Anyone who has watched an episode of the BBC’s Inside the Factory programme will appreciate the speed at which packaging machinery operates. Ensuring the performance and accuracy of these machines, particularly bottling plants, is a speciality of Belgium-based Macovak, which manufactures precision parts used to manoeuvre and position bottles during the filling process.

Founded some 15 years ago on the back of the passion and industry knowledge of Managing director Didier Gillain, Macovak is an industry leader in the manufacture of individual ‘format’ parts for bottling plants found in the beverage, pharmaceutical and chemicals sectors. With every shape of bottle requiring different format parts to ensure the correct alignment and filling of the liquid demand remains high for what are relatively low-volume parts. “The format parts in bottling plants ensure extremely accurate positioning of the bottle during filling, labelling and closing of the container. Given the speed at which these machines operate, more than 60,000 bottles per hour, then it is clear how important accuracy is. At these volumes even the smallest discrepancy in tolerance can result in a huge price tag in lost production,” says Didier Gillain.

Adapting to these demands is what marks out Macovak as a true specialist in its field, as it combines precision and speed of service to deliver to the exacting demands of its customers around the world. Helping it to achieve its production needs it has invested in machines that provide cost-effective production of low-volume parts, most recent is the arrival of an XYZ Proturn SLX 425 lathe supplied by Crispyn Machines, XYZ Machine Tools’ distributor in Belgium.

With just one day of training on the ProtoTRAK control, Macovak’s operators were fully in tune with its operation and had the machine operating on production work within hours “That’s the beauty of the simplicity of the ProtoTrak control ‍and as our business revolves around problem solving for customers we need to be able to react quickly, but in the knowledge that the parts we machine are right first time to the correct dimensions.

Macovak relies on the skills of its ten employees to maintain the high quality environment, with its process starting on-site at a customer where it takes a measuring arm to measure the machines and bottles down to the smallest detail in 3D. This is vital as any discrepancy can lead to too much play resulting in misalignment and lost production. From this digital data a 3D model is created from which a machining program is generated in a CAM package to make it. However, to make a difference in the efficiency of the process and enhance the throughput of work the XYZ ProTURN SLX 425 has been brought in to replace another ageing lathe. “I wanted a machine and control that would allow our craftsmen the opportunity to quickly and easily program the workpieces themselves or, finish them manually on the machine. During a visit to the Crispyn Machines showroom, the ProtoTRAK control had caught my eye. So, I made a return visit along with my operators to have a full demonstration and they were immediately impressed with what they saw. You don’t need knowledge of G or M codes to be able to create beautiful and complex parts quickly and easily pieces with this.” With a wink Didier Gillain confesses “Even I could do it.”

The new XYZ ProTURN SLX 425 lathe at Macovak combines the best of manual and CNC machines to deliver improvements for Managing Director Didier Gillain (right)

While still relatively new to the company, Macovak is already seeing enormous time savings thanks to the ease of use of the ProtoTRAK control on the XYZ ProTURN SLX 425 lathe. “The time savings are striking,” he says. “While we haven’t documented it we know instinctively that compared to a conventional lathe, we can machine curves or angles in much shorter times with better quality. Even compared to our CNC lathes we notice that programming is quicker, so we really have got the best of both worlds.”