The world was a very different place before the creation of the microchip, and nowhere more so than the engineering workshop. The widespread availability of microchips, together with massive advances in software, have enabled the creation of CNC – computer numerical control.

In CNC systems, the design of a mechanical part and its manufacturing program is highly automated. The part’s mechanical dimensions are defined using computer-aided design (CAD) software, and then translated into manufacturing directives by computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software. The resulting directives are transformed by post-processor software into the specific commands necessary for the chosen machine to produce the component.

What that means, in simple terms, is that the days of “one man, one machine” are now a fast-fading memory. One programmer at a computer console can program, implement, and supervise machine work that would be the equivalent of several operators on lathes, grinders, routers, mills, and shapers in earlier times. Computer-controlled, automated machining methods can achieve reaches, holds, and other actions that human operators and conventional machines typically don’t do efficiently.

Generally, lathes and machining centres have two axes, but more sophisticated models have more, allowing for more advanced jobs to be machined. Basic machines have cutting implements along X and Y- axes that can each work independently, yet simultaneously. Advanced machines may have up to five axes that perform similarly, and have the capacity to turn and flip the part; for example, the Z-axis moves up and down. Some models include special features and accessories that further simplify the production process – for example touch-screens and automated tool changers, and robotic feeders for ‘lights out’ night work.

Sydney-based company Meeke Engineering sees CNC as being very important, considering the continuing shortage of skills in conventional machining, and the key role played by CNC in guaranteeing the consistent quality and accuracy of jobs.

“We have found that the latest controls are fairly easy to understand and operate,” says Satish Sawant, General Manager at Meeke. “And together with on the job training, they have helped us overcome the skills shortage, increase our precision, and expand our daily throughput.”

This was a contributing reason for the company’s decision to acquire a a brand-new YCM TV 158B CNC vertical machining centre (VMC). Throughout Australia, YCM machine tools are sold, serviced, and supported by Sydney-based 600 Machine Tools, a member of the global machinery manufacturer and distributor 600 Group, which was founded during Queen Victoria’s reign.

“I am not in the least surprised that such a technology-driven manufacturer as Meeke Engineering has chosen to extend its capacity and capability with a VMC designed and manufactured by YCM,” says Cliff Purser, Asia-Pacific Managing Director for 600 Machine Tools. “An ISO-9001 accredited manufacturer, YCM was founded in 1954 and has built a worldwide reputation for technological innovation. Its latest model – a ‘smart’ multi-tasking mill/turn machining centre – won the Supreme Excellence Award of the Taiwan Machine Tools Industry 2017.

“The TV 158B is a popular choice for workshops in Australia, because its standard gearhead spindle provides up to 6,000rpm speed with 48kg-m torque. The 10,000 rpm spindle is deployed with IDD spindle design and oil-air lubrication to lower the deformation caused by heat, ensure the accuracy, and extend the life of the spindle.”

Over the past three decades, Meeke has built a reputation for being the ‘go to’ company for excellence in engineering.

“We provide the diversity our customers need – machining, fabrication, assembly, testing, and painting – all at the same location,” says Sawant. “Our Wetherill Park workshops in Sydney’s industrial heartland provide a lot more than just production capacity.

“Senior staff members frequently interact with customers to devise knowledge-based solutions to specific problems, often going on to design and engineer a prototype – even before the chips start to fly.”

According to Sawant, who has a degree in Production Engineering, the company regularly provides hydraulic cylinders and refurbishing, complex welding jobs, specialised CNC machining, and quick turnarounds when required. Typical challenges include centre barrels and impellers for the mining industry, gearbox cases for the gear industry, moulds for the rubber mould industry, rollers for the conveyor industry, and hydraulic cylinders for the earthmoving industry.

“In our workshops, we have the expertise and experience to produce everything from a batch of tiny components to a complete system that has been designed, manufactured, assembled, and tested under an ISO 9001:2015-accredited QA regime,” adds Sawant.

In recent years, 600 Machine Tools has supplied several machine tools to Meeke, including Harrison Alpha lathes, and machining centres from YCM.

“The third YCM machine we have configured for Mr Sawant and his team is a ‘best-in-class’ VMC that is capable of producing complex components at high speed,” says Steve Drummond, Sales Manager of 600 Machine Tools. “However, despite the sophistication of the TV 158B, the Fanuc MXP200FB control ensures operators can approach this machine with confidence, due to its ease of use and simplicity of operation.

“Even if you haven’t used a lathe since your schooldays, you could walk up to a YCM machining centre now and start cutting metal.”