THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER - Joint approach has Dawnlough flying highPrecision engineering company Dawnlough is carving out a niche in aerospace components, supported by seco Tools and technical partner Premier Machine Tools.
When a major player in the aerospace sector orders a flightcritical component from your company, there are crucial factors to consider: The part is integral to the aircraft, turnaround time will be tight, it will be high volume and it will need to be precisionengineered to a degree of accuracy that outstrips even your usual high standards.
This was the situation recently faced by Irish precision engineering business Dawnlough, which had just four weeks to get a machining solution in place for a highvolume order for the aerospace industry.
Far from being daunted, the company rose to the challenge, with help from Seco and its technical partner in Ireland, Premier Machine Tools. The three have now laid the foundations for a highly productive working relationship they hope will continue to pay dividends.
Dennis Ross is Key Account Manager at Premier Machine Tools (PMT) and dealt with the initial enquiry: “The owner of Dawnlough, Brian McKeon, approached me to ask if we could provide a three-axis machine. The contract was for an aerospace part that was of prehardened stainless steel up to 46 Rockwell, with a lot of different features on it. I recommended a Matsuura VX-1500, a sturdy, stable machine that can deal with heavy cuts and to the degree of pinpoint accuracy required.
“I suggested we get Seco involved and we could do it as a turnkey project, where we made all the recommendations for the tooling and devised a tooling strategy. Then we’d get the Seco engineers to stand beside the machine until the part was proved out and Dawnlough was happy.”
That approach found favor with Dawnlough, so Ross duly contacted Seco Technical Sales Engineer Tony Gillan, who travelled from the UK to present the method of manufacture drafted by him and Technical Manager Jon Shipley. It got the go-ahead.
“The turnkey solution that PMT was offering was a key factor in them getting the contract,” says Brian McKeon. “It came out very well because the machining process is smoother than we had anticipated. Even the tool life has been extended beyond what we thought it was going to be, so we’ve won in that area as well, through working the strategy with Seco.”
It also helped that McKeon’s engineering and design teams had the particular skills to carry out the work.
“We were able to win the work because we are cost-competitive. And our engineering and design teams have the work holding and accuracy skills to get the repeatability that is such a challenge with extremely high tolerances such as these.”
Seco’s Application Engineer Mike Alsina was also key to the project’s success.
“Mike Alsina’s knowledge and experience of the technology was important,” says McKeon. “There were some large-diameter disc mills that he brought which we’d never have thought could have attacked the part the way we are attacking it. He maximized the ability of the machine. He also stayed for more than a week afterwards to help us optimize the process. He’s been excellent.”
While turnkey solutions are nothing new, the after service that the PMT/Seco package offered stands out.
“There are a lot of companies that will come in and offer that kind of solution but, although the technology might be the same, they don’t have the experience and the knowledge that Mike has. That’s a winner for Seco.”
Also important was the provision of a SecoPoint vending machine for Dawnlough’s supply refills. Seco CET engineer Adrian Walker provided support for this installation.
With the four-week deadline being met and the whole process going more smoothly than expected, more business is in the pipeline. Dawnlough has now purchased three more Matsuuras – an MX-850 5-axis and two MX-330 10 pallet 5-axis machines. Seco is tooling all of them and Dawnlough has also asked Alsina to provide advanced training in cutting strategy to its engineers.
It’s been win-win for Premier Machine Tools too.
“Seco is involved in everything we do now. We are their Technical Partner for Ireland and we’re always looking for new business for them,” says Ross. “The key is to replicate what we’ve done with Dawnlough and use it as the model for working with other businesses.”
And Brian McKeon is a happy customer. “We’re making components now that I didn’t think would be possible. The technology has advanced so much that, even three years ago, I don’t think we would have been able to manufacture what we’re doing.
“But now the technology has caught up, we are machining faster and we have longer tool life; that’s making us cost-competitive. We’re now winning a lot of contracts back from low cost countries such as China, India and Turkey. Seco is helping us to become even more competitive.
“Ultimately, Dawnlough doesn’t want to be ripping aluminum anymore. We want to be going towards hard metal machining with high tolerance. I think we’re really pushing the boundaries now.”
Seco’s Tony Gillan is happy that his customer is happy, and says, “It just shows the strength of the collaboration between the three of us and Seco’s ability to respond quickly, no matter the challenge.”