Best known for its extensive range of Multifeed barfeed systems for CNC lathes, Milton Keynes-based Hydrafeed is also involved as a sub-contract machinist for the aerospace, special purpose machinery, and tobacco machinery sectors. To meet the machining demands of both sides of its business Hydrafeed has an extensive machine shop capacity, ranging from manual machines through to machining and turning centres. Sitting central to this capacity are four XYZ ProtoTRAK-controlled machines.
The XYZ SLX1630 (left) and SLX355 ProTURN lathes can be used in manual or CNC mode.
Hydrafeed has been in operation for almost 50 years as a family-owned business with current managing director Martyn Page joining the company as a toolmaker 35 years ago. In 2012, along with his wife and son, he took the opportunity to buy Hydrafeed and maintain that family-owned tradition. Along the way the barfeed element of the business has grown, with around one unit/day being dispatched, in addition machine tool robot automation is now part of the Hydrafeed portfolio of equipment. These barfeed systems are mainly sold through OEM machine tool suppliers, such as XYZ Machine Tools. However, the resulting ongoing investment in machining capacity to meet the needs of the barfeed production meant that machines were sometimes underused, so Hydrafeed expanded its operations to encompass a sub-contract machining service.
“Our sub-contract work is tightly-controlled and we manage the type of business we take on quite closely; focussing on regular customers with none of them dominating our capacity, the old 80/20 rule applies here,” says Martyn Page. Over the years we have continued to invest in machining technology, but like many we have faced the skills challenge. Helping to overcome that are the four XYZ machines that we have, which sit perfectly between our manual capacity and our machining and turning centres. The ProtoTRAK controls on the XYZ mills and lathes are straightforward to use and we have been very pleased with them. They are perfect for one-offs and smaller batch work.”
The ProtoTRAK control makes the SMX2000 turret mills at Hydrafeed highly versatile machines.
The XYZ machines installed at Hydrafeed are an SLX355 ProTURN lathe, an SLX 1630 ProTURN lathe and two SMX 2000 ProtoTRAK turret mills. All four feature the ProtoTRAK conversational control system that has revolutionised CNC operation with its ease of use. New to CNC operators can be programming fairly complex parts with just a few hours tuition and combined with the capability of the XYZ lathes and mills. On the SMX 2000 turret mill the control is available as either a two- or three-axis system, with canned cycles to produce features such as various shaped pockets, including pockets with islands, thread milling, bolt hole patterns, drilling, tapping and boring. ProtoTRAK SMX also features its innovative ‘guess’ button. If a dimension is missing from the drawing simply the user can estimate the approximate position of a point or intersection, press the ‘guess’ button and the control does all of the calculation for you. 3D surfacing with on-board DNC and the capability to handle virtually unlimited program size are other advantages of the ProtoTRAK control.
For its ProTURN lathes XYZ uses the SLX variant of the ProtoTRAK control and this, similarly, has many benefits for ease of use. As with the mills the control allows both manual and full CNC operation, with a key feature being the TRAKing facility that is standard on all XYZ ProTURN lathes. TRAKing is one of a number of ways that the ProtoTRAK control allows verification of a program. Using the TRAKing feature the operator can work through the program using the two handwheels, this can be used to go through the entire program or, up to a point you are confident to stop the feature and press cycle start. TRAKing can be re-engaged at any time during the cycle. In addition to the conversational, at machine programming, which allows even complex parts to be programmed in a matter of a few minutes, CAD drawings can be converted into programs using the optional on-board DXF file converter.
Hydrafeed is renowned for its range of automatic barfeed systems.
“Our sub-contract work continues to grow, and we occasionally need to call on others to help with over-capacity issues. This is where the value of our customer/supplier relationship with XYZ Machine Tools comes in. Talking with our XYZ area sales manager, he was able to point us in the direction of another XYZ customer, DJM Engineering, who had similar machines and skills sets to Hydrafeed and this gave us the confidence to put work out to them, in the knowledge that they could maintain the delivery and quality that we expected. A great example of networking between businesses with similar work ethics to ourselves in being good at what we do and enjoy doing it at the same time.”