With a name derived from ‘Takumi’, the Japanese term for craftsman or artisan, Takumi Precision Engineering has been delivering these attributes for more than 20 years.

Based in Limerick in the Republic of Ireland, Takumi Precision has been investing heavily in the last few years. The company recently completed a factory expansion that has taken floor space to  4,645sqm and invested more than €5m in new machine tools and CAM software to further extend its market-leading position on the Emerald Isle.

Takumi Precision is a prominent figure in the medical device, pharmaceutical, aerospace and precision engineering sectors in Ireland. The company manufactures orthopaedic implants and instruments, cardiovascular assembly aids, medical grade rasps, balloon moulds and delivery system components, as well as aluminium wing brackets and fuselage components for clients in the aerospace industry, and electrical, electronic, mechanical and optical engineering parts for the industrial precision machining sector.

Over the years, Takumi Precision has invested in turning centres from Tornos, Doosan and Miyano with three and five-axis machining centres from Doosan, Spinner and most recently Matsuura adding to the plant list. One of the company’s core investments has been hyperMILL CAM software from OPEN MIND Technologies, in a move that was driven by the onset of barrel tool technology, an influx of five-axis machines and challenges with previous CAM systems.

“Only five years ago, 90% of our work was in the medical industry with the remaining work being across a number of sectors including the aerospace market,” says Gerry Reynolds, Managing Director of Takumi Precision. “We had an opportunity to enter the aerospace market in a more positive way, increasing volumes from one-to-three offs to continuous batches of 10 to 15 on the Airbus A220, previously known as the Bombardier C-Series. We had to invest in five-axis technology to accommodate the ramping up of complex aerospace work, and we have bought 13 five-axis machines in the last five years to support this.”

The investment has paid dividends, with aerospace work increasing from 5% of turnover to almost 60% in less than five years. However, this has not been to the detriment of the medical business.

“Our business has doubled in size in the last three years due to the increased aerospace work, but the medical sector remains crucially important to our business,” Reynolds stresses. “Medical components are now 40% of our business – the volume of work has not reduced, it just hasn’t grown at the level of aerospace work. We now have 87 staff and are targeting a monthly turnover of €1m.”

The influence of CAM

“Ten years ago, I didn’t understand CAM and would have argued against it,” says Reynolds. “However, there was a necessity for CAM to run our machines, and at the time I called it ‘finger CAM’, as we were programming at the machine. We progressed to a more comprehensive CAM system and eventually installed eight seats of software. However, a visit to the AMRC (the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) introduced us to Ceratizit’s barrel tools and OPEN MIND’s hyperMILL CAM system. This changed the game for Takumi.”

After investing heavily in CAM software, Reynolds was apprehensive at the prospect of changing CAM systems.

“Over the last five to six years, we had spent a lot on CAM packages and what we had, worked relatively well,” he explains. “But there were a few issues with processing speed, occasional crashes and some feature limitations. It was the barrel tool machining features within the hyperMILL MAXX High Performance Strategy that appealed to me, but I wanted my team to take the lead, as they would be the ones using the software.”

The Takumi Precision team did their due diligence, taking in hyperMILL demos and then asking their existing CAM vendor if the barrel tool feature and the mirroring package were available. The CAM supplier, as well as several other vendors all said “It’s on its way” or “It’s in development” regarding more than just these two features in hyperMILL

“That told us all we needed to know about the various vendors in the market, but it told us a lot more about hyperMILL,” Reynolds adds. “They are clearly streets ahead of the other CAM developers. We have rapidly moved to hyperMILL. We bought our first seat 18 months ago and now we have six seats of hyperMILL. We are now phasing out our previous CAM system.”

The benefits of hyperMILL

The primary reason Takumi Precision invested in hyperMILL was the potential of barrel tools to significantly improve productivity. Reynolds comments: “The hyperMILL MAXX Machining High Performance Package and the respective barrel tools with their innovative geometry allow us to step down 5mm to 10mm, as opposed to 0.4mm to 0.8mm, when finishing pockets, walls or profiling features. This has instantly reduced finishing cycles by at least 70%, giving us a minimum overall cycle time improvement of 30% on every component.”

However, the benefit is not just the cycle time improvement: “We have historically had a number of staff undertaking finish-polishing of parts to ensure our surface finishes exceed customer expectations. Despite the increased speed and step-over rate with hyperMILL MAXX High Performance Machining, the surface finishes are much better than before. This is because the barrel tool has a higher engagement rate that keeps the tool in constant contact with the workpiece.”

Another feature that persuaded Takumi Precision to invest in OPEN MIND was the mirroring feature.

“In the aerospace industry, almost everything is manufactured with a left- and right-hand component,” says Reynolds. “The mirroring feature in hyperMILL is remarkably comprehensive and with just a touch of a button, we are reducing our programming times on most components by 50%. We have eight programming staff and the mirroring feature in hyperMILL is effectively doubling the productivity of this team.”

A better overall system

While hyperMILL has reduced cycle times on the shop floor by more than 20% and reduced programming times by upwards of 50% in the office, the benefits reach much further.

“hyperMILL is much faster than previous CAM systems and it handles ‘big data’ much better than we have previously witnessed,” says Reynolds. “This has eliminated unforeseen PC crashes and massively improved the reliability, processing and delivery of our data to the shop-floor.

“Furthermore, hyperMILL has so many ‘obvious’ features and short cuts that generate savings for the end-user; these ‘obvious’ features don’t appear on other CAM platforms. One feature that simplifies the throughput of programs and parts is hyperCAD. The OPEN MIND CAD system that is integrated into hyperMILL is an excellent platform that has now eliminated our reliance on CAD packages like Inventor. We can now expedite jobs through hyperCAD to hyperMILL with seamless ease – yet another feature that is making life easier for our programming team.”