Simultaneous 5-axis machining in a pint-sized package

Simultaneous 5-axis machining in a pint-sized package

5-axis machining

Germany-based imes-icore is globally renowned for its range of precision dental milling machines.

Now, with the release of the Compac 350 Pro simultaneous 5-axis machine with polymer concrete base, as Dave Tudor reports, the company has successfully managed to develop a high-specification, highly rigid machine tool with an ultra-compact footprint that’s ideal for R&D and light industrial applications.

In the UK, imes-icore is represented exclusively by Emco on Hayling Island. In last month’s PES we shone the spotlight on waterjet cutting with the small but perfectly formed new addition to the range – the iCUTwater Smart. Now, the focus switches to 5-axis machining. Imes-icore certainly has a knack for packing high specifications into small packages as the Compac 350 Pro demonstrates.

The 350 Pro forms part of imes-icore’s micro milling range. Dimensionally, it measures just 760 x 790 x 860mm (WxDxH) so it’ll fit inside a 1m³ box yet it weighs in at a substantial 180kg. This is a machine that is designed from the ground up to produce small parts in low volumes for industries such as jewellery, aerospace, medical and electronics.

This makes it ideal for small part processing and rapid prototyping in a variety of materials from metals (ferrous and non-ferrous) and plastics, through to ceramics and graphite. Not surprisingly, on a machine of this size, there are tooling limitations. 6mm shank diameter is the maximum.

“From an application perspective, the Compac i350 Pro isn’t really designed to be a shopfloor machine,” explains Emco’s sales director, Chris Heal. “In fact operationally, to maintain its high levels of accuracy, built-in sensors will actually prevent it from running at all if the temperature falls below 18°C so this would be best situated in an R&D or QA area where the ambient temperature can be kept relatively constant.

“For these reasons, it probably wouldn’t be top of the list for subcontract engineering companies – but for OEMs, R&D and educational establishments it’s ideal, especially with the automation capabilities the machine has.”

Because of its size, the Compact 350 Pro can’t practically be located on the floor – it would simply be too low. Fortunately, Emco does offer a purpose-built cabinet (see photograph) or alternatively the machine could be placed on a sturdy workbench.

“This is a brand-new machine for Emco,” adds managing director, Jim Wilson. “We only reached an agreement with imes-icore to sell and support their micro milling machine range about a year ago, but the Compac 350 Pro is the first machine we’ve actually stocked in our own showroom.

“We’ve started small, but the plan is to expand the range in the future. We’ve already sold a larger premium 1010 micro milling machine to an optics manufacturer here in the UK with potential for further investment in the pipeline.”

The Compac 350 Pro is a well-specified machine featuring 6m/minute cutting speeds, precision profile rail guides, highly dynamic servo drives with absolute encoders, high-speed 60,000rpm spindle and a 20 station toolchanger. Travels are 250/130/90mm in XYZ with a 360° (+30/-90°) B-axis. Control is via a 12” integrated touchscreen. An integrated coolant circuit is included as standard.

To take advantage of the simultaneous 5-axis machining capabilities of the Compac 350 Pro, additional CAD/CAM software is required, but for customers just needing an inexpensive 3+2 solution, isyCAM 3.6 is offered as part of the package as an optional extra. Other options include a zero-point clamping system, a suction unit, and an automated material handler.

“We suspect many customers will be using the 350 Pro in 3+2 mode and the isyCAM software is fine for that,” Mr Wilson explains. “But for full 5-axis operation, customers will need to bear in mind that they’ll need dedicated CAD/CAM software. We use Mastercam here and have developed the necessary post-processors so we can demonstrate the machine to prospective buyers.”

The imes-icore Compac 350 Pro is priced at around £60,000.