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Hollow shaft lathe helps optimise opportunities for downhole tool manufacturer.

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With world oil production likely to reach its peak in the next few years, the smart money is on the oil and gas support companies that gear-up now to maximise opportunities while the boom lasts. One such company is hardfacing technology to downhole tool manufacturers Cutting & Wear, which has recently invested in a sophisticated hollow spindle lathe.

The company, based in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, has purchased a Dean Smith & Grace 4028P hollow spindle, flat-bed CNC lathe . which has increased volume and capacity in the production of high value, directional drilling equipment.

The new lathe complements a sophisticated machine shop incorporating a wide range of machining centres/milling machines, 10 standard CNC lathes and two other pipe lathes.

The 4028P, installed in November 2006, boasts a 1000mm (40in) swing over bed and 700mm (28in) swing over cross slide, with 5m (204in) between centres and 381mm (15in) hollow spindle. Other standard features include: Fanuc digital motors, precision ball screws, automatic lubrication system, and slat-type swarf conveyor.

Cutting & Wear opted for a Duplomatic electrically driven, four post toolholder - rather than a turret; a four jaw manual chuck and a three-point roller steady. A Heidenhain 4110 CNC was also the controller of choice, as the company has a long association using Phillips equipment - thus the Phillips/Grundig/Heidenhain lineage was felt the best fit for the company.

The lathe is used primarily for precision final internal and external machining of downhole drilling assemblies, which are usually .hardfaced. - and manufactured from extremely tough steel alloys and non-magnetic stainless steels. The work involves the completion of complex internal geometries and boring work, internal profiling and precision screw cutting.

The 4028P is stationed in close proximity to two Dean Smith & Grace hollow spindle lathes of much earlier vintage - a 25P and 3220P . each of which have provided over 20 years. of sterling service for Cutting & Wear, with little more than routine servicing in the way of maintenance.

In fact, the reliability and accuracy of the two older machines were key factors in Cutting & Wear.s decision to specify Dean Smith & Grace for the new pipe lathe.

Managing director Mark Russell comments: "The lathe purchase was primarily to provide parity between our milling and turning capacity. Though productivity is important, quality is the overriding factor . and essentially we needed a large capacity, rigid turning platform that could produce very high quality work.

Having reviewed all options, the Dean Smith & Grace 4028P was not only competitive on cost, but the manufacturer offered considerable flexibility - Cutting & Wear having input into the final design and specification. We also felt confidence in the product - the two 'Deans' pipe lathes on the shop floor provide daily testament to the precision, build quality and reliability of Dean Smith & Grace machine tools. Additionally, we felt that other competitive lathes at this size were virtually all imported and lacked the proven lineage of the manufacturer.

Installation and commissioning were fine and the manufacturer has worked hard at customer service. All-in-all the 4028P has been a sound acquisition and we hope to enhance our Dean Smith & Grace complement at some time in the near future - possibly coinciding with our planned move to new premises."

Combining the power and precision of its heavy duty, CNC production lathes with exceptionally large spindle bores Dean Smith & Grace 4000P (Pipe) Series lathes are available in three models, the 4028P, 4432P and 4836P. All 4000P Series lathes are designed to provide high precision, internal and external machining of both long and large diameter pipes and shafts. The Series starts with the 4028P, which incorporates a 1000mm (40in) swing over bed and 700mm (28in) swing over cross slide. The mid-range 4432P boasts an 1100mm (44in) swing over bed and 800mm (32in) swing over cross slide; while the largest model, the 4836P, has a massive swing over bed and swing over cross slide of 1200mm (48in) and 900mm (36in) respectively.

Correspondingly large spindle bores are available to match the ample swing over bed/swing over cross slide dimensions, with diameters of 276mm (10.8in), 381mm (15in) or 533mm (20.98in) available for each model. Bed lengths start from 1.82m (72in) for the 4028P, 3.04m (120in) for the 4432P and 3.96m (156in) for the 4836P.

With these generous dimensions, very large oil & gas or hydraulic components can be accommodated. Additionally, the lathes. uncompromising build to BS: 4556 alignment standards, combined with powerful spindle motors rated at 37kW (50hp) and for optimum cutting conditions infinitely variable spindle speeds up to 600 rpm, all contribute to form an efficient and rigid turning platform.

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