Queensland-based Drilltechniques has built a strong reputation servicing various industries involved in drilling, including mining and construction. When it set out to acquire a new CNC lathe, there were a number of essential criteria that had to be met.

Whenever a company identifies a requirement for a new machine tool, most workshop managers start thinking about accuracy and reliability, whereas the company accountant may believe that price and lifespan are the most important criteria.

The result is often somewhere in the middle – ideally, a brand new machine that is engineered and built for reliability, with a world-class control, and operator training to ensure accuracy, while meeting the initial budget and amortisation parameters set by the accountant. Even though machine tools and their electronic systems have become remarkably sophisticated nowadays, good planning makes it possible to acquire a new machine that meets the needs and wants on a workshop manager’s wish list.

The recent purchase of a new CNC lathe by Drilltechniques is a good example. What is really interesting is the rationale behind the acquisition.

Hitting the front

In just 10 years, Drilltechniques has become a byword for excellence across a number of industries involved in drilling. In 2008, the company started in the marketplace as an expert in hydraulics and mechanics, focused only on the foundation drilling sector. Its founder, Cameron Gaylard and his wife and strongest supporter, Jennifer, worked tirelessly to build a reputation and a business that capitalised on Cameron’s expertise as a tradesman and innovator.

Those early endeavours led the organisation along a path of development that ebbed and flowed with the boom-and-bust nature of mining and construction in Queensland. With a keen mind for fluid engineering and materials, Cameron set about identifying ways to improve performance through the design and manufacture of uniquely innovative products used in the drilling industry and, more broadly, across the mining and construction sectors.

Time would see Drilltechniques form breakthrough partnerships with some of the world’s most renowned drilling equipment specialists – companies such as Italy’s Comacchio and Tecniwell, Spain’s Llamada, Japan’s Toa Tone, and Canada’s Sonic Drill Corporation.

“Whether you are seeking equipment to conduct drilling operations for bored piers, CFA (continuous flight augering), anchoring, geotechnical, exploration, geothermal, well drilling, or earthing, we can assist you with high-technology and high-quality equipment,” says General Manager Chris Logan. “We also support such drilling methods as jet grouting and CFA, with material supply, mixing, grouting, and pumping systems.”

Facing a second decade

“Today, Drilltechniques is a business transformed, and its three primary business-streams deliver products and services to customers around the Pacific Rim,” says Logan. “As the company enters its second decade, the management team made a decision to bring its machining requirements back in-house.

“We have four main objectives: to increase accuracy and reduce error rate, improve lead times for customers, make the company even more competitive and, overall, to improve profit margins.”

After undertaking an evaluation process, the Drilltechniques team selected a Harrison Alpha 1550 XS two-axis manual/CNC lathe. The machine was supplied by Sydney-based 600 Machine Tools, the exclusive distributor of Harrison lathes in the Asia-Pacific region – both members of the UK-based 600 Group.

Logan explains: “It was imperative that we acquired a CNC lathe with proven reliability that was not only highly accurate, but also could be rapidly configured to cope with a constant stream of one-offs and small batches. We specified a Fanuc control and a need for conversational programming to ensure that our craftsmen are able to use their skills to best effect. It was necessary to interface with our CAD system – the 3D Solidworks software package – a key element in our ‘Design, Engineer, Build’ operation that converts our knowledge and experience into world-class hydraulic products.

“Over the past decade, the company has built a solid reputation for purpose-built drill rigs, power packs, rotaries and hydraulic clamps, and water recycling systems. All these products are designed to operate reliably in harsh conditions, and to comply with all relevant Australian codes and standards. The new Alpha will also be invaluable in our other two business-streams – sale and rental of drilling equipment, and service, maintain, and modify hydraulic equipment.”

The Alpha 1550 XS is now installed and commissioned in Drilltechniques’ workshops at Brendale, a suburb to the north of Brisbane, in the Moreton Bay Region of Queensland.

Toolroom accuracy

Cliff Purser, Managing Director – Asia-Pacific of 600 Machine Tools, says: “The ease of operation of the user-friendly Alpha range has been appreciated not only in the workshops of industry, but also in the workshops of education and training centres around the world. The hugely popular XS CNC combination lathe range is noted for its speed, accuracy, and surface finish to exacting toolroom accuracy standards (DIN 8605), which ultimately significantly reduces component production-costs.”

“I do not believe that there is another lathe on the market today – including full CNC machines – that can compete with the Alpha XS for speed of production when it comes to one-offs and small batch turning. Fast, easy set-up times and simple operation in all modes are the keys to this model’s undoubted success. It benefits from the ultra-high speed OiTF CNC control, along with Harrison’s own developed Alphalink software.”

Purser adds: “The rumours are true! Harrison’s newly-introduced Alpha XC model can execute off-centre drilling and boring, hexagonal milling, and much more. It has the ability to perform secondary operations that usually require machining centres or expensive slant -bed CNC turning centres.”