Insert proves decisive at hydropower specialist

(L-R) Richard Hogg, Matthew Darbyshire and Justine Marshall at the Mazak Vortex e1250V/8S
(L-R) Richard Hogg, Matthew Darbyshire and Justine Marshall at the Mazak Vortex e1250V/8S

Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon (Gilkes) is a leader in the design and manufacture of hydropower turbines and pumps, with a 169-year history.

The Kendal, Cumbria-based company exports to over 85 countries and is the proud recipient of a Royal Warrant for the supply of water turbines. Expansion, through organic growth and acquisitions has seen the business develop, supplying pumps to the marine, rail and automotive sectors and hydropower turbine systems installed as far afield as Alaska and Australia.

The company was created in 1853 to manufacture agricultural equipment, under the name of Williamson Brothers, but even in these early days, hydro-electricity was part of the company’s agenda, with the first order for a turbine being registered in 1865.

It was in 1881 that Dublin born businessman Gilbert Gilkes purchased the company and a prestigious customer at that time Lord Armstrong, who installed a water turbine at his home, Cragside, the first house to have electric lighting. Product development has continued from that day until present with the result being a diverse range of turbines and pumps.

Justine Marshall with the finished machined ring in-situ after machining
Justine Marshall with the finished machined ring in-situ after machining

Many of its products harness the natural power of water flowing in rivers, described as ‘Run of River’ systems. Of course, systems such as this are also subject to the vagaries of the weather, and the natural abrasion caused by river sediments.

“Wear has always been an issue given the application, so we are constantly looking at new, more exotic materials, to help reduce it and to extend operating time for our products,” explains Derek Thomas, Gilkes’ production engineering manager.

“Most recently we have utilised tungsten carbide coatings on the runner systems within our turbines. This development posed challenges to our in-house production team who worked closely with Ceratizit, our tooling supplier, to achieve the desired result,”

The part in question was a 600mm diameter F35 Super Duplex ring that was subject to abrasion from sediment. To overcome this, Gilkes added a Tungsten Carbide coating, the application of which caused out of roundness, which then had to be machined away.

“The challenge was how to remove this excess material. It was at this point we were chatting with Matthew Darbyshire from Ceratizit and he suggested a new insert grade that would allow us to turn the part on our Mazak Vortex machine,” says Mr Thomas.

The insert in question was a brand new CBN grade CTBH 40U, which had been developed for turning hardened materials especially where intermittent cutting was an issue. Two inserts were ordered and delivered the next day and, with cutting data of 210m/minute surface speed and 0.12mm/revolution feed rate with a 0.25mm depth of cut suggested by Mr Darbyshire, it was put to the test.

“The result was superb; just one insert was needed to complete the machining operation and the surface finish generated was excellent. The insert cut the tungsten carbide coating like a dream,” comments production engineer Justine Marshall.

The suggestion of the CBN CTBH 40U insert is typical of the support offered to customers by Ceratizit UK & Ireland’s time-served technical sales engineers and applications engineering teams, who can call on over 100,000 products in the standard catalogue to solve specific problems. In the case of Gilkes, Mr Darbyshire visits on a fortnightly basis to discuss any upcoming requirements as well as servicing the two Ceratizit tool vending machines on-site.

Machine operator Colin Akrigg with Matthew Darbyshire and Richard Hogg at the Ceratizit TOM 840 vendor
Machine operator Colin Akrigg with Matthew Darbyshire and Richard Hogg at the Ceratizit TOM 840 vendor

One of these vendors is the latest TOM 840 unit capable of storing up to 840 individual items with monitoring and reordering carried out remotely by Ceratizit. This unit is used to stock regular consumable cutting tools such as inserts and drills while the second vendor is an older TOM 60 system which Gilkes maintains for tooling such as special taps and regrinds. The use of this older system, with its glass front, is due to the preference of Gilkes’ operators who want to physically see stock levels of these lesser used, but vital tools.

“The support we give to the team at Gilkes is what we would provide to any customer. The vending solution covers the vast majority of their day-to-day needs and my regular visits take care of everything else,” says Mr Darbyshire, technical sales engineer, Ceratizit UK & Ireland.

“We have worked together for over 16 years now, which helps to ensure that things run smoothly. In addition to new tools, we also take care of regrinds of Ceratizit products, collecting them every month to be returned to the factory to be refreshed to original condition.

“We also provide a recycling service for used carbide inserts. These are collected every quarter and their value is returned to Gilkes in the form of a rebate on new products.”

Ceratizit UK & Ireland
www.ceratizit.com

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