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    Machining

    Streamlining productivity at JWA Tooling

    • By MTDCNC
    • May 18, 2021
    • 10 minute read

    JWA Tooling Ltd has witnessed year-on-year growth of above 20% in the run-up to the pandemic; yet despite Covid-19 having an impact upon the growth trajectory, the Leicester-based company has added to its plant list through 2020 and into 2021. As a company that avidly watches MTDCNC videos and credits many of its recent plant acquisitions to information gleaned from MTD video content, it is only fitting that MTD magazine went along to investigate…

    In the last two years, JWA Tooling has invested more than £2.5m in three new FANUC Robocut EDM machines, three automation-ready Mazak machining centres, a Doosan cobot, a Doosan Lynx turning centre, a Colchester Harrison Alpha 1400XC lathe and now a Keyence laser marking machine – this has all been accompanied by Lang zero-point clamping systems, Hainbuch collet chucks and Nikken rotary tables and back-end tooling. To facilitate the growth, the company acquired a brand-new factory, which has enabled JWA Tooling to move all its EDM and turning activities into the new facility – thus creating space at the existing site for the new Mazak machining centres. With so much new technology on show, MTD took this opportunity to take a closer look at the investment in Mazak machining centres.

    JWA Tooling prides itself on the ability to ‘take on’ the work that nobody else wants – the complex, high accuracy stuff that demands both craftsmanship and quality machine tools. With machining centres from several vendors, JWA Tooling was increasingly relying upon the expertise of its team to retain tight tolerances that its machining centres struggled to achieve. This was compounded by the primarily 3-axis machines with some 4th-axis rotary tables that required excessive operations and set-ups, further putting precision levels and consistency in the hands of its vastly experienced staff. After watching an MTDCNC video on the Mazak VCN-530C 3-axis machining centre, the subcontract manufacturing company enquired.
    Recalling the situation that led to the installation of the first Mazak machine tool at JWA Tooling, Operations Director, Mr Peter Wood says: “We had always shied away from Mazak machines because the Mazatrol control system was foreign to us and we had the perception their machines were expensive. After watching an MTD video demonstrating the new Smooth control on the VCN, we enquired. More to our delight was the fact the machine is built in the UK. We got a little bit carried away with the tick boxes – we opted for almost every optional extra available. The machine was the highest specified VCN-530C that Mazak had sold. We chose the upgraded 18,000rpm spindle, linear glass scale encoders on all axes, upgraded ATC with 50 tools, the best swarf conveyor, chilled ballscrews, the automation pack with extra M-codes for our Lang zero-point clamping and a high-end integrated Nikken rotary 4th axis unit. The machine even had the UK’s first ‘blue laser’ Renishaw tool length measurement and detection system.”

    As a company, JWA Tooling manufactures components, assemblies and tooling for the space industry, hydrogen fuel cells, aerospace and the automotive sector with the bulk of its work in EDM tooling for the aerospace sector. In many cases, the company is faced with extremely close toleranced work which presents challenges where the tolerance required is outside of the machines stated accuracy. Not only did the Mazak VCN-530C alleviate the stress of making such components, but it also relieved the stress upon the skilled machinists with its ability to improve precision levels, repeatability and also reduce set-ups. The machine proved such a success, JWA Tooling went out and bought a second VCN-530C machine with an identical spec to the first.
    At the Mazak ‘EMO Encore’ event in November 2019, the MTD crew filmed the new CV5-500 5-axis machining centre on the first day of the event and posted the video on the MTDCNC website and social media platforms. Peter Wood watched the video and arrived at the Mazak UK headquarters in Worcester the next day. Initially, JWA Tooling had plans to buy its second VCN-530C with some interest in a 5-axis, but after watching the MTD video, the company placed an order for both the VCN-530C and the CV5-500.

    “The second VCN-530C was installed in February last year and it has an identical specification to the first machine with the exception of the Nikken rotary table. We refrained from adding the rotary axis as we wanted to use the full 1300mm by 550mm table for our larger parts. As well as having the facility to machine large plates, we can also put up to 8 Lang double vices on the machine for clamping multiple components and machining a series of parts in a single operation. Between the two machines, we now have the flexibility to machine large parts, as well as series runs of smaller parts and also the 4th axis machining of more complicated parts. Last year we also added a Doosan Cobot from Mills CNC to one of the VCN-530C machines to facilitate lights-out automated machining.”

    Strategic move for competitive purposes
    According to Mr Wood, the ISO: 9001 business was growing at an ‘alarming rate’ up until 2020. “We have been hugely successful in recent years and this has been primarily down to our service, quality and ability to undertake the challenging projects that other subcontract manufacturers would either turn away or be incapable of undertaking. However, whilst this level of expertise and guaranteed quality is revered around the industry, it hasn’t necessarily made JWA Tooling the most cost-competitive. We used the hiatus of the pandemic to invest in new technology and automation, so we can offer our unparalleled level of quality and service at a more competitive price point.”

    For JWA Tooling, this has incorporated a complete review of existing processes as well as investment in new technology. The introduction of Lang zero-point workholding on the machining centres has reduced set-up times whilst the Hainbuch TOROK and TOP-PLUS systems have standardised and streamlined set-ups and changeovers in the turning department. Whilst this technology has reduced set-ups and increased spindle uptime, the introduction of a cobot has also made a major impact.

    “We do everything from prototypes to production runs and our milling department regularly receives batch orders for complex parts in series runs of 30 to 40-off. Whilst the second VCN-530C installation provided us with extra capacity, we needed to reduce the cost-per-part. To do this, we installed a Doosan Cobot on the 4th axis Mazak VCN-530C. Despite the Cobot and machining centre being supplied by two different companies, Mills CNC and Mazak successfully worked together to deliver a seamless solution. Now, we can easily load a batch of 30 to 40 billets onto the external cobot component tray in the evening and return in the morning to a batch of completed parts. Some of these parts require complex 5-sided machining, which means the machine can run for very long periods unattended.”

    Time to move to dedicated 5-axis machining

    JWA Tooling has long had the facility to undertake 4th axis machining as well as 3+2 machining before the introduction of Mazak machining centres. However, the precision, repeatability and consistency of finished parts were still somewhat reliant upon the highly skilled staff. Whilst the new VCN-530C machines have improved process reliability, JWA Tooling still recognised the merits of moving to full simultaneous 5-axis machining. As Peter Wood continues: “Whereas other businesses may have consolidated their activities or been forced to downsize through the pandemic, we have used the period to invest for the future. When we watched the MTD video on the Mazak CV5-500, we could have gone to the ‘EMO Encore’ event and kept our focus on the plan to buy the VCN-530C, or we could show the courage of our conviction and drive forward – and that is what we did. We invested in technology and upskilled our staff.”
    JWA Tooling ordered the two machines at the event and acknowledging market conditions, undeterred by the pandemic JWA remained steadfast in its conviction, the VCN-530C arrived shortly after the EMO Encore event in February 2020 and the CV5-500 followed last June. Like with its VCN-530C purchases, JWA Tooling upgraded the CV5-500 machining centre to incorporate linear scales, an 18,000rpm spindle motor, an automation interface with side doors for automated loading and a 50-station tool carousel.

    Removing limitations

    “We used to have limitations on accuracy and repeatability but the CV5-500 has eliminated these limitations. Producing a lot of batches up to 50-off that require multiple set-ups, these jobs absorbed a lot of machine capacity and extended lead times, the CV5-500 has made a serious impact on these jobs.”

    Providing an example, Peter says: “We had one component that was machined from PEEK and the customer needed a few hundred parts. This required three milling set-ups with an overall cycle time of 45 minutes. The CV5-500 reduced this machining time to just 8 minutes. Whilst this is an impressive cycle time saving, equally important is the set-up time. Each milling set-up was 1.5 hours – adding 4.5 hours to the production time. This set-up time would be repeated for any subsequent orders. On the CV5-500 the set-up was 1.5 hours, but with the program created and the Lang zero-point clamping, subsequent runs would have a minimal set-up time. This frees capacity throughout the workshop and helps reduce lead times.”

    On a small stainless steel part for medical testing equipment, JWA is producing regular batches of complex parts that previously required seven set-ups with each set-up taking 1.5 hours with an overall cycle time of 1.5 hours. The CV5-500 completes the stainless medical part in 1.5 hours with a single set-up that is also 1.5 hours, saving 9 hours of set-ups. Alluding to this part, Peter says: “Whilst the overall machining time is similar, this part typifies the true benefit of 5-axis machining. Firstly, moving the part from one machine to another incurs additional man-hours. We also have to continually inspect the part between cycles as parts have behavioural characteristics when being moved or re-set, which also incurs skilled oversight.”

    “Additionally, we can respond faster to customer requirements. Most subcontractors will acknowledge that customers are content with a lead-time of 4-6 weeks for a batch of parts, but they always want the first few parts immediately. With the 5-axis, we can accommodate this without disrupting production on several machines. In many cases, we are now accelerating lead times from 4-6 weeks to one week. Furthermore, the CV5-500 will run continuously to complete parts without operator intervention or subsequent set-ups – this allows our team to focus on other task whilst the machine runs.”

    ….and the future?

    “We are already looking at adding more 5-axis machines as we know that almost half of our milling work could go on a 5-axis. However, what is equally important is the implementation of automation. We have a highly skilled team that like to be challenged, so if we can automate repetitive jobs whilst creating a ‘lights-out’ environment to reduce costs for our customers – that is what we want to achieve. As a UK manufacturer, we want companies to get out of the mindset of buying cheap parts from overseas. When companies like JWA have automation in place, the cost differential between buying British or buying cheap Asian alternatives is negligible. If we can stop just one company from buying in cheap crap from overseas, we’ll be happy,” concludes Peter.

    https://cdn.mtdcnc.global/cnc/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/17163609/Mazak-MTD-2-of-7-640x360.jpg

    Streamlining productivity at JWA Tooling

    JWA Tooling Ltd has witnessed year-on-year growth of above 20% in the run-up to the pandemic; yet despite Covid-19 having an impact upon the growth trajectory, the Leicester-based company has added to its plant list through 2020 and into 2021. As a company that avidly watches MTDCNC videos and credits many of its recent plant acquisitions to information gleaned from MTD video content, it is only fitting that MTD magazine went along to investigate…

    In the last two years, JWA Tooling has invested more than £2.5m in three new FANUC Robocut EDM machines, three automation-ready Mazak machining centres, a Doosan cobot, a Doosan Lynx turning centre, a Colchester Harrison Alpha 1400XC lathe and now a Keyence laser marking machine – this has all been accompanied by Lang zero-point clamping systems, Hainbuch collet chucks and Nikken rotary tables and back-end tooling. To facilitate the growth, the company acquired a brand-new factory, which has enabled JWA Tooling to move all its EDM and turning activities into the new facility – thus creating space at the existing site for the new Mazak machining centres. With so much new technology on show, MTD took this opportunity to take a closer look at the investment in Mazak machining centres.

    JWA Tooling prides itself on the ability to ‘take on’ the work that nobody else wants – the complex, high accuracy stuff that demands both craftsmanship and quality machine tools. With machining centres from several vendors, JWA Tooling was increasingly relying upon the expertise of its team to retain tight tolerances that its machining centres struggled to achieve. This was compounded by the primarily 3-axis machines with some 4th-axis rotary tables that required excessive operations and set-ups, further putting precision levels and consistency in the hands of its vastly experienced staff. After watching an MTDCNC video on the Mazak VCN-530C 3-axis machining centre, the subcontract manufacturing company enquired.
    Recalling the situation that led to the installation of the first Mazak machine tool at JWA Tooling, Operations Director, Mr Peter Wood says: “We had always shied away from Mazak machines because the Mazatrol control system was foreign to us and we had the perception their machines were expensive. After watching an MTD video demonstrating the new Smooth control on the VCN, we enquired. More to our delight was the fact the machine is built in the UK. We got a little bit carried away with the tick boxes – we opted for almost every optional extra available. The machine was the highest specified VCN-530C that Mazak had sold. We chose the upgraded 18,000rpm spindle, linear glass scale encoders on all axes, upgraded ATC with 50 tools, the best swarf conveyor, chilled ballscrews, the automation pack with extra M-codes for our Lang zero-point clamping and a high-end integrated Nikken rotary 4th axis unit. The machine even had the UK’s first ‘blue laser’ Renishaw tool length measurement and detection system.”

    As a company, JWA Tooling manufactures components, assemblies and tooling for the space industry, hydrogen fuel cells, aerospace and the automotive sector with the bulk of its work in EDM tooling for the aerospace sector. In many cases, the company is faced with extremely close toleranced work which presents challenges where the tolerance required is outside of the machines stated accuracy. Not only did the Mazak VCN-530C alleviate the stress of making such components, but it also relieved the stress upon the skilled machinists with its ability to improve precision levels, repeatability and also reduce set-ups. The machine proved such a success, JWA Tooling went out and bought a second VCN-530C machine with an identical spec to the first.
    At the Mazak ‘EMO Encore’ event in November 2019, the MTD crew filmed the new CV5-500 5-axis machining centre on the first day of the event and posted the video on the MTDCNC website and social media platforms. Peter Wood watched the video and arrived at the Mazak UK headquarters in Worcester the next day. Initially, JWA Tooling had plans to buy its second VCN-530C with some interest in a 5-axis, but after watching the MTD video, the company placed an order for both the VCN-530C and the CV5-500.

    “The second VCN-530C was installed in February last year and it has an identical specification to the first machine with the exception of the Nikken rotary table. We refrained from adding the rotary axis as we wanted to use the full 1300mm by 550mm table for our larger parts. As well as having the facility to machine large plates, we can also put up to 8 Lang double vices on the machine for clamping multiple components and machining a series of parts in a single operation. Between the two machines, we now have the flexibility to machine large parts, as well as series runs of smaller parts and also the 4th axis machining of more complicated parts. Last year we also added a Doosan Cobot from Mills CNC to one of the VCN-530C machines to facilitate lights-out automated machining.”

    Strategic move for competitive purposes
    According to Mr Wood, the ISO: 9001 business was growing at an ‘alarming rate’ up until 2020. “We have been hugely successful in recent years and this has been primarily down to our service, quality and ability to undertake the challenging projects that other subcontract manufacturers would either turn away or be incapable of undertaking. However, whilst this level of expertise and guaranteed quality is revered around the industry, it hasn’t necessarily made JWA Tooling the most cost-competitive. We used the hiatus of the pandemic to invest in new technology and automation, so we can offer our unparalleled level of quality and service at a more competitive price point.”

    For JWA Tooling, this has incorporated a complete review of existing processes as well as investment in new technology. The introduction of Lang zero-point workholding on the machining centres has reduced set-up times whilst the Hainbuch TOROK and TOP-PLUS systems have standardised and streamlined set-ups and changeovers in the turning department. Whilst this technology has reduced set-ups and increased spindle uptime, the introduction of a cobot has also made a major impact.

    “We do everything from prototypes to production runs and our milling department regularly receives batch orders for complex parts in series runs of 30 to 40-off. Whilst the second VCN-530C installation provided us with extra capacity, we needed to reduce the cost-per-part. To do this, we installed a Doosan Cobot on the 4th axis Mazak VCN-530C. Despite the Cobot and machining centre being supplied by two different companies, Mills CNC and Mazak successfully worked together to deliver a seamless solution. Now, we can easily load a batch of 30 to 40 billets onto the external cobot component tray in the evening and return in the morning to a batch of completed parts. Some of these parts require complex 5-sided machining, which means the machine can run for very long periods unattended.”

    Time to move to dedicated 5-axis machining

    JWA Tooling has long had the facility to undertake 4th axis machining as well as 3+2 machining before the introduction of Mazak machining centres. However, the precision, repeatability and consistency of finished parts were still somewhat reliant upon the highly skilled staff. Whilst the new VCN-530C machines have improved process reliability, JWA Tooling still recognised the merits of moving to full simultaneous 5-axis machining. As Peter Wood continues: “Whereas other businesses may have consolidated their activities or been forced to downsize through the pandemic, we have used the period to invest for the future. When we watched the MTD video on the Mazak CV5-500, we could have gone to the ‘EMO Encore’ event and kept our focus on the plan to buy the VCN-530C, or we could show the courage of our conviction and drive forward – and that is what we did. We invested in technology and upskilled our staff.”
    JWA Tooling ordered the two machines at the event and acknowledging market conditions, undeterred by the pandemic JWA remained steadfast in its conviction, the VCN-530C arrived shortly after the EMO Encore event in February 2020 and the CV5-500 followed last June. Like with its VCN-530C purchases, JWA Tooling upgraded the CV5-500 machining centre to incorporate linear scales, an 18,000rpm spindle motor, an automation interface with side doors for automated loading and a 50-station tool carousel.

    Removing limitations

    “We used to have limitations on accuracy and repeatability but the CV5-500 has eliminated these limitations. Producing a lot of batches up to 50-off that require multiple set-ups, these jobs absorbed a lot of machine capacity and extended lead times, the CV5-500 has made a serious impact on these jobs.”

    Providing an example, Peter says: “We had one component that was machined from PEEK and the customer needed a few hundred parts. This required three milling set-ups with an overall cycle time of 45 minutes. The CV5-500 reduced this machining time to just 8 minutes. Whilst this is an impressive cycle time saving, equally important is the set-up time. Each milling set-up was 1.5 hours – adding 4.5 hours to the production time. This set-up time would be repeated for any subsequent orders. On the CV5-500 the set-up was 1.5 hours, but with the program created and the Lang zero-point clamping, subsequent runs would have a minimal set-up time. This frees capacity throughout the workshop and helps reduce lead times.”

    On a small stainless steel part for medical testing equipment, JWA is producing regular batches of complex parts that previously required seven set-ups with each set-up taking 1.5 hours with an overall cycle time of 1.5 hours. The CV5-500 completes the stainless medical part in 1.5 hours with a single set-up that is also 1.5 hours, saving 9 hours of set-ups. Alluding to this part, Peter says: “Whilst the overall machining time is similar, this part typifies the true benefit of 5-axis machining. Firstly, moving the part from one machine to another incurs additional man-hours. We also have to continually inspect the part between cycles as parts have behavioural characteristics when being moved or re-set, which also incurs skilled oversight.”

    “Additionally, we can respond faster to customer requirements. Most subcontractors will acknowledge that customers are content with a lead-time of 4-6 weeks for a batch of parts, but they always want the first few parts immediately. With the 5-axis, we can accommodate this without disrupting production on several machines. In many cases, we are now accelerating lead times from 4-6 weeks to one week. Furthermore, the CV5-500 will run continuously to complete parts without operator intervention or subsequent set-ups – this allows our team to focus on other task whilst the machine runs.”

    ….and the future?

    “We are already looking at adding more 5-axis machines as we know that almost half of our milling work could go on a 5-axis. However, what is equally important is the implementation of automation. We have a highly skilled team that like to be challenged, so if we can automate repetitive jobs whilst creating a ‘lights-out’ environment to reduce costs for our customers – that is what we want to achieve. As a UK manufacturer, we want companies to get out of the mindset of buying cheap parts from overseas. When companies like JWA have automation in place, the cost differential between buying British or buying cheap Asian alternatives is negligible. If we can stop just one company from buying in cheap crap from overseas, we’ll be happy,” concludes Peter.