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A surge in business levels has prompted A & S Tooling to add a Walter Helitronic Power multi-axis tool grinder, equipped for lights-out, unmanned running through the use of robot loader and automatic wheel changer, to its impressive battery of CNC tool grinders – which already includes four Helitronic machines including one with robot loader.

Director Jeff Smith says the latest investment in Walter tool grinding technology was a straightforward cost-to-performance decision:

“We wanted a machine that would help us meet our rising order book with minimal downtime after installation, and with existing Helitronic tool grinders we have established a high level of commonality of control technology and operator familiarity with the software and the machines. In addition, of course, we are also fully aware of Walter’s machine build quality and reliability of performance.”

Leicester-based A & S Tooling processes a variety of standard and special-purpose mainly carbide tooling that are used across all market segments – including a range of step drills, for which Mr Smith specified on his latest Helitronic Power the optional high-speed workhead motor which achieves up to 750 revs/min for the necessary cylindrical grinding tasks.

The company has consistently invested to remain at the forefront of tool manufacturing and regrinding (its investment in Walter tool grinding technology extends back a decade).

It is a process that starts with expert tool design to meet special-purpose needs – complemented, when appropriate, by sophisticated 3D CAD simulation routines for client approval before tool manufacture - and extends through cost-effective, 24/7 CNC manufacturing/regrinding and inspection.

The company’s experiences with its existing Helitronics, and in particular the model installed three years ago with a robot loader, showed the way forward when additional machining capacity was needed.

The Helitronic Power can accommodate tools of 3 mm to 320 mm diameter and up to 350 mm long, each weighing up to 50 kgs. X, Y and Z axes are 460 mm, 320 mm and 660 mm, respectively, and the C axis is +/- 200deg. Rapid traverse rate in X, Y and Z is 15 m/min, and grinding speed is up to 10,500 revs/min. The machine’s linear resolution is 0.0001 mm and radial resolution is 0.0001 deg.

“We produce anything from one-offs through to batches of 300, often processing a mix of regrinds and new tools, of the same designs and styles, in the same loadings,” adds Mr Smith. “In addition, we’ve also installed Walter’s innovative new clamping system, which has been designed and developed exclusively for the company’s Helitronic and Helicheck machines, for quick and easy set-up and consistent accuracy for large batch production.

“Operating the machines through the night, unmanned means that the robot loaders and the automatic wheelchanger play a key role in maximising machine utilisation, This is essential nowadays to ensure we remain ultra-competitive.”

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