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The investment by SMP (Sheet Metal Precision Ltd) in a trio of vertical machining centres from T W Ward CNC Machinery is certainly paying dividends for the Hampshire-based specialist supplier of custom manufacturing solutions.

“In one instance, our use of a new Hartford Super HCMC 1892 vertical machining centre, for example, has halved cycle times on an aerospace part,” says General Manager Jim Livermore.

“The faster speeds and feeds of all these new machines – purchased to complement a large-capacity milling machine and an overloaded pair of older vertical machining centres (VMCs) – when coupled with the correct tooling (Dormer indexable drills with replaceable tips), has brought such dramatic reductions in machining times on the 316 stainless steel workpieces,” he says.

Measuring approximately 500 mm diameter by 30 mm thick, the ‘rings’ are produced in batches of 20 to 30 off and are initially turned before being set-up on the VMC.

According to Mr Livermore: “These parts used to take between three to three-and-a-half hours to machine but are now completed in half the time by the Hartford.”

The HCMC 1892 was supplied in 2016 as a two-machine package along with a Hyundai Wia F500 Plus vertical machining centre by T W Ward CNC Machinery (Ward CNC), which represents both machine ranges as exclusive UK and Ireland agent.

It was the success of these machines – and of Ward CNC’s back-up and service levels – that prompted further investment in a Hyundai Wia 650 Plus vertical machining centre.

Says Mr Livermore, who has been with the company for over ten years: “The need to invest in further machining capacity became obvious when our existing large-capacity milling machine – which accommodates castings up to one metre³ - and the two smaller VMCs, one with a rotary fourth axis, were seriously overloaded in machining components to meet the demands of our customers throughout the aerospace, scientific research and special-purpose machinery industries, for example, as well as agricultural and general commercial industries.”

Operating six days a week with 16 employees, SMP provides machined parts as well as sheet metalwork and welded fabrications of all sizes – from small components through to larger parts and fabrications weighing up to seven tonnes. These range from one-offs and prototypes through to large batches.

In addition to a high quality milling, turning and machined parts service, including heavy large format machining, the company’s one-stop shop philosophy also embraces TIG and MIG welding, underpinned by in-house toolmaking, too. “There isn’t much we can’t produce from our 12,000 ft2 factory,” he adds.

“We needed extra capacity to handle the wide variety of workpieces in the large-to-mid size range, and we knew that the latest machining technology would give us faster cycle times benefitting from quicker tool change times which are critical to cost-effective machining.

“We looked at the available alternatives and having previously received a Ward CNC stock list we were not only swayed by the immediate availability of the machines but also by Ward CNC’s ability to offer high-class, well-built machines at a cost-effective price that would meet our budget,” says Mr Livermore.

The Hartford Super HCMC 1892 not only provided the necessary capacity – with a working surface of 1,950 mm by 920 mm and X, Y and Z axes of 1,800 mm, 920 mm and 820 mm, respectively - but importantly for SMP, it also offered the necessary 6,000 revs/min spindle power of up to 26 kW to tackle all material types, especially 316 stainless steel.

Speed of operation is, says Mr Livermore, enhanced by the machine’s rapid feed rate of 18 m/minute in all axes and its cutting feed rate of 10 m/min.

In addition, Mr Livermore continues: “It was clear that the Hyundai Wias offered similar quality and improved speed levels, to complement our existing smaller vertical machines, so we took advantage of their cost-effectiveness by ordering two in quick succession.”

The 10,000 revs/min, 18 kW Hyundai Wia F500 Plus has a table size of 1,200 mm by 500 mm and X, Y and Z capacities of 1,060 mm by 510 mm by 635 mm, respectively; the F650 Plus with 8,000 revs/min/18 kW spindle, has a 1,600 mm by 650 mm table and X, Y and Z travels of 1,400 mm by 660 mm by 635 mm.

These now complement SMP’s extensive machine portfolio which also includes CNC lathes, including bar-fed and driven tool machines.

When opting to do business with Ward CNC, Mr Livermore points out: “Machines of different makes and with comparable speeds and feeds were available from other suppliers, but were not quite meeting the standard of construction that the Hartford and Hyundai Wia models offered. Also, they were either on relatively long delivery lead times or were outside of our budget.”

With a lifetime’s experience of mechanical engineering working in design and manufacturing, beginning with a four-year toolmaking apprenticeship, Mr Livermore was very clear about the standard of machining technology he needed to ensure the Bordon (near Guildford) based company maintained its levels of quality finished parts and delivery standards to its host of customers

“The Ward CNC-supplied machines meet all of my selection criteria,” he says, “and along with our latest investment in a new Tricon production control and shopfloor data collection, scheduling and quality management system, they will enable us to not only exceed the expectations of existing customers but also to cement the foundations for our plans for ambitious growth and expansion.”