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Uploaded 15 Jun @ 14:06pm

In 1979, Harlow-based TK Fabrications opened its garage door for business. Almost 40 years after the father and son company was conceived, the third generation of the family business is filling its impressive new factory with high-end machine tools. The latest acquisition is a high-powered Fanuc RoboDrill D21MiA5 5-axis machining centre.

As a manufacturer that exclusively machines plastic and composite materials, TK Fabrications has a machine shop packed with high-end turning centres, machining centres and routing machines. These machines are tasked with manufacturing anything from prototype to batch runs over 1,000 that are supplied to customers around the UK, Europe, China, Malaysia and the USA. Fanuc has been supporting the growth of the subcontract company since 2002.

Recalling the introduction to Fanuc machine tools Company Director, Sam Howlett, says: “The first RoboDrill, a T14iB arrived in 2002 with a 4th axis Nikken rotary unit, which was fantastic. We then bought a used Fanuc machine re-engineered to the required specifications. We kept that machine for 5 years. Now, we’ve invested in the new high-powered 5-axis machine and it’s outstanding.”

The reason that TK Fabrications has continually invested in Fanuc technology is two-fold. First, the performance has been astounding; and secondly, the reliability is unsurpassed. Referring to the reliability of the brand over the 16 year duration, Sam Howlett says: “Throughout our ongoing growth period, Fanuc has helped our small business to save money, telling us we didn’t need a service contract because the machines don’t breakdown. They were right, after all these years, the machines have never broken-down.”

This reliability is a critical aspect to any subcontract manufacturer. As Sam Howlett explains: “The ability to get finished parts out of the door to meet customer deadlines is a critical factor for any subcontractor. In the past year, we manufactured over 155,000 components with 98% delivered on-time and the remaining 2% delivered early. Fanuc machines play a considerable role in achieving these statistics by never failing us. Any machine tool failure would be detrimental to these statistics.”
From a productivity perspective, the Fanuc machine tools have always been streets ahead. “Even the older machines have a 15,000 rpm spindle with a 54 m/min rapid traverse, how much faster do machines get and how much faster do we need it.” Despite the glowing productivity endorsement of the RoboDrill Series, the latest high-powered 5-axis D21MiA5 has taken TK Fabrications to the next level.

Sam Howlett states: “It is swallowing work from the other machines on our shopfloor. Its giving us more capacity throughout the factory and this is because it is so much faster than our existing plant list.”

This is demonstrated with a plastic component that has a total machining time of 2 minutes 53 seconds, a time that includes drilling a 170 mm deep hole and then rotating the part to a secondary set-up for machining all faces. This part was previously machined in 6 minutes on an alternate machine, cutting cycle times by over 50%.

Primarily machining plastics and composite materials, TK Fabrications runs every machine with no coolant. The RoboDrill has a central dust-extraction system fitted to remove airborne. “The airborne particles are collected via the extraction unit and the machine base is cleaned every 30-40 parts to remove chips. The swarf is automatically blown from the work area as we have a through tool air blast. This keeps the cutting tools at an optimal temperature, clears the work envelop and improves processes such as tapping and deep hole drilling.”

Further reading: www.fanuc.eu/en


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