There are cameras and screens everywhere in the 2,500 ft² facility used by Steve Nash who runs his specialist security equipment supply firm on his own where he makes full use of his ability in designing, developing and assembling most of his own products. However, what has become key in his one-man operation is his capability to machine the vast array of different components required which has helped ensure the whole business is easily managed.
There is only occasional help for Mr Nash at his Alton (Hampshire) business from his student daughter during her holidays. However, what has become a central cog in his growing success is his knowledge gained from programming his two XYZ Machine Tools supplied equipment, a 710 VMC with fourth-axis and a CT 52 Compact Turn lathe fitted with Renishaw tool setting arm. Both machines are fitted with Siemens 828D controls having Sinumeric ShopMill and ShopTurn programming software.
He maintains these controls have enabled him to influence his various component designs to be totally practical to make and in particular, to meet the growing need for features to be produced including a host of pitch-circle drillings and variations of deep cavity milling operations out of solid material.
His batch sizes tend to be small, mostly between 10 and 100, but he faces the constant challenge of one-off development parts for new projects plus some prototype components for certain key customers involved in the CCTV trade. While most of his machined components are covered over following assembly and hence out of view due to the need for protection against the elements, his standard of work would be the envy of many a subcontract machine shop-even those involved in the likes of aerospace contracts. Here, Mr Nash has the attitude of ‘what else would you expect?’ “If the parts have my name on them, I want them to be true representations of my business standards,” he said.
Within his machine shop he has an old centre lathe and an early XYZ ProTRAK mill which he says still works well. He added: “I have had excellent service from XYZ on spares and the ageing control is still good and simple to use. He also has two small Mikron horizontal gear hobbers so he can even cut teeth in-house on turned blanks for the small transmission gearboxes which are produced with minimum backlash to position his surveillance cameras.
The Compact Turn CT 52 lathe with its turning diameter of 220 mm by 280 mm long and with 150 mm chuck size is used to produce a host of turned parts from small precision gears of 5 mm diameter and shafts plus housings that require the swing capacity of 400 mm. However, important in Mr Nash’s decision to buy was the combination of capacity, accuracy and small footprint requiring an area just 1,700 mm by 1,450 mm. Also, by using short bar lengths for material up to 52 mm diameter the incorporation of a bar-puller in the cycle provides an automatic batch capability.
Most parts produced are in aluminium but some brass and stainless steels are turned while the four-axis XYZ 710 VMC, with axis strokes of 710 mm in X, 450 mm in Y and 500 mm in Z, is totally used for machining aluminium with cycle times that take up to one hour. This enables him to set the machine running and move on to carry out other tasks. Once again the floor area factor was critical and here the machine takes up only 2,250 mm by 2,200 mm of space.
Parts include gear plates, computer housings which involve lots of pocketing and with the fourth-axis, extends the capability of single cycle machining into indexing and profiling plus work on outside diameter features in the same setting. Here, he maintains the 24 tool magazine which is able to support tools up to 80 mm diameter, provides ample storage for his main use of a common set of tools. On both machines, general tolerances tend to held within +/- 0.02 mm although bearing diameters are held within 0.01 mm without any problems.
He comments that the combination of the Siemens 828D control and its programming software meets all his needs and his original idea of buying a CADCAM system has gone on the back burner. He said: “Despite being offered the four day training course at XYZ’s Tiverton site the way the course was conducted I was brought right up to speed in just two days and couldn’t wait to further develop my skills back under my own roof.”
However, he feels he is not left high and dry which could be a problem for a lone machinist. Whenever he is stuck or has a problem, an email of a drawing through to the XYZ application department has always generated a quick reply with guidance and any codes needed.
Like a bird returning to its original nest, Mr Nash left school to take up a mechanical engineering apprenticeship in a subcontract machining company in the actual building he now leases. He commented that there was plenty of gear cutting carried out which has helped him be self-sufficient in his production today. At 26 he had saved up enough to buy out his boss and set up supplying parts in the early days of CCTV which led over 10 years to a thriving business employing 22 people.
However, with one customer providing over 50 per cent of the work making the decision to take it all back in-house led him to downsize to keep the business running which involved a partner for a further two years. Then, in 2009, Mr Nash decided to follow his dream of designing and making his own CCTV equipment but using subcontract manufacture. But itchy fingers quickly directed him to once again put his machining knowledge to good use and led him to XYZ with his final equipment purchase decision made primarily on the level of support he had been given.
While he did check out competitor suppliers of machines, he maintains it was the overall package of an ideal specification to meet his needs, price and in his view, his experiences of service and support that made the decision clear cut.
He now supplies a range of vandal resistant security products. These include computer cases for thermal imaging equipment machined out of solid aluminium and then assembled with integrated hard disk drives. His Andromeda IR is a combined thermal colour day and night camera that he integrates into his own design of rigid housings as well as a range of combination tilt and pan heads with the ability to support loads up to 45 kg. All these parts are machined out of solid material. He even designs and makes the individual parts for miniature gearboxes on the two XYZ machines which gives him total control over the specification and performance and here he maintains, quality of machining is so important to minimise vibration which would disrupt picture quality.
Is Mr Nash lonely in his high security world? Not one bit! He says: “I can tailor what I do to the jobs in hand and have adopted the approach of working smarter and not harder. And it is these two machine installations that have been such an important contributor to achieving this.”
(Above) Steve Nash’s XYZ 710 VMC produces components such as computer housings for CCTV involving pocketing and profile milling from solid material.
(Above) I-Spy! I Design produces a wide range of components on its XYZ machines for the CCTV market.
(Above) A wide range of parts produced by Steve Nash on the XYZ CompactTurn CT52 from 5 mm dia to housings using the 400 mm swing capacity.