Achieving a balanced machining portfolio that matches the present and predicted workflow is the current investment policy of A Fawcett Precision Engineers. This policy at the Elland, West Yorkshire company gained fresh impetus when Joanne Thompson took over the running of the business from her father who retired in 2009. Joanne, who had worked part-time in the company for 15 years and had a background in the banking sector, instigated a new era and further investment followed.
Along with the investment came a change in focus with the company dropping the word Toolmaker from its title and adding Precision Engineering, which saw an increase in business from a much wider customer base, namely valve manufacture, which is central to the company turnover, as well as more diverse sectors such as aerospace, defence and automotive, as well as maintaining its toolmaking heritage. This shift highlighted an imbalance in machining capacity that Joanne recognised had to be addressed. This revolved around the company’s turning capabilities. “When I took over the business from my father we did have a wide range of lathes, but all of them were manual and many were getting old and creating bottlenecks in production. To address this, we bought a second-hand CNC lathe, along with a brand new XYZ SLX 555 ProTURN lathe in 2012. And, while the XYZ SLX 555 is still with us and working well, the old CNC lathe had seen better days and needed replacing.”
Joanne Thompson and Mark O’Brien are pleased with their investment in XYZ Machine Tools turning technology.
This saw the arrival in March 2019 of a brand new XYZ TC400 turning centre, which with a maximum swing of 600 mm is the largest turning centre in the XYZ range. Built as a ‘workhorse’ with a 43 hp (32kW) spindle and axis travels of 275 mm and 650 mm (X and Z), based on a solid Meehanite, ribbed, cast frame and hardened Turcite coated box slideways, it was an ideal machine for the variety of work undertaken at A Fawcett Precision Engineers, being capable of handling small to large components with ease. The Siemens 828D ShopTurn control also lent itself to the low to medium volume work that past through the machine shop. Now, following Joanne’s participation and graduation from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme, the incentive and confidence was there for further investment resulting in a further order being placed with XYZ Machine Tools. This was for the latest ProTURN lathe, an RLX425, which was delivered in July. The XYZ RLX 425 ProTURN lathe is available with either a 1.25 or 2m between centre distance and is equipped as standard with a 10hp (7.5kW), 25 -2500 revs/min spindle (over three speed ranges). Maximum swing over the bed is 480 mm with up to 700 mm in the gap. Construction consists of a solid cast bed and base, matched with a headstock that uses induction hardened and precision ground gears along with taper roller bearings and support journal to ensure maximum spindle rigidity and concentricity.
The XYZ TC400 turning centre and SLX 555 ProTURN lathe have been added to with an XYZ RLX425 ProTUTRN lathe.
This machine features the new RX ProtoTRAK control system with its 15.6” touchscreen control that puts greater user-friendly features at the operator’s fingertips. In total the new ProtoTRAK control has 21 additional features over its predecessor, including optional DXF converter to make it less complicated and more intuitive to input a modern electrical drawing: Fly out windows bring information that you need to hand at any time to generate greater efficiency: Speeds & Feed Control with an on-screen override dial that gives improved functionality with fine control, touch rotate and instant set features.
“You have to be realistic and confident about what you can do for customers and not promise something you can’t deliver, that’s why we have continued to focus on the low-medium batch quantities in sectors that we have extensive experience. The XYZ machines meet our needs perfectly for that type of work,” says Joanne Thompson. “Having the machines has made us more cost-effective as a machine shop, reduced our labour costs and therefore made us more competitive.” When the XYZ TC400 was installed the decision was taken to have the free training on-site in eland, this allowed real-life jobs to be used to go through the conversational programming on the Siemens control and allowed Works Manager Mark O’Brien to pick up its operation within hours of first seeing it.
With regard to both the ProtoTRAK and Siemens controls Mr O’Brien comments: “We were sold on the first ProtoTRAK lathe by its competitive price and the control itself, as coming from manual machines it was a significant step-up, but one that was straightforward thanks to the control system. It was the same when we brought in the XYZ TC 400, this was another natural progression for us, but one that happened without any issues. With the new RLX ProTURN lathe we see that as the next logical step in developing our turning capacity. The use of the touchscreen and the graphics capability of the new RX control will be a major plus as we do all our programming at the machine. Therefore, having those features and the extensive tool library will be a big advantage.”