Exacting requirements fulfilled at PCD cutting tool manufacturer
Coventry-based cutting tool specialist, Exactaform, is exploiting the benefits of a Zoller Genius 3 universal measuring machine to help ensure the upkeep of high quality standards at this rapidly growing UK manufacturing business. Installed in 2012, such has been the impression made by the Genius 3 that Exactaform has now ordered a Zoller pomBasic compact inspection machine for its PCD (polycrystalline diamond) finishing plant.
Exactaform has come a long way since it formed in 1979 as a supplier of PCD and CBN inserts. To match the evolution in modern materials, the company changed its focus to become one of Europe’s premier manufacturers of PCD cutting tools, supplying global aerospace, automotive and motorsport markets. Today the company has grown to occupy three units on the Little Heath Industrial Estate, where it employs 32 people, 22 of whom have been added in the past five years.
The company has found a strong niche in which to thrive, namely the provision of breakthrough PCD cutting tool solutions for use in all non-ferrous machining applications, particularly special alloys and fibre-reinforced composites.Through continual re-investment in plant, machinery and engineers, Exactaform has risen to become a dominating player in the race for the optimum ‘one shot’ tooling solutions, one-off specials and batch production.
Among recent investments is a Genius 3 universal measuring machine from Zoller UK, which was acquired after the company sought to improve further its quality and inspection capabilities.
“We were drawn to the Genius 3 because of its ease-of-use, accuracy and ability to measure Skp – the edge roundness of cutting tools,” explains Key Account Manager, Martin Burns. “This has provided better control of production and the quest for spindle-ready tools, first time, every time.”
Another factor preferred by Exactaform is the ability of the Zoller to generate and save electronic QC records; according to Mr Burns the reporting function is particularly effective. Similarly, the machine’s simple operation is seen as very advantageous.
“Compared with our existing tool measuring machine, the pilot 3.0 software on the Genius 3 is far easier to use. Our lead inspector is a mature chap who had become very familiar with our existing tool measurement technology. However, since completing the Zoller training he has now become super-efficient on the Genius 3. In fact, the Genius 3 is so easy to use that it is used not only by metrology lab personnel but frequently by shop floor operators, who use it on a daily basis for first-off, in-process and final inspection routines.”
Typical tolerances at Exactaform are in the region of 2 µm, while tool features measured include helix angles, radial reliefs, lands, gash angles, head lengths, centre offsets, chamfer heights and end face facets to list but a few.
The impact made by the Genius 3 has led Exactaform to order a second Zoller, this time a pomBasic compact inspection machine.
“When it arrives the pomBasic will be sited in our PCD finishing shop to undertake quick measurements of tools taken from our Vollmer tool erosion machines, it will also be used to support the final inspection process and ease some of the burden on our Genius 3.”
The PCD finishing shop at Exactaform contains no less than 11 automated Vollmer machines – it is believed to be the largest facility of its type in the UK. But it’s not just Exactaform’s capability that sets it apart from its competitors, the company is also highly dynamic, turning around bespoke tooling requests in just two weeks. According to Mr Burns, this sits very favourably in a market where 8-10 weeks is seen as normal.
Indeed, these endeavours have not gone unnoticed. The company’s biggest customer, a large tier one aerospace supplier, named Exactaform as its ‘Supplier of the Year’ in 2012, as well as ‘Tooling Supplier of the Year’ in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Of course, none of this would be possible without its rigorous quality standards and supporting measurement technology.
“There’s no doubting that the Zoller Genius 3 has become the major element of our inspection function. This level of investment shows we are a major player in our sector and that we take quality very seriously. I’m sure the Genius 3 will be a vital company resource for many years to come, at least if our older Zoller machine is anything to go by – we have a 13-year-old Zoller Saturn that is still used daily for brazing and tip seating measurements. How’s that for reliability.”