Game changer for machining centres


Micron Workholding is releasing a cost-effective, new-to-the-UK automated pallet changer. Managing Director Matt Jenness tells Contributing Editor Steed Webzell why UK machine shops should take a look

 With history dating back several decades, Micron Workholding is today one of the UK’s most established and familiar suppliers of work-holding technology. However, the company is keen to continue its upward trajectory by expanding into new market segments. With this thought in mind, the latest offering from Micron Workholding is the EasyBox automated palletising solution for machining centres.

“We recently began distributing EasyClamp five-axis vices and EasyLock zero-point systems, both made by Engineering Data in France,” explains Matt Jenness, Managing Director at Micron Workholding. “When I went to France for training last October I was also drawn to the EasyBox automation system as I knew it would appeal to UK machine shops. After all, Britain is a little behind the rest of Europe in automation and this system represents a really cost-effective way to get started. So we struck a deal for the exclusive distribution rights.”

There are of course some very established suppliers of automated palletising systems in the UK market, so EasyBox is going up against some stiff competition.

“Yes,” agrees Mr Jenness, “but the EasyBox palletising robot is 20-25% cheaper than those for a start. Also, the interface to the machine is superb, making it very easy to control and program. Engineering Data sell a lot of EasyBox systems in France and the rest of mainland Europe, but we represent their first opportunity in the UK.”

EasyBox, which features a three-axis robot integrated into the pallet store, is suitable for shops undertaking small and medium-sized production runs that want to maximise the available machine time through unattended and lights-out operations.

“The EasyBox takes advantage of the EasyLock zero-point system,” explains Mr Jenness. “Pallets simply drop on to EasyLock, which clamps and unclamps accordingly. EasyClamp five-axis vices can sit on the pallets, or customers can use their own vices if preferred.”

Importantly, EasyBox can form part of a new turnkey machine tool package, or serve as a retrofit system to an existing single-pallet vertical machining centre of any brand or control, including five-axis models. Different sizes are available, starting with the EasyBox T30-42 (30kg maximum pallet weight, 42 pallets) for parts measuring up to 200 x 200 x 180mm. Micron Workholding also offers the larger T30-64 and T100-32 systems. EasyBox systems are said to increase production output from non-pallet-change machining centres by up to 50%. Micron Workholding has exclusive distribution rights in the UK and Ireland for the EasyBox, EasyLock, EasyClamp and EasyProd (automation for turning centres) systems.

The first EasyBox quotes have already gone out to potential UK customers. Micron Workholding is also in negotiations with a number of machine tool dealers, which will hopefully lead to the installation of an EasyBox system at a UK showroom very soon.

“I think EasyBox will fly in the UK, particularly once we get the first two or three systems installed,” says Mr Jenness. “Whichever way you look at it, the system is very cost-effective. An entry-level EasyBox T30-42 will cost around £90,000 fully installed. Not only is that cheaper than competing systems, it’s also less than a multi-pallet machining centre. Some machining centres offering full integration with 40 or 50 pallets can cost around £500,000. Instead, shops can buy a basic machining centre for £70,000 and, with the addition of a £90,000 EasyBox, take advantage of unmanned hours by running 42 pallets all day and night.”


According to Mr Jenness, EasyBox is also a better proposition that a stand-alone articulated arm robot.


“Robots are great but they are best-suited to the high-volume machining of the same component,” he says. “As soon as you introduce a variety of parts you start lose any gains. In contrast, with EasyBox you have 42 pallets that can be set up for different jobs, if need be, repeating to 5 micron accuracy.”


He continues: “The premise is the same for the EasyLock zero-point system. It’s almost half the cost of solutions available from established UK suppliers. Sure enough, some of those systems might offer repeat accuracy to 3 micron, whereas ours is 5 micron. If want to pay double the money to gain an extra 2 micron, fair enough, but in my experience, 5 micron is plenty accurate enough for almost all machining jobs. If you’re looking to increase the autonomy of your machining centre, why pay more unnecessarily?”

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