Big-capacity route to 5-axis machining

27 Feb 2017
The 40 teeth for the Sheffield Forgemasters racks re-engineered by Ian Cocker Engineering had to be milled to an accuracy of ± 15 µm

The 40 teeth for the Sheffield Forgemasters racks re-engineered by Ian Cocker Engineering had to be milled to an accuracy of ± 15 µm

Sheffield contract machining firm Ian Cocker Engineering has expanded its capacity both in terms of size and versatility by installing its first 5-axis machining centre.

The Hurco VMX84SWi is the largest that the manufacturer produces and is said to be the first such machine to be installed in the UK.

Ian Cocker, proprieter, said: “The large working envelope means that we can machine parts that we previously had to turn away.”

“It is a very versatile 5-axis solution, as we can use the rotary table either upright or on its back to tackle five sides of a component in one hit, or for full simultaneous 5-axis cycles.”

“Then if we take it off the table, long components measuring over 2.1 metres can undergo up to 4-axis CNC milling and drilling.”

Over the years, the firm has relied on Hurco vertical machining centres almost exclusively to produce prismatic components, mainly for the oil and gas sector and frequently from difficult materials such as stainless steel and Inconel.

In 2014, volume production for the oil and gas industry accounted for 80% of the subcontractor’s turnover. But that figure has now halved due to the slowdown in the sector.

Luckily, much of the shortfall was replaced by development contracts in the same field, while additional work was won from the Advanced Manufacturing and Research Centre (AMRC) at Sheffield University and also from Sheffield Forgemasters.

A batch of components for the latter customer was one of the first jobs to be put through the VMX84SWi. The project involved re-engineering seven rack segments, one metre long, for the axis drives on a Chinese-built floor-type milling machine in use at Sheffield Forgemasters.

The new machine’s capabilities are about to be taken a step further with an upgrade of the company’s OneCNC CAM system for off-line G-code programming to a seat of Open Mind hyperMILL 5-axis CAM software. This will provide the ability to produce fully-interpolative 5-axis cutting cycles for running on the new Hurco machine, allowing the subcontractor to accept work requiring complex features and profiling.