Leading precision toolmaker invests in a large-capacity, high-performance machining centre to increase its machining capacity and capabilities, and improve its productivity through running unattended, lights-out operations.
Mills CNC, the exclusive distributor of Doosan machine tools in the UK and Ireland, has recently supplied Stourbridge-based HCM Engineering Ltd., a progressive and innovative precision toolmaker and die-casting process technology specialist, with a new large-capacity 3-axis vertical machining centre.
The machine – a Mynx 9500/50 – is a robust and rigidly-designed and built box-guideway 3-axis machining centre ideal for heavy-duty machining operations (including interrupted cutting) and long machining runs. The machine is a proven performer capable of delivering high (and fast) material removal rates and super-fine finishes.
“It is”, according to Mike Hanson, HCM’s Operations Managing Director, “a versatile machine: a real all-rounder.”
The Mynx 9500/50 was installed at the HCM’s 12,000 sq. ft facility in Lye in February 2021 and is being used to machine complex, high-precision die-cast mould tools for a number of leading OEM and Tier One customers – predominantly, but not exclusively, from the automotive sector.
The die-cast mould tools machined on the new Mynx 9500/50 are complex and are characterised by their intricate and high-precision features (i.e. thin walls, ribs, tapers, single and/or multiple cavities etc.)…and increasingly by their (large) size.
Specific mould tool elements machined on the Mynx include 3D ‘component’ forms and features, 2D plates, mould inserts, cores and slides etc. They are made from hardened tool steels and are machined to tight geometric tolerances (0.025mm) and high surface finishes, and to exacting quality standards.
About HCM Engineering
Established in 1969, HCM Engineering is an independent, privately-owned precision toolmaking company.
With over 50 years’ experience and expertise in the moulding and die-casting business, it is highly-regarded and well-respected in the Industry.
The company provides customers with complete ‘concept to completion’ tooling solutions offering Design Consultancy and Design For Manufacturing (DFM) services at the start of projects through to the manufacture and supply of high-quality and competitively-priced high-pressure, low-pressure and gravity die cast mould tools. As part of its services the company also provides machined or AM printed prototypes for test builds etc.
The company is forward-looking and forward-thinking. It is committed to continuous improvement and achieving best practice and, as such, regularly invests in its people, its plant and equipment, and its processes and systems to improve its performance and competitiveness.
Part and parcel of the company’s improvement programme is its willingness and readiness to invest in the latest advanced manufacturing technologies.
Says Mike Hanson:
“We regularly monitor and review our performance. If, and when, we see any area for improvement – we act quickly and decisively to rectify the situation.”
The company’s progressive, and some may say ‘bullish’, ethos and approach is evidenced by its move, back in 2003, to create HCM India (a 50: 50 Joint venture enterprise) from scratch.
Says Simon Hanson, HCM’s Commercial MD:
“To help combat tooling contracts from migrating to China and the Far East, we set up a new company in India.
“The joint venture has been, and is, a huge success: it has helped us remain competitive and has been instrumental in us securing new business.
“HCM India has provided us with significant flexibility. We can design and manufacture hybrid (mould) tools, using both our UK and Indian facilities and expertise, to deliver exceptional value to customers.”
The company’s ability to keep ‘one eye on the future’ is also evidenced by its popular and successful (5 year) Apprenticeship Programme run in partnership with local FE colleges and Training Providers.
Mynx 9500/50: Investment rationale
HCM’s investment in the Mynx 9500/50 was made for a number of reasons:
- To increase the company’s machining capacity/capabilities: specifically its ability to machine large die cast mould tools increasingly required by, and used in, the automotive sector.
- To improve the company’s productivity and efficiency by enabling it embrace/adopt lights-out, unattended machining operations and, as a consequence, improve cost competitiveness and lead time fulfillment.
i) Increased capacity
Automotive manufacturers under pressure to make vehicles lighter, more energy efficient and ‘cleaner’ (i.e. through reduced emissions) are increasingly looking to make more parts (i.e. powertrains, drivetrains and structural systems etc.), from lightweight aluminium, zinc and/or magnesium alloys manufactured from the die-casting process.
Explains Mike Hanson:
“Customers’ tooling requirements are constantly changing. Over the last 10 years the trend, within the automotive sector, is towards larger and more complex mould tools. It’s a trend, certainly with the rapid growth of electric vehicles, that looks set to continue well into the future.
“This is good news for toolmakers, as long as they have the requisite machining capabilities available to manufacture large-sized dies.
“To stay ahead of the curve, and to remain competitive, we identified that we needed to increase and improve our machining (milling) resources – specifically relating to the size and weight of parts (tooling) we could machine.
“Although we have a number of 2 and 3 metre bed length machines at our facility, we realised that it would be a strategically sound move to invest in another, technically-excellent machine to enable us to succeed in, what is, a constantly-changing and ultra-demanding market.
With the trend towards large mould tool production – we needed (and decided) to invest in the Mynx machine.”
The Mynx 9500/50 is a large-capacity machine with an impressive work envelope (X-axis – 2500mm; Y-axis – 950mm; Z-axis – 850mm) that can accommodate workpieces up to 3,500kg in weight.
The machine’s 2500mm x 950mm work table is being used by HCM to machine large (single) workpieces as well as multiple (smaller) jobs. These are/can be machined in a single set up and, such is the reliability of the Mynx 9500/50, can be machined unattended – overnight and over the weekends.
ii) Lights-out operations
Says Mike Hanson:
“To help us increase our productivity and operational efficiencies, and to ensure we were (and are) able to meet customers’ often stringent delivery deadlines, we needed the new, large-capacity machine to be able to run unattended overnight and over the weekends.”
The Mynx 9500/50 has lots of things going for it when it comes to unmanned operation and high-efficiency machining.
The machine’s powerful, high-torque and thermally-stable BT50 built-in spindle (22kW/10,000rpm – 452N-m), with its BIG PLUS dual contact face and taper configuration, delivers excellent high-speed and high-accuracy cutting performance, even when machining ‘difficult-to-machine’ materials and when being used for long machining runs.
Continues Mike Hanson:
“The Mynx’s rigid design and build combined with its advanced spindle technology (including through-spindle-coolant capability) enables us to ramp up feeds and speeds and to take aggressive depths of cut – all of which help reduce cycle times.
“The machine’s technical prowess, in addition to its 40-position servo-driven ATC with a 2.5 second tool changeover time, gives us the ability and confidence to run the machine (unattended) overnight and over the weekends.”
The Mills: Doosan angle
HCM is no stranger to Doosan machine tools or Mills CNC having invested in two DNM 650 Mk II vertical machining centres in 2014.
Comments Simon Hanson:
“Mills CNC knows our business and we have a good relationship with them: the previously acquired Doosan machines we got from them have performed well over the years.
“In mid-October 2020 Mills made contact to inform us that they would soon have a large-capacity Doosan machine arriving in stock in the very near future.
“The size and technical specification of the machine (i.e. the Doosan Mynx 9500/50), appeared to match our requirements perfectly and, when we found out its price and that it could be delivered, installed and be up and running in early 2021 – we were, to put it mildly, very interested.
“Following further discussions with Mills we placed the order, and the Mynx was installed in February.
“From order to delivery took just 10 weeks.”
The Mynx 9500/50 is a high-performance machining centre that delivers excellent results irrespective of the machining conditions, materials being machined and machining strategies employed.
The machine’s large work envelope means that HCM is able to machine the larger die sets required by automotive OEMs and Tier 1 manufacturers, and its spindle technology combined with its generous sized tool changer enables HCM to make complex parts faster…better and more economically.
Concludes Mike Hanson:
“The productivity benefits we are experiencing from the Mynx investment are dramatic and significant. Just on machining 2D plates – we estimate that we are now 800% faster than we were!”