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Gateshead-based MKW Engineering is using a vertical travelling column (VTC) machining centre from Yamazaki Mazak to manufacture critical parts for the Bluebird Project, which aims to rebuild the original Bluebird K7 craft that crashed while trying to break the water speed record on Coniston Lake in Cumbria on 4 July 1967.

The Bluebird Project was set up by local diver, wreck locator and engineer Bill Smith in 2005. He recovered the remnants of the craft from Coniston Lake in 2001, 34 years after the original crash. Through the project, Smith plans to completely rebuild the original Bluebird K7 and take the craft onto Coniston Lake once more.

Yamazaki Mazak’s VTC 800/30SR is being used to machine two 14ft (4.3m) floating wings to replace the original ones, which were damaged beyond repair in the original crash.

The VTC 800/30SR is the latest investment by MKW in a series of Mazak machine tools. Over a 15-year period, Mazak has supplied the company with technology ranging from basic two-axis lathes to the latest multi-tasking machine tools, such as an Integrex E-1060V.

Key benefits of product application

  • The VTC 800/30SR offers full simultaneous five-axis capability and excellent machining capacity for a variety of workpieces.
  • The machine’s additional swivel B-axis head enables the machining of complex features and contours, such as the unique shape of the Bluebird K7’s floating wings.
  • According to Rahmon Nassor, sales and commercial director for MKW, the VTC 800/30SR has been able to achieve all the geometries required for this project — more than 170 hours of machining were required across the four components produced.

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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