Investing for long-term with five-axis technology

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 16 May 2008



(2008), "Investing for long-term with five-axis technology", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 80 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Investing for long-term with five-axis technology

Article Type: Aerospace technology From: Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal, Volume 80, Issue 3.

Burdon Engineering is about to install a Deckel Maho DMU 200FD five-axis mill/turn centre at its Stokesley facility just outside Middlesborough. This 44kW swivelling head milling centre with axis travels of 1.8 x 2 x 1.1m, is the latest example of the commitment and future thinking of managing director Barry Hindson and reflects his view of the machining power, accuracy and five-face production capability that his business demands as a first tier supplier to the aerospace, oil and gas, earth-moving, medical and specialist automotive sectors.

Over the last three years, more than £8 million has been committed to the business largely to bring together a five- axis milling and multi-axis mill/turning capability with the all-important infrastructure to support this level of technology. As the company developed, a management team including specialists from the aerospace industry has been appointed as well as highly skilled setter/operators supported by very strong training programmes.

Opened in 2005, this model production facility occupies some 25,000ft2 on the six acre site at Stokesley near Middlesbrough. The machine shop is spacious and clean and immediately portrays an air of precision with five, very high- specification multi-axis machining centres supplied by DMG (UK) of Luton over the last two years. There is also a separate area containing equally impressive, large capacity turn/mill lathes and a fully temperature controlled measuring room containing a 4 x 2 x 1.1m gantry co-ordinate measuring machine.

The Deckel Maho machining centres include a DMC 160FD duoBLOCK installed in 2005 that became the door- opener for the company to the oil and gas and medical sectors with the machining of large rings for body scanners. This installation of the 1.6 x ;1.25 x 1m working volume, universal five-axis machine also kick- started Burdon's ever-increasing schedules for aerospace contract work.

With orders growing rapidly, a Deckel Maho DMU 200P and DMC 125FD duoBLOCK universal five-axis machines were then installed followed by the most recent purchase in second quarter of 2007, of a second DMC 160PFD and DMC 125FD duoBLOCK machines. Each machine has the capability to provide full simultaneous, five-axis tool positioning.

According to Mr Hindson, the philosophy behind the infrastructure of the contract machining facility is “we are here for the long haul” and he outlines plans to progressively triple the size of the business which will involve a further capital investment programme of £25 million. He said: “The rate our order book has grown in the supply of very complex components, in very difficult to machine materials, to extremely high orders of precision and most critical, to deliver on time, means we have to look very carefully at our production engineering. Our objective is to combine as many operations as possible to reduce lead times and provide an `on demand' production service.”

Each DMG (UK) supplied machine was delivered as a proven turnkey set up, tooled and programmed to minimise on-site commissioning. To illustrate the level of complexity involved, most cycle times tend to vary between 20 and 100h with small to medium batch sizes.

Subsequent to the acquisition in 1996 by FPCI Plc and following the death of the original owner John Burdon, the company retained his name, relocated to the current “state-of-the-art” facility and has expanded beyond recognition. Turnover has grown to some £25 million and 100 people are now employed. The new additional 6 acre site has now been acquired which has plans for increases in production floor space to some 65,000ft2 and is a far cry from the fledging days when the business started to grow in an old school building near Middlesbrough. As Mr Hindson describes, it had a machine in each old classroom and was extremely difficult to manage.

Relocation to its current site was completed in 2000 and a production facility set up for earth moving part contract machining. Over six years, investment included a host of new machine tools and robotic welding bays. In the meantime, plans were laid to diversify into aerospace that led to the new facility.

From day one, the plan was to provide short lead time production and this dictated the type of manufacturing environment and overall package required from the machine tool supplier. As Mr Hindson is keen to point out: “When producing an aerospace engine casing on the DMG machine we can produce it in less than half the time it would have taken us before because of the ability to combine so many operations. But what is more important, we can provide just a single part against an order if required previously to make it economic we would tend to produce five and put four in the stores ready for the next order call-off. Also, you need to look at the spin-off from making to order it reduces the duress of the production team and scheduling is far easier.”

He maintains: “The philosophy of buying machines with high levels of rigidity, power and torque, having the right type of tooling available and the skills of the team we can machine more effectively.” He then illustrates that “while they mix machining from solid and meet totally opposite demands such as aircraft engine casings with tremendous variation in wall thickness, we now have the ability to eliminate problems associated with vibration or component flexing because we have the skills and tools to do the job this is so important to avoid delays and the hours when a machine stands idle and people debate a solution.”

The Deckel Maho DMU 200FD that is due for installation later this year is a gantry style machine having a universal swivelling milling head with contouring B- and C-axes that are able to provide full simultaneous five-axis machining cycles. The universal head is infinitely programmable through horizontal and vertical axes. Owing to the type of high- tensile materials Burdon Engineering are machining, such as titanium, JetHeat and Waspalloy, high torque and power are prime requirements and here the DMU 200FD with its 44kW spindle, able to develop 1,550Nm of torque and deliver up to 6,300revs/min is important. The machine has a 120 tool magazine to supply the HSK-100 spindle that again defines the machine capability to remove material effectively and over long periods of time, maintain repeatability and accuracy.

Also important to the company is the ability to carry out turnkey processes on the 1.8m diameter rotary table of the machine at up to 200revs/min as part of any fully integrated cycle. Rapid traverse rates over the 1,800mm in X, 2,000mm in Y and 1,10.0mm in Z axes are 60m/min that considerable shortens non-cutting time. The fully programmable NC rotary table will support loads up to 5 tonnes.

Controlled by Siemens 840D Powerline, the machine, as with all Burdon Engineering's installations, will be off-line programmed using the HyperMILL CADCAM system installed to which Mr Hindson is adamant: “The cohesion between software and hardware capability is vital to our ever-increasing order book.”

For further information, please contact: DMG (UK) Ltd, Tel.: +44 (0) 1582 570661, web site: and John Burden Engineering Ltd, Tel.: +44 (0) 1642 718738, web site:

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