Now in its third decade, Wolverhampton-based subcontractor, Askey Precision Engineering has built an impressive client base across a number of industry sectors, including automotive, defence and aerospace. Through further investment in people and equipment it is now targeting further growth, particularly in the oil & gas sector.

The current mix of work at Askey Precision Engineering is conveniently split 50/50 between bespoke design and manufacture projects, such as specialist tooling for robot welding applications and general make to print work as a supplier to the MOD and BAE Systems among other blue chip customers. Its machine capacity list reflects the type of work that it undertakes, with a maximum component weight of five tonnes being accommodated on its range of borers, mills and lathes. The most recent addition to this capacity list is an XYZ XL 780 lathe that is adding a different dimension to existing turning capacity. 

“We have lathes with a bigger swing than the XYZ XL 780, but the extra bed length and 40 hp spindle allows us to take on work that we couldn’t have done previously, we are also transferring smaller jobs to the XL 780 as we find it very efficient for high volume metal removal,” says Colin Askey, Managing Director, Askey Precision Engineering. The XL 780 features a 780 mm swing and 3000 mm between centres and a massive, one-piece, 500 mm wide cast bed. These features combine to create a heavy-duty and stable machining platform for long and large diameter components. 

“The added capability that we have since the arrival of the XL 780 will be of benefit to us as we target growth in the oil & gas sector. In spite of the current low oil price, we still see this as offering massive growth opportunity for us and our aim is to become a Tier 1 supplier to this industry. To achieve this aim investment is crucial and this means in people as well as equipment such as the XYZ machine. Our view to staff development is if they see something they want to achieve, and it will also benefit the business we are happy to support them, as we recognise that finding and retaining skilled people is vital to our long term goals.”

One of these skills issues is that of CNC operators. Askey Precision Engineering has focused its control technology on full G-code systems up until the arrival of the XYZ XL 780, which is equipped with the Siemens 828D Shopturn control featuring conversational programming software. This software allows users to program complex parts quickly and easily even with limited programming experience. The confirmation of this is that the XYZ machine at Askey is operated by Harry Willis, who while being a highly skilled manual turner, had no experience of CNC. With half a day’s training Harry was happily programming the XL 780 by himself. 

“I was always a fan of G-code and dismissed conversational programming to a certain degree as I preferred to be, what I thought, fully in control of programming. However, having witnessed the ease of use, the effectiveness of the built-in cycles on the Siemens control I am converted and am now convinced there is no need to be able to read G-code anymore. Any turner worth his salt should be programming and cutting metal on this XL 780 machine within a few hours. We also now find that set-ups are reduced to a few minutes as well due to the simplicity of the whole system,” says Colin Askey.

(Above) The XYZ XL 780 lathe installed at Askey Precision Engineering is operated by Harry Willis, who with no CNC experience was programming and operating the machine after just a few hours training.