James White joined NSK Precision Engineering in 2015 and took the company over in 2019. His background in CNC machining made his top priority investing in a CNC machining centre so, his first purchase was an XYZ 750 LR. This machine has 750 x 440 x 500mm travel, Siemens 828D control with optional ShopMill and incorporates linear rail technology which increases acceleration and deceleration rates resulting in increased accuracy and faster machining.
Taking over NSK Precision Engineering, which has been in operation since 1995, was a steep learning curve, learning how to manage both the workforce and the day-to-day administration of the company. Additionally, James has relocated the company from its previous 1500 sq ft factory to a new 10,000 sq ft site near Reading while growing turnover by 700% and increasing his workforce from 2 to 7.
The early days of the takeover coincided with the Covid crisis but, NSK was able to keep going right through lockdown making parts for the Nightingale Hospitals which provided a massive boost to the company, opening up opportunities in more industry sectors. James White continues,
“Previously we were subcontracting a lot of work to local companies. Investing in CNC has enabled us to take this work back in house which gives us more control over quality and delivery while at the same time improving our profit margins. At the old factory, we were limited for space, restricting which XYZ CNC machine we could choose. With the new factory and the increase in workload we were able to make a further investment in a XYZ 1000 LR with 4th axis rotary table, Siemens 828D control with the ShopMill option, expanded 24 station tool carousel and a swarf conveyor. The machine was delivered within 2 months, which was important to us because of rapidly growing demand, despite the difficulties of chip availability at the time.”
Now the company produces parts for the oil and gas, pharmaceutical and motorsport industries. James has a history competing in the British Superbike Championships so he knows this industry which demands 13 micron tolerances and very short lead times. Other parts are used in wind turbines and in the conversion of classic cars to an electric powertrain. By building a close relationship with customers from a diverse range of industries NSK Precision Engineering is aiming to both secure its business and grow its revenues through customer loyalty.
On the XYZ 1000 LR the company makes parts ranging from a few grams to 100 kg. Much of the CNC programming is done offline using Autodesk Fusion 360 CAM but, the ShopMill conversational software on the Siemens 828D controls is also used daily. James White says, “We are aiming for maximum uptime on the machines, so we use tombstone fixtures so that we can machine multiple faces and multiple parts in one operation. Other techniques include using very thin tabs to hold awkwardly shaped parts. These can be snapped off, leaving just one face to clean up to get a finished job. The machine has plenty of power, so we can take big cuts, the optional 12,000 rpm spindle speed is good for aluminium jobs and for small tools, while the extended 24 station tool carousel makes a complete tool pack available, saving further time lost to tool setting. Probing enables us to do in process dimension checks where we can. Overall, it is a very versatile machine.”
NSK Precision Engineering’s next target is to introduce more automation. Like most companies, the skill shortage makes this necessary. James White adds, “XYZ Machine Tools is a great partner to work with, they always answer, calling back within about 20 minutes, providing a fix over the phone or within two days. The machines have been very reliable, and we have not needed any spare parts, you really can’t fault them.”