The tide, it seems, is turning. The days of manufacturers offshoring work abroad in search of better margins appear to be at an end, with more and more European engineering companies bringing work back in‑house – and reaping the rewards. While there is not one single driver, the increasing accessibility of state‑of‑the‑art production technology which can offer greater precision, efficiency and control is undoubtedly a major factor. Here Yamazaki Mazak technical experts explain more.
Machine tool technology has long been evolving at a rapid pace, however the last few years have witnessed a real step-change in what can be achieved by manufacturers. Combined with greater accessibility, companies across the continent are taking the opportunity to invest in their own production capabilities. There are many reasons for doing so, but perhaps the overarching one is control.
Take the aerospace industry for example. Given the intense operating environment of flying 30,000 feet up in the air, and the potentially catastrophic fallout if a critical engineered part fails, there is a wealth of accreditation and certification required to supply parts. These accreditations and certifications require lengthy and often costly processes to achieve, which can sometimes be off-putting for subcontractors. As such, for those that have achieved the accreditations, it is more lucrative – and now, attainable – to instead increase in-house capacity rather than rely on third parties.
A perfect example of the evolution of machine tool technology which can facilitate taking ultra-precise machining in-house is the Mazak INTEGEREX Multi-Tasking series. The complete fusion between CNC turning centre and machining centre, it enables operators to complete every one of their machining operations – from raw material to finished component – in one hit, from one setup: true DONE-IN-ONE manufacturing.
One company which took such an approach is Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon Ltd (Gilkes), a UK-based manufacturer of hydro-electric turbines and cooling pumps for high horsepower diesel engines, which has customers in 85 countries.
Gilkes approached Mazak Europe in 2018, after the company felt it had reached the limits of its existing 3- and 4-axis machine tools. The issue was compounded by a need to outsource the machining of turbine runners to a third party in order to keep up with demand. Ultimately, this approach was neither a particularly profitable enterprise, nor did it provide the company the desired level of control over the complete production process.
As part of a long-term strategy to increase the company’s productivity and enable it to continue to thrive in international markets, the team at Gilkes decided to make the change from 3- and 4-axis machining technology to state-of-the-art 5-axis capability, which is where Mazak Europe came in. Following detailed discussions around their existing machinery, what they wanted to achieve and how to put a plan in place to do that, Gilkes committed to the purchase of an INTEGREX e-1250V/8.
The INTEGREX e-1250V/8 is one of the largest machines in the Mazak INTEGREX range, and is designed for the 5-axis machining of complex large workpieces, across a wide range of metals and alloys. The Multi-Tasking machine is capable of performing a variety of tasks that would normally be completed by multiple machines, including milling, turning, boring and drilling operations.
Its high-rigidity design, coupled with gate column construction and rapid traverse rates of 42m/min in the X-,Y- and Z-axes, facilitate the fast yet extremely accurate machining of workpieces up to 1,600mm in height, and 1,450mm in diameter. The machine’s high-rigidity turning spindle with DDM also enables excellent material removal rates and increased milling accuracy.
Since its launch, it has become one of our most popular machines for customers across a broad range of incredibly demanding sectors, such as Gilkes, who were looking to improve their profitability by increasing their in-house machining resource.
Following the installation of the INTEGREX in 2019, the company has gone from strength to strength. Not only has it resulted in step-change in both productivity and quality of its finished parts, but the company has been able to bring back in-house around 40% of the work it had previously subcontracted out to other manufacturers, which in turn has created more jobs in the local area.
Gilkes’ journey is one that we at Mazak Europe are very proud to have played a part in. While the company is one of many Mazak customers throughout the continent, its story is one that I hope will resonate with other companies who are looking to take greater control of the production facilities.
Ultimately, there has long been a perception that state-of-the-art machine tools lie beyond the reach of many manufactures. However, this is simply not true. Technological advancements have dramatically improved accessibility, and now more than ever is the right time for anyone hesitating about taking the plunge into 5-axis to do so. The rewards of increased capability, capacity, productivity and profitability are all there for the taking. Now is the time to go further.
For more information on Yamazaki Mazak’s range of machining solutions, please visit: www.mazakeu.com.