 Stars use 180 gallons in the same period – an 11-fold reduction and a big money saver, Smith said.

Electricity to power one-sixth the number of machine tools is also much lower and results in further savings over the course of a year.

Fewer machines means fewer cutters overall and in addition, those cutters last longer because with CNC machines, feeds and speeds can be optimised to suit the material, process and tool.

All of these savings are on top of Wealdpark having reduced its workforce over the past 10 years from 55 to 19, while increasing output.

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