Getting efficient with gantry loading

Getting efficient with gantry loading
Getting efficient with gantry loading

Over its 30 year history, Rodford Engineering has developed a strong reputation for delivering on-time and to the highest standards for customers in the aerospace, and more recently the nuclear industry.

While specialising in CNC milling, CNC turning and manual machining, the Wimborne, Dorset-based, precision engineering company also provides a one stop shop facility that includes design for manufacture, machining and assembly with industry approvals such as SC21 Bronze, AS9100 and ISO9001in place.

The service it provides has engendered loyalty from its customers that include leading industry names such as Airbus, Cobham, Eaton and Magellan Aerospace. The company recently added a night shift to further enhance service and delivery versatility.

Loyalty is a two-way street for Rodford Engineering and it has its preferred suppliers for machine tools. However, when it initially started to look at gantry loaded turning centres three years ago its current supplier couldn't help. The result was a conversation with independent machine tool specialist Ray Vockins, who working on behalf of CMZ introduced Rodford's works director, Neil Dallyn, to the CMZ range.

“We were looking to add to our capacity and capability with a gantry loaded turning centre machine and the specification and build quality of the CMZ range certainly impressed us, especially the fact that they built both the machine and the gantry loader, so integration wasn't an issue,” says Mr Dallyn.

As it happened the gantry machine was put on hold, but the quality of the CMZ machines convinced Mr Dallyn to replace an existing lathe with a CMZ TL25ATM.

Impressed by the performance of this first CMZ turning centre, a second machine, this time a TA25TY-640 turning centre was installed in 2014. This machine is a single spindle, Y-axis lathe which features a 12 position turret with a built-in 12,000rpm, 75Nm/11kW motor for rotating tools.

The combination of the live tooling capacity and solid construction of the machine was particularly appealing to Rodford. With this second machine in-situ and business continuing to develop attention once again returned to a gantry loading machine.

“We don't have what could be described as typical batch sizes and we can produce anything from a one-off through to 1,000s off,” reveals Mr Dallyn. “However we were seeing certain components in good batch quantities repeating and this gave us the confidence to look once again at gantry loading as we knew that in combination with a twin spindle machine it could deliver efficiencies, while relieving pressure on our 5-axis machining centres.” The choice of machine was a CMZ TA25YS-GL20 which was delivered with two key jobs in mind. These particular parts had previously been subject to two turning operations before being transferred to a 5-axis machining centre. With the addition of the sub-spindle on the CMZ machine they are now machined complete in one cycle. The cycle time savings are significant, with one job being reduced from a 40 minute cycle down to 12 minutes and the second seeing a reduction from 60 minutes to 18 minutes. With the benefit of the gantry loader they can also be run unmanned for significant periods of time.

“It wasn't all about cycle time, though,” Mr Dallyn explains. “The relationship between machined features on these components was critical. Being able to control these better by eliminating manual intervention and transferring parts between machine tools created a general improvement in quality and helped to reduce the scrappage rate.”

Now with three CMZ turning centres it is fair to say that Ray Vockins and CMZ UK has been accepted as a loyal machine tool partner for Rodford Engineering, a relationship that has been built on quality and trust.

“We look at the whole package when we specify a machine,” comments Mr Dallyn. “We need to know that not only is it a quality machine that we are buying, but also that if required the service and support we need will be available. Before we buy any machine we do a lot of investigation and where we can we are loyal to our existing suppliers. Therefore, any change has to be made with a vision for the future in mind. In that respect CMZ and Ray Vockins have won us over and will feature in our ongoing investment plans.”

The CMZ TA range is versatile providing up to six possible machine configurations from a standard 2-axis turning-only lathe, through turning and milling (with optional Y-axis), a sub-spindle version to the flagship sub-spindle version with milling and Y-axis as installed at Rodford Engineering.

All machines in the range feature box slideways as standard for added rigidity and with the exception of the sub-spindle models machines are equipped with a servo-controlled tailstock. Further variety is provided by the availability of three standard bed lengths of 400mm, 640mm and 1,100mm.


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