Automation boosts Additive Manufacturing production at SST

January 17, 2022

SST recently opened its advanced engineering campus in Oxfordshire (Courtesy SST)

UK-based engineering solutions provider SST Technology (SST), Eynsham, Oxford, part of Polar Technology Group, has reported an increase in production after implementing automation solutions from MSP, Alnwick, Northumberland, UK, into its Additive Manufacturing division. The company states it is now producing up to seven times more parts a week, and has seen a reduction in setup time from four hours to twenty-five minutes, and halving of machining cycle times from fifteen to seven and a half hours.

Before MSP’s products were introduced to SST’s process, a highly skilled operator would manually locate the part in the fixture to ensure the alignment was accurate before machining. This involved multiple steps and was extremely time-consuming to achieve the necessary accuracy. Coupled with the human error caused by the manual elements, this resulted in a vast amount of machine downtime and scrapped parts.

There was also no simple way to test or adjust the accuracy of their machines to ensure they were operating to a high standard, as it involved using complex machine kinematics and the use of advanced measuring tools before machining took place, further increasing machine downtime.

“Machine downtime was, on average, five to six hours a day before MSP. 100% of my time was being used to fix issues on this project and it required an incredible amount of time from other senior level people in the business to resolve other problems – it was all hands on deck,” stated Thomas Clanfield, Quality Manager at SST.

Because it was such a time-consuming task to create a quality part, SST were having to find a balance between speed and quality: either invest more time in the manual part setup and risk the detrimental effect on productivity, or run with a poorer setup to keep up with production, but risk a heightened chance of scrapping a part.

MSP’s NC-PartLocator software was installed on SST’s machine to automate part setup (Courtesy SST)

To solve SST’s first challenge, MSP’s NC-PartLocator software was installed on SST’s machine to automate part setup by calculating precise alignments for each machining operation. This removed the need for manual alignment, originally performed by a highly skilled operator.

“Before MSP, we were losing more parts than we were creating good parts, and we couldn’t manufacture in one operation,” commented Brad Airey, Operations Manager at SST. “We had to put the part on the machine, probe it, do rough cuts, measure it, put it back on the machine, re-cut it. With the introduction of MSP, not only can we remove all of these manual steps, but we can now check everything before cutting the part and resolve any problems that previously resulted in scrap parts.”

The second challenge was resolved using MSP’s NC-Checker software. NC-Checker ensures the machine tool’s geometric performance is accurate enough for the part to be machined correctly. It produces automatic ‘benchmark’ reports for users to understand the performance and accuracy of the machine tool, before any machining begins.

“NC-Checker gives us the confidence to trust that our machine will always make a good part. This enables us to focus solely on the machining of the part, without having to worry about issues related to the machine itself.  And this benefit is not just specific to this job, it also extends to all our future machining work and projects at SST,” Airey continued.

Thomas Clanfield concluded, “Integrating MSP into the final machining process of our additive manufactured components has transformed the reliability and consistency of this process. It has also given us confidence to embark on new projects with new, similarly challenging parts, safe in the knowledge the MSP will help us achieve our goals.”

SST has stated that automation has transformed its machine and part setup into such a simple process, that, with minimal training, novice operators are able to run the machine 24 hours a day, alongside multiple other machines. The company is now in discussions to implement MSP into their composite machining processes.

About Metal Additive Manufacturing magazine

Metal AM magazine, published quarterly in digital and print formats, is read by a rapidly expanding international audience.

Our audience includes component manufacturers, end-users, materials and equipment suppliers, analysts, researchers and more.

In addition to providing extensive industry news coverage, Metal AM magazine is known for exclusive, in-depth articles and technical reports.

Our focus is the entire metal AM process from design to application.

Each issue is available as an easy-to-navigate digital edition and a high-quality print publication.

In the latest issue of Metal AM magazine

Download PDF

Extensive AM industry news coverage, as well as the following exclusive deep-dive articles:

  • Metal powders in Additive Manufacturing: An exploration of sustainable production, usage and recycling
  • Inside Wayland Additive: How innovation in electron beam PBF is opening new markets for AM
  • An end-to-end production case study: Leveraging data-driven machine learning and autonomous process control in AM
  • Consolidation, competition, and the cost of certification: Insight from New York’s AM Strategies 2024
  • Scandium’s impact on the Additive Manufacturing of aluminium alloys
  • AM for medical implants: An analysis of the impact of powder reuse in Powder Bed Fusion

The world of metal AM to your inbox

Don't miss any new issue of Metal AM magazine, and get the latest industry news. Sign up to our twice weekly newsletter.

Sign up

Looking for AM machines, metal powders or part manufacturing services?

Discover suppliers of these and more in our comprehensive advertisers’ index and buyer’s guide, available in the back of Metal AM magazine.

  • AM machines
  • Process monitoring & calibration
  • Heat treatment & sintering
  • HIP systems & services
  • Pre- & post-processing technology
  • Powders, powder production and analysis
  • Part manufacturers
  • Consulting, training & market data
View online

Discover our magazine archive…

The free to access Metal Additive Manufacturing magazine archive offers unparalleled insight into the world of metal Additive Manufacturing from a commercial and technological perspective through:

  • Reports on visits to leading metal AM part manufacturers and industry suppliers
  • Articles on technology and application trends
  • Information on materials developments
  • Reviews of key technical presentations from the international conference circuit
  • International industry news

All past issues are available to download as free PDFs or view in your browser.

Browse the archive

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap