When a machinist with extensive motorsport expertise had ambitions of starting his own business, the first step was a 5-axis machining centre, high-end CAM software and cutting tools from Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC).
Soon after its inception in 2011, MK Precision witnessed rapid growth winning customers in the motorsport, rail, cryogenics and video photography sectors. With a workload that has evolved from the 3 and 5-axis machining of prototype parts to batch production for a variety of sectors; tool life and performance is critical to the Milton Keynes manufacturer.
Commenting upon starting the company, Managing Director Mr Allan Carabine recalls: “I relied upon my experience of working with F1 teams and the motorsport supply chain to start the business with a 5-axis Hurco VM10U, which has been followed by two 3-axis VM30’s, a larger VMX30U 5-axis and a TM8i turning centre; all of which are programmed with OPEN MIND’s hyperMILL CAM software and tooled with solid carbide and indexible cutting tools from ITC.”
“When I started the business I recalled how the technical expertise of ITC’s Gary Bambrick aided previous employers with special tools. He also gave advice on maximising tool life and performance whilst reducing costs and consumption. When we started, I trialled ITC’s 6mm diameter 3081 Series on aluminium parts. It blew the previous tools out of the water. We then had a family of three aluminium parts that were required in a quantity of 500 for each of the three parts. The parts were set on a jig that could machine four parts in a single set-up with a cycle time of 25 minutes. Only a few days into the large project, the previous cutting tools generated inconsistent tool life and poor surface finishes. Gary recommended an ITC 16mm diameter 3081 Series solid carbide end mill. It completed the whole project of 1500 parts with minimal tool wear, exceptional surface finishes and it was 30% cheaper than the previous cutting tool. We now use ITC solid carbide end mills for over 90% of our aluminium work.”
Following the success of ITC’s aluminium end mills at the Buckinghamshire Company; MK Precision then trialled the Widia VariMill 4777 Series of four-flute solid carbide end mills on titanium components. A specific project of 90 components required a 50 by 50mm pocket at a depth of 6mm on each part.
The four employee company was again suffering from poor tool life and performance. The Widia VariMill 4777 Series immediately cut the cycle time from 15 minutes to 10 minutes per part. This is credit to the edge and flute geometry that works effectively with trochoidal milling strategies that are commonplace among leading CAM vendors.
The genuinely impressive factor of the VariMill 4777 Series was its ability to reduce cycle times by 35% and return a tool life improvement that enabled MK Precision to complete the whole batch of 90 parts with a single tool. Commenting on this, Mr Carabine recalls: “Firstly, we benefitted hugely from the 3081 Series of aluminium cutters. But implementing the VariMill 4777 Series took our productivity to a new level. With the hyperMILL CAM software, we have the fastest, most efficient and innovative machining strategies at our disposal. The only constraint with this high speed and feed cutting is the rigidity of the machine tool and of course; the capabilities of the cutting tools. Our previous tools were holding us back, but ITC’s tools are allowing us to unleash the full potential of the CAM software.”
“We are now gliding through titanium and other high temperature alloys 30 to 50% faster than ever before with tool life improvements beyond 70%. We have observed an improved cutting action; there is no vibration or noise when we are cutting difficult materials at high speeds with ITC tools. In addition, the geometry and extended tool life of the 4777 Series is enabling our business to rough and finish machine parts with a single tool. We have now stocked the 4777 Series in a full range of diameters from 6 to 16mm.”
The success of the ITC range on aluminium projects and the subsequent success of the Widia 4777 Series on high temperature alloys persuaded Mr Carabine to take Gary Bambrick’s advice on the Widia VariMill 5777 Series for machining steel and stainless. Like the VariMill 4777 Series, the VariMill 5777 Series has an innovative geometry for rapidly removing material when operating at high speeds and feeds. However, the 5777 Series is a 5-flute solid carbide end mill and this additional flute permits MK Precision to run its cycles at feed rates 25% faster than previous tools.
“We already thought we were achieving impressive productivity rates on our steel components, but ITC taught us otherwise with theVariMill 5777 Series.
The performance of this tool on our steel machining has been nothing short of remarkable. What’s more, the pocketing, ramping and trochoidal strategies are being taken to a new level with the 5777 Series,” continues Mr Carabine.
Over the last five years, the Milton Keynes Company has continually increased its use of ITC cutting tools. Starting with the aluminium and high temperature alloy cutting tools, MK Precision has progressed to ITC’s high-feed steel machining lines. The company now uses a 40mm diameter Widia indexible VSM11 Series face mill cutter for high stock removal applications whilst the Widia VDS solid carbide drills are tasked with all drilling processes.
“ITC is now supplying 95% of our cutting tools and this is warranted as the advice, support and expertise has been first class. However, none of this would be relevant without the performance to back it up. ITC has certainly backed-up the service with tools of unparalleled performance levels. On top of all this, ITC is a UK manufacturer with one of the most comprehensive product lines in the industry, we won’t be shopping anywhere else anytime soon,” concludes Mr Carabine.