As part of the R&G Fluid Power Group of companies, Millennium Engineering Ltd is a specialist manufacturer of critical components to the automotive, oil & gas, food & drink and machine manufacturing sectors. Working out of a 9,000sq/ft facility in Preston, the company machines a diverse range of materials – it is here that cutting tools from Tamworth specialists Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC) Ltd makes the difference.
Serving a diverse range of customers, the Lancashire manufacturer machines everything from steel and stainless, aluminium and brass through to exotic materials such as titanium, inconel, duplex and a host of other materials that make every day an interesting challenge for the shop floor. Maximising its productivity with the application of heavy-duty Doosan CNC sub-spindle turning centres, 3 and 4-axis Hurco machining centres and high-end CAD/CAM software, the company has an intent to focus on maximising productivity levels whilst maintaining impeccable quality levels and productivity rates. It is here that cutting tools from ITC complete the loop of high-end technology to maximise throughput.
Recalling how the ISO: 9001 certified company started its journey with ITC, Mat Jackson from Millennium Engineering says: “We were previously using a high-profile cutting tool manufacturer to supply the majority of our cutting tools – unfortunately, the service and support was substandard. We employed a new machinist that had previously run his own machine shop and he strongly recommended that we adopt cutting tools from ITC. We invited ITC in to discuss our requirements and that was 4-5 years ago. Gary Murrey, the ITC Application Engineer visited us and introduced and proved out some steel turning inserts. The difference was night and day! With the previous inserts, we were rough machining 10 parts per insert edge, with the Widia CNMG-RH chip breaking inserts from ITC, we immediately doubled our tool life to 20 parts per insert edge.”
What impressed Millennium Engineering above all else, was the commitment of the ITC representative to ensure the optimal results were achieved. With six high-specification CNC turning centres with live tooling on the shop floor and two CNC machining centres, the emphasis had primarily been placed on turning activities.
The company also manufactures scroll tails with twin threads for composite hose couplings. With the component batches varying from 10 to 300-off per month in sizes from ½” to 16-inch diameter, the parts required considerable turning with cycle times extending beyond 20 minutes. With expert support from ITC, the steel scroll tails had the cycle time reduced from 20 minutes to just 5 – a 75% improvement with ITC cutting tools.
With an immediate impact and such dramatic improvements to tool life and subsequently cycle times, the ITC engineers were also invited to look in greater depth at other applications throughout the business. This resulted in the ITC engineers reviewing the 6082 aluminium brake kits the company manufactures for motorsport teams and competition cars. With the brake kits consisting of multiple aluminium components such as bells and brackets, the ITC engineers identified an issue with poor cycle times on turned parts.
Alluding to this, Mat says: “We were going through 3 to 4 aluminium turning inserts a week. This was a combination of using the incorrect inserts and also not having the technical support from our previous tooling supplier. ITC reviewed the process and implemented their Widia turning inserts and we now use their inserts for both rough and finish turning operations. As for the tool life, we have gone from using a box of 10 inserts every two weeks to an unbelievable tool life improvement. We bought a box of 10 Widia inserts from ITC back in September 2021 – we are still working our way through that first box of inserts we bought.”
Looking at the milling challenges the company faces, Mat says: “With such phenomenal success in the turning department, we soon turned our attention to the milling applications as we knew by this point that ITC was a brand that we respected and could trust.” Inviting ITC’s Jason Clark to review the milling processes, an immediate opportunity presented itself with 316 stainless steel pulleys and gears that are produced for fish farms in Scotland. “We machine 20 to 40+ gears twice a year for the fisheries and we were using two roughing tools, a semi finisher and a smaller form tool for finishing the gear forms. Jason looked at this process and immediately identified a new selection of tool dimensions that would eradicate one of the three tools for stock removal.”
“We reduced the process from four tools to three by using a larger and more robust form tool and higher quality end mills for the roughing process. The result was a cycle time reduction from 1 hour to just 20 minutes. On the majority of jobs that Gary and Jason from ITC have reviewed, we have reduced cycle times by anything from 15 to 60%, improved tool life beyond 50-60% and reduced our tooling costs by a minimum of 15%. We have also reduced our inventory requirements, streamlined our throughput and improved our quality and consistency with fewer tool changeovers,” continues Mat.
A major factor in enhancing the quality, consistency and even precision parameters of the components at Millennium Engineering is the adoption of BIG KAISER hydraulic toolholders. As Mat says: “We had always used collet chucks for our toolholding and we found that there would be a deviation in dimensions from one end of a part to another. This would be caused by the tool slipping in the toolholder. Additionally, we couldn’t take particularly large depths of cut. Jason from ITC suggested the BIG KAISER back-ends and the difference has been staggering.”
“There has been a massive change in our tool life, rigidity and even our cutting parameters –we have complete confidence in the BIG KAISER system. We are increasing all our depths of cut by 10 to 20% and our productivity is improving as a result. The toolholding platform is more rigid and robust and this is giving us improved tool life, surface finishes, productivity and confidence in our processes. As an example, we machine a regular set of brackets that would have an overall machining time of 8 hours a day for a pair of brackets. With the BIG KAISER back-ends, we have this cycle time down to less than four hours.”
“ITC has been extremely supportive of our business and we know that they will respond with urgency if we ever have a query. More importantly, the ITC engineers look at each application as an intriguing challenge and they want to help us improve our processes, and productivity and reduce our tooling costs. We cannot speak highly enough of the ITC team; their knowledge and support have been second to none,” concludes Mat.