The use of tool production and grinding technology supplied by Walter GB is enabling Carbide (UK) to maintain its technical lead and unrivalled rapid response in the production of a wide range of woodworking tooling for customers throughout the UK and abroad.
Director Laurie Witherwick is adamant that the company's considerable investment over the past six years in three Helitronic five-axis tool grinders for the manufacture of solid carbide cutters - complemented by the Cyber Grinding tool simulation software package - as well as two Woodtronic TCT circular saw blade grinders, has been money well spent.
"Indeed, our application of the Walter technology, coupled with the way in which we can handle every job from wood sample to CAD (AutoCAD) and complementary CNC machining, ensures our unprecedented lead in the design and production of tooling that other companies cannot, or will not, tackle," he claims.
With production/sales accounting for 80 per cent of turnover, and the remainder on regrinds, Carbide (UK) is a specialist designer, manufacturer and supplier of saw blades, cutter blocks, solid carbide and diamond tooling, tips and knives, boring bits and router cutters used throughout the UK woodworking sector plus some users in the United States and Belgium. Multi-national manufacturers of kitchens, caravans and furniture are included on its customer list.
While standard tooling is offered mainly via its agency agreements with Sandvik and Garnia, the focus at the site in central Hull is to offer a high-level of technical expertise in the design and manufacture of complex, special-purpose tooling – for example, specialised solid carbide cutters and disposable tipped tooling. And this is where the Walter technology really comes into play, according to Laurie Witherwick.
Accommodating tools from 3 mm to 320 mm diameter and up to 350 mm long for length/contour grinding and 300 mm long for length/face grinding, the two Helitronic Power five-axis tool grinders (one with auto Disc Loader holding up to 40 tools) have more than adequate capacity for the tool being processed. The machines have traverses in the linear X, Y and Z axes of 470 mm by 320 mm by 660 mm, plus +/- 200 (Degrees) of swivel in the rotary C axis. An 11.5 kW spindle drive produces a speed range 0 to 7,000 revs/min and constant torque. Rapid traverse rates are 120º/sec in rotational axes and 15 m/min in linear axes.
The machines feature a stable and compact gantry-type cast base and an automatic central lubrication system, and they employ digital servo drives and an integrated rotary encoder to ensure maximum precision.
One particular useful feature highlighted by Laurie Witherwick is the user-friendliness of the PC-based control software that is common across the Walter machine range (and was a crucial factor in the subsequent selection of the Woodtronic saw blade grinders). The control incorporates the Microsoft Windows XP operating system and the 2.4 GHz processor (Pentium 4) provides maximum computing power via the easy-to-operate 15 inch TFT touch screen.
In Walter Window Mode, the control assists the user in quickly creating programs for regrinding a wide variety of tool types including cylindrical cutters, tapered cutters, drills and step drills, side and face milling cutters, stepped tools, profile tools, taps, crest cut tools, reamers and routers. In particular, he says, the machines are proving their worth on the production of solid carbide spiral router cutters and complex profile tips.
Walter's Cyber Grinding tool grinding simulation software is a key technology that enables the company to expound its high-tech capabilities. By allowing non-standard new tools to be designed and 'manufactured' off-line, Carbide (UK) has eliminated time-consuming and costly prototypes, test batch work and interruptions to production.
Cyber Grinding is a 3-D simulation package that allows the grinding process to be precisely simulated on-screen, for verification and optimised tool design, grinding result, operation sequence and grinding wheel paths.
The process commences with the display of the tool blank profile, cylindrical, conical or stepped form. Each separate grinding operation can be shown in a different colour, with any unforeseen or likely collisions being clearly highlighted. Any grinding process can be easily modified at any time. As well as depicting the entire grinding process, the system also reveals the machine view and axes movements, and measurement points can be used to check tool parameters.
The resulting 3-D representation of the finished tool, with appropriate data, can be either emailed to the customer for approval - who can turn and view the 'virtual tool' from any direction - or transferred directly to the HMC control on the company's Helitronic Power tool grinders, for production.
"In addition to the actual pre-production benefits gained with Cyber Grinding, one of the biggest advantages of the software is that we can actually show customers with a particular tooling problem how a specially-designed or modified tool will perform," adds Laurie Witherwick. "When they see the tool proven out with their own eyes it is an impressive and powerful marketing aid."
Having uprated its solid carbide tool capability, and experienced the service and support available from Walter GB's Redditch headquarters, when the time came for Carbide (UK) to update saw blade grinding, Walter's Woodtronics were the first choice.
Fitted with three-pallet loaders for the unmanned and, in the case of Carbide (UK), lights out machining of up to 120 blades of 150 mm to 750 mm diameter in random order, the ultra-fast CNC 5D circular saw blade grinders offer very quick cycle times due to developments in the machines' control software. In addition, optional cross slide functionality on the machines' saw blade indexing unit enables tooth pitch variations to be automatically calculated very quickly, thus reducing set-up times when machining batches of blades of varying diameter.
Accommodating teeth faces and tops, the CNC 5D can handle blades of 80 mm to 850 mm diameter, up to 12 mm thick and with tooth pitches of 4 mm to 125 mm.
Grinding spindle drive is 1.1 kW producing spindle speeds of 3,000 rev/min and cutting speeds of 26 m/sec. The use of linear guideways and ballscrews coupled with three-phase servo motors having closed loop positional control ensure consistent high-precision grinding.
The Woodtronic is supplied as standard with a series of software programs covering all tooth blade geometries - including the Brunswick geometry, where all types of deflection shoulders and chip grooves can be ground - and Walter's Free programming package as part of Walter Window Mode. This allows operators to quickly and easily create programs for any tooth shape and combinations of tooth shapes within the specified diameter
Walter's extensive software library allows an array of tooth profiles to be machined in a single set-up. These include alternate top bevel, flat top, triple chip and hollow types. The operator has complete control over free cutting attributes allowing the complete machining of geometries with several complex facets.
"The machines allow us to do a lot more teeth geometries than we could previously," says Laurie Witherwick, "and this means we are always able to meet customers' needs as new types of board - which demand new materials and new geometries – are introduced.
"Incredible surface finishes are being achieved; the mirror finish makes the blades cut and perform better and also provides enhanced blade life.
"We are also very pleased with the cleanliness of the machines; their cutting oil and filtration systems mean that there is virtually no downtime for cleaning or maintenance, resulting in higher productivity." The integrated coolant system on the machine features a 60-litre/min, 3-bar pump and a 150-litre tank capacity.
For Carbide (UK) though, having the latest production technology is still not enough in Laurie Witherwick's eyes to uphold the company's ‘leading the way in cutting technology' image: he is always looking to improve every aspect of the business. This explains why lean manufacturing principles are being applied across the business – minimising paperwork and improving flow from order receipt through to delivery.
"It's simply another example of our strategy to stay one step ahead, and that can only be good for our customers."
Source: Walter GB Limited