Sliding head turning is as accurate as grinding...
In October 2011, Leicester-based subcontract machinist RDL Technologies installed its sixth Star sliding-headstock 7-axis CNC lathe, a 32 mm capacity SR-32JN. It introduced guide bush-less turning to the company, whereby the headstock grips the bar so close to the point of machining that the remnant is only around one-quarter of the normal length, saving a considerable amount of material.
Already a user of three Star SB-16 and two SR-20RII sliders acquired over a 10-year period (the numbers representing maximum bar diameter), the latest purchase extends RDL's sliding head mill-turning capacity to 32 mm. The company describes itself as a one-stop shop for a broad range of work that currently spans the automotive, marine, security, hydraulics, sports, gas control, power tool and pump manufacturing sectors.
Managing director Raymond Lockwood, who started the company in 2000 on the back of a contract to machine components for the DIY industry, initially chose another make of slider. However, he soon became disenchanted with the service back-up and decided to standardise on Star equipment.
He commented, "Star lathes are good quality machines capable of one-hit production of simple to complex parts to very high accuracy.
"One 5 mm diameter 316 stainless steel part we produce on a nine year old SB-16 is turned to three microns tolerance on the OD and we hold that all day long. Previously, we had to grind the component."
Other features of Star lathes that he likes include the Fanuc control, which matches the CNC systems fitted to the other turning and machining centres on the shop floor for producing components up to 250 mm diameter and 500 mm3 respectively.
Another plus point is that, unusually for a slider, the headstock on the Stars is on the left rather than the right, which is more intuitive for a fixed-head lathe user. Three of the sliders are fitted with high-pressure coolant and all come with fire extinguishers as standard.
RDL prides itself on quality and service at a competitive price and offers a wide range of services from design and prototyping to volume production and assembly, followed by JIT or KANBAN supply if required. Understandably, the company finds itself extremely busy at present, working around the clock during the week and 12 hours over the weekend, with five to six hours' lights-out running on all six Stars at the end of the manned shifts.
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