Subcontracting start-up aims to plug 5-axis capacity shortage


A new subcontract manufacturing start-up is aiming to help plug the UK’s 5-axis capacity shortage with a state-of-the-art machine manufactured by one of his former employers.
Jonathan Butler has set up Butler Precision Engineering, based in Netherton near Dudley in the West Midlands, with the help of a Mazak VARIAXIS C-600 5-axis machining centre.

“It’s been a longstanding ambition to run my own precision machining company and there has never been a better time to make the plunge. There is a real gap in the market for 5-axis capability due to limited machining capacity in the UK, which leads to too much work chasing too few available machining hours. My hope is that Butler Precision Engineering and the VARIAXIS can help plug the gap.”

After being operational for only a few weeks, Butler Engineering has already secured two contracts for turbine blade work and medical equipment. “We’re getting a lot of interest, particularly from customers who want to use us as a development shop or for prototype work, which is perfect for the VARIAXIS.”

Jonathan has thirty years’ experience in engineering including time with Renault Formula 1 as a machinist and programmer, as a machine shop manager for a fabrication company, and most recently as an engineering consultant for Quickgrind, travelling around the world offering advice on tooling and programming strategies.

During his time with Mazak, he learned all about the VARIAXIS i-600 machine, the forerunner to the C-600, as an application engineer. “It was my job to know the VARIAXIS like the back of my hand, so when I decided to take the plunge and set up my own business there was only going to be one machine that I wanted. You’ve got to know and trust the technology you’re working with.”

The VARIAXIS C-600 is designed for high accuracy machining of components. Jonathan’s machine is equipped with Hypermill programming, Quickgrind tooling and Renishaw Set and Inspect software.

“Other machines can do a job, but it’s important for our customers that we get it right first time and that meant going for the best technology available. When you are looking to break into sectors like motorsport, aerospace, medical, and die and mold work you must be able to guarantee the highest levels of accuracy.”

And Butler Precision Engineering’s development won’t stop at the VARIAXIS. “If all goes to plan, I’m looking to bring in a Mazak 3-axis machine, a lathe and potentially some automation for the VARIAXIS which will enable lights out and unmanned running,” says Jonathan.

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