Erodex has installed a Sodick AG60L spark erosion machine from Sodi-Tech EDM at its state-of-the-art machining centre in Halesowen.
The new machine brings vital extra capacity to the facility, which Erodex operates as an R&D manufacturing centre in support of its customers, around 75% of whom serve the aerospace and IGT (industrial gas turbine) sectors.
Since its foundation in 1974, Erodex has followed a guiding philosophy that has endured throughout the decades: the finest raw materials, when allied to first-class manufacturing techniques and the best possible service, will result in a successful business. As one of the three central philosophies, the company’s advanced machining facility is subject to an ongoing programme of investment in the latest technologies.
Although Erodex already had a Sodick AQ35L, the company identified a clear need for a second die-sink EDM machine, as Chris Grice, head of strategic capabilities, explains: “In line with our growth over the past five years we’ve witnessed a requirement for more technical support among our customer base. At Erodex, we can see there is real added value in providing customers with outsourced expertise, in addition to the design and manufacture of new electrodes, and the production of existing electrode designs.”
Erodex can of course simply manufacture electrodes to customer drawings, but because of its expertise in the aerospace and IGT sectors, the company has a deep knowledge of what customers are trying to achieve with regard to the geometry of the actual components. As a result, design and production advice from Erodex is today a pivotal part of its offer and provides important market differentiation. This advice is focused on driving down customer cost per part and might provide the customer with better yield on its consumable, greater manufacturing throughput, or reduced scrap and rework for instance.
“As well as designing and manufacturing the optimum electrode, we have the capability to spark the customer’s component and thus prove-out the electrode’s geometry,” says Grice. “We can offer a complete turnkey solution and, subsequently, become an extension of the customer’s development department to improve existing production and NPI needs - we are aware of the struggle many manufacturing facilities have balancing production and NPI. If a customer does not have the resource or manufacturing assets available, Erodex can be an extremely useful resource, while at the same time allowing customers to save on internal costs.”
The turnkey cost per part program is what Erodex refers to as ‘Application Assist’, an offer that is now even more efficient thanks to the arrival of the new Sodick AG60L die-sink EDM machine. Indeed, a number of blue-chip OEMs in the aerospace sector are already taking advantage of Application Assist, including major engine manufacturers with facilities worldwide, and their supply chains.
“Even though our customer base uses a variety of EDM machines, when it came to extending our capacity we chose another Sodick because of its reliable motion control,” explains Grice. “We get really good repeatability, which is vital in our line of work, particularly when we have multiple parts loaded in a fixture. In addition, one of our major customers recently purchased eight Sodick AG60L machines, so it made sense to acquire the same model.”
Accredited to both ISO9001 and AS9100D, Erodex has more than 100 employees across its facilities in the Midlands (UK), Richmond (USA) and Hermosillo (Mexico), all of which are operating Sodick machines.
Installed at the company’s Halesowen headquarters in the middle of 2020, the new Sodick AG60L offers the level of speed and accuracy that makes it the best-selling model in the AG series. The machine features linear drive technology and a direct link between the drive and control to ensure the fastest possible servo response and optimal spark gaps at all times. Travels in the X, Y and Z axis are 600, 420 and 370mm respectively. At Halesowen, the machine has already been proving adept at developing new ways of producing electrodes and enhanced methods of die-sinking components, all of which help reduce development time for customers in the aerospace and IGT sectors.
“Even though the machine was installed in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, our commitment to customers runs far deeper than a short interlude, if we can call it that,” says Grice. “We saw it before with 9/11 and, like then, we will continue our support now. We have a determination to deliver the best service possible, supported by skilled EDM engineers and backed-up with optimum materials and manufacturing technologies, such as the Sodick machines. At the moment, every penny counts for customers, so our ability to reduce cost-per-part through optimised development processes is highly attractive as it provides a quicker return.”