ETG Proves Priceless in Covid-19 Battle

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Like any socially responsible and conscious manufacturer, Yorkshire Precision Engineering Ltd (YPEL) was one of the many companies that offered to support the UK Government and its Ventilator Challenge UK consortium. When the call came from Rolls-Royce plc, YPEL turned the first batch of parts around in just one week.

Founded in 2001 by Michael and Lynda Laybourne, the Keighley Company received the call for 8000 turned brass parts at the end of March. Within a week of getting the go-ahead, YPEL had programmed the parts, sourced the materials, the tooling and had the parts machined, inspected, certified and out of the door.

The rapid turnaround of high quality turned components led to a second enquiry from the Ventilator Challenge consortium, a requirement for prismatic parts; and this is where the Bridgeport Hardinge V1000H from the Engineering Technology Group (ETG) stepped up to the mark.

Primarily operating as a turned parts business, YPEL has operated a solitary machining centre, an ageing Hardinge VMC600II workhorse alongside its fleet of turning centres for several years. When the company required additional milling capacity, the company once again turned to ETG and its Bridgeport Hardinge range of VMCs – investing in a 4-axis Bridgeport Hardinge V1000H machine that proved integral throughout the Ventilator Challenge.

Commenting upon the second enquiry and undertaking the work, YPEL Sales and Financial Director Mrs Laybourne said: “The 4000-off 3inch square plastic housing parts required for the Ventilator Challenge required extensive milling, grooving, drilling and even turning operations – this was a different proposition to the turned parts that were produced on the sliding head lathes.”

The Challenges

With lockdown fully implemented in March, YPEL had furloughed a number of staff by the time the ventilator parts arrived in April. Commenting upon this, Lynda continues: “A large portion of our business is in the oil & gas industry and also the brewery and hospitality sectors. The offshore sector has been hit hard, whilst many breweries closed during the lockdown and they still haven’t opened up for business. In addition to this, we had to furlough staff due to social distancing measures. Whilst the drop in business gave us the available capacity, the furlough situation meant our remaining staff had to work split shifts 24/7 for over 2-weeks to get the projects completed.”

“The next challenge we had was the sourcing of materials. We received the order confirmation on the Thursday before Good Friday. We really struggled, but we overcame the challenge of both sourcing material and getting it delivered on Good Friday, so we could get into the project immediately.”

The Set-up

With 4000 complex components to machine, YPEL created a workflow whereby the plastic housing parts were initially machined on the Bridgeport Hardinge V1000H prior to a second operation on a turning centre and then a final operation on the Hardinge VMC600II. Referring to the workflow, Lynda continues: “The capabilities, precision and the flexibility of the Bridgeport Hardinge V1000H via its integrated 4th axis meant that this machine did the bulk of the work. The V1000H conducted face and side milling, pocketing, grooving, drilling and threading in a 20-minute cycle. Following this, the parts were transferred to a turning centre for a 1-minute operation to process the final face before a third and final drilling operation on the Hardinge VMC600II.”

With a 3-operation process totalling approximately 30 minutes, YPEL had set-up a slick operation that optimised the workflow through the three machines and into final inspection. Referring to the Bridgeport Hardinge machines from ETG, Lynda says: “We couldn’t have completed the ‘follow-up’ order without the machines, they really are integral to our operations. We initially bought the 4-axis Bridgeport Hardinge V1000H machine to service a customer in the US, and it was our confidence in the service from ETG and the stability and reliability of the existing Hardinge VMC600II that led us to invest in an ETG machine once again. The Bridgeport Hardinge V1000H was specified for its 4th axis, the easy to use Heidenhain CNC control, the spacious work envelope, its powerful direct drive 10,000rpm spindle and a host of extra features – all supplied at a very competitive price point.”

Concluding on the project    

“Our team ‘pulled out all the stops’ to get through this project; and as a company, we couldn’t be more proud of the staff and their unbelievable effort to work 24/7 for 2½ weeks, even over the Easter holidays – all to play their part in the combat against COVID-19. Not only did we have to machine 12,000 components, but every individual part had to be labelled and packed in our clean-area and every member of staff was involved in this.” Looking to the future, Lynda concludes: “The manufacturing industry deserves a lot of credit for what it has achieved during the pandemic. The wider public, the government and large OEMs now realise that SMEs throughout the supply chain; companies like YPEL, have the expertise, the capabilities, the technology, the innovation and sheer determination to manufacture high-quality products right here in the UK. As businesses rise from the ashes of this pandemic, we hope a serious re-shoring initiative is instigated to show how ‘Great’ Britain really is.”