When Birmingham City University took the decision three years ago to switch its engineering courses to the new globally accepted CDIO (Conceive – Design – Implement – Operate), a more practice-based educational framework, the need to update its School of Engineering and the Built Environment became paramount. A budget of over £7 million was authorised for the refurbishment of the workshop facilities, of which £1 million was designated for capital equipment which included seven machines from XYZ Machine Tools. 

The new XYZ Machines installed at Birmingham City University are part of a major investment to meet the needs of the CDIO curriculum. Pictured: XYZ 1060HS

“The CDIO framework is much more practice-based with students developing through logical steps and being exposed to design for manufacture throughout their time at the University,” says Tony Hayward, Programme Leader Mechanical Engineering at Birmingham City University. “This exposure to real-world manufacturing means that we need the facilities to meet their needs, and the workshop investment and exposure to the XYZ machines are all part of that.” The XYZ machines, a manual lathe, two XYZ ProTURN SLX 355 lathes, two XYZ SMX ProtoTRAK mills, an XYZ 1060HS vertical machining centre and an XYZ CT65 LTY turning centre, were procured after what Tony Hayward describes as an ‘intense tendering process’. “Given the size of the investment we had to put the machines out to full tender meaning a large number of potential suppliers could put forward proposals, however, the complex nature of the tender, which can be an 18 month process, saw many fall by the wayside pretty quickly. 

In addition to meeting the technical requirements of the tender we also needed a supplier that would also work with us to develop a relationship, in effect become part of our team. XYZ Machine Tools meet that requirement.”

To be part of that tendering process companies have to be part of the common framework that is in place, which XYZ Machine Tools is. A further advantage offered by XYZ is the fact that it has a dedicated Educational Sales Director, John Aspinall, who focuses entirely on supporting schools, colleges and universities. This understanding of the sectors needs has played a major part in the growth seen by XYZ Machine Tools in this area, with 2018/19 looking to be another record breaking year. Beyond the initial tender and order, XYZ Machine Tools is also able to provide the ongoing support needed through training for academics and technicians in use of the machines, they also supported the university at its recent open days.

The CT65 LTY turning centre

One of the key elements of the University’s tender document was the need for the machine control systems to be user-friendly and easy to use, a description that could have been written specifically for XYZ’s ProtoTRAK control system. “The machines will be used by workshop technicians, academics and students alike, so straightforward operation of the machines is important,” says Dr James Pring, Technical Manager School of Engineering and the Built Environment. “The commonality of the ProtoTRAK control system across the lathes and mills allows users to switch from machine to machine without any complications. The students have very little time to familiarise themselves with the machines and controls, and they tend to come along needing large numbers of parts to be produced in a very short space of time, so that ease of use is vital for efficiency.” 

One of two XYZ SLX 355 ProTURN lathes

The versatility of the ProtoTRAK control system is also highlighted by the TRAKing facility on the SLX ProTURN lathes. This allows users to work through a program by winding the electronic handwheels, with the speed and direction of rotation controlling the movement of the cutting tool through the machining path. “TRAKing takes the ProtoTRAK control to another level,” says James Pring. “It gives us the reassurance that the student is not going to crash the machine due to some potential programming error.” As students progress through their course their work becomes more involved, with more engineering assemblies, leading to projects such as designing and manufacturing compressed air powered engines. To reflect this, they then move to machining parts on the XYZ 1060 HS vertical machining centre with its 12,000 revs/min high speed spindle and the XYZ CT65 LTY turning centre with its 70 mm y-axis configuration. Once again ease of use was paramount to the university, and here the use of the Siemens 840DSL ShopMill and 828D ShopTurn Control systems provide the straightforward, conversational, programming capability that is required. “The overall package supplied by XYZ Machine Tools from pre-sale through to delivery, training and ongoing support provides us with the capacity, capability and confidence to deliver to the new CDIO curriculum. The icing on the cake was the provision of tooling vouchers that we can spend as and when we need to with Ceratizit UK & Ireland to further enhance the performance of the machines, without drawing on our existing budgets,” says Tony Hayward.

The compatibility between the ProtoTRAK control on the SMX 3500 bed mills and ProTURN lathes was important

“The workshop at the School of Engineering and the Built Environment at Birmingham City University is a great example of how we at XYZ Machine Tools can partner with educational establishments to deliver a solution that meets everyone’s needs,” says John Aspinall, Educational Sales Director, XYZ Machine Tools. “Under our XYZ for Education initiative we are happy to work with schools, colleges and universities to provide not only machine tools at favourable prices, but the ongoing support that the lecturers, teachers, technicians and students require to ensure the workshop functions smoothly.”