Wirecut adds precision

14 Jan 2020

Engineering capacity news posted by Andy Sandford

Precision machining subcontractor Duckworth & Kent (Reading) Ltd  has invested in a new wire erosion machine that will reduce set-ups required, improve quality and repeatability, and allow unmanned overnight operations.

The new machine is a Sodick VL600Q model, its first from that manufacturer, supplied by Sodi-Tech EDM.

The company to undertakes everything from prototype projects and the development and manufacture of special purpose machinery, through to small batch and full production piece-part machining.

“Our speciality is low-volume, high-quality precision components, often manufactured from a variety of difficult materials and with complex shapes that few others want to attempt,” explains Sales Director Stuart Gleeson, son of original co-founder David, who retired in 2000. Stuart’s brother, Terry, is the current Managing Director.

The 15-employee business has relied on wire EDM for many years, particularly for the extremely high accuracy cutting of precision parts. However, when one of the company’s three wire EDMs recently required replacement, the company decided to evaluate a range of potential suppliers.

Reviewing three wire EDM machines, Mr Gleeson and his team quickly settled on the Sodick VL600Q, which seemed “a natural fit with the type of work” undertaken at the company. He added that the rotary axis on the machine would help with complex parts.

“We’ve been putting the rotary axis to good use,” says Mr Gleeson. “For instance, it’s making light work of a lifting rod for the defence industry that is made from toughened steel. The rod features a series of diameters and squares that have to be concentric and straight to one another. There is also a thread and a yoke at the top for lifting. The rod is about 150mm long and we recently produced a batch of 58 in a single set-up. Previously, this part would have required two EDM operations, or one EDM operation followed by milling and/or grinding. Saving a set-up probably equates to a cycle time reduction of one hour per part. So that’s 58 hours saved on one job alone, plus the quality is better as we avoid picking up the component and re-setting.”

Another defence-related job at Duckworth & Kent involves the wire eroding of discs from exotic plate materials such as vanadium, tantalum and molybdenum. Measuring 50mm in diameter and 2mm thick, the plates are used as test samples.

Mr Gleeson says: “These assemblies comprise a hard steel part featuring a titanium nitride coating, magnets and conductive adhesive. The Sodick cuts through the lot, wire finishing the entire face in one set-up. In fact, using the rotary axis allows us to hit more faces in one go, preventing inaccuracy through re-setting. Prior to installing the Sodick machine, this work required several set-ups per assembly.”