New rotary table provides ‘astronomical’ advantage

A recently installed Peter Lehmann CNC rotary table is enabling a Bostomatic high-speed milling machine belonging to Thomas Keating Toolmaking to perform highly efficient 5-axis machining.

Located in Billingshurst, West Sussex, Thomas Keating Toolmaking can trace its roots back to the mid-18th Century. The company’s remarkable longevity and enduring success can be attributed to the business’ innate ability to continually adapt to the times it operates in.

Never has this family business better demonstrated its capacity to change and to meet contemporary needs, than under the current leadership of the fourth generation of the Wylde family, managing director, Dr Richard Wylde.

Building on its 75 years of in-depth experience in the production of precision toolmaking, over recent years the business has made substantial investments in advanced CNC machine tools and significantly expanded its capabilities.

In addition to serving a wide range of demanding industries, including the medical, aerospace and motorsport sectors, the company is also a specialist designer and manufacturer of scientific ground and satellite-based THZ instruments.

Due the demanding nature of the machining undertaken in this field, rather than invest in a 5-axis machine tool, the company recently took a more bespoke route. Having decided that a pre-owned, 3-axis Bostomatic milling machine had the ideal, stable machine structure to support the company’s challenging 5-axis work, the machine was comprehensively re-built and fitted with a Heidenhain TNC640 5-axis controller by ACC Systems.

To complete the Bostomatic’s conversion to 5-axis work, Dr Wylde searched for a suitably accurate and flexible CNC rotary table. The solution was found in a Lehmann TF 507510 model.

He explains: “The combination of our toolmaking skills, high-quality machine tools and software, together with our physics-based intellectual property, means that we are able to serve a relatively small but worldwide scientific instrument market.

“We are constantly searching for ways to improve our capabilities, hence the recent Bostomatic machine tool, Heidenhain control and Lehmann rotary table purchase. When judged against the alternatives, the Lehmann TF 507510 rotary table best met our exacting technical criteria and also represented excellent value for money. Now installed in our rebuilt Bostomatic machine, it is in daily use and is helping us to perform exceptionally accurate and highly efficient 5-axis machining.”

He continues: “In addition to the advantages the rotary table has provided to our toolmaking activities, it has proven extremely useful when we manufacture our high-precision scientific instruments. For example, we are currently involved in the production of the next generation of satellite-based weather prediction instruments. The precision 3+2 axes capabilities provided by the Lehmann rotary table have been invaluable when undertaking this challenging work.

“Equally, when recently manufacturing thin, metal film coated dielectric mirrors for use in Dynamic Nuclear Polarization (DNP) instruments, the use of the rotary table enabled complex 5-axis machining tasks to be performed much more efficiently.

“In fact, the Lehmann/Bostomatic machine tool combination has been so successful that we are currently in the process of purchasing a second machine and rotary table.”

It is estimated that 90% of machining procedures carried out by 5-axis machining centres are basic five-sided processes. Therefore, the fitting of a CNC rotary table, that costs a fraction of the price of a 5-axis machining centre, to an existing 3-axis VMC, represents an excellent alternative way of achieving 5-axis capabilities. It also results in a rapid ROI.

Peter Lehmann’s CNC rotary tables are based on a compact, innovative modular design concept that enables a range of high-quality standard components to be used to produce a comprehensive series of product variants. Each of the company’s rotary tables can be further refined according to specific customer needs.

Peter Lehmann

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