Tabling a Motion for Success!!
With its 25th anniversary on the horizon, Uxbridge based Inplas Plastic Fabrications Ltd has spent quarter of a century in the limelight. The ten-employee company designs, manufactures and fabricates projects for TV, the film industry, retail and Point of Sale, architecture, furniture and the interior design sector.
The success of the company has seen it work on high profile films and TV shows from Star Wars and Harry Potter to Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Thunderbirds, numerous James Bond and Marvel (MCU) films as well as producing work for TV programmes as diverse as Hell’s Kitchen, BBC News, CBeebies and more. This prestige extends far beyond the silver screen with a recent project being undertaken for renowned hand-crafted furniture designer and manufacturer Sebastian Blakeley. For those less familiar with high-end furniture design, Sebastian Blakeley is frequently commissioned to design and produce unique furniture for the rich and famous.
One recent ‘celebrity commissioned’ project for a 3m long table, was designed and produced in conjunction with Inplas, a company that knew that when it was faced with a seemingly impossible design brief, cutting tools from ITC would be the tool in its armoury to deliver success. With a design brief for a table manufactured from acrylic and walnut wood with no fixings, screws or adhesives, the visionary designer couldn’t find a manufacturing partner to undertake the project – until a Google search led the Cornish designer to Inplas.
A number of visits to West London to see Inplas and agree the profile shapes confirmed that the seemingly impossible feat of resting 200kg of Walnut on acrylic legs with no fixings was feasible. Sebastian spent nine months hand crafting the wood for the table and chairs while Inplas got straight on the phone to Sally Hunt at ITC.
With more than £3500 of 80mm thick acrylic that needed machining as five separate parts, Inplas recognised the need for high-quality precision cutting tools capable of machining the 80mm thick material. Furthermore, with no fixings involved, the two stringer beams, the connecting stringer beam and the two legs needed a precision interference fit with a polished finish to fit together and remain sturdy – hence the call to Tamworth cutting tool experts ITC.
Commenting upon the project, Inplas Director Mr Trevor Smith says: The 3m long stringer beams slot into the top of the CNC machined legs with a 45degree bevel angle on the corner of the exposed beam. We knew we needed specialist cutting tools and technical support, so Sally at ITC was our first call. The first issue we had was the thickness of the acrylic. It meant we needed a cutting length of at least 80mm and we wanted a balanced tool for optimum surface finish and precision. Sally at ITC supplied a specially modified 2631-12 Series 2-fluted extra-long end mill with additional necking to provide us with 80mm cutting length plus an additional 5mm clearance.
With the cost of the acrylic and the impeccable finish and precision required, Inplas decided to conduct a trial run on an 80mm thick MDF template. “ITC supplied the special tool in just a couple of days and on our MDF trials, Sally was on hand to advise regarding the cutting parameters such as speeds, feeds and machining strategy. The trials went perfectly, and we then had the confidence to machine the acrylic components for the project. We use a number of cutting tool vendors including ITC for general tooling, but when it comes to special projects, ITC is always our first port of call. The quality of the cutting tools is exceptional, but equally important is the technical support. If we have a new project that throws-up challenges from a machining perspective, we will always seek out the advice of Sally from ITC. We have been using cutting tools from ITC for a number of years and the technical support has always yielded benefits for our business. Whether it is productivity gains, extended tool life, surface finishes or the requirement for special tools, ITC has always been there for us.”
The five acrylic components for the table required more than 15 hours of machining with an additional 85 hours of hand polishing. Commenting upon this, Trevor continues: “We only needed a single 2631-12 Series 2-fluted extra-long end mill ITC tool for the entire 15 hours of machining and the performance was consistent throughout. This performance highlights what is possible when you combine high-end machine tools and high-quality cutting tools.”
Inplas has recently invested in new software, diamond polishing equipment, laser cutting, etching and engraving machines and its MULTICAM 3000 CNC router with an 11-tool carousel. Referring to this, Trevor says: We are always investing to keep abreast of technology and the MULTICAM machine enables us to work at spindle speeds of 24,000rpm with a high feed rate. The machine also incorporates ceramic spindle bearings to maximise thermal stability and dampen vibration when running at high-speed. The combination of the high-speed machine and the balanced ITC cutting tools has enabled us to increase our depth of cut from 1.8mm to 5mm, this has increased our productivity by up to 30% on a number of jobs. The machine has the speed and power capability to increase our productivity by 40%, so it is vital it is tooled correctly.
Inplas has been using ITC cutting tools for over 10 years and the partnership has flourished in that period. The company specifies ITC’s engraving tools, autocarving tools, single and triple flute and long series, ball nosed cutters and special tools.
“Back in the day and prior to the introduction of ITC tools, we suffered considerable downtime from poor tool life. Our previous cutters would break frequently; this would have a detrimental effect on productivity, product quality and it also became a financial burden. The improved tool life from ITC was a revelation, as the tools last an eternity and breakages are very rare. This reduced our tooling costs by at least 30%. Down the years, ITC has continued to serve our company with distinction and when it comes to special projects and technical support, there isn’t a tooling company that comes close to ITC,” concludes Trevor.