CNC Engineering Case Studies
Thame Workholding Press Release
Robo-Trex makes light work of lights-out milling
UK manufacturing lags behind the productivity performance of fellow members of the G7 group, and also that of other major global economies. Lack of investment and the shortage of skilled staff are widely considered to be major contributing factors to this lamentable situation. In addition to being regarded as an effective means of UK manufacturers achieving productivity improvements, the implementation of advanced automation technologies, invariably helps solve business’ skills shortages.
Hertford based Qualiturn Products Ltd is a prime example of a forward thinking business that has achieved world-class levels of productivity by embracing the use of automation systems and developing efficient new working practices.
Established in 1974, and now run by second-generation Managing Director, Nick Groom, Qualiturn Product Ltd has grown to become one of the UK’s leading suppliers of precision mill-turned components. In 1990 the pioneering company became one of the first subcontractors to operate its mill-turn machines in a ‘lights-out’ manner throughout each night shift. The use of bar-feed systems and other advanced production aids means that since that time, the business has operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with only daytime staffing.
Prompted by the success of Qualiturn’s 24-7 production of precision turned components, in 2014 the company established Qualimill, a subcontract milling division that embraces similar, highly-efficient, lights-out operating methods. Just as the application of advanced technologies allowed Qualiturn to instigate a lights-out mill-turn manufacturing regime, the implementation of advanced automation aids, such as the Lang Robo-Trex system, supplied by Thame Workholding, has enabled the Qualimill division to operate milling machines lights-out fashion and has helped it to become an extremely successful sub-contract manufacturer of milled components.
To help satisfy, the ever rising demand for Qualimill’s output the company recently moved into much larger premises and several additional innovative production aids have been installed in the impressive new facility. The most recent of which is a second Robo-Trex advanced robot automation system. The productivity gains made possible by the use of Qualimill’s first Lang Robo-Trex robot systems was a major factor in the decision to purchase the second system that now feeds a Doosan DVF 5000 machining centre.
Qualimill’s two Lang Robo-Trex robot systems each use two trollies that act as mobile storage mediums. The trollies are loaded with multiple vices that hold workpieces that are ready to be loaded into the machine by the systems’ robots. The robots pick workpieces from the trollies, loads them into the machine tools, and when they are fully machined, returns them to the trollies. When filled with machined parts, each trolley is removed, and a replacement, loaded with multiple workpieces ready to be machined, is added.
Working unattended and fed by the Lang Robo-Trex systems, the company’s machining centres run throughout the day. Before the end of each day shift the Robo-Trex trollies are replenished with full consignments of workpieces, enabling each machining centre to run unmanned throughout the night.
Robo-Trex trollies are available in 2 sizes, the smaller version has a capacity of 30 vices (max. part size: 120 x 120 x 100 mm), whilst the second, larger model has a capacity of 42 vices (max. part size: 120 x 100 x 70 mm). The Robo-Trex system is able to handle 4 automation trolleys. Therefore, depending on part size, the available storage capacity increases to 120/168 vices.
The patented, edgewise mounting of the system’s vices ensures maximum space utilisation, whilst accessibility to the clamping devices allows workpieces to be exchanged, without removing the vice.
An intuitive, easy to operate touch panel enables easy control of the automated system and, as external access to the trolley is possible, production remains seamless as machining cycles do not need to be interrupted. Control of the zero-point clamping system can be performed either pneumatically through the machine tool, or mechanically through the system’s robot.
“Increasing demand from our mill-turn customers motivated the launch of our Qualimill division. To ensure that we were able to replicate the success of our Qualiturn operation, when setting-up the new division where possible we put into operation advanced automation systems and applied similar efficient working practices to those used in our mill-turn operations.” Explained Qualiturn Managing Director, Nick Groom.
“Soon after the formation of Qualimill, in an effort to gain maximum milling efficiencies, we looked for an advanced technology that would allow lights-out running of an existing CNC milling machine. We found the ideal answer in the Lang Robo-Trex automation system from Thame Workholding. Having been impressed by the outstanding performance of our fist Lang Robo-Trex robot system, to help satisfy ever rising requests for our milling work, we recently purchased a second system.
“Our decision to launch Qualimill and to employ highly-efficient production technologies has been vindicated by the division’s great success. Our new Lang Robo-Trex automation system now feeds a recently purchased Doosan DVF 5000 machining centre and further extends our highly efficient lights-out production capabilities.
By releasing the full, latent productive potential of the machine-tools they serve, our two highly-efficient, automatic handling systems release our skilled staff for more technicality demanding work. In addition, our Lang Robo-Trex automation systems are helping us to speed-up our production throughput and reduce our lead times. They also enable the generation of cost-effective quotes and help us to attract further new business.”
Thame Workholding Sales Manager Gareth Barnett added, “In addition to providing industry with a wide range of cost-effective, standard workholding systems from several of the world’s leading manufacturers, we also design and manufacture bespoke solutions in-house. Our vast experience and expertise in all aspects of workholding allows our staff to fully understand our customers’ needs, then to provide optimum, cost-effective solutions.
“Our grasp of Qualimill’s brief, relating to the division’s quest for efficient lights-out working, enabled us to recommend the Robo-Trex automatic handling system with great confidence. Now that the company’s first system has delivered on all of the promises we made, we were delighted to recently receive an order for a second system.”
PR contact Mike Welsh email@example.com