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Modern Star lathes are twice as fast as their predecessors

There can be few manufacturers of turned parts in the UK with more experience of multi-axis CNC sliding-headstock machining than Oxley Developments in Ulverston, Cumbria.  The firm is a global leader in the design and production of night vision equipment, LED lighting, data capture systems and electronic components for aerospace and other industrial applications.  

It was in 1983, in the early days of CNC sliding head technology, that the company bought its first lathe, a Star SNC-15, which is still operating around the clock today.  In the intervening 26 years, Oxley has continued to invest in more machines from the same supplier, to the exclusion of other makes of sliding-head mill-turning centres.  It now has nine Stars up to 20 mm diameter capacity, the most recent being an SA-16, installed in June 2009.  

Some may find it surprising just how much more productive modern Star lathes are compared with earlier models, even those from the late 90s.  Production output today is considerably higher per machine, which is testament in part to the skills of Oxley's engineers, who extract the very best out of the company's on-going investment in sliding-head technology.  

Oxley machine shop manager, Andrew Maiden, said that in the first 10 months of operating two Star lathes installed in March 2008, they produced over half a million parts.  More than 1,100 hours were saved compared with if the components had been made on two of the older Stars.  

The time reduction is a result of shorter machining times plus the labour saved through not having to carry out secondary operations manually, such as drilling, milling and deburring.  It underlines the high spindle speeds and rapid axis feed rates of up to 35 m/min on the latest Stars, models SR-10J and SR-20RII.  It also highlights their one-hit machining capability, using the counter-spindle in conjunction with the large number of driven tool positions for cross- and end-working.  

Oxley operates in a competitive international marketplace and it carefully monitors capital investment and its effectiveness to evaluate return on investment.  Mr Maiden pointed to three components whose production costs were calculated before investing in the latest Stars and again after they were installed.  

In one case, 5,000 pins were turned at a rate of 15 seconds per part, compared with 30 seconds previously.  A bayonet lamp fitting is mill-turned complete in two minutes, whereas turning alone used to take that time, in addition to which 15 minutes of manual operations were needed.  A third component that requires 12 seconds' machining time took 20 seconds to complete on a Star SW-7, even though the machine is less than 11 years old.  

Pins, plugs, sockets and other electrical, electronic and electro-optic components for Oxley products are produced in batches of up to 40,000-off on the sliding-head lathes, which are set to run for 16 hours unmanned overnight.  With cycle time reductions in the order of 50 per cent and far fewer second operations, the savings are sufficiently large to make a significant impact on the manufacturer's profitability.  

A wide spread of materials is machined at Ulverston, including brass, aluminium, phosphor bronze, beryllium copper, acetyl, mild steel, stainless steel, polycarbonate and PEEK, to a general tolerance of 0.05 mm, although 10 microns and tighter is frequently specified on drawings and easily achieved.  Some subcontract work for third parties is also undertaken, mainly pins and connectors, but this is a fraction of Oxley turnover.  

Established in 1942, Oxley has manufacturing facilities in the UK and USA.  The 200 strong company, a prominent member of the North West Aerospace Alliance, provides total solutions for aerospace and defence sectors.  Key capability includes night vision lighting systems, aircraft upgrades and modifications, LED lamps and systems, optical filters and electronic components such as EMI filters.  The rail, marine, electronics and telecommunications industries are also important markets for Oxley's systems and components.  

Press release issued by Star Micronics GB Ltd on August 5, 2009


 Contact details from our directory:
Oxley Group plc Aircraft Interior Lighting Systems, Optical Filters, Radio Frequency Filters, Night Vision Equipment, Aircraft Exterior Lighting Systems, Emergency Lighting Systems, LED Displays
Star Micronics GB Ltd Machining Systems, Lathes


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