XYZ machine tools bring flexibility to Howdon Power Transmission’s product development 

Founded over 40 years ago Stroud-based Howdon Power Transmissions is the originator of the patented Wedge Pin system for mechanical overload protection. Patented back in 1978 the Wedge Pin remains central to the company’s range of Wedgegard Torque Limiters. With such a well-established product it could be expected that development was minimal, but that is far from the case, with new applications arising on a regular basis product updates are a common occurrence, and time to market is crucial.

With such a varied product range and a worldwide customer base, with significant sales in the USA, Africa, mainland Europe and of course the UK demand for Howdon Power Transmission’s Wedgegard Torque Limiter products continues to grow, along with the need to innovate the Wedge Pin. The Wedge Pins are effectively ‘mechanical fuses’, which are designed as a weak link when a certain torque is reached, thereby preventing serious damage to rotary power transmission systems. While standard production of these parts is given over to long-term sub-contract partners, Howdon Power Transmission needed greater flexibility and versatility when it came to machining for research and development; as well as low volume production to meet urgent demand from customers design for bespoke applications. “Our products cover such a wide range of applications from steel mills through food production to on-vehicle installations, therefore we are constantly looking to develop the design and, while sub-contract manufacture for production is ideal for us, we needed faster reactions when it came to product development and testing,” says company founder and managing director Howard Miles.

The search for suitable machine tools took Howdon Power Transmission far and wide, but eventually led to XYZ Machine Tools, just down the M5 motorway, where it had a demo of an XYZ SLX 1630 ProTURN lathe. Howdon Power Transmission’s works manager Neil Hussey was won over by the ProtoTRAK control and its ease of use, which lends itself to the one-off and low volume machining that he had in mind. He says: “The ProtoTRAK control is ideal for our needs. I can quickly generate programs from initial sketches at the machine and the TRAKing and Verify capability of the control give the confidence that the first off will be correct, without any fear of collisions when the cycle start button is pressed.” With turning capacity taken care of attention switched to machining centre capability and given the size and type of work undertaken the choice of machine was an XYZ 1000 LR vertical machining centre. This machine is part of the XYZ LR series which makes use of linear rail technology for axis travel, this provides a lower cost introduction to machining centre ownership, however, price was not a major consideration for Howdon Power Transmission. “Performance and specification were our main priorities when choosing a machining centre,” says Howard Miles. “We then wanted the security of local support and training, which we get from XYZ Machine Tools. Neil had one day of training down at XYZ in Burlescombe and we still have two days of free training left, which we will undertake on-site here when we need it, but so far we are managing to achieve everything we want with the machines and knowledge that we have.”

Backing up Howdon Power Transmissions decision to go for specification and performance is the standard build of the XYZ 1000 LR, which comes with an 18 HP/13kW 8000 revs/min spindle with axis travels of 1000 by 500 by 500 mm (xyz) and a table size of 1060 by 500 mm. also specified as an option was a 4th axis unit to add greater versatility and productivity. One key feature was the 24 position arm-type tool magazine as Neil Hussey explains: “It seemed like a sensible option to specify, we have a machining centre that is quick to program and set-up, so to be constantly changing tools would be time consuming, so to keep the magazine full, with a variety of tools makes changeovers even quicker.”

In conclusion Howdon Power Transmission’s marketing and sales manager Chris Issac says: “As a member of the Made in Britain organisation Howdon Power Transmissions is rightly proud of the fact that what this ‘local’ engineering company in Stroud produces goes to customers around the world. Our brand is well-known thanks to its longevity, but we are aware that we need to keep innovating and developing our products. Having this in-house machining capability enhances our ability to do that by shortening the time to market for new ideas and bespoke offerings for customers.”