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amtek

Precision Engineers

When size matters Amtek Precision Engineers measures up

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Based in Totnes, Devon, Amtek is one of the UK’s foremost toolmakers specialising in plastic injection mould tools and high precision CNC machined components. At its 21,000 ft2 facility the company has invested in it is ability to ‘go large’.

High precision multi-cavity caps and closures injection mould tools and complex CNC components are the mainstays for the highly skilled engineering team at Amtek. The company’s impressive plant list includes a high accuracy Mikron HSM 400 machining centre with robotic pallet loader, a Mikron 65,000 rpm Graphite Master machining centre also with a robotic pallet loader that has allowed Amtek to switch from copper to predominantly graphite EDM electrodes for its die sink machines, and a Mazak Integrex multi-axis mill-turn centre.

Most often a fully assembled plastic injection mould tool might weigh up to 5 tonnes. The team at Amtek took the decision that this was not enough and invested in material handling solutions capable of safely moving the mould tool component parts each weighing up to 8 tonnes around its workshop and finishing/assembly area.

“It means we can extend the number of cavities within the tool for our customers,” explains Production Manager, Mike Lawes. “Typically, for the injection moulded caps and closures that we are renowned for a 5 tonne tool would have 96 impressions. Thanks to our material handling and well-planned workflow through our entire facility, from receipt of the raw material right through to inspection and dispatch, we can offer larger tools with up to 128 impressions.”

That 33 per cent increase can make a significant difference to the mould customer, as Mike Lawes points out: “The cycle time for the tool might be around 6 seconds, which equates to around 1 million cycles per year. The additional tool capacity could result in an extra 33 million parts being produced.”

Even with the increase in the number of injected components that can be produced the same rigorous toolmaking systems and methods are applied. Tool longevity is vital to Amtek’s customers so it becomes second nature to the company’s highly skilled staff to check and recheck everything. “We have tools in the market that have completed more than 30 million cycles, you don’t achieve that level of reliability by accident, you have to add quality at every step of the mould tools creation,” he adds.

Amtek Team

Experience counts for our long-serving team

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Amtek Precision Engineers is a company renowned for the production of high precision multi-cavity caps and closures injection mould tools and complex CNC components. Committed to the long-term quality of the work we carry out for a varied customer base we recently celebrated our 30th anniversary. And, it’s not just the company that is dedicated to the long-term as many of our highly skilled staff have also reached key milestones.

Originally established in 1984, today Amtek Precision Engineers occupies an impressive 21,000 ft2 facility in Totnes, Devon. The knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff at the company, many of which have completed toolmaking apprenticeships with local engineering companies, have remained with Amtek, growing with the business.

Long service achievers include Neil Rutley, Senior Toolmaker and Design Engineer, with 30 years’ service; Mike Lawes, Production Manager, who celebrates 20 years with Amtek; and the ‘newbies’ Michael Spalding and Matt North-Gatfield, Quality Inspector and Toolmaker & CNC programmer (specialist in milling) respectively, have both completed 10 years’ service with Amtek.

Neil Rutley recalls why he chose to work in precision engineering: “When I started in a large company I worked in every section. The last year of my apprenticeship was in the R&D department, which meant I spent most of my time in the toolroom, some years later when they closed the R&D section I decided to find a new job as a toolmaker, and to this day I am proud to call myself a toolmaker.

Speaking of the key changes he has noticed during his career he says: “Today it is much more about CNC machining. The Toolroom I served my time in had no CNC, now most of the work relies on CNC technology.”

Mike Lawes, who always had an interest in engineering as both his grandfathers were engineers, agrees: “When I started we had around 20 machines, three of which were CNC. Now we have more machines and more space, but the ratio of CNC to manual has gone the other way.”

The move from manual machining to CNC is also noted by Matt North-Gatfield, “there were no CNC machines at my first engineering company” he says. He also points to newer and better cutting tool technology, while Michael Spalding is keen to highlight the advantages of machine tool technology and software. “Spark erosion has allowed intricate shapes not previously possible and CAD/CAM software permits flowing curves instead of simple geometric shapes,” he states.

Job variety and learning new skills is important for staff at Amtek but they all agree that one of the most satisfying elements of the work is finishing a mould-tool and seeing components come off the tool at the trial. “When a project runs smoothly from start to finish and the accuracy is kept in tolerance with complicated programs going as intended,” says Matt North-Gatfield. “That’s when the job looks good and measures right.”

So, with such an extensive experience within the industry, what would they say to any young person looking at a career in engineering? Neil Rutley says: “Look at engineering with an open mind; there are lots of different careers and there is always something for anyone with an interest in the industry.”

Michael Spalding states: “Don’t neglect your studies.” Mike Lawes adds: “Do your homework to see what sort of engineering best suits you, once you have done this try to find the company that will be able to offer you the best ongoing training.” “It’s not easy,” Matt North-Gatfield says, “stick with it and your efforts will be rewarded with job satisfaction and good wages.”

Of course, these notable anniversaries are not rare at the company with around 75 per cent of the production team having been with Amtek for more than 10 years. Managing Director, Mike Jones, concludes: “There is no substitute for experience, and we have an excellent team here at Amtek. So much so that we have significantly tightened up our employment policy to ensure that, as we grow, we only add the very best people we can find to the team.”

Precision Engineering

Precision Is The Focus At Every Step

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Positioned at the apex of the industry sectors we support, everyone at our Totnes-based facility is very aware that precision has to be considered at every step of the manufacturing process. This is why we have invested in Diebold shrink-fit tooling to support the tight tolerance work carried out on our high speed multi-axis machining centres.

High precision multi-cavity caps and closures injection mould tools and complex CNC components are the mainstays for the highly skilled engineering team at Amtek. The company’s impressive plant list includes a high accuracy Mikron HSM 400 machining centre with robotic pallet loader, a Mikron 65,000 rpm Graphite Master machining centre also with a robotic pallet loader that has allowed Amtek to switch from copper to predominantly graphite EDM electrodes for its die sink machines, and a Mazak Integrex multi-axis mill-turn centre.

The accuracy and precision of these high performance machine tools is transferred to the precise positioning of the cutting tool via Diebold shrink-fit toolholding technology that ensures the tolerance levels expected by Amtek are achieved.

Supplied and supported in the UK by YMT Technologies, Diebold introduced the first contact-shrink unit more than 15 years ago. It was a milestone in modern shrink-fit technology and the company built on the lessons learned to develop the advanced inductive shrink units, chiller units, and integrated tool-settings systems available today.

Managing Director, Mike Jones, says: “It is easy to think of shrink-fit technology as a relatively new technique. However, open-flame heating has been used to shrink-fit parts together since before the Industrial Revolution. The first documented application was to heat and then shrink iron rims onto wagon wheels. This method was then applied to smaller items, such as heating rings or bearings onto shafts. Eventually, open-flame units were developed to heat shrink-fit chucks using carbide tooling. These systems, as well as the ubiquitous oxy-acetylene torch, remain in use in some workshops to this day.”

Diebold holds many patents for innovations in shrink-fit technology and the design specifications first introduced for the ThermoGrip toolholders eventually became a DIN standard that is now accepted globally. “For engineering companies focused on tight tolerance work, such as Amtek, every step of the manufacturing process has to be considered when you are pursuing microns. This applies to the machine tools, the fixturing and cutting tools and, of course, the vital interface between the cutting tool and the machine’s spindle. The technology and capability available from Diebold allows the latter to be extremely accurate and rigid,” explains Jason Short, YMT Technologies’ Tooling and Equipment Manager.

Although Diebold offers manually operated units, Amtek selected ISG 3400 TWK self-contained shrink-fit tool holding solution that features integrated water cooling to make the shrink fitting and cooling of cutting tools a simple operation. The bench top unit can shrink-fit carbide shank tools from 3 to 32 mm diameter and HSS shank tools 6 to 32 mm diameter, and is designed so that the operator does not have any contact with hot tools. It offers a maximum shrink extension of 400 mm and a maximum cooling capacity of 160 mm. A cool down time of just 20 seconds is required.

Amtek is fully aware of the benefits of shrink-fit toolholding as the company first invested in the technology in 2001. Today, staff on the shopfloor use different ThermoGrip toolholder designed to suit the various applications. These include the Ultra Slim that has been balanced for high speed machining and features a slim nose with minimum mass; the Slim Fit that has been designed for the mould and die industry with a 3o angle for mould cavities and an anti-corrosion coating for machining graphite; and, the Pyroquart holder for heavy milling applications.

“The concentricity of the bore to taper is better than 0.003 mm and the parameters for all tool sizes and holder designs are pre-programmed into the ISG 3400 TWK, so we can expect repeatable results each time the unit is used,” states Mike Jones.

He concludes: “Using Diebold shrink-fit toolholding technology vibration is reduced and machining is noticeably faster and smoother. So, manufacturing times can be reduced while maintaining the quality and accuracy demanded by our customers in today’s competitive markets.”

Amtek Wisdom

Amtek’s Pearl of Wisdom

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As Amtek Precision Engineers celebrates its 30th anniversary the company finds itself in a strong position, ready to face the challenges of the future. Orders and enquiries for the high precision multi-cavity caps and closures injection mould tools and complex CNC components that the company has become synonymous for are at an all-time high. And, ongoing investment in staff and manufacturing technology is ensuring that the business will continue to meet and often exceed customer demands.

Currently occupying 21,000 ft2 of industrial real estate in Totnes, South West England, Amtek Precision Engineers has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1984. Back then the fledgling company was struggling to find suitable facilities for its machine tools. As Managing Director, Mike Jones, recalls: “I had been searching for a while before my wife, Helen, found units in the sleepy fishing village of Stoke Gabriel. We managed to secure 1,000 ft2 for £21 a week and one of my best business decisions followed, when Helen become a partner in the business. Today, she is Financial Director.”

When the owner of the units in Stoke Gabriel put forward plans to develop the land for housing a new location was required. Having acquired the first two units at the company’s current site the staff and equipment moved the few miles up the road. Establishing a reputation for exceptional quality resulted in a growing demand for Amtek’s services: “This created more work than we could handle and that is still the case today,” Mike Jones says.

The foundation of the company’s reputation came from a number of sources. The first was the choice of materials. With a background in aeronautical materials gained in the Middle East, Mike Jones used his experience to the company’s advantage. He says: “I looked at the other mould making companies around and while their moulds were good, I thought we could do better. We invested in the highest grade quality steel and best standard components where necessary, which resulted in zero repairs coming back from the customers and from there we really took off.”

Next was the knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff; many of which have completed toolmaking apprenticeships with local engineering companies and have remained with Amtek, growing in parallel with the company. Danny Grant is a prime example of growing with the company, having joined in 1997 he has progressed to the role of Senior Development Manager.

Here he brings his practical programming and machining experience to the fore. As he says: “Just because you can make something a certain way it doesn’t mean you should. There are many considerations that should be looked at before an informed choice is made. The initial cost of producing a mould tool is relatively high, and the size has a direct impact on the price of both the injection equipment and the tool; so the customer will look to us to keep everything as small as possible.

“We have to work outwards from the cavities, ensuring there is enough material between the high pressure injected plastic material and the heating and cooling channels, so that it does not rupture. All to tolerances we apply are a factor of 10 times better than any specified by the customer, that is how we can provide a 1 million shot warranty on our tools.”

Along with the experienced staff new blood is required to support the future plans of the business. “We see apprenticeships as an important step towards narrowing the skills gap in the engineering industry, we already have a number of apprentices here and are looking to start three more on the programme. The Government has been very pro-active in its support and it is good to see we are starting to get the intelligent youngsters back into engineering,” Mike Jones states.

Making up the final part of the equation are the high quality machine tools that Amtek invest in. Typically, the company will purchase Japanese or Swiss technology with an emphasis on automation for unmanned overnight operation to support the 22 staff working during the day.

The Mikron HSM 400 with robotic pallet loader fits these parameters perfectly says Mike Jones: “We purchased the first HSM 400 produced; I believe that machine can do the work of 20 good men with 20 milling machines. The quality and accuracy is phenomenal, which was one of the key reasons we followed up with the purchase of the Mikron 65,000 rpm Graphite Master – also with a robotic pallet loader. This has allowed us to switch from copper to predominantly graphite EDM electrodes for our die sink machines, supporting our ability to create highly detailed mould cavities and mirror-like finishing.”

Electro discharge machining features prominently and Amtek was one of the early adopters of Swiss CNC spark erosion. More recently the company has invested in both wire and sink EDM technology from one of Japan’s leading providers, Sodick.

Although the majority of the programming for the die sink machines is done at the controller, the complexity of the NC code required for the Mikron machines, the Mazak Integrex mill-turn centre and the wire EDMs means it is more efficient to produce the program using the company’s CAD/CAM office that is equipped with AutoCAD, SolidWorks and Delcam’s FeatureCAM.

Danny Grant says: “The introduction of hard turning technology to replace cylindrical grinding was another significant step forward for us, improving efficiency dramatically and helping us meet the customers’ project lead times.”

Customers that rely on Amtek’s knowledge and advice include leading soft drinks producers and high-end distilleries, as well as medical and pharmaceutical caps and closures. “Industry figures state that over 900 million caps and closures are made every year from just one of our projects,” explains Mike Jones. “While the sector that demands the majority of our capacity varies each year, we do know the suites of tools we manufacture here in the UK are used by customers across the globe. At our level of quality we don’t have much of a threat from China, the best of the Swiss and the German mould toolmakers are our competition.”

GMTA.co.uk, July 2015. View original article here
Macines4Sale.com, Aug 2015. View original article here
Macinery-Market.co.uk, Dec 2015. View original article here
IndustrialDirector.co.uk, Dec 2015. View original article here

Sodick EDM Machines

Precision Toolmaker Installs Two New Sodick EDM Machines

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Totnes-based Amtek Precision Engineers Ltd, one of Europe’s leading mould toolmakers, has acquired from Sodi-Tech two high specification Sodick machines – an SLC600G wire EDM and an AG60L die sink EDM. The move brings to five the total number of Sodick EDMs on site at Amtek following the installation of three new machines in 2012, one wire, one die sink and one hole drill model.

“We are massively busy and simply needed more capacity,” says Amtek Precision’s Managing Director Mike Jones on the latest investment. “Even though we had switched to Sodick machines in 2012, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that we would buy more. However, we listened to our guys on the shop floor and that made our decision easy. We are particularly fond of the linear drive technology. Ballscrew drives on other EDM machines are fine when they’re new, but they wear. With Sodick we get a 10-year guarantee on positioning accuracy.”

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2014, Amtek Precision has grown to become one of Europe’s premier precision toolmakers for high volume, multi-cavity plastic injection moulds – around 80% of the company’s business is for the plastics industry. Typically the moulds produced by Amtek produce pharmaceutical and medical sector components, while caps and closures is another strong market segment. The levels of precision achieved (±0.003mm in some instances) are beyond that of conventional toolrooms and the company competes not with China, but with rivals in Switzerland and Germany.

“Aside from toolmaking we are also seeing growth in the number of aerospace manufacturers turning to us for component manufacture,” says Mr Jones. “They seem to be coming here because they want a higher level of quality assurance than they can get from the Far East.”

To capitalise on the advances of Sodick’s digital Smart Pulse generator and linear motor system, the design of the SLC600G wire EDM features a compact and fully enclosed machine which uses the latest human interface with a 19-inch touch screen colour control. The SLC600G joins a Sodick AG600L wire machine at Amtek.

The reason for choosing the AG60L die sink, the second on site, rested on its impressive tank depth (400mm maximum fluid level) along with other features that include a 32-station tool changer fitted with Erowa technology (Erowa automatic chuck also on C-axis), SGF nano-wear discharge unit, LN2 control system and TMM3 functionality for high speed cutting of carbide materials.

“To help justify the cost of the new machines we are looking into running the machines overnight with aerospace components, possibly by palletising the jobs, and running mould tools in the daytime,” says Mr Jones.

The cores and cavities produced on the Sodick EDM machines at Amtek’s 12,000 sq ft facility are typically complex with demanding dimensional tolerances. High cavitation mould tools of 72, 64 and 48 impressions, hot runner system moulds, in-mould closing, unscrewing moulds and stack moulds are among the Amtek capabilities offered to help meet market requirements.

“Business is fantastic at the moment,” concludes Mr Jones. “However, although business levels remain strong, we know we must continue upgrading our plant with the latest machinery and technology in order to remain competitive – it’s the foundation of our business success.”

Macinery-Market.co.uk, Dec 2015. View original article here
IndustrialDirector.co.uk, Dec 2015. View original article  here

Mouldtool Maker

Grant Aides Upskilling at Diversifying Mouldtool Maker

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Mould tool maker Amtek Precision Engineers has taken advantage of a GTMA grant to upskill its workforce.Over the last three years, The Totnes, Devon-based company has met the challenges of intense competition in the mould and die sector with a programme of investment that has seen manufacturing technology, such as a Mazak Integrex 200-IV multi-tasking machine tool, being purchased.

With equipment such as this, Amtek is continuing to improve and develop its product offering for the mould tool side of its business, while also diversifying into other areas.

However, the complexity of components in high precision industries, such as aerospace, medical and pharmaceutical, called on Amtek to investigate the upgrading of the skills sets. In particular, it identified a need for greater knowledge surrounding the application of the latest CADCAM technology using Delcam’s Powershape software. The resulting training from Delcam would ensure that the Mazak machine was being fully utilised, applying specific 5-axis cutter paths more effectively to improve productivity, and the Amtek’s CADCAM engineer, Dan Grant, duly undertook the course, backed by a Tooling Trust grant.

“The training that Dan has received as a result of The Tooling Trust grant has enabled Amtek to take full advantage of the 5-axis machining capabilities of our Mazak Integrex. It has also allowed us to rethink the way we approach many of our operations; increasing efficiency and reducing lead time,” says Mike Lawes, production manager, Amtek Precision Engineers.

The Tooling Trust, which replaces the former Gauge & Toolmakers Educational Trust, supports training initiatives for companies operating in the precision manufacturing technologies sector. It also supports initiatives such as The Young Apprentice of the Year Competition; design courses for the gauge and toolmaking sector; and the GTMA Business Development Training programme.

The grant awarded to Amtek is designed to encourage Gauge & Toolmakers Association (GTMA) members with no more than 50 employees to place employees on training courses. It achieves this by part funding training costs, and some associated expenses, for any industry or nationally accredited short courses.

Each GTMA member can apply for two grants in a calendar year and awards are made entirely at the discretion of the Trust, which is overseen by the Board of Trustees, all with extensive experience in the precision manufacturing technologies sector.

Machinery.co.uk, May 2009. View original article here.

Invest

Think Ahead…… And Invest

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A strange phenomenon emerges from the pages of this issue of PRW. An outbreak of good news has affected a wide range of companies:* Closed Loop Recycling starts £12m project,

* BPI invests in second ten-colour printing press,

* Sharp Interpack spends £3m on new line,

* Bourne Technical Mouldings enters medical arena.

All these companies have decided to invest at a time when the economic downturn has cast gloom over most sectors. Are they foolhardy, or brave?

Maybe we should not be so surprised by their actions, though. Each has valid business reasons for the investments, which target markets with above average growth prospects over the longer term: recycling, consumer packaging and medical products.

Indicative of this strategy is BPI, which said it is focusing on the consumer goods and agricultural sectors at a time of depression in another traditional market, construction.

Other companies point to new contracts providing them with confidence to drive ahead: toolmaker Amtek Precision Engineers in the medical sector; moulder Thumbs Up in the household box market; and Icon Polymer supplying more vacuum cleaner belts.

There is a case for investment during a downturn, based on a strategy of tighter business focus. It is not a course suited for every company, given the prevailing economic headwinds. But for those with a strong vision of where they want their company to be, and the drive to succeed, this could be the right moment to invest in the future.

PRW.com (Plastics & Rubber Weekly), March 2009.

Amtek

Medical Interests Caps Good Times for Amtek

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Devon-based injection mould tool-maker, Amtek Precision Engineers, is bucking the industry trend with the signing of major contracts and the continued expansion of its team.Things are looking good for Amtek as it celebrates its success in securing five major contracts in the last quarter of 2008. The orders, worth a collective £830,000, involve the design and manufacture of mould tools for mouldings within the global medical and pharmaceutical, and caps and closures industries.

Mike Jones, managing director, said: “We have a great team and many great, long-term loyal customers but we move with the times and are constantly looking for ways in which we can improve our productivity and this is something all our staff contribute to.”

Amtek has invested more than £600,000 in new plant and machinery in the last 24 months, including a five-axis Mazak Integrex 200-IV, able to machine in five different plains, which has resulted in a significant time saving.

“Much of our core competition stems from Europe so changes in exchange rates has certainly made our pricing more competitive overseas and we are already seeing the benefit of this,” continued Jones.

“However, we mustn’t forget the threat from the Far East, which poses significant problems for British manufacturing as a whole. We produce tooling of the highest quality and can offer delivery times that many of our foreign counterparts cannot compete with. Innovation and diversifying our business will also help us keep pace in this increasingly global marketplace. We absolutely have to remain positive and keep looking towards the future.”

PRW.com (Plastics & Rubber Weekly), March 2009. View original article here.