Motorsport subcontractor Races Ahead with Mitsubishi EDM

Located within a ‘stone’s throw of the world-famous Silverstone racetrack, it comes as no surprise that EDM Precision Technologies Ltd plays a major role in servicing the F1 and motorsport industries. Since its inception, the company has been machining precision components for a host of sectors that include aerospace, defence, medical, press and mould tools too.

To carve a niche in the highly-competitive subcontract market segment, the Northamptonshire business has a specialisation in EDM technology – it is here that Mitsubishi wire EDM technology from the Engineering Technology Group (ETG) has helped set this company apart from its rivals. Extending the gap between itself and the competition, the company has invested in four additional Mitsubishi machines in the last four years.

Now approaching 30 years in business, EDM Precision has a range of turning and machining centres, but with EDM drilling, spark erosion and 10 Mitsubishi wire EDM machines – it is evident where the expertise of this company lies. The company now has a Mitsubishi FX10K, QA10, FA20, FA20-S, two FA10-S, MV1200R, MV1200S, an MV1200S II plus an MV2400R, so it is safe to say that EDM Precision implicitly trusts the productivity, technology, reliability, service and support of the Mitsubishi brand.

Discussing the journey, Company Director at EDM Precision, Mr Paul Waldron says: “We started as a small general subcontract and toolmaking machine shop in 1992 and we quickly noticed our EDM work becoming more prominent. In 1994, we changed the company name to EDM Precision Technologies Ltd and bought our first Mitsubishi wire EDM machine, a CX20. Over the years we’ve had numerous CX20 machines. Our philosophy has been to replace old machines with new technology, so we’ve probably had over 30 Mitsubishi EDM machines over the last 30 years.”

Conforming to both ISO: 9001-2015 and AS: 9100 Rev D, EDM Precision pays particular attention to the quality of the components it manufactures – this is why the company is trusted by more than five F1 Teams with more than 150 F1 orders in the last 12 months. Some components for the suspension, gearboxes, wind tunnel and test components are ideally suited to being produced with EDM techniques.

One-brand ambassador

Looking at the current machine park that has more than 20 machine tools on-site, Paul adds: “We have a range of machining and metrology technologies on-site and at present, we have 14 Mitsubishi machines – 10 Wire EDM’s, three spark eroders and a Mitsubishi EDM hole drilling machine.”

Alluding to why the company keeps investing in Mitsubishi machines, Paul has several reasons, saying: “When we bought our first one or two machines, we were impressed with the quality, productivity, service – the complete package. This gave us no reason to look elsewhere.” Looking beneath the surface, Paul adds: “There are three very good reasons for buying the Mitsubishi machines from ETG. Firstly, we are now experienced enough to service and carry out repairs on the machines ourselves. But when we do need external service and support, ETG is providing us with the service engineers that we have worked with for almost 30 years – this level of expertise is unparalleled. Additionally, we have built great relationships with the Mitsubishi service engineers and technical support teams over a long period, so they know our business, our machines and our requirements.”

Another factor is quality, as Paul states: “There are only 3 to 4 high-quality EDM brands in the industry – and Mitsubishi sits at the top of that tree in our opinion. We have some Mitsubishi machines that have been here 20 years and still work perfectly fine – that is a great testament to their build quality and longevity. Of course, we have received calls from other brands with some ridiculously attractive offers, but a different brand would now disrupt our shop floor synergy.”

The first two reasons for investing dovetail perfectly with the third reason, as Paul adds: “Our operators are all very familiar with the Mitsubishi machines. With EDM being the perfect technology for having one operator to efficiently run 3-4 machines, our shop floor team can easily interchange between the various Mitsubishi models. Whilst the CNC control systems have evolved incredibly over the years, they retain a familiarity that allows our operators to get the best out of the machines. This experience also positions the team well for undertaking maintenance tasks.”

Investment strategy

Looking at the strategy for continually replacing older machines with new technology, which has seen over 30 Mitsubishi machines through the doors at EDM Precision, Paul continues: “We tend to swap out the oldest machine for a new one. This is typically because the machines up to 20 years old are less reliable, incur downtime and have an increased maintenance requirement. Additionally, the older machines may have worn ballscrews and be less accurate, which only makes them suitable for certain jobs. Instead of selling the old machines, we strip them down and keep spares for the remaining machines – scrapping what is left. Of course, the newer machines are more precise, faster, more productive and quicker to set up.

In the last four years, the 12-employee company has installed an MV1200S wire EDM, an EA12S spark erosion machine, an MV2400R and an MV1200S wire EDM machine – all arriving between August 2019 and May 2022. The MV2400R is a perfect example of the investment strategy, as Paul enthuses: “The MV2400R was installed in August 2021 and it replaced a 15 year old machine. With the old machine, the auto thread system had become unreliable, resulting in downtime. Additionally, the precision we require for F1 customers can be within microns and with worn parts after years of service, the machine was still precise to within 25 microns – but this is not precise enough for a lot of our work. The new MV2400R is also 60% faster than the old machine and the efficiency is exceptional. From wire consumption through to power consumption and extended running hours – there is a major difference.”

The latest purchase

The latest machine installed was the MV1200S that landed in May. Commenting upon this, Paul says: “This wasn’t a swap-out machine, we went from 9 to 10 wire EDMs with the MV1200S. We recently won a contract for producing parts for the power generation industry and the customer started to ramp up production, so we needed extra capacity. With an EDM cycle time of 4 hours per part and 60 parts required each month, we acquired the MV1200S. The MV1200S and another EDM machine are producing four parts each day – if this was an older machine, the cycle times would be extended to the point that it would be a challenge to fulfil the order without introducing shift work. Moreover, we are noticing the efficiencies in our consumable purchasing. We are using significantly less linear metres and kilograms of wire on the new machines whilst reducing our cycle times by up to 60%. Additionally, the quality of the cut, the edge finishes and also the tolerances are much improved through the Power Master Control and patented Digital AE system.”

Set-ups & turnaround

“Having a business model developed to suit the fast-paced short turnaround high quality demands of industry is something that our other customers benefit from. The speed of the machines is as critical, as the ability to flexibly change jobs over. With components ranging from 1-offs to small batches, turnaround time is essential. Alluding to this, Paul states: “We use ESPRIT CAM software from ETG and we programme all of our machines off-line. A lot of our customers now send us 3D models that can be rapidly converted into CAM files. With large touchscreen monitors with step-by-step dialogue guidance, work scheduling, 3D depiction and collision detection, the machines are very user-friendly and intuitive.”

In conclusion, Paul says: “The Mitsubishi brand is everything you could ever want from a machine tool supplier. The machines are high-quality, reliable, productive, user-friendly, and fast to set up and change over, and the technology in the new machines minimises costs, energy and consumable consumption. The service and support have been exemplary and the staff love working on the new machines. In an era where there is a skill shortage and staff retention can be a challenge, the user interface and level of technology in the Mitsubishi machines keep our team engaged and happy and it makes other engineers want to work in our business.”