Subcontractor Gets in Gear With Quaser Machine from ETG

With over 80 years of expertise in manufacturing specialist gears, Sovereign Gears Ltd has built a reputation for the quality of its products and services in a niche market segment. As a supplier to the automotive, motorsport, industrial, agricultural and vintage market sectors, precision and quality is a must – this is why the Leicestershire manufacturer has recently invested in Quaser 5-axis machining that follows on from three Nakamura turning centres also purchased from the Engineering Technology Group (ETG).

Located in Croft, just the opposite side of the M1 from Leicester, Sovereign Gears services customers nationally and internationally with the complete spectrum of gear products. This ranges from helical and spur gears, sprockets, straight bevels, worm and wheel gears spiral bevel gears, splines and much more. To manufacture this extremely diverse range of products, the manufacturing capabilities at Sovereign Gears include everything from turning, milling, wire EDM, grinding, lapping, gear cutting and reverse engineering through to gearbox design and ratio changes.

To further improve its productivity, the company has been on an investment drive recently, initially purchasing three Nakamura-Tome AS200 turning centres that were subsequently followed by a Quaser MF400UH 5-axis machining centre. As a small family business, Sovereign Gears is always aiming to optimise its processes to reduce set-ups and improve throughput. This philosophy led to the purchase of two Nakamura AS200 and one AS200L turning centre in a single order – all aimed at utilising the powerful milling capacity on the tool turret with Y-axis capability to reduce set-ups and free capacity in the milling department. With the Nakamura machines achieving their intended aims, the company replicated this philosophy in the milling department – acquiring a Quaser MF400UH 5-axis machining centre to reduce set-ups and expedite throughput.

Commenting upon the compact 5-axis powerhouse that arrived in the summer, Sovereign Gears Director, Mr Ryan Spring says: “The majority of our work is 1 and 2-off bespoke gears as well as jigs and kits for holding, assembling and working with the gears. Unfortunately, with so many complex forms, most of our milling work requires 2, 3 or 4 set-ups and this can take a lot of time and slow down our throughput. We bought the Quaser MF400UH with OPEN MIND’s high-end hyperMILL CAM software, also supplied via ETG to reduce our set-ups. The Quaser is our first 5-axis machine and it’s a technological leap we are still getting used to. Despite this, we are already seeing huge benefits with the Quaser.”

The multitude of gears and associated jigs and kits have upward of 3 to 4 set-ups per part and due to the complex nature of the components and the precision required, each set-up can average an hour. This means that each part often spends up to 4-5 hours being set up for machining. The Quaser has instantly eliminated 75% of this time, and with only a single set-up required for 5-sided machining, the precision of each component is significantly improved.

“As a small business, it is imperative that we maximise the productivity of both our machine tools and our staff. By having the Quaser machine and reducing our set-ups, we are freeing up the capacity of two employees. Instead of spending excessive hours repeatedly setting up 3-axis machines, staff can be allocated to other tasks,” adds Ryan.

When looking for a 5-axis solution, Sovereign Gears reviewed the market extensively and narrowed the selection process down to two machines, the Quaser MF400UH machining centre and a high-end 5-axis machine from another world-leading brand. Commenting upon why the company opted for the Quaser, Ryan says: “The machine from one of the world’s leading brands wasn’t on a par with the Quaser. The Quaser was a better option with dynamic kinematics and a high specification. Furthermore, the 320mm diameter worktable is perfect for our business, as we have very few parts that extend beyond 200mm diameter. Within this compact work area, the Quaser is a very fast, powerful and dynamic machine.”

“Since having the Quaser, we have improved our ability to machine complex forms and this has ultimately won us new business that previously, we would have turned away. The ability to increase the type of work that we can machine, such as round gear teeth, challenging chamfers, forms and keyways has enabled us to increase our customer base and our offering to those customers.”

The Quaser MF400UH provides an X, Y and Z axis of 680 by 610 by 510mm with an A-axis tilt of +30 to -120 degrees with a 360-degree continuous C-axis, providing an impressive work envelope in a small footprint machine. The BBT40 spindle taper is supplied by a 30-position ATC with 48, 60 and 120 positions available. Concerning further options, the end-user has a multitude of choices that range from all of the leading CNC control systems, a variety of spindles with speeds from 10,000 to 20,000rpm as well as several torque outputs. Similarly, coolant, swarf evacuation, automation and a host of other features have a plethora of options to suit the specific demands of the customer.

As well as the multitude of options to configure the machine, the compact footprint with a considerable work area was another reason why Sovereign Gears opted for the Quaser from ETG. As Ryan concludes: “We have bought machine tools from ETG for many years. The service and support have been outstanding. Whenever we have required technical support or if there has ever been an issue with a project or a specific problem with a machine, ETG has been on hand to help us 100%.”