With a work stream increasingly moving towards more complex parts destined for use in space, Leighton Buzzard-based RST Engineering Ltd has invested in a new Sodick AG60L die sink EDM with linear drives, supplied by Sodi-Tech EDM. The machine is facilitating work ranging from 1-off parts through to batches of 300 running continuously overnight, unsupervised.
Established in 1986, RST Engineering is a family run business with a rich heritage in precision EDM engineering. Although the company also provides subcontract 5-axis CNC machining services, EDM is where RST’s market differentiating qualities are to be found.
“We’ve been adding to our wire EDM and CNC milling capacity over the past couple of years, but the time was right to increase die sink EDM as well,” explains the company’s managing director, Jason Taylor. “This is because of the type of work coming our way, particularly for the communication industry, which in recent times has become more and more intricate. Spark erosion has provided an excellent way to combat this trend.”
The latest addition to the company’s portfolio in this technology area is a new Sodick AG60L CNC die sink EDM with linear drive technology.
“We’ve used Sodick wire EDM for 15 years and have always been impressed with the technical capability of the machines,” says Mr Taylor. “We particularly like the linear drives and the ongoing accuracy this technology provides. For instance, although our policy of continuous improvement means we regularly upgrade our machines, we have one Sodick wire EDM coming up to 10 years old but it’s producing the same quality today as when it first arrived.”
Installed in March 2012, the AG60L was up and running the same day, and following a one-day training course, staff at the eight-employee, ISO9001:2000 accredited company were soon programming their very first component.
“Initially we completed a few one-off parts, but for the past two weeks it’s been running a batch of 300 components over a 24-hour cycle,” says Mr Taylor. “This means it runs unsupervised at night, a capability facilitated by the machine’s integrated extinguisher system. Our other die sink EDMs don’t have this functionality so the AG60L has provided real competitive advantage. Furthermore, the mix of conversational and NC programming on the machine has extended our imagination – literally, if you can think of it, you can make it.”
The satellite parts produced at RST Engineering’s 3,500 sq ft facility are typically manufactured from aluminium and feature tolerances in the order of ±10µm. The components largely serve as part of the communications systems and vary in size from around 100mm square, up to 300mm square. Due to their complexity, some of the larger parts can feature spark erosion cycle times of up to one week.
“For parts such as these, quality comes first,” states Mr Taylor. “Yes, we like to make sure our components are manufactured as efficiently as possible, but we’re finding more and more that precision and delivery take precedence. It’s my belief that the UK is currently flourishing in the supply of high end, added value component manufacture, which is nice to see. The investment in the AG60L is a demonstration of our commitment to continuous improvement in manufacturing. It ensures that our customers benefit from exceptional operational efficiency and productivity, with precision as standard.”