North Bucks Machining - Making Bottle Moulds
Situated close to Milton Keynes, North Bucks Machining specialises in the design and manufacture of moulds for the European packaging industry. The company works closely with its customers to continually improve the design of their moulds, producing stronger bottles that consume less plastic.
Dave Palmer, owner of North Bucks Machining, formed the company 4 ½ years ago, he explains, “I was actually workshop manager for a large packaging company when we heard the news that our department was being closed. My wife Rose and I saw an opportunity and after negotiating a deal we took over the workshop and ran it as our own business with the packaging company as our number one customer. It’s funny, on the Friday I was wearing a company uniform, then the following Monday I was the boss wearing my own clothes. It was a great feeling.
“We’d always dreamed of having a family business, so when we were comfortably established we asked our son Stewart to join us. He had a background in CNC machining for the F1 teams and is a superb engineer. Shortly afterwards our daughter Joanne joined as financial manager, taking some of the workload from Rose. Sometimes dreams really do come true.”
After a year Dave and Rose decided that the company should move to larger premises with more modern equipment, this was when they invested in their first Haas vertical, a VF-3 followed soon after by a VF-1. “We already had a Haas lathe, an ST-10, and had been delighted with its performance, so the decision to invest in a Haas vertical was easy. With the help of a Regional Growth Fund grant we were able to finance the new Haas verticals and employ two extra apprentices.
“The Haas machines have been fantastic; they give us the accuracy, rigidity, and thermal stability required for making our moulds. The verticals replaced old manual mills and as you can imagine our cycle times have been slashed. This translates directly into our ability to bring new products to market faster, a vital factor if we want to stay competitive.” But “fast,” as Dave knows, is only part of the story.
One of the North Buck Machining's biggest customers currently produces 2 billion plastic milk bottles annually. “The accuracy of the Haas machines allows the end-user to keep their material costs under control,” Dave adds. “In this business, if an inaccurate mould produces 1 gram of excess plastic per bottle, multiplied by the millions of uses in its lifetime, they could have a serious problem on their hands.”
The Haas VF-1 and VF-3 are rugged, small-footprint VMCs that yield reliability and accuracy in a small-framed machine. They have a 40-taper cartridge spindle driven by a 30 hp vector Dual-Drive (Y-Delta) drive that spins up to 8,100 rpm.
“When they say user friendly, they mean it; the Haas truly is user friendly,” says Stewart.
“We mostly program our machines offline, using HyperMill, however for small one-off jobs we’ll happily program at the machine. Our operators and apprentices didn’t have any problems picking up the Haas control and because the verticals and the lathe share the same control moving between them is straightforward.”
“One of our customers used to have their moulds produced in the Far-East, but not only were lead times getting longer but frequently the quality of the metal wasn’t up to scratch. Now, our client will sends drawing/CAD file and within a few days they can see the results. We also do a lot of rapid prototyping and repair work, or if a component is damaged beyond repair we have the ability to reverse engineer it and cut a new one. Often our customers like to drop in and discuss their projects face to face. Not so easy if you’re 5,000 miles away!”