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16/1/2015 Colchester Lathes and Acu-Rite DRO systems in a class of their own for Sheffield Hallam students

We've always had Colchester lathes, other comparable brands just don't match up to their solid construction, durability and longer term cost-effectiveness" state Sheffield Hallam University.

“Operating the faculty’s Colchester two-axis lathes without using Acu-Rite VUE digital readout systems would be like sitting in a house in the depths of winter without the central heating on! It would make no sense at all. Importantly, without the DROs, our students would not only take twice as long to complete every task, but also they would not gain the all-important experience needed for their progression into multi-axis machining.”

So says Roger Tingle, senior technician at Sheffield Hallam University’s Faculty of ACES precision engineering workshop that hosts daily classes of up to 20 students at a time. They are enrolled on a range of engineering and art and design courses that embrace a variety of machining tasks that include automotive, aerospace, environmental metalwork and jewellery, and product design related projects.

The workshop uses a battery of new Colchester centre lathes fitted predominantly with Acu-Rite VUE DRO systems, plus two with Acu-Rite 200S DROs – eight Student 2500s, two Triumph VS 2500s and a Mastiff VS 1800 – plus seven three-axis mills, where again Acu-Rite VUE systems feature, as Mr Tingle explains:

“The students carry out a range of fairly straightforward machining routines, so only a proportion of the VUE’s capability is used. But they find that the functionality they do utilise is very user-friendly.

“We’ve always had Colchester lathes – other comparable brands just don’t match up to their solid construction, durability and longer term cost-effectiveness – and in combination with the Acu-Rite DROs, this is undoubtedly the best teaching machine/control package available.

“The machines are more than adequate in handling the range of metals and materials we process, and the DRO routines are so easy to explain and use - the students pick up everything very quickly on these entry-level readouts. This machine-DRO combination does everything we want.”

The Colchester range embraces machines with between-centres and swing over the bed capacities of between 635 mm to 3,000 mm and 330 mm to 554 mm, respectively, complemented by spindle bores of 40 mm to 90 mm and motors of 2.2 kW to 11 kW that can produce up to 3,250 revs/min. The use of the machines in all types of organisations – from training facilities through to the most demanding of high-volume production routines – has earned them a global reputation for outstanding service with minimal levels of maintenance.

Coupled with the two-/three-axis VUE DRO – available from HEIDENHAIN (GB), the world-leading supplier of angular, linear and rotary encoders, digital readouts and CNC systems, and fitted to the university machines by long-established (31 years) Acu-Rite distributor, Terry Drinkall of Abtell Engineering Services - the result is that students can utilise a DRO that boasts powerful functionality but is easy to use, with full text being displayed on a LCD screen.

As standard, for example, VUE provides job clock, feed rate display, absolute/incremental, near-zero warning, 16 tool offsets/diameters, preset and zero reset, Trig calculator and instant inch/mm conversion in addition to a content-sensitive help function. Specific functions for turning (VUE can also be used for milling – hence their use on Sheffield Hallam’s mills) include ‘lock axis’ functionality (establish tool offsets under load), and instant radius and diameter compensation. Linear and non-linear error compensation can be configured up to +/- 9.999 ppm.

Abtell’s success at retrofitting the lathes subsequently led to the retrofit of VUE systems to the university’s seven refurbished three-axis mills, utilising SENC 150 scales.

“We’ve have lower cost ‘look-alike’ milling machines over the years but they’ve proven to be no good,” comments Mr Tingle. “The machines were functioning fine – micron machining accuracy is not critical to the students’ work – but they were getting ‘tired’ and we knew they and the students would benefit from the upgrade to VUE systems.”

Mr Tingle highlights the VUE’s standard milling functionality of graphically-supported bolt hole pattern calculations (full and partial circles/linear patterns) and centreline calculation as particularly useful.

Mr Tingle, who has spent 25 years at the university after working in industry for 10 years or so, works alongside senior technicians Ian Broome and Matt Godwin.

“Our role is to help students gain a basic understanding of turning and milling, but we can (and do) make anything that’s needed by the Faculty, including jigs for testing prototypes,” he comments. He and his colleagues – and some of the more advanced students – also access the multi-/five-axis machines in an adjacent workshop.

“The job satisfaction here is incredible,” he concludes. “Industry can be repetitive, but every day here is different.”

For further information, contact:

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Philip Cullen, 600 Group Marketing Manager

Tel: +44 (0) 1924 415000

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