All I want for Christmas – is a Nakamura

When the owners at Helical Technology Ltd asked their Operations Manager if he wanted a new machine for Christmas, he instantly leapt at the opportunity. Fortunately for Chris Waddington, the machine delivered in Santa’s sack to the shopfloor was a Nakamura-Tome WT150 from the Engineering Technology Group (ETG).

User friendly and intuitive control on the Nakamura NTY3-100

As a leading manufacturer of valve rotators used in marine, locomotive, mining, automotive and power generation sectors, the products and assemblies are critical components that demand the utmost precision and quality. To uphold its stringent quality requirements, the family-owned Lytham company has embarked on a continuous investment programme to enhance the productivity and performance of its machine shop. The machine shop produces upwards of 500,000 steel components each year that contribute to the company’s annual output of over 4 million assemblies. These parts are manufactured on the company’s 21 turning centres that are supplied by a variety of manufacturers.

Whilst one of the many single and twin spindle machines on the shop floor was a Nakamura-Tome WT150, no brand held favour in the company’s investment strategy that is now being headed up by Operations Manager Chris Waddington who joined the company in 2017. Recalling the situation that has led the £35m turnover multi-national company to invest in Nakamura-Tome machines from ETG, Chris says: “Our investment strategy started with two turning centres from one of the largest and most prestigious brands in the world – they let us down badly. In 2018, we had a 156mm diameter valve rotator that was required in batches of 150 per month and the machine kept breaking down. Subsequently, in 2019 a smaller 42mm valve rotator was ramping up from 5,000 parts a week to 8,000 and we needed a turning centre urgently. This leading manufacturer had an available machine, but it also proved a massive let-down.”

With 8,000 parts to get out of the door and an unreliable machine, the company owners bought Chris a Nakamura WT150II for Christmas – an ex-demo machine that was purchased in December and installed in January 2020. “The difference was ‘night and day’. The cycle times were 5 to 10% faster than the other leading machines that we had bought, but it was just everything else about the machine. The Nakamura was more stable, robust, user-friendly and easy to set up and use. The uptime was incredible and where other machines struggled on our larger parts, the WT150II churned the parts out with better surface finishes, component quality and a tool life improvement of 15%. What a great Christmas present!”

Taking Productivity Beyond With NTY3-100

With the production output of another component also reaching 8,000 parts per month in 2021, Helical Technology Ltd placed an order for a second Nakamura-Tome WT150II. At the tail-end of the pandemic, the popular machine had a lead time of 6 months and Helical Technology needed to get parts out of the door urgently, so ETG loaned the family business a Nakamura-Tome NTY3-100 twin spindle triple turret turning centre until the WT150II was available. “We have some of the most productive machines in the industry, but the NTY3-100 instantly took 20-25% out of our cycle times.”

The Nakamura NTY3-100 being programmed at Helical Technology

“The machining on the valve rotators is front-loaded with a lot of difficult pocket milling, drilling and turning whilst the second spindle operations have some facing, chamfering and a few other turning tasks. With the NTY3-100 we could engage two turrets on the front of the component simultaneously and apply the third turret for the air-blast and swarf clearance. We cut our tooling costs per part from £0.146 to £0.142, which may seem small, but when you start producing 2000 parts a week and ramp it up to 8,000+, the savings soon add up. We initially calculated that the cost differential between the Nakamura WT150II and the more expensive triple-turret NTY3-100 would be recouped in 12 months. However, the expertise of ETG and their programming support meant we recouped the differential in just over 10 months. With the NTY3-100, we will save around £28,600 this year,” adds Chris.

In addition to the productivity savings, the Nakamura NTY3-100 has also reduced tooling costs, as Chris states: “With so many of our parts having commonality and also running the same parts on more than one machine, we have noticed our tool life improve by 3% on the NTY3-100. This saving is despite running the same speed and feed parameters, although we have identified that we can run our tools harder and faster on the NTY3-100. We do two hourly checks on our tool tips and offsets and we are working with our tooling suppliers to push these savings further as part of our continuous improvement programme. ‘The machine just runs’, it is achieving 92% OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) and it is a productivity workhorse. With the triple turrets, we keep the NTY3-100 for our longer-running jobs and the WT150II as our go-to everyday machine. I would comfortably say the WT150II is the perfect machine for any machine shop.”

Looking to the future, the machine shop at Helical Technology is rapidly filling and space is at a premium – and this is why the company invested in a smaller footprint Nakamura AS200LMSY in June 2022. “As we have expanded and invested in new machine tools, space is now at a premium and the footprint was the deciding factor of the purchase of the AS200LMSY and now the AS200 LMYF, which will be delivered in 2023. We had already invested in the AS200 MYS that arrived in June and this second smaller machine seems to suit our needs perfectly. The service from ETG has been excellent and we have never had an issue. From the initial request for a quote to the Sales Engineer popping in to ensure ETG is offering the correct solution for our needs, the service has gone way above and beyond a sale.”