A sparkling performance

Uploaded 31 Jan @ 15:37pm

The largest British manufacturer of Polycrystalline Diamond (PCD) tooling, Exactaform, recently moved into its purpose-built business facility. From this new site the company designs, develops and produces world-class cutting tools for aerospace, automotive and motorsports as well as precision engineering applications.
When John Inglis started his fledgling company back in 1979 it was trading as a supplier of Polycrystalline Diamond (PCD) and Cubic Boron Nitride (CBN) inserts, primarily to suit the automotive sector. However, as modern materials evolved, Exactaform Cutting Tools changed its focus and has since become one of the largest premier manufacturers of PCD cutting tools in the Europe, supplying global aerospace and automotive markets.
Until recently Exactaform operated from multi-unit facilities in Coventry to provide technically advanced cutting tool solutions for its customers’ non-ferrous applications. As John Inglis recalls: “We continually re-invest in plant, machinery and engineers, to support the growing global demand for our tooling, and with 30 per cent year-on-year growth over the past few years we knew we would exceed the limits of our previous facilities. So, at the end of 2015 we acquired this site. Following the due planning process and architectural designs honed to meet our exact requirements, we moved in within a three-week period during August 2017.”
Today, Exactaform operates from 22,000 ft2 of the new 44,000 ft2 facility. The remaining space has been built ready for planned future growth, but will be let out on a short-term business lease in the meantime. The detailed planning required to move all the multi-axis CNC tool and cutter grinding machines and ancillary equipment was significant, and the task was jointly addressed by directors Peter Raynor and Jamie White.
“We had to plan and produce cutting tools in advance, to cover the period of time that each machine would be in-transit and recommissioned at the new site. Careful preparation and hard work by everyone involved resulted in us achieving a 100 per cent delivery of cutting tools to our customers,” states Peter Raynor.
Two new machine tools were also added to the extensive list during the move, a DMG Mori Lasertec and a Rollomatic ShapeSmart NP3. The Lasertec machine increases the workshop’s efficiency when cutting PCD blanks, as John Inglis says: “An operation that previously took several hours using wire EDM can now be carried out in just 20 minutes.”
Over 60 highly skilled staff, from tool and cutter grinders to experienced applications engineers, support Exactaform’s customer base. “We focus on diamond tooling for exotic materials, supplying demanding markets with high precision, high speed machining requirements. Our PCD tooling has been proven a highly desirable solution to machining fibre reinforced composites, aluminium and composite stacks,” explains Jamie White.
He continues: “Our growth provides customers with big company quality, but we maintain our small company care. This means customers can ring me, and get an answer from me. Even though we are busy we value and place importance on human interaction and trust.”
Able to design and produce plain and chip breaking cutting tools between 2 mm and 300 mm diameter, at an infinite number of increments between, most of the machine tools on the shopfloor feature automated loading and unloading. Peter Raynor says: “Batch sizes vary, but we can multi load our Walter, Vollmer and Rollomatic machines to keep them running around-the-clock, even over the weekend. It keeps the cost down for the customer and allows us to meet very tight delivery timescales.”
As well as new PCD tooling the company also offers a cost-effective refurbishment service for its own and competitors tools. Re-tipped and refurbished tools can also be turned around quicker if the customer needs a specific tool back quickly, and it allows customers to extend the life expectancy of their investment.
And, PCD tooling is an investment. As Jamie White concludes: “Yes, a PCD tool will cost more than a carbide equivalent, but it will perform significantly better. Leading companies in the aerospace, motorsport and marine sectors tend not to focus on the cost of a consumable item like a cutting tool, they would rather focus on the value of the component. Of course, to get the best out of a PCD tool requires application knowledge and that’s where our experience comes in.”

Further reading: www.exactaform.com


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