The 2018/19 cohort of over 200 students studying for BTEC and City & Guilds qualifications in engineering at South and City College Birmingham’s Bordesley Green campus, is strong evidence that demand for engineers with core skills remains high. Since the Engineering facility opened, some six years ago at the Tyseley Green Campus and subsequently at the Bordesley Green campus following a relocation/reorganisation, the numbers of students has grown year-on-year, quickly outgrowing the existing machining capacity, leading to significant investment not only at Bordesley Green, but also at its sister campus at Bournville.

Ian Partington amongst the five XYZ 1500 turret mills at South and City College

The students at Bordesley Green Campus range from 16 year old plus, studying courses from BTEC through to City & Guilds Level 2 and Level 3 including apprentices, who all gain experience ranging from benchwork, through basic machining to CNC and CAD skills. The focus at Bournville is on all of the above, plus day release school-age children between 14 and 16 years old. All students are purely that, students, many have no permanent employment and some are semi-employed when they start training at the college. The College’s emphasis is on ensuring that when the students have completed their training, they have good opportunities for work when they leave; in that respect South and City college has received a good OFSTED rating (grade 2) in 2018. In order to deliver these standards of training, both campuses have a requirement for a mixture of manual trainer-lathes through to mills with DRO and CNC within the workshops.

The new XYZ SLX 1630 ProTURN lathe with the XYZ 1224 surface grinder in the background

“When we first relocated from Tyseley to Bordesley Green we had a limited number of machines, but to expand the College bought various new machine tools including a turret mill and surface grinder from XYZ Machine Tools. With the increased popularity of our engineering courses we needed to invest further in machine capacity in order to give all the students a fair opportunity to acquire the skills necessary for industry,” says Ian Partington, Advanced Technician: Engineering, South and City College Birmingham. This requirement for new machinery was put out to tender and XYZ Machine Tools was successful in winning the business. As a result, the Bordesley Green campus now has 12 XYZ machines, a combination of manual trainer lathes, turret mills with DRO’s, a surface grinder, along with ProtoTRAK equipped SMX 2500 bed mills and an SLX 1630 ProTURN lathe. A similar range of machines was also installed at the Bournville campus.

An SMX 2500 bed mill with an XYZ Trainer lathe in the background

“The mix of manual, DRO and ProtoTRAK controlled machines is ideal for our needs. The ProtoTRAK system was a big influence in our final decision to go with XYZ Machine Tools as it provides the perfect middle ground between manual and CNC and is ‘not too big a step up’ for students as they progress.” The ease of use of the ProtoTRAK control system is combined with its ability to handle complex parts for either one-off or small to medium production volumes. The conversational programming language also has advantages for those new to CNC programming, with the control providing guidance at every step of the process, even calculating dimensions that may be missing from drawings thanks to its unique Guess key.