Leaving the comfort of employment and starting a business is a decision loaded with emotion and taken with cautious trepidation. For the two ex-aerospace engineers that founded GD Precision, re-mortgaging their homes to finance the leap emphasises their confidence and passion. Seventeen years later and the decision has paid dividends for the West Sussex entrepreneurs.
Now operating from a 4,400sq/ft facility in Arundel, the South Coast Company has seven staff, a host of Mazak, XYZ and Dugard CNC machine tools and a prestigious list of clients that span across the F1, aerospace, transport and medical industries. Like most subcontract machine shops, GD Precision is continually striving for cost-reductions, greater efficiency, enhanced productivity and component quality. Luckily for GD Precision, it has many of these facets covered by cutting tool supplier Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC).
Recalling life before the cold call of ITC Sales Engineer Dave Cleeve some 10 years ago, Company Director Mr Dale Buckthorpe says: “In the early days, we were conscious of our spending and we watched every penny. We would buy low cost tools from a variety of suppliers and when tools were near burn-out, we would get buckets of tools re-ground. Of course, this was a false economy. When Dave Cleeve came in with tools that were considerably more expensive than the cheap tools we were using, we took some convincing.”
Realising the Benefits of ITC
Taking up the story, fellow Director and head of the milling department, Mr Gary Short recalls: “Dave from ITC reviewed our workload and he offered us the 3081 Series square-end 3 flute solid carbide end-mill. At the time, we were using 20mm diameter rippers from another supplier to
machine an aluminium component at the full 20mm width at a depth of ½XD applying a low feed rate. Taking-on-board Dave’s expertise, we applied the 3081 Series at full flute depth with smaller cuts at speeds and feeds that were remarkably high. We were sceptical, but we trusted Dave and immediately realised cycle time reductions of 50%.”
“Not only did we achieve 50% cycle time reductions, the surface finishes and tool life were anything from 4 to 5 times better than our previous tools. Whilst we instantly realised the benefits of paying more for tools from a premium brand manufacturer like ITC, we also recognised the technical expertise was invaluable.”
This success noted the arrival of a full-line of 3081 end mills from 6 to 20mm diameter for everything from roughing to finishing applications. “The 3081 Series blew our previous tools away. It’s a general purpose aluminium end-mill with a high-helix that we now use for just about every task. We have recently been machining dental mould tools and the 3081 Series is achieving 70+ hours of trochoidal machining on high-grade HE15 aluminium,” continues Mr Short.
The ITC 3081 Series soon became the tool of choice for all aluminium machining tasks at GD Precision, giving the Directors confidence to trial further ITC tools. This followed in the guise of the ITC Widia VariMill range of TiAlN coated four-flute end mills for machining stainless steel and exotic materials. Instantly outperforming previous tools, the VariMill proved every bit as successful on challenging materials as the 3081 proved itself on aluminium.
ITC Gives GD Precision a Steely Edge
As Mr Short continues: “It took us a while to adjust to the VariMill’s high speeds and feeds, but we are now hitting jobs faster with smaller cuts whilst pulling 30-40% less horsepower. We opted for more trochoidal milling and ITC was integral in the evolution of our machining strategies. With the VariMill generating 30-40% productivity improvements and tool life gains of beyond 50%, we have phased out the majority of tooling from alternate suppliers.”
For dedicated high speed roughing of challenging materials, GD Precision is now utilising the ITC 6051 Series of 6-flute centre cutting end mills. As Mr Short recalls: “The long length 6051 has 60mm flute length that permits higher material removal rates with excellent reach characteristics. There is very little depth in the flutes of the harmonic 6051 Series and this increases strength and eliminates vibration, enabling us to run at 3 to 4m/min. On materials like stainless, we are machining at feed of 0.2mm per tooth using the full 60mm flute length.”
Delivering a Complete Solution….
The success of the 3081 Series, the VariMill and the 6051 Series has seen GD Precision continually implement new machining strategies and tooling lines from ITC. This has included the 4071 Series for deburring and chamfering, the 4011 radius tools, the 2001 necked back tools for 3D and profile machining and more tools are being added to the armoury every month.
The recent addition of the company’s second Dugard Eagle 1000+ machining centre has a BIG-PLUS logo on the spindle housing, something that didn’t go un-noticed by ITC’s Dave Cleeve.
….With BIG Benefits.
Recognising the Dugard Eagle 1000+ is a machine with a BIG-PLUS spindle interface, Dave Cleeve recommended that GD Precision purchase a BIG KAISER face and taper contact Hi-Power Milling Chuck to complement the spindle interface. As the only genuine face and taper dual-contact spindle system, the BIG-PLUS system improves rigidity, concentricity, tool life, surface finish, clamping forces and precision whilst reducing vibration. Commenting upon this, Mr Short says: “We’ve had the Dugard machine a while and when Dave recommended we try the BBT40 Hi-Power Milling Chuck; we trusted his judgement based on previous results. We were not disappointed.”
“The Dugard machines are very robust and stable, but we were struggling to reach ITC’s recommended speeds and feeds. As soon as the BIG KAISER Hi-Power Milling Chuck arrived, we knew the weak link was our old milling chucks. With the BIG-PLUS milling chuck, we can reach the recommended speeds and feeds with no chatter and vastly improved surface finishes. Without the BIG-PLUS chuck, we have to reduce our cutting parameters by at least 25%. The BIG-PLUS Hi-Power Milling Chuck has improved our tool life by at least 20%, increased our machining performance and cutting parameters by over 25% and the run-out is well below 5 microns. In fact, we don’t have equipment accurate enough to measure how little run-out there is.”
“The BIG-PLUS milling chuck allows us to run the VariMill 12 and 16mm diameter tools with a trochoidal strategy on stainless steel at machining feeds of 100m/min with a spindle speed of 2000rpm. Since applying the BIG-PLUS chuck, we have realised there is little point in buying high-end tools without this rigid high-end system. By using the BIG KAISER Hi-Power Milling Chuck with trochiodal strategies, we have reduced our cycle time on dental mould tools from 12 minutes to 6 minutes 45 seconds, a 45% cycle time improvement.”
Going a Full Circle…
Despite all the strategic, purchasing and manufacturing enhancements instigated by ITC, there is one habit the company hasn’t dropped. As Mr Short concludes: “We still collect boxes of used solid carbide end mills. The difference now is that ITC is a UK manufacturer and we are returning the cutting tools to the OEM for re-grinding. The benefit is that ITC has the geometries of all its tools and the re-grinds are conducted on the same machines that originally produced the tools. This means that we get our re-ground tools returned in an ‘as-new’ condition at a fraction of the new cost of new tools. Furthermore, being a UK manufacturer, ITC adheres to tight lead-times. We couldn’t ask for a better tooling supplier.”