Nine orders in a week
Orders for nine sliding-headstock mill-turn centres were taken on the Star stand at MACH 2012, the company's largest ever at 400 square metres. One order was for two machines, bringing the total order value to £1.2 million. The lathes spanned the capacity range from 16 through 20 to 32 mm.
Managing director Bob Hunt said, "All of the firms were subcontractors and, pleasingly, half are companies we have not dealt with before. With a number of hot enquiries in the pipeline, April will be a very good month for sales.
"Apart from consolidating our relationships with existing customers, the name of the game at MACH is to meet new potential users.
"There were many of those among the 500 visitors from 370 different manufacturing companies we welcomed onto our stand, so for us the show was a resounding success."
There was more technology on the Star stand than in previous years. In addition to the sliding-head CNC lathes, the SF-25 fixed-head model generated a lot of interest. So also did the availability of a number of interactive touch-screen consoles. They gave visitors an opportunity to interrogate a database of information on all Star sliding and fixed head lathe models, and access video footage of the machines in action, before speaking to a member of staff.
The presence of third party companies on the stand attracted extra visitors and generated a lot of discussion. Emmaco, the UK agent for IBAG high-speed spindles and Argotech monitoring equipment, and production management software provider, PSL Datatrack, were notable additions. Proximity of the BTMA (British Turned Parts Manufacturers Association) pavilion also helped to direct visitors to the Star stand.
One of the first Star lathe orders was placed by Droitwich subcontractor, LMS Precision Engineering, run by father and son team, Roger and Scott Street.
A third of the company's turnover is derived from the aerospace sector. However, the firm also machines large quantities of sub-20 mm parts for a particular manufacturer in another sector, one of whose components requires a lot of crossworking. Historically, this part needed to be subcontracted.
Now, with the new Star SR-20RIII with five live crossworking tools able to complete all the required features, LMS will be able to bring manufacture of the difficult 316 stainless steel component in house. The entire family of parts will in future be supplied from one source, meeting the end customer's requirement.
First-time sliding-head lathe user, JEB, decided to opt for a Star machine to supplement extensive use at its Mildenhall factory of cam-type multi-spindle automatics for large volume production runs. The company produces two million turned parts per week, 24/7, but more obscure components are needed in smaller batches of less than 20,000-off. These were either subcontracted or produced in-house, which disrupted the main production runs on the multi's.
Daren Coombs, JEB's Turned Parts Development Supervisor and Martin Skeats, Production Manager, were both at the show on the Wednesday to conclude the company's purchase of the multi-axis Star lathe, an SR-20J.
They said that sliding-head rather than fixed-head technology was necessary to achieve short cycle times in what is a very price-sensitive business. It also underpins machined tolerances of ± 10 microns, essential to guarantee the necessary quality of production output. Moreover, the flexibility of the CNC machine will allow conversion parts and other new components to be produced in-house, leading to further savings.
One of the orders on Thursday was placed by Salcey Precision Engineering, Hartwell, which specialises in producing F1 engine components but has recently diversified into higher volumes for a supercar engine manufacture.
The firm's eight fixed-head lathes struggled to produce more than 400 EN24 tappet shims per day each but the first Star lathe, an SR-20RIII, has consistently turned out more than 1,000 per day since it was installed in December 2011. Tolerances are tight and the machine is consistently achieving sub 5 microns tolerances on both diameters and lengths.
Winning a new contract for a top retainer for a supercar engine prompted the purchase of a Star SR-32JN at the show. The machine will also be used for F1 engine parts. The choice of a model that does not have a guide bush will allow much shorter remnants, essential for achieving an economic cost per part, with materials costing up to £400 per metre.