Rigid investment results

Uploaded 16 Mar @ 15:31pm

A programme of continual investment at ACE Technology recently culminated in the installation of an advanced 5-axis Belotti FLU 2617 machining centre at the company’s impressive facilities in Sawtry, Cambridgeshire.
Originally ACE (Advanced Composites and Engineering) Technology was established as a laminating business in 2004 supporting motorsports, medical and marine customers, a service the company still offers today. Then, in 2009, the decision was made to invest in CNC machining technology and a small panel trimming machine was installed. The benefits to the business were immediately apparent and the following year a Haas 3-axis machining centre equipped with a fourth axis was installed. In 2011, a larger capacity Haas VM6 machining centre was added to the plant list for pattern and toolmaking.
Managing Director, Paul Skinner, recalls: “It became obvious to us that even though we had machines that could make patterns, they were not pattern making machines. So, towards the end of 2017 we purchased a Bellotti FLU 2617 5-axis machine tool. We specified the machine to its maximum capability to cover our growth plans for the future of the business.”
The extensive specification includes a 20-station automatic toolchanger and a powerful extraction system that pulls any dust, from composite panels or model/tool board, out of the machining envelope keeping the machining process very clean. The machine is IP65 rated, with linear axis guideways encased in bellows operating at a positive pressure to minimise the ingress of any carbon dust that can affect the operation of a machine tool. Fitted with a 15 kW, 20,000 rpm spindle the new machine is capable of roughing and finishing patterns and components, as well as aluminium machining.
“I believe our machine, at the time we ordered it, was the highest specification of its type in the UK,” Paul Skinner says. “We went through a comprehensive review of the machines available and the Belotti machine matched our performance criteria and budget constraints. The professionalism of staff at Belotti in Italy and here in the UK has been exceptional. They kept us fully informed of the progress on the machine, such as the frame, which took 6 months to build. Following sign-off and installation, they have been training two of our staff and are always on-hand to answer any questions we have about the machine, no matter how trivial. That is important to us, as we want to protect our investment and get the best performance from the machine.”
Formula 1 customers were instrumental in the early success of the business; however, ACE Technology has subsequently expanded the scope of its business. That’s not to say that motorsport is a neglected sector, as Paul Skinner states: “We diversified as we invested in CNC technology, into the off-world satellite and telecommunications sectors, aerospace tooling and motorsports with the Le Mans Prototype (LMP) series of sports prototype race cars used in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We have extensive experience in this area and currently support three different LMP models.”
Fitted with a Siemens 840D control system, the NC programs for the new Belotti FLU 2617 start off in one of the company’s Solidworks seats. From here the CAD file is passed into Autodesk’s PowerMILL CAM software to post process the part, generating the NC toolpath G-code. Autodesk has been developing its software to incorporate the rigid tapping capability of the optional spindle fitted to the Belotti FLU machine.
“The new machine has axis travels of 2,600 x 1,700 x 1,300 mm. However, many of the patterns and tools we make are even larger and need to be bolted together so we specified the rigid tapping option to increase the efficiency of assembly,” Paul Skinner says.
He concludes: “We are growing, changing and looking to load this machine with parts that have cycle times of up to 24 hours, so the specification has been suggested by Belotti to meet this demand. Over the past few months around £200,000 worth of pattern work has been ‘outsourced’ and we will look at retaining an element of this work in-house. We can’t do it all, but the Belotti FLU 2617 will certainly provide us with much needed capacity as well as better control over customer critical parts.”

Further reading: www.ace-technology.co.uk


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