Breathing new life into legacy equipment

Sustainability is at the heart of a partnership between robotics and automation specialist FANUC UK and machinery refurbishers Electron Engineering Services.

By retrofitting a cutting-edge FANUC CNC into a lathe for a subcontract machinist, as well as a FANUC digital spindle motor and drive, servo drives and new electrical interface, this legacy machine has been upgraded ready for the digital age. As well as boosting productivity by delivering improved functionality, faster programming and enhanced reliability, the partnership is helping to cut waste by breathing new life into old machines, repurposing them for today’s smart manufacturing needs.

Based in Halifax, West Yorkshire, Electron Engineering Services (EES) has been refurbishing machinery for over 30 years. “The majority of the machines we refurbish – that we essentially remanufacture – are actually of a higher build quality than many of their more modern counterparts,” explains Richard Vogel, EES sales director. “They are of robust, predominantly high integrity cast iron construction, and would have been at the cutting-edge of technology when first commissioned.

“The refurbishment service we provide brings these machines in line with modern day requirements, while ensuring that the fantastic engineering that went into them in the first place isn’t discarded. This includes making sure they are compliant with modern standards and regulations, as well as incorporating the latest software, motors and control technology to maximise efficiency.”

Superior digital control

An important part of the machine refurbishment process is retrofitting a new CNC. As part of its latest project, EES is completely stripping down and rebuilding a Binns & Berry Data 90 CNC lathe for a customer with a subcontract machine shop. By retrofitting it with a new FANUC 0i-TF CNC, as well as a digital spindle motor and drive, and digital axis servo drives from the same manufacturer, as well as a completely new electrical interface, this legacy machine will be completely remanufactured and ready for the digital age.

A reputation for quality

“When it comes to selecting the CNC there are a number of factors to be considered, such as whether it will provide the required functionality and if it will seamlessly integrate with the client’s existing manufacturing processes and requirements,” Mr Vogel explains.

“In this case, the client was already using FANUC controls, which made this a straightforward decision. But even when this is not the case, FANUC CNCs are often the client’s control of choice. It’s a globally recognised name, and its products – both firmware and software – are reliable and user-friendly, which are absolutely key in the type of projects that we undertake.”

Benefitting planet and pocket

Alongside the environmental benefits of machine refurbishment, there are also significant cost-saving implications, as EES’ projects typically involve high-capital machinery. Mr Vogel continues: “A full remanufacture solution usually delivers around a 50% cost-saving compared with a customer buying an equivalent, brand-new machine. That means the potential productivity gains can be accessed by a wider range of manufacturers, as well as improving our customers’ ROI.”

As a result, EES is starting to see increased demand for its services, both for retrofitting as well as for new, bespoke machine solutions. “We are definitely seeing signs of confidence from customers looking to invest in equipment and from our perspective, it’s reassuring to know we can count on FANUC’s ongoing support to help meet this demand,” Mr Vogel adds.

“There are still a significant number of high-quality, older machines with great potential, provided they are updated to ensure compliance with the latest regulations and given modern CNCs, motors and drives to get the most out of their inherent mechanical capabilities.”

Ray Timberlake, sales manager at FANUC UK, says: “The work that EES does is brilliant in terms of providing premium manufacturing equipment at a competitive price point. We’ve been working in partnership with them for over a decade, and every single project is an exciting opportunity to breathe new life into old machinery.”


Electron Engineering Services

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