Leaving the comfort of employment and starting a business is a decision loaded with emotion and taken with cautious trepidation.
For the two ex-aerospace engineers that founded GD Precision, re-mortgaging their homes to finance the leap emphasises their confidence and passion. Seventeen years later and the decision has paid dividends for the West Sussex entrepreneurs.
Now operating from a 4,400sq/ft facility in Arundel, the South Coast Company has seven staff, a host of Mazak, XYZ and Dugard CNC machine tools and a prestigious list of clients that span across the F1, aerospace, transport and medical industries. Like most subcontract machine shops, GD Precision is continually striving for cost-reductions, greater efficiency, enhanced productivity and component quality. Luckily for GD Precision, it has many of these facets covered by cutting tool supplier Industrial Tooling Corporation (ITC).
Recalling life before the cold call of ITC Sales Engineer Dave Cleeve some 10 years ago, Company Director Mr Dale Buckthorpe says: “In the early days, we were conscious of our spending and we watched every penny. We would buy low cost tools from a variety of suppliers and when tools were near burn-out, we would get buckets of tools re-ground. Of course, this was a false economy. When Dave Cleeve came in with tools that were considerably more expensive than the cheap tools we were using, we took some convincing.”
Taking up the story, fellow Director and head of the milling department, Mr Gary Short recalls: “Dave from ITC reviewed our workload and he offered us the 3081 Series square-end 3 flute solid carbide end-mill. At the time, we were using a 20mm diameter rippers from another supplier to machine an aluminium component at the full 20mm width at a depth of ½XD applying a low feed rate. Taking-on-board Dave’s expertise, we applied the 3081 Series at full flute depth with smaller cuts at speeds and feeds that were remarkably high. We were sceptical, but we trusted Dave and immediately realised cycle time reductions of 50%.”
“Not only did we achieve 50% cycle time reductions, the surface finishes and tool life were anything from 4 to 5 times better than our previous tools. Whilst we instantly realised the benefits of paying more for tools from a premium brand manufacturer like ITC, we also recognised the technical expertise was invaluable.”
This success noted the arrival of a full-line of 3081 end mills from 6 to 20mm diameter for everything from roughing to finishing applications. “The 3081 Series blew our previous tools away. It’s a general purpose aluminium end-mill with a high-helix that we now use for just about every task. We have recently been machining dental mould tools and the 3081 Series is achieving 70+ hours of trochoidal machining on high-grade HE15 aluminium,” continues Mr Short.
The ITC 3081 Series soon became the tool of choice for all aluminium machining tasks at GD Precision, giving the Directors confidence to trial further ITC tools. This followed in the guise of the ITC Widia VariMill range of TiAlN coated four-flute end mills for machining stainless steel and exotic materials. Instantly outperforming previous tools, the VariMill proved every bit as successful on challenging materials as the 3081 proved itself on aluminium.
As Mr Short continues: “It took us a while to adjust to the VariMill’s high speeds and feeds, but we are now hitting jobs faster with smaller cuts whilst pulling 30-40% less horsepower. We opted for more trochoidal milling and ITC was integral in the evolution of our machining strategies. With the VariMill generating 30-40% productivity improvements and tool life gains of beyond 50%, we have phased out the majority of tooling from alternate suppliers.being a UK manufacturer, ITC adheres to tight lead-times. We couldn’t ask for a better tooling supplier.”