Tooled for growth

13 February 2014

Established as an injection moulding company, Key Plastics in Bray, Co Wicklow, has recently invested significantly in its toolroom and now offers full tool design and manufacturing services. An Excetek V350G CNC wire machine supplied by WMT (Warwick Machine Tools) is the latest addition to the company’s plant portfolio


Key Plastics operates injection moulding machines up to 650t to produce components for customers in various industry sectors, including aerospace, automotive and medical device technology. 


The company has always operated a toolroom. This has tripled its size during the past three years, such that a significant area of the facility has been given over to toolmaking. The decision to expand this service is providing rewards; in 2013 the company completed around 30 tools.

Ciaran Downes, company director, explains: "In the face of global competition the mould tool industry has been forced to restructure. There is now a shortage of companies building and maintaining mould tools in Eire and the UK. The fact that we have invested to offer a complete service in-house has secured a number of contracts for us. From component concept to tool design through to tool manufacture and component sampling, we can offer the customer support at every stage of the process.”


The toolroom allows the company to offer precision machining of complex components for both low and high volume quantities. Seven machining centres with up to 2m travel, a number of CNC turning centres, as well as full grinding capability provide the machining capacity. A precision laser welder is available for maintaining mould cavities and cores welding down to 0.3 mm without affecting the parent material of the tool.


The EDM department now has four CNC die sink EDM machines and two CNC wire EDM machines. As well as a new V350G Excetek wire EDM machine, WMT supplied a fully refurbished ONA Techno H 400 die sinking EDM machine. 


Ciaran Downes says: "Getting your pricing right is a very fine balancing act; we have to compete with global competition and offer a technically superior support service. Of course we can’t beat the hourly rate of a low cost economy, but we are offering high quality tooling at economic costs so the customer can appreciate the total value we offer. Helping us achieve this, the Excetek V350G provides the latest EDM technology at a competitive price.”


Both the large ONA die sink and the compact Excetek wire cut machines have been readily accepted by the operators. WMT’s local field service engineer, Paul Barry, trained the staff that now operate the machines. He says:"Both of these machines use logically intuitive conversational-based questions and answers to create programs, so most operators pick it up quickly and can be producing parts within a day.


"The Excetek’s NC system is Windows-based running on an embedded 64-bit PC with the company’s HMI formatted for easy operation. It retains a lot of the Windows functionality, so it is easy to learn how to build a program. Here, they program at the machine tool, so the logical programming layout was very important.

"Engineering backup is important because this service is vital to keep the machines running at their peak. Having a service engineer based locally was a massive positive when choosing the machine.”

The unit, which has a footprint of only 2 by 2m, is fitted with a 600L tank, capable of accommodating workpieces to 700 x 500 x 215mm and weighing up to 450kg. The wire machine has U and V axis travels of 80 mm and ±30° taper capability and an accuracy of 3 micron over 100 mm.


Working in most materials, including engineering polymers such as Delrin and nylon, the toolroom also produces the copper electrodes used by the die sinkers. Most mould tool steels, including P20, H13, D2, Stavax, and so on are machined depending on the customers preference. "Most medical tools are stainless, but general moulds are H13 hardened, or P20 if an economical solutions is required,” says Downes.

The diverse mix of materials being loaded onto the Excetek V350G highlights its high speed cutting capability, as well as productivity enhancing functions such as its Auto Wire Threading (AWT). The Excetek AWT provides continuous unmanned operation day and night. It can thread at the point of the wire breakage, and a water jet function enables the machine to thread submerged workpieces. 


Downes concludes: "We have invested in these EDM machines from WMT for the future improvement of the business. Now, with the number of machine tools available in the toolroom, we can support the demand from the various industries we support.”