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Integrated Chiron machining cells give a new dimension to castings specialist


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Integrated Chiron machining cells give a new dimension to castings specialist
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A £1.8M investment in a custom-built finish machining facility at the Walsall factory of Chamberlin & Hill Castings Ltd will see the installation of three high specification Chiron Scherer Feinbau automated mill/turn centres that will see the West Midlands company become the UK’s only fully integrated supplier of grey iron bearing housings for engine turbo chargers.

Supplied by the Wellesbourne based Engineering Technology Group (ETG) the modular machining centres offer a fully integrated high precision machining solution combining a Scherer Feinbau twin spindle VDZ100 vertical lathe operating in tandem via a robot and conveyor system with a Chiron DZ15W twin spindle, twin pallet precision milling centre.

Chamberlin & Hill has many years’ experience as a specialist supplier of light and medium castings to the automotive industry but in recent times has embarked on repositioning itself from a traditional engineering company to become an assembly ready Tier 1 component supplier to the automotive turbocharger sector.

A major, long standing customer is Borg Warner who had earlier advised Chamberlin & Hill they were seeking an “integrated supply” in order to streamline their supply chain.  Immediately the management of the casting specialist recognised the opportunity to not only increase volumes for their core foundry business but also add value by supplying fully machined and finished housings.  But it meant investment and embracing new skills.

“Without investing in machining capacity, the customer made it clear that it would have to review Chamberlin & Hill’s position as a supplier,” states chief executive Kevin Nolan. “In contrast, if we did make the investment, we were probably going to become the most significant supplier of turbo bearing housings in Europe.”

“It was a major step change for Chamberlin & Hill to embrace the disciplines of high precision machining but by working closely with ETG and selecting the right machine combinations, we have successfully made the transition,” he adds.

The Chiron cells were chosen for two reasons: Firstly, Borg Warner already had around 60 Chiron machines producing similar parts, thus lowering the risk. Secondly, having cast the net far and wide, the company discovered that Chiron machines were one of very few which were both cost-effective and capable of producing the parts in the required cycle times.

Three Chiron machining cells were ordered, two of which were commissioned in February 2017, with a third scheduled to arrive in November this year. The capacity provided by these three machines has already been sold, bringing about additional revenue worth several million pounds per year.

The VDZ100 DS Scherer vertical lathe works seamlessly in combination with a Chiron DZ15 W milling centre with work piece load/unload achieved via a fully integrated Variocell UNO compact handling robot and workpiece storage unit for loading and unloading workpieces before and after machining. Both Chiron’s are loaded by the robot with castings presented in a four part load into the fixture nests.”

In turn the lathe and milling cells are connected via a conveyor belt with the lathe fed with the raw castings.  After turning, they are transported by the same belt to the milling centre.  When all operations are completed the parts are fed out on the conveyor to the wash station.


“The biggest challenge was getting the cycle time to meet the volume requirements,” says Kevin Nolan. “However, we are now machining one turbo bearing housing every 81 seconds per cell – floor-to-floor time.

“The housings are very precise, integrated components,” he adds. “We have mirrored what our customer has done with their set-up, even down to adopting the same probing and measuring equipment as the tolerances are so tight. If we were using different machines, we might get a mismatch in microns.”

Ultimately, the investment in Chiron technology is set to facilitate growth from the foundry of 30% in 2017/18, and, when the three machining cells are fully utilised, an additional £3 million of business from the machining facility. “This is why we bought high-speed CNC machines,” concludes Mr Nolan.

Chamberlin & Hill makes 3.5 million bearing housings per year of various types, supplying both the passenger car and commercial vehicle market; petrol and diesel engines. The company holds ISO9001 and QS9000 quality accreditations.

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