Have you ever looked at your food packaging and noticed the words and numbers on the box or packet? More than likely this was printed using a print head manufactured by Scottish Robotic Systems, a special purpose machine builder based in Perth, Scotland. Its printing systems are also widely used in the electronics industry as an aid to stock management of small electronic components, that tend to be stored on reels. From its early days in the spare bedroom of current director Ross Walker’s father’s house, the business has grown to supply customers worldwide, with close ties to Domino Printing, a world-leader in inkjet printing for the food and packaging sectors.

The XYZ 1060 HS vertical machining centre and its 12,000 revs/min spindle

Scottish Robotic Systems is proud that it controls all of its design, product development and manufacturing in-house, with the only exception being and sheetmetal work. This has been made possible thanks to investment over the years in XYZ machine tools. The company’s first XYZ machine, a ProtoTRAK turret mill was made 20 years ago, this was quickly followed by two more. “These first mills transformed the way we went about our business, we used to have to draw the part then put it out to sub-contract, once the XYZ machines arrived we machined things ourselves speeding up the prototyping process and spending less time drawing parts,” says Ross Walker. “They literally saved us weeks in product development as we could make parts quickly, when we needed them without relying on external suppliers.”

The XYZ 710 VMC alongside the 1060 HS

Those three ProtoTRAK mills are still in the workshop at Scottish Robotic Systems, but they have now been joined by two XYZ vertical machining centres, a VMC 710 and a high speed 1060 HS. As the company’s products developed and pressure on lead times increased this investment was the next logical step for Ross Walker. Drawings are now done using CAD systems for prototyping and the files are then post-processed to be downloaded to the machines’ Siemens controls. Such is their speed of operation it has also created opportunities to bring in some sub-contract work from other suppliers. “I had no machining experience whatsoever before I came to work for my father but, having used the ProtoTRAK machines, the transition to the VMCs and the Siemens control was straightforward,” says Ross Walker. “The speed of set-up is excellent and while we have CAD/CAM we do program most jobs at the machine, it’s so easy, we can be cutting metal very quickly.” The speed of set-up is important to Scottish Robotic Systems as batch sizes tend to be small, typically 20 to 50 off but with its 17 kW (23 hp), 12,000 revs/min (15,000 option) spindle and 43 m/min feed rates in all three axes, the XYZ 1060 HS machine is extremely agile once it is cutting metal. “We are using the 1060 HS more and more now as it simply just does everything so much quicker, and with the through spindle coolant we get improved surface finishes across materials such as stainless steel, aluminium and plastics.”

Scottish Robotic System’s SMART count system for printing IDs on reels of small electronic components

Other standard features of the XYZ 1060 HS VMC include; axis travels of 1020 by 610 by 620 (xyz), THK linear roller bearings on all axes, temperature-controlled spindle and ballscrews, 30 position toolchanger and swarf conveyor. Control is provided by the Siemens 840DSL ShopMill or the optional Heidenhain iTNC 620/640 HSCI control. Both control systems feature easy to use conversational programming eliminating the need for G-code knowledge. Machine rigidity is provided by the use of a solid cast bed weighing 7500 kg with three linear bearings in the Y-axis.