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Dixons Surgical Instruments is using the Mazak Quick Turn Nexus 200-II MSY turning centre to keep ahead of the competition.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, Dixons Surgical Instruments is proud of its status as a maker of high-quality surgical instruments, and of the craftsmanship that goes along with that business.

Technical director Jay Dixon, grandson of the company’s founder Frank Dixon, suggests that the art of surgical instrument making today revolves around combining modern machining techniques with the traditional crafts of handworking and polishing.

It was back in the early 1990s that Jay’s father, John Dixon, recognised that, with the advent of CNC, many of the parts being produced lent themselves to being CNC machined prior to hand finishing.

This recognition that technology could make life easier was to see the company’s first machining centre installed, quickly followed by a two-axis CNC lathe.

The early foray into CNC answered many of the questions being posed by this new technology while, at the same time, creating new challenges.

‘Our manufacturing is based around a catalogue of specialist instruments that stretches to over 5,000 individual items,’ said Jay Dixon.

‘Our batch sizes tend to be quite small, with 20-off being typical.

‘After a while we recognised that investing in a turning centre was the way to proceed with our investment plan.’ With the decision made, the challenge was to find a suitable machine and, influenced initially by price, the company purchased a twin-spindle, platen-type turning centre.

‘It didn’t take us long to realise that this was not the ideal machine tool, as we were finding that the complex set-ups for this machine and the time involved were far outweighing the initial capital expenditure saving we had made,’ said Dixon.

With the benefit of hindsight and this new-found experience the company renewed its efforts to find the ideal turning centre.

The result was the purchase a Mazak Quick Turn Nexus 200-II MSY.

Featuring twin spindles of 26kW and 11kW respectively, a footprint of 2.8m by 1.86m and a Y-axis movement of 100mm, this proved to be the ideal solution for the compact machine shop.

One of the key boxes that had to be ticked was the machine control.

‘One of our biggest problems has been machine setting time, so the first criteria that we had for the new machine was the control system,’ added Dixon.

‘We needed something that would lend itself to smaller batch sizes and allow us to program, set and get the machine running as quickly as possible.

‘The Mazatrol Matrix control ticked the most boxes.

‘Of particular interest with the Mazak control is the fact that the conversational language made programming much simpler.’ As with all potential customers, Jay Dixon and his colleagues were invited to visit Mazak’s European manufacturing plant in Worcester.

This in turn, played a major part in the final decision-making process.

‘The knowledge that there is a large engineering team ready to provide whatever support that might be needed is a definite buying influence,’ said Dixon.

This support included programming and operator training.

The five-day programming course at Mazak was a revelation to Dixons’ employees, whose previous experience of programming training courses was to be sat in their own canteen with a pen and paper.

While service and support is highly valuable, it is the performance of the machine that ultimately decides how successful the buying decision is.

Jay Dixon has nothing but praise for the performance of the Mazak Quick Turn Nexus 200-II MSY.

‘From a productivity point of view, we are not too interested in shaving seconds off cycle times as we only produce small batch sizes,’ he said.

‘However, the savings we have made, and have still to make, in reducing set-up times will make a significant difference to this business.’ What is key to a manufacturer of surgical instruments, though, is the precision and overall quality of parts being produced, and it is hear that Dixons is seeing major improvements.

Thanks to the build quality of the Mazak machine the company is finding it much easier to machine parts to high standards.

Yamazaki Mazak Ltd

Yamazaki Mazak is the world’s largest manufacturer of computer controlled (CNC) metal-cutting machines. With over 260 different models, the Mazak product range includes CNC lathes, machining centres, multi-tasking machines and flexible manufacturing systems as well as laser processing machines.

Machine tools are called “Mother Machine” because they relate to the manufacturing of almost every product around us and are very important in supporting the base of “world manufacturing.” Our mission as a machine tool maker is to enrich people’s lives and contribute to society by developing and providing high performance machine tools that can produce high accuracy work in a short time.

We were among the first to start foreign production as a Japanese machine tool maker. Following the establishment of Mazak Corporation in the USA, we expanded our production base worldwide to include the UK, Singapore and China, as well as further expanding our Japanese manufacturing operations. We are the only machine tool maker to have established a global production system. With these local plants, we have been able to provide high quality service and have built strong relationships based on mutual trust with customers from all over the world.

True to the Yamazaki principle of supporting the customer locally, Mazak’s European Manufacturing plant, in Worcester UK, opened in June 1987 and was immediately recognised as the most advanced machine tool manufacturing plant in Europe. The factory has expanded three times since then and now offers over 29,000m2

This is a complete machine tool manufacturing plant. Mazak machines the components that go to make its spindles, turrets, tool magazines and Mazak even manufactures its own sheet metal covers. As with all Mazak manufacturing plants, the most rigorous practices and Kaizen programmes ensure continuous improvement.

Serving all of Europe’s markets, more than 80% of the machine tools built in Worcester are exported from the UK into Europe. More than 17,000 Mazak machines have been manufactured here so far and this number continues to grow every day.

Mazak European Manufacturing Plant is recognised for its factory automation, technology and overall management practices. Selected as one of the “Top Ten Companies in the World” by the Swedish Royal Academy of Science and Technology underscores this worldwide reputation.

As with all Mazak factories, this facility comprises a variety of flexible manufacturing systems, consisting of machining centres, multi-tasking CNC lathes, and a sheet metal FMS – all designed for unmanned operation.

The plant benefits from highly skilled employees who are committed to continuous improvement through the 25 “Kaizen” teams in operation.

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