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15/3/2015 Colchester Student lathes combine with ACU-RITE DROs to maintain training excellence

The University of Nottingham has updated its Engineering Application workshop with the installation of 12 Colchester Student two-axis lathes fitted with Acu-Rite digital readout systems to maintain its mantle as a centre of teaching excellence.

The user-friendly machine-DRO combination is regarded as key to enabling the first-year undergraduates gain the necessary foothold in the practicalities of precision machining.

This substantial investment - the latest evidence of the close co-operation between machine supplier 600 UK and HEIDENHAIN GB, the world-leading supplier of angular, linear and rotary encoders, digital readouts and CNC systems – has replaced a batch of ageing training lathes.

The faculty is acknowledged as being among the top 100 learning establishments worldwide for mechanical engineering (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2013/14) and has campuses in China and Malaysia.

According to Kevin Padgett, the faculty’s Senior Technical Manager: “In addition to being worn out, the ageing lathes that have now been replaced were no longer being manufactured, so a growing concern were the necessary spares and support. The workshops are in use every day and we need to be confident we can provide students with reliable, accurate and up-to-date machining technology.”

Each year around 250 students enrol for the range of three-/four-year mechanical, manufacturing and product design & manufacture engineering degree (MEng and BEng) courses on offer; at any one time up to 1,000 undergraduates will utilise the impressive workshops.

The undergraduates spend a proportion of their first-year learning practical skills in the Engineering Application workshop, using its battery of two-axis turning and milling machines, as well as undertaking benchwork and fitting applications. After this initial training, the students then undertake design and make projects in their first and second years that in the past have involved, for example, the manufacture of air motors and centrifugal clutches.

The Faculty of Engineering is also home to three other impressive workshops where more sophisticated (multi-axis) machines are used by the university’s team of skilled technicians (who also support the students) for a raft of machining projects in support of demands from the university’s technical departments.

Underpinned by an ongoing apprenticeship scheme – the high standards achieved on this programme can be judged by the fact that faculty apprentice, Ben Shaw, represented in the UK in the finals of the World Skills competition – the workshops also play a key role in a wide range of research-based machining projects for local manufacturing companies, including blue chip organisations.

Mr Padgett manages the four workshops and the 35 technicians, and is responsible for overall machine selection and justification, drawing on his experience as a time-served engineer. He joined the university ten years ago:

“Everything we do here is based on the production of high-precision, small batch work – machining applications that have to be right. So, the machine technology we use has to be fit for purpose.”

He continues: “Our collection of existing centre lathes had seen better days, so we went out to tender to three potential suppliers. All came back with machines of similar ability. However, the main selection criteria were quality, service, warranty and price, and 600 UK won the deal with its solution based on Colchester Student 2500 machines and Acu-Rite VUE DROs.

The Student 2500s have between-centres and swings over the bed capacities of between 635 mm to 1,000 mm and 330 mm, complemented by spindle bores of 40 mm and motors of 2.2 kW that can produce spindle speeds up to 2,500 revs/min.

“In addition,” adds Mr Padgett, “we’ve been using a 600 Group, Harrison Alpha CNC lathe for some years so are familiar with the company and its standard of support, and with the levels of its machine reliability. We also have machines in the workshops with Heidenhain controls, so likewise know this company and its control system expertise.”

Adding that the existing 12 lathes were retrofitted with DRO systems about two years ago, one option would have been to purchase the new lathes then have the DROs swapped over. “But the cost and potential headaches involved with this was easily outweighed by 600 UK’s cost-effective package that included the supply of the VUE systems already fitted.”

The VUE boasts powerful yet easy to use functionality, with full text being displayed on a LCD screen. As standard, 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) 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.

The VUEs were fitted to the machines in tandem with Acu-Rite SENC 150 precision glass scales on the machines’ Z axes and SENC 50 on the X axes.

Based on the use of reflective light for measurement, the SENC 150 scale’s highly integrated scanning sensor provides high resistance to contamination. Roller bearing technology reduces backlash and prolongs scale life. Available in lengths up to three metres, the scales have resolutions of 0.5/one/five microns and feature the innovative Position-Trac functionality that allows operators to accurately and quickly re-establish workpiece zero from any position after a power interruption. The SENC 50 also has resolutions of 0.5/one/five microns.

Mr Padgett states: “With the addition of the lathes and the potential of the VUE systems it is clear that we now have a level of machine and readout technology that will not only cover every eventuality in machining but will also ensure we can provide our students with up-to-date learning tools for some time to come.”

For further information, contact:

Howard Bamforth, 600 UK Sales Director
Philip Cullen, Marketing Manager

Tel: +44 (0) 1924 415000


TEL: +44 (0) 1924 415 000

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