Centenary Bulletin 18 – Machine Shop

February 13, 2019

During the 1970’s, the company moved away from labour intensive fabrication to concentrate on machining.

The serious fire in Brunswick on 6th June 1979 was a watershed. It gave us the chance to get the surviving machinery and equipment back into operation in a more suitable location, and do some serious thinking on how we were going to make our traditional products in the future.

Prior to the fire we had taken some steps to upgrade our manufacturing machinery, having purchased two Hitachi Seiki Peg Board 4D Auto Capstans. Fortunately, both machines survived the fire and became the basis of the revised operations at the new location.

We added a further Hitachi 4D machine to the system and were starting to move in the right direction – and were making quite accurate machined components. Concentricity problems remained, however, and this was completely unacceptable for our rotating components.

To improve concentricity, we purchased a CNC Fanuc single spindle drill, with a magazine, that carried ten tools of whatever type were required for the operations to be performed. Once programmed, it could continue to bore holes, tap threads, mill faces and perform all functions with incredible accuracy. This was a vast improvement over our existing standards.

When we purchased the Fanuc in 1980, we had five pedestal drills of various makes. These machines used five people, who stood in front of them using fairly worn out fixtures, drilling holes in otherwise accurate components in the wrong place. The Fanuc, operating as an unmanned machine, freed up staff for other operations but also introduced us to unmanned machining.

If anyone needed convincing that CNC machining was the way to go, then the Fanuc certainly provided the proof. In 1983 we added a Mori Seiki SL4A CNC controlled machine, which was a prolific producer of our heaviest components.

In 1984, we added a similar but lighter Hitachi Seiki HT20, and in 1986 a Hitachi Seiki HT25 was introduced. The Hitachi Seiki machines were designed initially to incorporate a robot for loading and unloading. In 1985 we added the first robot to the HT20, and soon had the pleasure of being able to load the magazine with work pieces, press the start button, and go home. When we returned in the morning the magazine would be full of perfectly machined components that the machine had completed during the night in a “lights out” environment.

In September 1989 we moved the machine shop from Brunswick to West Heidelberg. This facility was the site for more robot loaded machines including vertical and horizontal machining centres. A major addition at that time, was a Mori Seiki MH-40 Horizontal Machining Centre.

Gantry loading from carousels enabled extended “lights out” operations and improved our output and quality of heavier components.

Better quality procedures, processes and attention to higher standards of balancing, have further increased product life and performance.

The most recent addition to the workshop is an Okuma turn-mill machine, gantry loaded from a carousel, with each component measured and checked on the machine with machine adjustments to maintain tolerances. Once again operating in an unattended environment the capacity and quality of finished parts is exceptional.

Assembled large diameter fans are dynamically balanced along with all other critical components.

Norman G Clark has operated a QA system which included Ford Motor Companies’ Q1 and ISO 9001. Machines are constantly being upgraded to meet our QA requirements and provide capacity to allow for our customers increased production demands.

The ongoing challenges of manufacturing in Australia, in a high cost low volume environment, can be met with better machines and technology. The future looks bright for Norman G Clark as a high quality production manufacturer.