For more than 30 years Stage One Creative Services, based just outside York, has been helping to wow audiences with its productions, which range from opening and closing ceremonies of global sporting events, to advertising campaigns for world-wide brands. Behind the show, though, is some clever engineering that relies on precision machined components.

Stage One’s remit is to convert ideas into reality working from concepts provided by designers, creative agencies, and architects. “Such are the ideas that we are presented with that sometimes at the outset of a project we genuinely don’t know how we are going to achieve it. However, with 30 plus years of innovative design and manufacturing skills and the dedication of our 90 employees, we create something different for our clients. Our ability to ‘do difficult things’ has seen us complete some world famous stadium shows as well as iconic advertising campaigns,” says Tim Leigh, Stage One’s Sales & Marketing Director.

The scale of some of these projects requires a significant amount of machining, not only for the visual elements of projects, but also for the intricate mechanisms that make it run smoothly. Its 8000 square metre facility contains a wide variety of manufacturing technology, including the latest in fuse deposition modelling and laser cutting, as well as a selection of CNC lathes and mills from XYZ Machine Tools. “Because of the nature of the work we are doing, much of which is confidential, we like to control the supply chain from raw material through to finished product,” says Tim Leigh. “For this reason we may buy a machine tool for a specific project and then continue to use them for general production after the project is complete.”

This was the case with one of Stage One’s XYZ TC 320 LTY multi-axis turning centres. The machine was used to machine over 1000 different components that made up Thomas Heatherwick’s Cauldron for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Given the high profile nature of the finished product the parts had to be machined accurately, but cycle time was also important as it was a deadline that couldn’t be missed. The initial cycle time of five hours was slashed dramatically to what Stage One describes as a confident 50 minutes on some of the complex parts.

The XYZ TC 320 LTY features a 33 kW/3300 revs/min spindle, with a maximum swing of 450 mm. The machine’s adaptability is enhanced by the inclusion of a full C-axis with 0.001 degree resolution, live tooling on all 12 turret positions using a 6 kW/4500 revs/min drive, and a 100 mm Y-axis. This allows parts that would normally require several separate operations to be machined in a single set-up. At Stage One the machine is also fully integrated into the company’s 3D CAD and AlphaCAM network.

Overseeing the machining department is Stage One’s Mechanical Design Engineer, Richard Moxon, who emphasises the need for accurate, consistent components. “Many of the parts we machine on the XYZ machines, such as winches and cable drums, may end up hundreds of feet in the air. So we need to know that they have been manufactured to the correct tolerances and that they will be reliable. With the XYZ TC 320 LTY we are working to tight tolerances, especially on bearing diameters and with the XYZ machine we are able to run with confidence as once we have set the machines we they don’t move on tolerance. The versatility of the machine also means that we can save considerable time by combining operations on parts such as winch bodies, getting them off the machine complete in one operation.”

(Above) XYZ 320 LTY in use at Stage One.

(Above) Winch bodies machined in a single operation on the XYZ TC 320 LTY installed at Stage One Creative Services.