Traditionally a three-axis vertical machining centre user, Singer Instruments in Watchet installed its first five-axis CNC machine at the start of 2019 to streamline the manufacture of aluminium components.
The German-built Spinner U5-630, a 40-taper machine, was supplied through sole UK agent Whitehouse Machine Tools, and is equipped with high-pressure coolant through the spindle and a separate clean tank, as well as Blum spindle-mounted workpiece probing and a tool-setting probe.
Cycle-time savings have been dramatic and there has been a considerable reduction in the number of set-ups needed across a raft of different parts. This positive outcome is a result of using the two additional rotary CNC axes provided by the swivelling trunnion and rotary table to reposition components automatically. In one case, a table for Singer Instruments’ Rotor automated screening instrument used in the biological sciences sector, is produced in three set-ups, whereas previously it required nine separate prismatic machining operations on a three-axis VMC. More typically, components formerly needing six operations are now produced in two.
Investment in five-axis capacity was instigated by Steve Maconnachie, CNC machinist at Singer Instruments. Maconnachie previously ran his own subcontract machining business with his brother in the Midlands and had used five-axis technology for many years. He was familiar with all the leading makes of machine, many of which were reviewed before deciding on the Spinner purchase.
“Some of our components are tightly toleranced to ±5 µm, so we maintain the temperature of our production area to within a couple of degrees,” he says. “It’s true that many of the five-axis machines we considered could hold this tolerance, as does the Spinner, whose price was also competitive. It was little more than half the cost of one of the other production centres shortlisted.”
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