The machine responsible for the improvements is a German-built Spinner U620 Compact, supplied as a turnkey package with tooling, the initial part program and training by UK and Ireland agent, Whitehouse Machine Tools.

Dicker Precision’s deputy systems manager Brandon Love, son of the subcontractor’s second-generation managing director, Mark, explained the reason for buying the 5-axis machine in January 2018 and why the firm opted for a model capable of interpolating four of the five CNC axes simultaneously, rather than all of them.

He says: “The investment was triggered about a year ago by one of our existing customers asking for nine variants of a pump housing to be machined from solid 316 stainless steel. Some features have tight tolerances, such as 30µm on hole diameter and 20µm on position.

“We started off machining them on a 3-axis VMC using indexable-insert boring bars, high-speed steel rippers and various other tooling including taps. It took four hours to complete each housing in five operations. Quite frankly, we were finding it difficult to make any profit on the contract.

“However, unlike the other stainless-steel pump housings we manufacture for this company, which are produced from castings that need to rest before operations to relieve internal stresses, the latest components are produced from billet so we realised we could machine them in two operations.”

To make this a reality and improve the economy of production, however, either a 5-axis VMC or a 4-axis horizontal machining centre was needed and both were considered. The vertical-spindle route was chosen due to the greater versatility that it offered for future contracts and also the smaller footprint for a given working volume. In this respect, the Spinner machine has a particularly good ratio.

Read more: 5-axis machining centre halves cycle time