DKW Looks to the Future with Five-Sided Machining...
Following the purchase of its premises, Portsmouth-based subcontractor DKW Engineering has been focused on the future ' upgrading facilities, rebranding the company and investing in new capital equipment.
Over the past 18 months a £500,000 investment programme has seen the company add two multi-axis turning centres, including a Nakamura-Tome WT-150 twin-spindle, twin-turret lathe.
It has now added a Feeler VMP-580 three-axis vertical machining centre fitted with a Lehmann TF-507510 two-axis positioner to allow 3+2 axis machining. This takes the company into the realm of five-sided machining in one setup for the first time, and opens up future possibilities of full simultaneous five-axis machining.
The Nakamura and Feeler machines were supplied by Turning Technologies UK and Feeler UK respectively, both members of the Engineering Technology Group.
Nick Iacobucci, managing director of the family-owned business, explains: 'We had previously leased our premises, so it was a major decision for us as to whether to stay there or not. But having been able to purchase it, this has allowed us to target other things that we wanted to do.
'We are not just upgrading the building, but we are rebranding the whole company ' our business cards, the website, the outside of the building and the internal facilities.
'Our objective is to bring us bang up to date. In simple terms, when you walk into a machine tool showroom, that's how I want my shop floor to look.'
He says that the building has been a pretty heavy investment, but equipment has been a focus too.
'Without question, the only way to maintain and increase your business is to have the latest technology. We have always been very proud of producing high-quality components, but you can only do that if you have the right equipment and the right people. And the combination of the latest equipment and a good working environment allows us to attract the right personnel.
'We had been looking at upgrading our machining facilities, and at the MACH exhibition I was very impressed with the specification of the Feeler range. So much so that we agreed to buy one of the machines that the Engineering Technology group had on its stand. This was already configured in a 3+2 format with the Lehman rotary table.
'It was a very attractive package. We have had it on the shop floor now for three months and the performance has been exceptional with absolutely no problems.
'Accuracy, quality and speed of machining have improved dramatically compared to our existing equipment. We have used the 3+2 capability quite happily and that has improved the finished products we are making on it.'
Feeler's VMP series is one of the most popular vertical machining centres on the global market, with around 3,500 units sold every year. It is designed as a premium mass-market machine, ideal for subcontractors, with a specification that gives a step up in capability, build quality and specification from standard low-cost machining centres.
The VMP-580 is a three-axis BT-40 machine with a 12,000rpm spindle and table travel of 580mm in X, 420mm in Y and 510mm in Z. It has a 24-tool magazine with 2.0s tool-to-tool time and rapid feed rates of 48m/min in X,Y and Z. The machine uses a Fanuc 0iMD control and is supplied as standard with a 4th axis interface prepared.
When fitted with the Lehman system, the 3+2 configuration of the machine gives a productive option for five-sided machining. Compared to a full five-axis machine, this can provide a good alternative in terms of cost, ease of use and footprint. Lehman estimates that 90% of all processes carried out by 5-axis machining centres are pure 5-sided processes, for which the 3-axis vertical centres with a fitted 4th and 5th axis would be more effective.
Additional axes, such as the Lehman unit, also have the advantage of being removable. If 3-axis machining is sufficient, the entire machining area can be used for large and bulky workpieces.
Nick Iacobucci says: 'We are using the 3+2 configuration to position the part so that we can machine five sides of a component in one go and reduce setup time. Where you had maybe two or three operations to do various types of milling or drilling on, say, a valve block, now we can just do it by swinging from one aspect to another.'
He says that batch sizes are generally between one-off and fifty-off and adds that the setups themselves are quicker, the speed of machining is definitely quicker and swarf management is not a problem as it just falls away.
'The whole package works out very well and the machine has a very small footprint for what it is capable of. In fact, it isn't a word I use very often, but the Feeler is a 'handsome' machine. If something looks the part and it feels the part you tend to get a lot more performance out of it. And there's no question that's the case with the Feeler. In terms of price and quality, compared to what you might call a 'basic economy' VMC, this is a 'premium economy' machine.'
He says that the next step on from 3+2 machining may be to move to simultaneous five-axis machining on the Feeler, which will require an upgrade to its CADCAM system.
'We are taking it step by step. It is a development process from our point of view, but it does give us that facility. And if we get a job that justifies the software upgrade we will do it. We haven't gone down that route at present, because we haven't actually had any pure five-axis work that we would need it for.'
DKW's previous investment in the Nakamura WT-150 turning machines was made as part of its focus on increasing capacity and capability in the 50 to 65mm range. As with the Feeler machine, one of the objectives was to reduce setups and get parts off in one.
As Nick Iacobucci says: 'That's what we do on our sliding head machines, and this moves it up the size range. With the Nakamura's twin spindles and twin turrets, you have so many operations that you can do on it. Compared to a pure high-volume machine you are looking at much higher added value components.
'We wanted consistent production coming off the machine and we are more than pleased with the performance the Nakamura has given us, especially from a quality point of view. The quality is never a question and the build quality is impressive ' they just don't run out.
'In fact, and it is a comment on the quality of the Nakamura machines, when we sold our previous ten-year-old machine we still got back around 35% of the price we had paid for it ' which was a pleasant surprise.
'But when I look for a replacement machine, it is rarely because the old one is worn out. It will normally be a question of upgrading to the latest technology. That is what we have always done, and we wait until we can afford the best machine ' I don't believe in buying anything else.'
He says that investment is a critical aspect of DKW's business ' not just in machines but also in staff, apprentices, facilities and, above all, customer care.
Most of DKW's customers are in the UK, but it does export to the US and Europe, as well as a small amount to China. These cover industries that include aerospace, nuclear, petrochemical, electronics and sensors, with 70% of the work in stainless steel. One of its more high profile jobs is machining the Spirit of Ecstasy figure for Rolls-Royce cars. DKW is already machining bespoke versions of these on the Feeler machine.
Mr Iacobucci prides himself on the fact that 90% of new business comes through referrals from satisfied customers and, indeed, it has long-term contracts with most of its customers.
He concludes: 'We are very much a family company and it is our intention to continue to grow by investing in the facilities and equipment to do so.'
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