Having purchased a FANUC Robocut Wire EDM machine for its toolroom, Wilks has halved the time it takes to manufacture dies for extruding plastic, while at the same time improving accuracy so that dies need less fine-tuning.
Wilks is a world-leading manufacturer of impact protection and decking systems for the marine fendering, boat decking, shopfitting bumper protection and general industry. Having invested in a new FANUC Robocut Wire EDM machine for its toolroom, the company has benefited from being able to produce tooling beyond the capabilities of even high-specification CNC turning and milling centres. Not only does the FANUC machine enhance Wilks' ability to produce tooling to outstanding levels of precision, but lead times are also shorter than they otherwise would be.
Speaking about the investment, Scott Berry, Joint Managing Director, says: "With a senior tool maker due for retirement, it seemed the ideal time to investigate ways in which we might improve our tool making process compared to our traditional use of turret milling machines.
"Fanuc had come highly recommended to us and, following a meeting with Andy Spence to discuss our requirement, we immediately felt that we had found a long-term partner for our tool room rather than simply making a one-off machinery purchase.
"Being a small company we needed to be certain that any machinery investment would yield a return relatively quickly and would not create a bottleneck in tooling schedules whilst new skills were developed.
"Our minimal CNC and CAD experience was of initial concern to us but, with the Fanuc's reassurance, demonstrations and, ultimately, a training course at their UK Headquarters, we felt enthused and confident in both our own ability to deliver as well as having purchased the right machine to work with.
"Immediately following our training the Robocut was put to work. A die that would have previously taken 40 hours to produce was programmed and set in two hours and cut within a further 16 hours. A time saving of over 50 per cent. Even more impressive was that the tooling ran first time when trialled on our extrusion line and without need of tuning. The saved man-hours can be spent on other areas such as R&D, product trials, tuning of tooling or the design of new dies. We are now working more efficiently and experience can only see things improve further still.
"Seemingly overnight we have gone from using relatively basic methods to produce our tooling to high specification. Surprisingly the step-up has been very simple too... we only wish we had followed this path years ago."
Steve Waldie, the Tool Room Manager, adds: "Historically our extrusion tooling had to be made using traditional tool making skills such as split dies.
"The main problems we faced were blending a round hole at the back of the die to sometimes complicated rectangular shapes at the front/exit face of the die.
"With these problems in mind, the process of making these dies was both time-consuming and not necessarily accurate.
"Since receiving our Fanuc Robocut Alpha OiE, and having completed five days of training, we were able to start cutting production dies the following week.
"The learning curve from a CAD and CNC Wire Eroder novice was a steep one but surprisingly rapid.
"The support that we received from Fanuc was always there whenever we required it which, in itself, was very reassuring and meant that delays in completing jobs were minimal.
"The dies we make are now accurate within microns and the speed of manufacture has been cut by approximately 50 per cent.
"Now we have our Fanuc Robocut there is no looking back."
Follow the link for more information about the FANUC Robocut Wire EDM machines.