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    MACH 2024 Preview – Hall 20 Stand 361

    Citizen Machinery will reaffirm its position not only as the leading supplier of bar-fed lathes into the British and Irish markets, but also as a pioneer in implementing attendant technologies that take that pre-eminence to the next level in terms of innovative production. The company’s patented LFV (low frequency vibration) chip breaking software, its wealth of options for automating production, and integral laser cutting in its Cincom sliding-head lathes are three examples.

    The focus will be on Citizen’s proprietary LFV operating system software that ensures efficient chip breaking and every sliding-head mill-turn centre on the stand will have this functionality (Hall 20, stand 361). 2024 marks the sixth anniversary of the technology’s launch.

    It has had a transformative effect on sales of Cincom sliders around the world, and also of selected models within Citizen’s fixed-head Miyano turning centre range, owing to the superiority of chip breaking over that achievable with conventional pecking macros and dwells. That is especially the case when machining stainless steel, aluminium, copper, various exotic materials and plastics. There is also a noticeable improvement in tool life and surface finish due to the avoidance of recutting of chips.

    Problems arising from stringy swarf entangling around the workpiece and tool are prevented by vibrating the X and Z servo axes in the direction of cutting in synchrony with rotation of the spindle. The function, which has three alternative modes, may be used with static and driven tools. It is especially helpful in generating manageable chip sizes when grooving, drilling deep, small-diameter holes, and internal and external thread cutting.

    Sliding-head lathe tailored to medical component production

    Visitors to the Citizen Machinery UK stand will learn that the configuration of the 12 mm bar capacity Cincom L12-X ideally suits it to the production of dental abutments and implants, as well as medical industry parts in general. Multiple rear-facing endworking tool positions including driven stations are provided, as well as a Y2-axis to the X2 and Z2 movements on the counter spindle to match the three degrees of freedom on the main spindle.

    A modular tooling system has been adopted for the gang and back tool posts and an extensive variety of tooling layouts is possible, which includes the ability to drill angled holes. The maximum number of tools that can be deployed is 38. Unlike on other Cincom L12 models, a built-in 12,000 rpm motor drives the counter spindle, reducing acc/dec times for higher productivity. Rapid traverse in all axes of 35 m/min contributes further to minimising idle times.

    32 mm capacity sliding-head lathes

    Two Cincom lathes on the stand will have 32 mm bar capacity, including the L32-VIII, which accepts 38 mm stock if the guide bush is removed. It is one of four machines with exclusively gang toolposts in a modular range that allows a user to select a precise specification to suit the intended applications, while retaining the option of adding extra functionality later. The version on show will be a 7-axis model with up to 30 tools, said to have an excellent cost-performance ratio.

    The other model is Citizen’s flagship sliding-headstock lathe, the 15-axis Cincom M32-VIII, now in its fifth design iteration. A 10-station turret, which runs on hardened box ways, incorporates a tooling system employing a single, heavy duty, 2.2 kW drive to power the live cutters. The gang tool post has been equipped with live tools powered by a 2.2 kW motor, as well as a programmable, 9,000 rpm B-axis to enable simultaneous machining in five CNC axes, while the back tool post with Y-axis has adjustable-angle tooling. Three tools may be in cut at the same time, supported by the Mitsubishi M850W control with 15-inch touch-screen HMI, shortening cycle times and raising productivity.

    The lathe’s ecological credentials, as with other Citizen machines, are impeccable. The M32 is an environmentally friendly product that has undergone stringent assessment by the manufacturer. The use of easily recyclable materials and avoidance of hazardous substances are combined with Eco Function hybrid technology that automatically saves energy through the intelligent use of power during non-cutting periods.

    Triple Y-axis turret lathe

    One of the larger bar capacity CNC lathes in the Citizen Machinery product portfolio is the 12-axis Miyano ABX-64THY, a fixed-head model with twin-opposed C-axis spindles and three turrets moving over box ways for maximum rigidity. The turning centre is ideal for continuous, automated, unattended production of components from bar up to 64 mm in diameter. Maximum component diameter when chucking is 165 mm. Rapid traverse rates are fast at up to 30 m/min in Z, promoting short non-cutting times.

    The three turrets, which have 80 mm of Y-axis movement, can all be in cut simultaneously to achieve very high levels of productivity. Two turrets are positioned above the spindle centreline and are dedicated to working at the 15 kW / 2,750 rpm main spindle and 7.5 kW / 5,000 rpm counter spindle respectively. The other turret is located below and has unrestricted travel to operate at either spindle to provide flexibility for balancing front and reverse end machining operations, or to deploy a tailstock centre to support shaft-type components being machined in either spindle.

    Temperature variations around the machine are constantly measured by sensors and fed back to the Fanuc Series 30i-B control, which incorporates software to compensate for thermal movement by adjusting the relevant axis positions. In this way, displacement of the turret from the main spindle in the X-axis, for example, is reduced from 30 down to 10 microns. An in-machine tool setter, parts catcher and conveyor, and a variety of different swarf conveyors to suit the type of chip are all available.

    Double Y-axis fixed-head lathe with Fanuc control and LFV

    The first fixed-head lathe in Citizen Machinery’s Miyano range to have the company’s patented LFV chip breaking software in a Fanuc control system was the 42 mm bar capacity ANX-42SYY. It features 10 CNC axes including a ± 35 mm Y-axis on both the upper and lower turrets in addition to X- and Z-axis movements, enabling the production of complex components to tight geometrical tolerances.

    The compact mill-turn centre is ideal for OEMs and subcontractors keen to leverage the quality and productivity of a Miyano lathe and at the same time standardise on Fanuc controls on their shop floor for the sake of operator familiarity and compatibility with other machines. The 15-inch XGA (extended graphics array) touch panel Fanuc 31i control features a new Citizen HMI and incorporates the company’s multi-axis technology.

    The 6.2-tonne machine occupies only 2,650 mm x 1,630 mm of space on a shop floor. Both main and sub spindle have a bar capacity of 42 mm diameter and are powered by 11 kW / 6,000 rpm built-in motors. The turrets have 12 live tool stations each rated at 6,000 rpm / 2.2 kW / 20 Nm. Rapid traverse rates are fast at up to 30 m/min, again with high productivity in mind. This has been achieved by adopting linear guides in all axes. Commonality of tool holders with Citizen’s popular BNA range of Miyano lathes leads to cost savings for existing users of the supplier’s equipment.

    Turning and milling centre with two Y-axis turrets

    Complex components up to 65 mm in diameter may be turned and milled from bar in a new Miyano fixed-head lathe. The eight-tonne BNE-65MYY is equipped with two turrets having Y-axis travel in addition to X- and Z-axis movements. One turret is positioned above and the other below the centreline of the twin-opposed spindles and both tool carriers have 12 live stations. A C-axis on each spindle and movement of the sub spindle in X and Z bring the bar auto’s CNC axis tally to 10.

    The two-axis movement of the sub spindle facilitates superimposed machining, whereby tooling on both faces of the top turret can simultaneously cut front-end features on the bar stock and reverse-end features on a parted-off component. With the lower turret also working at the main spindle performing pinch turning, milling or drilling, for example, or perhaps OD turning while axial drilling is in progress above, three tools are in cut at the same time.

    Contributing to high productivity are fast rapid traverses up to 20 m/min, plus main and sub spindles with generous power ratings of 18.5 kW and 11 kW respectively. As both spindles rotate at up to 5,000 rpm, productive turning is maintained even when machining smaller diameter sections of a workpiece. Rotary tool specification is also impressive at 4 kW / 6,000 rpm.

    Control is by the Mitsubishi M830W, which has a new HMI with a 15-inch touch-screen control for convenient operation, including on-screen selection of the turret tooling. Intelligence built into the control simplifies programming, especially of superimposed cycles by automatically synchronising those sections of the program.

    Mill-turn centre prepared for automation

    Building on the strengths of previous generations of Miyano fixed-head mill-turn centres, the BNA-42SY is one of Citizen Machinery’s latest additions to the range. The CNC lathe is the first BNA model to have a 12-station turret giving ± 35 mm of Y-axis movement, all tool positions now being live, and a new design that lends itself to easy automation. The latest FANUC 0i-TF Plus CNC system with 10.4-inch colour LCD screen controls the machine.

    The rigid, 1,823 kg bed brings thermal control advantages. The base casting has been prepared with space at the right hand side for robotic load / unload equipment. If a user intends to take advantage of automation, the machine can be supplied with a swarf conveyor that exits to the rear as an option.

    The automation may be employed solely for unloading components that have been mill-turned from bar stock up to 42 mm diameter, either directly from a spindle or via a parts catcher and conveyor. Alternatively, or in addition, it may load and unload billets or near net shape workpieces like castings or forgings up to 135 mm in diameter. A workpiece stocker is positioned at the right hand side of the machine to accommodate the finished components.

    Mounting points have been included to provide an option to add an overhead gantry if only chucking is to be carried out, in which case a raw material stocker can be positioned to the left of the machine in place of the bar magazine. For complete flexibility in layout, top shutter and auto door options are offered.

    Use of an inverter-controlled, hydraulic unit results in a large reduction in power drawn. Standby power consumption is just 0.661 kW, as servomotor readiness is automatically turned off when it is not needed, for example during program editing. Overall energy consumption can be visualised via a power monitor window on the control screen.

    Improved production efficiency in a small footprint

    The GN3200W is a twin-spindle, fixed-head lathe equipped with a high-speed loader for high productivity. The compact machine width is 33 percent narrower than previous Miyano models and the required floor space has been reduced by 27 percent, realising significant space saving. A wide choice of infeed/outfeed devices, single or double high speed gantry loaders, transfer and turnover units makes the machine an ideal choice to meet automation needs.

    The concept when designing the machine was to prevent thermal displacement by transferring the heat generated by machining into the machine body. This is achieved by having a frame and bed with a thermally symmetrical design, backed up by a wing-type headstock and a separate coolant tank.

    FABRICATOR REBALANCES BUSINESS TOWARDS SUBCONTRACT MACHINING

    Twenty years ago, Gareth Davies started Burton-on-Trent company TAS Engineering as a steel, stainless steel and aluminium fabrication shop serving food and beverage customers, the pharmaceutical and automotive sectors, and industry in general with fire escapes, factory staircases and secondary steelwork.

    In 2014, he established a machine shop to add extra value to the products the company was shaping and welding. Today, there is a pair of 3-axis, vertical-spindle machining centres on-site and three CNC lathes, the latest of which is a second-hand Cincom L20 sliding-head turning centre from Citizen Machinery UK.

    What prompted the purchase in October 2023 of this 20-year-old lathe, the company’s first sliding-head model, was a desire to turn more efficiently components in a range of materials from bar up to 20 mm in diameter. A case in point is the ongoing production since 2020 of a 16 mm diameter, 316 stainless steel magnet holder, which is welded to a small, laser-cut and bent plate to form part of a safety unit for industrial switchgear. The turned component, of which 200 are required per month, was previously produced complete on one of two fixed-head, twin-spindle lathes (that have since been sold) in a 2.5-minute cycle.

    Mr Davies had previous experience of programming and setting sliding-head lathes, albeit from 40 years ago working for a subcontracting firm in London that happened to be the first ever customer of the Citizen sales agency at that time. The lathes were equipped with servo-driven cams and while the technology has moved on enormously over the decades, the underlying principle of operation is still similar.

    It was apparent that the steel magnet holder could be produced more quickly on a modern Citizen L20 twin-spindle, sliding-head turning centre than on a fixed-head lathe due to the faster axis motions of the gang tool carriers on the former compared with the turret movements on the latter. However, Mr Davies was surprised to find that the part could be machined more than three times faster on the Cincom, the cycle now taking just 48 seconds.

    The sliding-head turning centre was installed and commissioned in October 2023, so it is still early days. Nevertheless, four additional jobs had been won by the end of the following January as a result of having the capacity available on the shop floor. None of this new work has anything to do with the fabrication side of the TAS Engineering’s business. One contract involved the production of 1,000-off brass parts for a customer in industrial gases, which ran 24/7 for one week, despite Mr Davies being new to sliding-head lathe operation.

    The other jobs were 70-off engine parts produced from steel bar in one hit rather than in two operations on a fixed-head lathe plus another on a mill; 3,000-off heritage railway carriage brass fixing pins; and another component for the industrial gases sector machined from 0.75-inch diameter CZ121.

    Mr Davies commented, “Although all the parts are relatively simple, some tolerances are tight. The bore on one of the components for industrial gases has to be held to 0.05 mm total and the engine shaft OD must be within 0.04 mm.

    “Despite the Cincom being 20 years old, provided we run it at sensible feeds and speeds we achieve this level of accuracy easily.

    “Not only that, but we have confidence leaving the machine running unattended to get on with other tasks, as all dimensions repeat from part to part to within 15 microns.”

    He went on to mention that although the purchase price of the lathe was only about one quarter of the investment needed for a modern 20 mm capacity Cincom in the manufacturer’s L-series, he was treated by all Citizen Machinery UK staff as though he were purchasing a new L20. “They went above and beyond what would normally be expected for the sale of a used machine and the delivery, commissioning and training were exemplary,” he said. “I cannot sing their praises highly enough.”

    TAS Engineering is currently undergoing a metamorphosis whereby, while fabrications will continue to play a part in the business, in the future it will only be if they undergo prismatic machining or contain turned parts. Already this policy has seen the contribution of chip removal, mostly metal and but also plastic, in the factory rise from 10% to 90% of turnover. It is a progression that was accelerated by the Covid pandemic, when on-site visits to provide customers with fabrication services were forbidden.

    Another insight offered by Mr Davies is the formidable financial advantage of purchasing a good quality used machine tool, provided that one can be sourced, which is not always easy. His L20 had only 40,000 hours on the clock when it arrived, equivalent to having run for a single shift every weekday. It is notable that, for the jobs completed so far, repayments on finance for a new Cincom would not have been viable.

    On the other hand, paying back only one-quarter of the amount puts TAS Engineering in a strong position to quote for work very competitively, especially if it is not especially complex. Moreover, small quantities are also practicable, provided that the machine can be set up quickly. Mr Davies often uses Citizen’s Alkart Wizard software running on his laptop to speed programming and downloads the code to the control.

    Applications engineers at Citizen Machinery UK are always on hand to assist when needed. A recent instance was when Mr Davies was worried about possible damage to the steel engine shaft as it was ejected from the sub spindle. Within an hour, a response was received advising him to omit an M-code at the end of the cycle and replace it with a specific line of alternative code that worked perfectly as soon as it was implemented. “Such after-sales engineering back-up is invaluable, especially if you are new to sliding-head turning,” he concluded.

    SEVEN OPERATIONS DOWN TO TWO VINDICATES SECOND SLIDING-HEAD LATHE PURCHASE

    It is only within the last five years that Nuneaton-based subcontractor Oaston Engineering, which specialises in work for the aerospace and biotechnology industries, has embraced sliding-head turning, although it has used numerous fixed-head lathes since the company was formed in 1988. July 2018 saw the arrival of the firm’s first sliding-head lathe, a 20 mm bar capacity Cincom L20-VIIILFV from Citizen Machinery UK. It was followed in October 2022 by a second, larger model, a 32 mm capacity Cincom L32-VIIILFV.

    Oaston Engineering’s managing director Sean McCarthy commented, “We were always led to believe that sliding-head lathe operation was a dark art and that you need to produce large batch quantities, say 50,000, to justify setting them for a new run. We had been looking at the technology since MACH 2008 and a decade later, when the Cincom L20 was delivered, we discovered the myths were untrue.”

    He found that setting the machines was quick and so also was programming using Citizen’s Alkart CNC Wizard. It has a built-in library for machining processes to reduce the amount of time spent typing in G and M codes, together with internal reference material and diagrams to guide the programmer. The subcontractor’s setter / operators also frequently refer to the machine manual, which McCarthy describes as excellent. In the first few weeks, Citizen’s applications team provided help with preparation of the initial programs.

    The ease and speed with which the lathe could be prepared for the next production run meant that batch sizes of as low as 200 are economical to machine. As it happens, though, the quantities the company is being asked to produce are steadily rising. One example is a contract to mill nuts and olives for an aircraft de-icing equipment manufacturer. In 2008, the typical annual quantities required were 2,000 and 5,000 respectively, whereas today they are five times higher. Both components are now machined on the L20, with typically parts for five months’ supply produced and consignment stocked to save repeated machine set-ups throughout the year.

    Mr McCarthy continued, “We have always known that continuous investment in modern plant is essential to remain competitive in a global marketplace and we invested £500,000 in new plant over a 12-month period alone in 2022 to 2023.

    “We had a strong competitor in Poland vying for the de-icing equipment contract, but the efficiency with which the L20 produces the parts puts the business out of their reach.”

    He added that when it came to selecting which make of slider to buy, they carefully reviewed different suppliers’ offerings. Two factors swayed the decision towards Citizen Machinery. One was the availability of the LFV (low frequency vibration) chipbreaking function in the Cincom control’s operating system. The other was the knowledgeable response to questions, evidenced by the Citizen sales engineer being able to provide all answers on the spot, rather than having to refer back to head office every time. As Oaston Engineering was new to sliding-head turning, this was a major advantage.

    It was also notable that the machine supplier was the only one offering to deliver the lathe with a bar magazine that was two metres long, rather than the more standard three or four metres. This was also important to the subcontractor, as space is limited on the shop floor and there would not have been room for a longer bar feeder.

    Of the work put onto the L20 since it was delivered, 95% has been to fulfil aerospace contracts. One of the first jobs was a 303 stainless steel inlet connector, which came off complete in one hit in 3.5 minutes. Previously, four separate operations were needed. The part had to be turned on a lathe in a 3.5-minute cycle, transferred to another lathe for a second, 3-minute turning operation, undergo a 2-minute manual operation and then have a hole drilled on a milling machine, taking 1.5 minutes. Transfer between each stage took about 30 seconds.

    The overall floor-to-floor time was 11 minutes 30 seconds, more than three times longer than on the slider with its very quick gang toolpost motions. The new process route allows a considerable saving to be made in the cost of production and the parts are perfect due to the absence of tolerance build-up through having to repeatedly clamp them. It enables the subcontractor not just to hold the price of the component to the customer, but to actually lower it by 5%. As is commonly known, cost-down is a widely sought throughout the aerospace industry.

    According to night shift supervisor John Shirley, a substantial further saving is made in the cost of tools. Owing to the rigidity of the Cincom lathes and their use of neat oil rather than a water-based coolant, cutters tend to last a lot longer. For example, for the above job an HSS (high speed steel) twist drill only managed to complete 100 pieces before it dulled, whereas Mr Shirley finished a batch of 4,000 on the slider using the same tool and it was still sharp.

    The LFV function is also proving valuable. It is used on most jobs to assist breaking stringy swarf into shorter chips, preventing entanglement around, and damage to, the tool and workpiece. LFV, which is switched on and off automatically within the program, is used sparingly as the microsecond periods of air-cutting due to the tool oscillation that creates the chipbreaking action also diminishes very slightly the metal removal rate. Nevertheless, its advantages far outweigh this small effect, especially when cutting oxygen-free copper, 316 stainless steel, aluminium (often 6082T6) and plastics including PEEK, all of which tend to generate bird’s nests of long swarf.

    The Cincom L32 would have been purchased earlier had it not been for the pandemic; it was delivered by Citizen Machinery in July 2022. The subcontractor had a particular job in mind for it – the production of a light aircraft pump camshaft from 431S29, a martensitic stainless steel.

    The component, which is produced from 1.25-inch bar, formerly needed seven separate operations: outside diameter turning and grooving; milling on a machining centre; two separate turning operations in offset fixtures to machine the cams to a dimensional tolerance of 0.07 mm; drilling a longitudinal bore on a machining centre; cross drilling a tooling hole in another operation; and off-site grinding of two spigots to within 0.015 mm.

    The camshaft produced in this way required a total of 18 minutes 30 seconds of cutting time, plus inter-machine handling as well as 30 to 60 seconds for deburring and more time for inspection at each stage, all of which added up to several more minutes per component. Now, six of the operations are performed in one hit in less than 15 minutes on the Cincom before the part goes out for grinding. It had been hoped to complete the latter operation in-cycle as well, and indeed it was demonstrated that it is possible to turn the spigots to within 15 µm on the L32, but it is a tight limit that needs care to achieve and would have slowed production.

    More than 20 jobs have already been through the L32, which is also fitted with a two-metre Iemca bar magazine and standardised to the use of 30 mm diameter stock to avoid having to change collets. Some work has been transferred from the L20, easing the pressure on that machine. The sliders operating in tandem provide security should one be out of operation. Mr McCarthy stresses, however, that neither Cincom has gone down since they were installed, which is a refreshing change from other lathes on site that are considerably less reliable.

    Many components need hexagonal flats, but hex bar is never used as it would cause vibration and not be commensurate with producing accurate parts for aerospace and biotech. In any case, the driven tools on modern Cincoms are so powerful that milling of spanner flats is rapid. Oblique cross holes are required in that area of many components and to prevent the drill wandering, the milling is completed afterwards. Both Cincoms run continuously from 6.00 am on Monday to 1.00 pm on Friday, with night shifts always attended due to the nature of the work carried out.

    The two sliding-head lathes not only hold the limits asked of them but are also highly productive, so much so that time has been freed up within the factory to begin assembly work for the first time. From November 2023, the body for the aircraft pump will be milled on one of Oaston Engineering’s 5-axis machining centres and assembled with five other mechanical parts produced on the shop floor, including the camshaft, before delivery to the customer. More such added-value contracts are expected in the future.

    SUBCONTRACTOR’S TURNOVER MORE THAN QUADRUPLES IN THREE YEARS

    Historically, a majority of subcontractor Reginson Engineering’s turnover came from the aerospace sector, with oil and gas generating most of the remainder. So, when Covid struck in early 2020 and aerospace contracts dried up, the Nuneaton-based, AS9100 accredited, Rolls-Royce approved company was deeply affected by the contraction in business.

    It was mitigated somewhat by the company joining the Ventilator Challenge UK. During April 2020, Rolls-Royce asked Reginson Engineering to manufacture 113,000 components in 10 days to support the build of 8,000 ventilators. Towards the end of that month, within 36 hours of an order being placed for a pair of Cincom A20-VIIs sliding-head CNC turning centres to enable the medical contract to be fulfilled, the machines were delivered by Citizen Machinery UK. Both have LFV (low frequency vibration) chip-breaking capability, which not only improved swarf control, raising reliability and reducing the need for operator intervention, but also enhanced the surface finish on components.

    The medical work was only temporary, however, so the family-run business owned by Steve Hatch set about finding business elsewhere. What transpired altered the company’s fortunes entirely, as a contract from a jewellery manufacturer combined with strong growth in aerospace conspired to increase turnover so dramatically that by 2023 it was 447% higher than before the pandemic.

    Even better is to come. The jewellery company is so pleased with the quality of the mainly titanium jewellery pieces already supplied that it has signalled its intention to increase the annual quantity of parts from 100,000 to 1 million per month over the next few years. The machine tools underpinning both the quantity and quality of the jewellery parts produced at the Nuneaton factory are yet more Citizen Cincom sliding-head lathes.

    Reginson Engineering is a long-time user of these Japanese-built sliders dating back to the early 1990s. In October 2020, the lathes were joined on the shop floor by the subcontractor’s first Citizen fixed-head model, a 64 mm bar capacity Miyano ABX64-SYY twin-turret, twin-spindle turn-mill centre. The user describes the machine as being fantastic, as it has allowed cycle times to be slashed compared with using other turning plant on site. Shortly after its arrival, it more than halved the cycle time for producing a component from 4 minutes 30 seconds to 117 seconds complete.

    The upturn in throughput generated by the jewellery contract required much more sliding-head capacity, so the subcontractor has bought 14 new Cincoms in the last couple of years. They are seven 20 mm bar capacity A20-VIIs and the same number of 12 mm capacity L12-VIIs. Twelve of them are devoted to jewellery component manufacture and the other two were acquired to boost production of smaller aerospace parts. The latest influx of new lathes plus the recent purchase of two new 5-axis machining centres brings the total number of CNC machines in the Nuneaton factory to nearly 100.

    Machine shop manager and family member Tom Hatch said, “We chose twin-spindle sliders for the jewellery work because positioning cutters on gang toolposts for the next operation is much faster than indexing turrets in a fixed-head lathe. It means we can produce components more quickly, not only because there is less idle time, but also because there is more scope for reducing the number of second and subsequent operations.”

    He added that the machines are easy to set and operate, to the extent that he and one other staff member run 12 Cincom’s located in an adjacent factory unit that has been leased recently for the new project. The finish of the turned surface achieved on the lathes is 0.2 µm, which lessens the amount of polishing that has to be done in Nuneaton or by the customer.

    Similarly, the performance of the Cincoms when producing aerospace parts is excellent due to the extreme rigidity of the machines, despite having to cut materials ranging from tough nickel alloys to titanium and stainless steels. Tolerances down to ± 3 µm are often turned, saving the time and expense of grinding parts in another operation. Surface finish is also high at up to 0.8 µm when required.

    Reginson Engineering additionally runs UPR, a subsidiary company in Pune, India, which it set up in 2014. The facility has more than 20 CNC machines and 60 employees, enabling the firm to offer low-cost components to customers worldwide, mainly in the aerospace, wind turbine, medical and oil and gas industries.

    POST-EMO OPEN HOUSE AT CITIZEN MACHINERY UK

    Manufacturers wishing to learn more about the latest CNC sliding-head and fixed-head turning centres from Citizen Machinery UK, but who perhaps are unable to attend the EMO 2023 machine tool trade fair in Hannover (18th – 23rd September), may be interested that shortly afterwards, from 3rd to 5th October, the company will hold an open house at its Turning Centre of Excellence in Brierley Hill.

    The event will mark the 40th year that fixed-head lathe manufacturer Miyano’s products have been sold in the UK and Ireland, initially through the previous sales agent Macro Machine Tools. Since 2010, the brand has been a wholly-owned part of Citizen Holdings, which also offers Cincom sliding-head lathes as well as a range of turning machines incorporating auto-loading systems for rapid material and parts handling.

    Citizen Machinery UK, with centres in Brierley Hill and Bushey, is the subsidiary of the Japanese manufacturing group serving the British and Irish markets. It is also the distribution hub for Citizen machines going into France, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, the Middle East, Africa and Australia.

    Managing director Edward James commented, “We will not only be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Miyano’s presence in this market, but also seven years since the launch of our ground-breaking LFV (low frequency vibration) programmable chipbreaking software. The technology has helped to propel us to become the largest supplier of CNC bar-fed lathes in the UK and Ireland.

    “There will also be a focus at the open house on the Miyano Eco Function, which ensures more efficient energy usage when operating the lathes, saving costs and helping the machines to perform at peak efficiency, an important tool in the drive to Net Zero.”

    As usual, present throughout the event will be numerous partner companies involved in the supply of work holding, cutting tools, parts handling, barfeeds, production control software and more. Additionally, a Red Letter Day prize draw will be open to all visitors, with the winner receiving a £1,500 experience and hotel accommodation.

    Anyone interested in attending the open house in October is invited to register: https://www.citizenmachinery.co.uk/open-house/

    AUTOMATION AND PLANT MODERNISATION SUPPORT CONTRACT MACHINIST’S GROWTH

    An increase in annual turnover from £3 million in 2016 to £8 million currently is reported by contract machining specialist Unicut Precision Engineering, Welwyn Garden City, which has spent £1.7 million in the last two years on new production and inspection equipment.

    About half of the investment went on two more Cincom sliding-head lathes and two additional Miyano fixed-head lathes from Citizen Machinery UK, bringing the totals of the bar-fed lathes on site to 24 and 11 respectively. The remaining funds were used to purchase three new items of inspection equipment and to extend the automatic pallet storage and retrieval system linking three 5-axis machining centres on site.

    Jason Nicholson, owner and managing director of Unicut commented, “Efficient production is not just down to automation but also depends on how well you monitor the machine tools on the shop floor and use the data to make informed decisions.

    “We use PSL Datatrack to help with this and will shortly be progressing from manual extraction of production data from our machine tool controls to directly downloading it over a network for remote monitoring.”

    Regarding turning, which currently accounts for 85% of Unicut’s turnover, he said that standardisation on Citizen lathes with their user-friendly, intuitive Mitsubishi controls greatly helps to mitigate the current shortage of skilled setter-operators, which he sees as a worldwide problem. Use of this CNC system throughout the factory also speeds the training of staff and allows operators to swap easily between machines.

    Programs are normally prepared offline with Esprit CADCAM and also using Citizen Machinery’s own Alkart CNC Wizard programming aid. The latter guides operators through creation of part programs with the help of a built-in code library for machining processes, reducing the amount of time spent typing in G and M codes and consulting manuals or other programs.

    The latest turning centre additions were two 65 mm bar capacity Miyano BNE-65MYY models, each featuring a pair of Y-axis turrets and the latest Mitsubishi 15-inch touchscreen control. They joined five smaller fixed-head lathes in the same series to form a seven-machine cell for producing hydraulic and pneumatic components in large volumes, typically from 2,000- to 10,000-off. This industry accounts for about one-fifth of Unicut’s turnover, with the aerospace, high-end automotive, oil and gas, electrical connector and paint spraying equipment sectors also regularly served.

    Mr Nicholson continued, “Flexibility of production in a contract machining environment is crucial, as it is the key to profitability and to being able to compete with subcontractors in low-wage countries.

    “Having two Y axes in the latest BNEs rather than one enables the preparation of programs that closely balance front and back working cycles at the main and sub spindles.

    “It means that a wide range of work can be tackled efficiently and parts come off the lathes faster, as one of the spindles is not waiting around for the other one to finish off the machining.”

    Each turret has 12 live stations, so an extensive variety of milling, drilling and other driven tool operations can be carried out in-cycle, almost always enabling one-hit production of parts. Sometimes prismatic machining accounts for more than 90% of a cycle, so at first glance the components look as though they have been produced on a mill.

    Two-axis CNC movement of the sub spindle facilitates superimposed machining, whereby tools on both faces of the top turret can simultaneously cut front-end features on bar stock and reverse-end features on a parted-off component. With the lower turret also working at the main spindle performing pinch turning, milling or drilling, for example, or perhaps OD turning while axial drilling is in progress above, three tools can be in cut at the same time.

    Both of the BNE-65MYYs have been fitted with an Iemca Maestro 80 low-vibration bar magazine that allows ergonomic loading of stock at waist level. Bar from 10 mm diameter upwards can be turned at the lathe’s maximum rotational speed without having to change over the guide channel, minimising idle time when processing a range of different material sizes.

    Mr Nicholson is also a long-time user of sliding-headstock lathes from Citizen Machinery, having bought his first one in 2000. In 2018 he was an early adopter of the lathe manufacturer’s LFV (low frequency vibration) software, which was included in the operating system of the Mitsubishi control on one of two 12 mm capacity sliders bought in that year.

    At the time, he said that the ability of the programmable function to break stringy swarf into shorter chips was eliminating the need to periodically stop the lathe to clear away clogged swarf, raising productivity. The LFV lathe was therefore left with confidence to run unattended, including overnight and at weekends, even when turning ductile metals and plastics, increasing throughput further. Impressed with the trouble-free performance, he bought two similar, improved versions of the lathe with LFV in 2022.

    Mr Nicholson concluded, “On this type of machine, productivity is all about getting the material to chip, because otherwise you have to keep stopping the spindle to remove swarf from around the workpiece and tool.

    “On a fixed-head lathe it is possible to increase the feed rate to promote chipping, but that is not possible when turning smaller diameter parts on a slider.

    “With LFV programmed correctly, the swarf never fails to chip whatever the material, even when OD turning long components.

    “The function is only needed for between 10% and one-third of a typical cycle, after which it is switched off by G-code to take advantage of slightly higher productivity without the air cutting caused by LFV tool oscillation.

    “After five years’ experience using this technology, I would not consider buying another slider without it – and I am looking forward to its wider adoption on the Miyano fixed-head lathes as well.”

    CITIZEN MACHINERY APPOINTS NEW SALES ENGINEER

    Eric Tollett, newly appointed Area Sales Engineer for Citizen Machinery UK in the north-east of England

    Based in Tyne and Wear and with 25 years’ experience working in the machine tool sector, ERIC TOLLETT has been appointed by Citizen Machinery UK as Area Sales Engineer for territories in north-east England, where he will be responsible for sales of the company’s Cincom sliding-head and Miyano fixed-head lathes and related automation solutions. The company has also announced an increase in the number of sales territories around the UK from five to six.

    While working at a subcontract machining firm and studying at South Tyneside College and Newcastle University, Eric completed a five-year apprenticeship in machine tool maintenance, during which time he gained an ONC, HNC and HND in the subject. He then joined a machine tool distributor in the Midlands where he worked as a service engineer for 10 years, subsequently moving into sales roles for three well-known machine tool firms before starting his current position with Citizen Machinery UK.

    On his new role, Eric commented, “I regard this as a great opportunity to work for a premier Japanese lathe manufacturer with a strong reputation for producing high-end machines and for providing fully integrated production solutions.”

    CITIZEN MACHINERY UK EXTENDS INTERNATIONAL REACH

    Headquartered in Bushey, Hertfordshire, Citizen Machinery UK has long been responsible for the Japanese watch group’s CNC bar-fed lathe sales in Britain and Ireland, while also being a distribution hub for sales of machines in France, Spain, Portugal, the Nordic Countries, the Middle East and Africa. Additionally, it works closely with subsidiaries in Italy and Germany. Underlining its international standing within the group, the UK subsidiary has spread its wings much further to join forces with a dealer in Australia, Headland Technology, based in Victoria.

    Operating also from centres in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane, the company serves the Australian and New Zealand markets. It already represents 20 global brands covering machine tools, storage systems and metrology equipment. With around 75 highly skilled technical personnel in sales, applications and service, it is the perfect fit for Citizen Machinery. The independent technology consultant and equipment supplier focuses in particular on Industry 4.0 networked production and factory automation solutions designed to improve the profitability of its high-profile customer base.

    A Citizen Cincom L32-XIILFV is being delivered to the dealer and will be exhibited on the Headland Technology stand at the Austech 2023 show in Melbourne from 9th to 12th May. The top-specification sliding-head lathe has nine CNC axes, including a Y2 axis on the back tool post and +90 / -45 degree B-axis swivel on the front gang tool post to enable angled holes to be drilled at either spindle. The model will also have low frequency vibration functionality for advanced chipbreaking of materials that normally generate stringy swarf.

    Owen Gibbons, European Sales Manager at Citizen Machinery UK commented, “I am extremely proud to announce the newest addition to our ever-expanding dealer network, Headland Technology. It provides us with an exciting and unique opportunity to expand our international activities. Together with our end-users, we are looking forward to reaping the benefits of partnering with Headland Technology.”

    CHIP BREAKING SOFTWARE MAKES TURNING COPPER AS EASY AS BRASS

    A large proportion of work going through subcontractor C&M Precision’s Maldon factory involves machining copper bar fed into CNC mill-turn lathes. Two sliding-head models out of the nine turning centres on the shop floor, all of which have been supplied by Citizen Machinery UK, have LFV (low frequency vibration) functionality in the operating system of their Mitsubishi controls. It results in much higher productivity and increased yield when converting malleable copper into high-end electronic components for OEMs in the medical, radar, satellite and broadcasting sectors.

    Owner John Cable explained that for many of these jobs, a particular grade of copper known as OFHC (oxygen-free high conductivity) has to be used, which is more than 99 percent pure. One 60 mm long, tight-tolerance component previously produced from 3 mm diameter bar on an early Citizen Cincom M16 slider without LFV had to be turned in one pass through the guide bush down to 1.20 – 1.22 mm diameter along half its length. The continuous string of copper swarf frequently damaged the component and often became lodged in the counter spindle, preventing synchronous transfer after part-off and causing the machine to alarm out. Productivity was severely impacted and up to 20 percent of parts had to be scrapped.

    Mr Cable enthused, “Transferring the job to a Cincom L12-VIILFV we bought in 2019 was a real winner. With the LFV function turned on, the copper chips like brass. Yield is now 100 percent, throughput is high and we can even leave the machine to run unattended.”

    The other Cincom slider on site with this chip breaking functionality, a nominally 20 mm capacity L20-VIIILFV, arrived on the shop floor in 2017, making the subcontractor an early adopter of this novel technology. Supplied with a kit that allows feeding of oversize bar up to 25 mm diameter, the lathe is also proving useful for machining other materials that tend to generate stringy swarf, like nickel alloys and plastics, which are regularly turned in the Maldon facility.

    C&M Precision was established in 1992 as a CNC sliding-head, twin-spindle, mill-turning shop, following research at the time indicating that four-fifths of rotational parts produced in the UK were less than 25 mm in diameter. After starting out with a different brand of slider, Mr Cable quickly changed to Cincoms, describing the transition as “a breath of fresh air”.

    The first model to arrive in 2001 was a now discontinued M12, which has been sold on. The first job it tackled was the production of 120,000 brass connectors requiring the milling of 3/8-inch hex flats. Amazingly, due to the rigidity of the lathe that Mr Cable described as “rock solid”, one 6 mm diameter carbide milling cutter completed all of the flats, 720,000 of them, and still had not worn out.

    The subcontractor is an enthusiastic user of Cincom M-series machines due to their inclusion of a tool turret as well as a gang tool post, allowing the production of complex components. A 16 mm diameter bar model installed in 2004 was joined three years later by a pair of 32 mm diameter bar capacity lathes. The latter, third-generation M32 lathes have since been replaced by fifth-generation models to take advantage of Y-axis motion on the turret and an overall higher specification.

    2014 and 2015 saw the arrival of three more 32 mm sliders, this time in the Cincom A-series. They have only gang tool posts, so are faster when manufacturing less complicated parts. One of the lathes does not have a guide bush, as it is devoted to relatively limited runs of short components such as mining industry connectors. The other two sliders with a guide bush produce tens of thousands of parts per week, 24/5. One example is a mild steel gas meter part which the customer orders at a rate of one million per year, with the subcontractor making weekly deliveries.

    C&M Precision’s latest two acquisitions are from Citizen’s Miyano range of fixed-head lathes. Installed in January and March 2022 respectively, the twin-turret BNE-65MYY models with Y-axis motion on each tool carrier replaced two ageing lathes that had one Y-axis turret apiece.

    Mr Cable continued, “It made sense to go the Miyano route in view of our good experience with the Cincom lathes. People say it is not good to have all your eggs in one basket, but in Citizen’s case it is. We now have a single point of contact for applications, backup and service and the supplier is very capable and responsive to our needs.”

    He added that the Miyano lathes have similar capability at both spindles and are highly productive, with advantage taken of Y-axis machining for a large proportion of the time. Simple off-centre holes are frequently drilled and bored, flats are easier to mill up to a shoulder and roll marking is often done using the Y-axes. Parts coming off the lathes are accurate due to one-hit production. It is possible to program cycles involving superimposed machining, where three tools are cutting simultaneously, although this facility has not been used so far in the Maldon factory.

    Some parts could not be produced at all on driven-tool lathes without Y-axis motion on at least one turret and would have to be put onto a machining centre for a second operation. Others, such as a pair of components – one aluminium and the other brass – for a broadcasting microphone, are produced much faster on the twin Y-axis Miyanos compared with the lathes they replaced. The more complex of the two, the aluminium part, is produced in 4.5 minutes compared with 7.5 minutes previously. As batch size is 2,000-off, the saving is considerable.

    As to the future, Mr Cable sees continued purchase of LFV lathes inevitable. While high pressure coolant systems break swarf adequately on his current larger lathes, as they mainly process free-cutting materials, there is one job presently produced from malleable, oversize, Swedish iron bar on the L20-VIIILFV that would profit from being put onto a 32 mm Cincom in the same series with the chip breaking technology.

    SUBCONTRACTOR MORE THAN DOUBLES SLIDING-HEAD TURNING CAPACITY

    Located in Chard, Somerset, subcontract machining firm Metaltech Precision has increased the number of sliding-head mill-turn centres on its shop floor from 6 to 13, of which 10 are Cincom models from Citizen Machinery UK. It follows the purchase by the company’s owner, Expromet Technologies Group, of another subcontractor nearby, NC Precision, which specialised in this area of production.

    The strategic acquisition in May 2022 underlines the intention of the UK casting and machining group to strengthen its Swiss-type mill-turning capability. Nevertheless, Metaltech is also strong in fixed-head turning as well as prismatic metalcutting on numerous machining centres, there now being a total of 58 CNC machine tools in operation, providing an extensive suite of machining capabilities to meet customer needs.

    The latest sliding-head lathe was installed in September 2022, having originally been ordered by NC Precision. It is a Cincom L32XIILFV capable of mill-turning parts from bar up to 35 mm diameter. Notably, the machine has LFV (low frequency vibration) functionality. It can be switched on by G-code during sections of a machining cycle that would normally result in stringy swarf being generated. Instead, it is broken automatically into chips of manageable size that fall away from the machining area for easy extraction.

    Steven Ward, operations manager at Metaltech said, “We were already familiar with and impressed by LFV, having installed a smaller Cincom L20XIILFV four years ago to simplify the production of a particularly difficult component.

    “The ongoing job involves machining a tough, malleable iron that has a high tendency to cause bird’s-nesting when turned, but LFV completely solves the problem by allowing the chipping to be controlled.

    “It means that we are able to leave the lathe running unattended for long periods, whereas before an operator needed to be in attendance virtually all the time to constantly clear away the swarf.

    “This labour cost element, which has now been removed, was contrary to the whole concept of bar turning, yet was necessary to maintain consistency of production and minimise scrap.”

    During the acquisition process of the L32XIILFV, the order was placed by NC Precision and honoured by Expromet. It is a clear sign of the group’s ongoing commitment to development and continual investment in up-to-date plant, allowing Metaltech to remain at the forefront of technological advances and providing extended capabilities along with capacity.

    The purchase of the second LFV lathe last autumn, with its chipbreaking function, facilitates more options for fulfilling contracts that may come along involving titanium, nickel alloys or other metals that tend to result in stringy swarf. Until now its full potential has not been utilised, except to assist the smaller LFV lathe in producing more of the malleable iron components to cope with rising production volumes.

    Another area where the L32XIILFV has benefited Metaltech is in taking the load off a higher specification M-type 32 mm capacity Cincom on site that incorporates cutters in a turret. The gang tool-only L-type machine with its more nimble axis motions is quicker at producing relatively simple parts, leaving the M32 free to concentrate on more complex work.

    One example was the transfer of production from the M32 to the L32 of a brass component on which only about 10% of the cycle involves turning operations, the remainder being milling and drilling. Although the spindle drives and driven cutter stations in the gang tool carrier lathe are a little less powerful than in the turret-type machine, it was nevertheless possible on the L-type lathe to produce the part from free-cutting brass in four minutes and four seconds, 20 seconds faster than on the M32.

    Mr Ward explained, “Although this represents a reduction of only 7 to 8%, the batch size was 6,000-off, so a significant saving was made. Measures like this help us to maintain our reputation as a rapid response, short lead-time service provider with excellent on-time delivery results.

    “It also helps us to control costs, even on parts like this that are predominantly prismatically machined on a driven-tool lathe yet require 20 µm positional tolerance to be held in certain areas, ensuring we provide best value and quality to our customers.”

    Metaltech has been using sliding-head lathes from Citizen since 2008, when it installed its third machine, a Cincom A20. Purchase of another two and acquisition of seven more from NC Precision has brought not only increased capacity, but knowledge from the latter company as to how to lower production costs on the more recently installed sliders on which it is possible to swap the guide bush in and out in about half an hour.

    Historically, the technique had not been available to the subcontractor owing to the age of the first two Cincoms and the dedication of the third to a single, awkward job. However, the newer lathes from NC Precision do incorporate a swappable guide bush.

    When removed, it allows less expensive bar to be turned and results in much shorter rest lengths when the material has been used up, leading to significantly more economical production of shorter components up to typically 2.5 times their diameter. For the right type of work, Metaltech will harness this benefit in the future.

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