(Above) Tristan Dover operating the XYZ ProTurn SLX 1630.
(Above) The XYZ SMX 2500 has been used to create intricate moulds for the Renishaw Greenpower race cars.
Research and development is the lifeblood of Renishaw and backing this up are a number of small workshops across the group capable of manufacturing one-off and low volume prototype parts. The majority of these workshops are now equipped with machines from XYZ Machine Tools, as the ProtoTRAK control system suits Renishaw’s needs perfectly.
The first workshop to convert to XYZ is located at Renishaw’s New Mills (UK) headquarters and is managed by Tristan Dover: “When we started to get increased demand for machining it was obvious our old manual machines couldn’t cope, even though we were only ever asked to produce one-off or two-off parts. I suggested that we look at CNC machinery and then I saw XYZ and the ProtoTRAK control at an exhibition and I liked what I saw. The combination of manual and CNC was the ideal solution as some of the people running the machines would take some convincing that CNC could produce parts as quickly as a manual turner/miller. The ProtoTRAK control quickly converted these dyed-in-the-wool machinists to the benefits of CNC.”
Initially Tristan was planning just to purchase a Prototurn SLX 1630 lathe, but when he sat down and put together his justification it became obvious that the value for money presented by XYZ made it possible to replace both the lathe and mill, so an XYZ SMX 2500 bed mill was ordered at the same time. Both machines are equipped with the ProtoTRAK control, which features simple, plain English conversational programming that helped to make the step from purely manual machines to CNC very straightforward at Renishaw. “We find the ProtoTRAK control extremely efficient, especially on one-off parts where we can save considerable time compared to manually machining them. You can program tapers, radii, and other forms, which totally eliminates the need for special form tools. Such is the ease of use that even our most ardent manual machinists are using the control to program parts now.”
Word of the ease of use of these XYZ machines quickly spread within the Renishaw group and now various machining workshops around the group’s UK facilities have bought in to the ProtoTRAK way of working, with an additional six XYZ machines being installed.
As part of its corporate support for the Greenpower initiative – which combines STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), with electric–powered car racing – Renishaw also makes its workshop available to its engineers involved with the project. Greenpower targets engineering students/apprentices aged between 18 and 24, with support provided by more experienced engineers within the company. One of these is design engineer Jamie Boden, who makes regular use of the XYZ ProTurn SLX 1630 and SMX 2500 to manufacture parts for the race cars.
In using the two XYZ machines the Renishaw Greenpower team make use of all of the available capacity, which in the case of the SMX 2500 is a 2.2 kW spindle with a speed range of between 50 and 3600 revs/min over two speed ranges. The machine table measures 1245 mm by 228 mm and the spindle head is able to tilt 45 degrees either side of vertical. The ProTurn SLX 1630 lathe is a ProtoTRAK controlled lathe in the XYZ with an impressive specification. Swing over the bed is 400 mm and has a between centre distance of 760 mm. The 5.75 kW, 2500 revs/min, spindle accommodates a 200 mm three-jaw chuck.. As mentioned, both machines make use of the ProtoTRAK control system, with the turning and milling controls featuring identical programming languages and systems. This makes switching from one machine to another a seamless operation.
“We work with our first-year apprentices who are given real jobs to machine on the XYZ machines with the intention of making the standard kit car both faster and more efficient. The races are endurance events over one hour and we have to maximise the output of the standard battery we are given. We achieve this by designing and machining new parts,” says Jamie Boden. Parts are varied for the project and range from intricate finned casing for the electric motor, to foam moulds for an aerodynamic helmet fairing and the car’s nose cone, which were left to be machined unmanned on the XYZ SMX 2500.
Greenpower is a great way to generate interest in manufacturing among primary and secondary schools, young apprentices and engineering students. Renishaw’s corporate entry not only supports the three race cars under its name, but also provides support to other teams. “We have a lot of high end technology on site here at New Mills, but we try wherever possible not to use advanced processes in developing our cars; processes that would not be available to other teams. This is where the XYZ machines play a part as they are readily available to many colleges and other engineering companies. By using them ourselves we are keeping a balance in terms of technology,” says Jamie.
Renishaw entered three teams into the Greenpower challenge in 2015 and were crowned F24+ champions that year, as well as winning the corporate challenge event. Three more cars will be entered in 2016 with ongoing development work, much as in Formula One, taking place to try to maintain that competitive advantage. The XYZ machines will be at the forefront of ensuring all machined parts deliver improvements.
(Above) Complex turning and milling has been undertaken on the XYZ machines to improve the performance of the Renishaw Greenpower cars.
(Above) More turned components off the XYZ ProTurn SLX 1630.
(Above) One of the finished Renishaw Greenpower race cars.