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​If a company can be all-things to all-men, then Iron Mason is it. Founded six years ago by Chris Mason who had worked in the film industry as a model maker and animatronics specialist. The Derby-based company now provides engineering, fabrication and finishing services to a diverse customer base, including his old industry the movies.

Chris had recognised the lack of metal skills within the film industry so took the decision to ‘go freelance’ with a focus on fabrication on one-off projects with limited manual turning and milling capacity. Diversification from the movies brought in work from classic car enthusiasts and aircraft build and restoration projects. “Basically, I will take on anything that comes through the door, I just have to be honest with myself and ensure it is within my capabilities,” says Chris Mason. Working in this way does lead to the situation of not knowing what the next job will be, something that Chris thrives on. More formal work does exist though with Iron Mason also working on projects that take concepts through to production, often involving low-volume machining to be carried out. It was this work that highlighted the need for a CNC machining capability.

Chris Mason with his recently acquired XYZ CT 65 turning centre.

“Initially I was looking at a CNC vertical machining centre, but a customer beat me to it and made a purchase of their own, so I moved my focus to turning. My view was that as a turning centre was a bigger investment the competition for available capacity in the local area would be less. I did my research and asked other opinions and settled on XYZ Machine Tools and its XYZ CT65 Compact Turn turning centre as my first venture into CNC.” Two of the key factors in Chris’s decision to go with XYZ were the build quality and control system. “Having done the research it was obvious that the CT65 was much more robust than the other machines on the market, thanks to its solid cast iron base and box slideway construction, I’m finding that it holds tolerances very well and repeatability is superb. The Siemens 828D ShopTurn Control is also very intuitive. I didn’t want to be sat at a computer programming the machine, so it was great that within a very short space of time I was programming at the machine and learning very quickly.”

XYZ CT 65 turning centre

Such is the intuitive nature of the control Chris can adapt programs ‘on the fly’ and in one case reduced cycle time from 16 minutes down to six over a short batch run of components. And, while gains like this are being made Chris Mason also extols the virtue of the XYZ CT 65 and the Siemens control for one-off and small batch work. “The functionality of the control with its organisation of tools and program storage combined with the touchscreen make planning and programming straightforward.”

The XYZ CT 65 Compact Turn packs a lot of performance into a small footprint that measures just 2620 mm x 1450 mm x 1740 mm (width, depth, height) including the standard swarf conveyor. A 23 hp (17 kW) 4500 revs/min spindle combines with a 12 station VDI turret to provide the power and versatility required by the typical user who like Iron Mason may not know what job is coming in next. The maximum swing of 400 mm and turned length of 260 mm (a long bed variant of the CT65 featuring a 535 mm turned length capacity will be highlighted at MACH 2020).

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