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Turn-Mill specialist harnesses Citizen Sliding Head machining technology to stay one step ahead

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Since its establishment six years ago by co-directors Yian Stavrou and George Dingley, specialist turn-mill sub-contractor Sub-CNC Precision has progressively harnessed technology to streamline its operations and to stay one step ahead in a very competitive marketplace.

Every aspect of the company is continually being improved by the clever use and, where appropriate, the integration of advanced manufacturing routines and IT – not least with a trio of Citizen Machinery UK-supplied high technology CNC sliding head lathes and one fixed head Miyano multi-axis turn-mill centre.

The latest addition to the Dunstable-based company’s impressive machine portfolio is a seven-axis Citizen A32-VIIPL – classed as the world’s fastest 32 mm CNC sliding head machine – a machine that was purchased “primarily to give us the greatest flexibility and cost-effectiveness in machining a range of increasingly complex workpieces”, said Mr Stavrou.

He continues: “Turn-mill sub-contracting of smaller parts is ultra-competitive so you need the most suitable machines supported by the best manufacturing processes. This is not only to maintain existing contracts but also to bring in new work and especially the type of job involving more complex machining cycles which can challenge the business to move forward and help to improve margins.”

Mr Stavrou explains how their company was recently and very successfully audited by a major customer that was intent on rationalising its machined component supply base from 28 companies to just four. He said: “A major factor in our achievement in winning through and then being asked to quote for machining 500 different parts was our record of consistency and in particular maintaining a 95 per cent delivery and quality rating. Then as a result, throughput volumes from this customer immediately started to rise; in fact, we effectively doubled volumes overnight from this source alone.”

He maintains: “If we are to keep pace with such increased demands, and in this case increasingly more complex components from bar up to 35 mm diameter, we had to invest in the latest, fastest and most cost-effective machining technology we could find – hence the new Citizen.”

For Sub-CNC Precision the Citizen A32-VIIPL provides unmatched speed and precision in the single set-up machining of parts that require a variety of turning, milling, cross-drilling and tapping operations. Said Mr Stavrou: “Combined with its sub-spindle machining capability that eliminates secondary operations, plus C-axis, driven tool stations on the rear turret and high-pressure (2,000 psi) coolant, the machine is key to our ability to constantly provide such complex parts at highly competitive rates.”

Confirming the gains in advantage from the new Citizen he said: “It offers 40 per cent quicker cycle times than the original L Series CNC sliding head it replaced which effectively meant we’ve installed a very flexible and very fast high-tech production centre that is able to complete even the most complex part in a single setting.”

The 23-tool machine features six tools for turning, four rotary tools for cross-machining, nine for back-end machining and five for front-end operations. Its main 7.5 kW spindle is complemented by the 3.7 kW sub-spindle drive and a 1 kW, 5,000 revs/min rotary tool drive. Accommodating bar of 35 mm (with the 35 mm capacity option) maximum cutting length is 320 mm in a single chucking (components up to 600 mm long can be machined with the optional long workpiece unit) and rapid feed rates are ultra-quick at 45 m/min.

Also emphasised is the speed and ease of use of the machine’s CNC Wizard off-line programming, which can be truly ‘replicated’ using Cloud-based storage by Sub-CNC on every PC and mobile phone within the business.

The machine sits alongside a pair of Citizen A20-VII CNC sliding head turning centres and a fixed-head Miyano BNA-42MSY turn-mill centre each of which was supplied by Citizen Machinery UK and has extended Sub-CNC’s sliding head capacity to 35 mm diameter bar. This complements the Miyano’s machining capacity of 42 mm bar diameter and the turn-milling of billets up to 130 mm in size.

The company is currently buy cymbalta generic online processing 150 different parts for the newly-expanded contract which includes a variety of valves and connectors, for oil and gas applications in materials such as Monel, S80 stainless steel and nickel-alloy bronzes that are machined to tolerances of 0.025 mm and in batches between 25 to 2,000 parts.

The machines are currently used to satisfy a wide range of contracts in a raft of additional materials such as Inconel, titanium, mild steel, aluminium alloys, brass, copper, bronze, nylon, peek and Delrin, for companies in the telecommunications, aerospace, motorsport, automotive, medical, defence, marine and agricultural sectors.

All the machines feature bar feeders – which are fully utilised for unmanned, overnight working – and in case of out of hours problems such as tool breakage, each machine is linked to the Directors’ mobile ‘phones, for call alerts, and are under the watchful eye of CCTV so that production can be monitored remotely, such as over weekends.

“We’ve grown up around Citizen machine tools and have been using them since we were teenagers,” adds Mr Dingley. “So, we had no hesitation in investing in this technology when we started the company. What is important to us in addition to the machine performance, is that we receive great service from Citizen Machinery UK, and while we ensure we are always aware of potential alternative brands, so far we’ve not found anything that can improve upon what we’ve got.”

The two directors maintain that having the appropriate machines and utilising them around-the-clock, plus also providing the necessary inspection/quality control measures, is only part of the answer for successful 21st century sub-contracting. They have found customers are now looking for suppliers to have all the necessary production kit, programming, planning and organisational skills.

Said Mr Stavrou: “What they are demanding now is a worry-free, one-stop supply of machined components that consistently meet their quality, delivery and cost demands.” This includes, he said: “Pre-production approval, initial sample inspection reports, material certificates, certificates of conformity and certificates of compliance, all as part of the service”.

Mr Dingley also points to Sub-CNC Precision’s accreditation to ISO 9001, its use of manufacturing resource planning software and tool vending systems, plus the purpose-built bonded stores and dedicated areas for inspection, toolroom and despatch/Kanban routines. There is also a new fully automatic part cleaning system. In addition, a variety of metal finishing processes can be offered, including anodizing, bead blasting, barrel zinc plating, alochroming and laser engraving as part of the single source supply.

In addition, and with another eye on utilising the most effective and efficient manufacturing regimes, the company has an ‘intelligent’ energy-efficient compressor system – whereby the generator adjusts to air demand and actually runs to the loads required, which has proven very useful during unmanned ‘lights-out’ production.

With seven employees, including two apprentices, Sub-CNC Precision has certainly not held back in investing in its future since it was established in 2008. It has grown year-on-year and in 2014 recorded a turnover increase of a massive 30 per cent over the previous 12 months.

The apprentices are especially seen as a progressive way forward to enabling the company to ‘mould’ engineers of the future, as Mr Stavrou explains: “The opportunity is here for them to work at every level of the company. We have a comprehensive training manual that includes tuition on all our machines. Such is the success of these youngsters – we currently have one in his second year and another completing his final year – that we are planning to take on another apprentice this year.

It is the continual progression of such workforce skills, coupled with the use of ‘smart’ manufacturing technologies that, said Mr Stavrou: “Is proving to give us an edge and allows us to say ‘yes’ to even the most complex workpieces. We are totally confident that we are using the best machines available to meet customers’ demands for cost, quality and delivery.”

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