Broanmain’s new vertical (VMC) mill boosts engineering capabilities

In an effort to enhance the quality of precision components manufactured on-site and meet customers’ budget and real-time delivery requirements, technical trade moulder Broanmain Plastics recently installed a state-of-the-art vertical CNC milling machine.

Combined with a new ZNC spark eroder system, the Broanmain tool shop now has a full arsenal of equipment at its fingertips to undertake complex projects, test customers’ prototypes and take on repeat technical mouldings.

Adapting its precision machining and fabricating services to market demands, Broanmain was able to justify the capital investment in the Hurco VM10i after winning a contract to supply a local OEM of high-end spectroscopy tools. This client recently named Broanmain their Supplier of the Year as a result of the moulder’s flexible approach.

The addition of the multi-tasking mill furthers Broanmain’s already considerable expertise in designing and manufacturing high quality technical parts used in the medical, automotive, aerospace and electronics space. Equipped with a 10K RPM spindle and full Renishaw probing system, the mill accomplishes complex and repeatable 3D and 2D geometries and delivers better surface finishes on the most intricate of parts. Accuracy is further enhanced with the assistance of Renishaw’s TS27R tool setter and OMP400 part probe.

Rather than outsource the CNC milling process, which in today’s fast paced manufacturing environment is commonplace, Broanmain now manages every aspect of production. Operations director Jo Davis explains: “It means that one team is accountable for an entire project, from moulding right through to rapid prototyping and milling precise elements into a part.

“Not only is this in-house more customer centric, from a quality control perspective it’s easier to manage and more responsive. It gives us the flexibility to undertake a wider variety of projects. Plus the company can handle materials ranging from polymer to copper, aluminium and other metals, meaning we can now repair and even prototype mould tools in-house.”

Tool shop apprentice Kamil Stec campaigned for the CNC mill, researching and gathering evidence for a business proposal. Although the company had a manual mill, which it continues to use for quick projects like drilling and facing, the benefits of automating the process were clearly evident. As a CNC machinist, Kamil is able to retain complete control of the component design using 3D software to create digital drawings and then reproduce complex 3D contours time and again.

“In addition to cost savings, the mill is especially adept at making complex cuts into smaller components, such as copper electrodes,” explains Kamil. By scaling up its precision business, Broanmain is helping customers to make further productivity gains and manage stock by reproducing components on a regular kanban basis rather than ordering large quantities.

The addition of the spark eroder system enables Broanmain to make precise burns in any conductive material, regardless of hardness. “We use this method to machine shapes and forms into materials that couldn’t be accomplished using a manual or CNC milling machine,” notes Kamil.

The new sinker comprises adaptive burn control. As well as enabling faster set up, machine parameters can be automatically adjusted to reduce burn time and achieve repeatable results. A common scenario, explains Kamil, is milling electrodes and modifying features on an existing tool that has already hardened through electro-discharge machining. Removing an embedded metal in a component like broken taps or bolts is another example. This saves having to scrap a high value item where a metal has broken off, for example a mould cavity.

As one of the few technical trade moulders remaining in the UK, Broanmain continues to offer all types of thermoplastic and thermoset moulding. In the last twelve months the company has experienced significant demand for insert compression moulding, which Jo attributes to greater uptake in precision automotive, recreational, electronics and medical applications, especially mass production of larger parts requiring high strength and uniformity. Broanmain also has expertise in RFI electronic device shielding, pad printing, chrome or coloured plating, serial laser marking, and high quality reaming.

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