Metalite Moulds An Automated Future With ETG

As injection mould tool specialists, Swindon based Metalite Engineering Co Ltd has recently added to its plant list with the arrival of a Quaser 5-axis UX500C machining centre and a 10-pallet Erowa Robot Easy 250 pallet loading system. Supplied and integrated by the Engineering Technology Group (ETG), the new investment is adding significant capacity capabilities with unmanned machining.

The latest addition to the plant list is just the latest arrival from ETG, with previous acquisitions including the Bridgeport XR1000 3-axis machining centre and a Quaser U600 5-axis machining centre. The most recent arrival was purchased for medical sector work; however, the Wiltshire manufacturer is also highly regarded for its ability to service customers in the aerospace, automotive, F1, food packaging and horticultural industries.

Discussing the Quaser UX500C installed at Metalite, ETG’s Steve Brown says: “This machine has 60 tools and a 15,000 Maxia spindle with a face and taper dual contact system for maximum rigidity. The machine also has rigid knuckle type axis rotation to provide full machining access around the part. This is complemented by a high level of precision that is assured by the linear scales and probing system. Metalite needs this flexibility and precision as they are making a range of parts from small medical components where they are looking to hold 5 microns right the way up to larger tool steel die pieces. This is why we have the crane system on the automation system to load larger billets. This provides the customer with the facility to undertake a full variation of work.”

The reason the company opted for the Quaser and Erowa combination is that they felt it offered more flexibility and future-proofed their business and machine acquisition strategy. This is because despite being stand-alone pieces of equipment, the Quaser UX500C and Erowa Robot Easy 250 work in synergy. Furthermore, the automation system can be moved to another machine at a later point if required.

Commenting upon the installation, ETG’s Steve Brown says: “The partnership between Quaser and Erowa goes a lot deeper than what is here in the UK – it goes right the way back to the factory. Both companies have a technical partnership and that is rolled through to us at ETG here in the UK. So, we are the distributor for the Quaser machines, and we have great support from REM Systems that supply the Erowa system. When we enter into a package together, we can tailor the solution to meet the needs of the customer.”

Alluding to why Metalite chose this combined solution over an integrated system from a single-source supplier, Steve says: “What this solution provides is scalability, when we started the conversation with the customer, we first looked at the number of required pallets and developed a solution that would help the business to grow. The 10-pallet system here has been future-proofed, so we can come back in 6 or 12 months and expand if required. We can take the Erowa system off the Quaser machine and put it on another machine – then we can put an increased pallet system on this machine or even a platform with larger pallets if required.”

“Manufacturers that generally tend to look at this type of machine are already focused on a particular project. It may be a three or a 10-year project, as there is a life cycle to these projects, and when it comes to the end of these projects’ manufacturers may look at what other projects they can put through the cell. Companies may need more or larger pallets or a different form of workholding – that is where we can come in and remove the automation unit and put another system on the machine. The route of any project that we discuss with customers will deliver the desired outcome, but any project can grow arms and legs, and this is where we can develop the solution for Metalite in the future.”

“The Erowa is a pick and place system with 10 pallets, and it has a very simple job of picking a pallet and loading it into the Quaser machine. In terms of how that is managed, it is all controlled via the Heidenhain CNC on the machine tool that controls the Erowa system as a slave unit. The program is loaded into the machine and that calls upon the pallet that it is requesting. Customers can go a step further and have software installed on the Erowa, so if you are running through the course of the night unmanned and a drill or a tool breaks, the software will identify what feature on what component is affected and also identify the tool that is broken. This lets you know what particular pallet and tool need to be replaced,” continues Steve.

Looking to the future ETG’s Steve Brown concludes: “The success of this installation has already seen Metalite order a second system. It is a slightly different concept to this installation; the next arrival will be applied to a 3-axis vertical machining centre whereby the robot loading system will incorporate 4-pallets. The customer has seen what this system has provided after an initial period of time and also the opportunity for expansion on other machines.”