An open house held in early December 2021 at Hurco Europe's headquarters, showroom and technical centre in High Wycombe attracted 70 visitors representing more than 30 companies from the UK and Ireland, the markets into which the company sells its machining centres, CNC lathes and automation solutions.
Orders valued at £450,000 were taken over the two days, which provided an excellent springboard into 2022.
In addition to 12 machines under power cutting metal, which included three different configurations of 5-axis vertical machining, supply partners were also in evidence for the first time since the start of the pandemic. 18 companies had stands exhibiting tooling, workholding, rotary tables, filtration, CAD/CAM, metrology, automation and finance.
Managing director David Waghorn said: "Despite the difficulties of trading during COVID and some disruption caused by Brexit, we ended our financial year at the end of October 2021 with our second highest turnover ever, only a little less than in the record year of 2018."
Close to 300 Hurco machining centres and lathes were sold into the UK and Ireland, nearly one-third of which went to first-time users of the company's machine tools. It is a statistic that stays fairly consistent over the years and one of which the company is particularly proud, as it underpins the business’ growth.
Hurco says it is also proof that its message about the quality, value and usability of its machine tools and controls is reaching an ever-wider audience in the manufacturing industry.
In the area of automation, a ProCobot from within the Hurco group was seen feeding a VM20i 3-axis machining centre with aluminium billets from a table and automatically returning finish-machined components. On the other side of the showroom was an Erowa Robot Compact 80 automatically exchanging pallets into and out of a 5-axis VMX30UDi.
Such solutions provide extended periods of unattended and lights-out running, allowing users to achieve high levels of efficiency and profitability. Both cells will feature prominently on the company's 300m² stand (stand 510, hall 20) at MACH 2022, with the ProCobot appearing for the first time at a major exhibition in the UK. There will also be a major machine launch at the show.
The letter 'D' in the above VMX30UDi machine's designation denotes 'direct drive'. During 2021, Hurco introduced these 15,000rpm versions of most of its VMX machining centre range alongside the established high-torque, pulley-driven, 12,000rpm models. For applications where high torque is not the priority, a directly driven spindle offers quieter operation as well as better thermal stability, leading to higher accuracy.
Another trend at the machine tool builder is to incorporate tool magazines of larger capacity. 2022 will see the first VMX30UDi model with a 60 pocket toolchanger, while much of the VM range will have 24 rather than 20 stations. It is a reflection of the increasing complexity of modern-day components, which require a greater number of different cutters to produce them. More pockets are also needed to accommodate sister tools to achieve extended periods of unattended running.
Also in evidence at the open house for the first time since its recent launch was the VM One, a super-compact, entry-level, 3-axis machining centre. With a working envelope of 660 x 406 x 356mm, it is a little larger than the Hurco VM5i but nevertheless is small enough to fit through a 2m high doorway. At the other end of the 3-axis machine spectrum was a high-speed BX60i with 18,000rpm HSK 63A spindle and a 1,300mm Y-axis.
As a result of Brexit, the High Wycombe company created an Irish entity last year. It has simplified the process of shipping machines from the continental warehouse stock destined for the Republic. Hurco also extended their partnership with DWS Facility Services to provide local service and support for Hurco machines in Ireland.
Overall, 5-axis machining centres of all sizes across the Hurco range continue to be the most popular of all machines on offer. Another notable trend is increasing sales of lathes, with the range set to be expanded to include new models with driven tooling.
Under a long-standing agency agreement, the High Wycombe company sells German-built Roeders machining centres and three are currently on order, due to be delivered in early 2022. Three-quarters of the 3-axis and 5-axis Roeders machines destined for the UK and Irish markets are automated, reinforcing the trend throughout manufacturing industry towards autonomous running of machine tools, especially with investment costs falling.
At EMO Milan last autumn, the Roeders stand featured a completely new range of automation solutions for Industry 4.0, indicating that the manufacturer also sees this as the future.
As a postscript, David Waghorn mentioned that Hurco Europe plans to continue increasing the number of service engineers it employs, who account for around one-third of the company's staff. It added two service engineers during 2021 and plans to add another three in 2022, which will bring the total to 25.