Birds set to fly

02 Dec 2019

Engineering capacity news posted by Andy Sandford

Birds Precision Engineering is spreading its wings with its latest investment in large capacity machining.

The Doosan DNM 6700XL (3-axis) vertical machining centre was installed at the family-owned company’s 3,000 square foot facility in Nuneaton. It being used to machine high-precision, complex prismatic parts for one of the company’s long-established UK customers.

The parts, essentially base castings and guideways for state-of-the-art, special purpose machines, are made from cast iron and steel. The castings are 1.2 metres long by 640mm wide and typically weigh up to 500kg.  They are machined in small batches, typically one-offs through to five- or six-offs, to dimensional tolerances of 0.01mm across the part and surface finishes of Ra 1.6μm.

Birds Precision supplies the parts direct to this customer and, according to owner and managing director, Chris Bird, “they have to be right first time…every time.”

This kind of quality, lead time fulfilment and cost demands were amongst the main reasons why Birds Precision invested in the Doosan DNM 6700XL.

Chris Bird says: “To maintain our preferred partner relationship with existing customers and win new business contracts with new and existing customers, we made the strategic decision to upgrade our machine tool capacity and capabilities.

“We had been using Herbert DeVlieg horizontal jig mill borers to machine these types of parts.

“Although these machines, despite their age, were still capable of delivering the accuracies required - it was becoming increasingly difficult to source spare and replacement parts for them.

“We realised that this situation would only become more acute over time and so we decided to search the market for an alternative.”

The machine tool decision-making process was designed and implemented by consensus - with a number of the company’s younger members of staff playing the lead role in contacting machine tool suppliers and drawing up a shortlist of potential machine tools that could meet the company’s immediate and future machining requirements.

Says Chris Bird: “The future of the company lies, to a large extent, in our ability to recruit (and retain) top young talent.

“Our recently-introduced Apprentice Programme which enables our apprentices to gain valuable skills, relevant work experience and nationally recognised qualifications, is helping us meet this objective.

“Another angle to our commitment to investing in young people is involving them, where possible, in the future direction of the company and trusting them with important decisions - such as future machine tool acquisitions.”

Chris Bird concludes: “Such is the accuracy and surface finish of the parts being produced on the DNM 6700XL that they no longer need to be ground and hand scraped.

“The DNM 6700XL represents a significant investment for us but armed with this technology we are confident about our future growth and prosperity.”