In a Q&A session with Paul Beckett, CEO of 5-axis CNC machining specialists, Total Machining Solutions says that when it comes to cutting edge machining capabilities the company’s attention to detail is second to none.
Total Machining Solutions (TMS) was established in 2010 by Paul and Diane Beckett who still run the business today. Based in Chatham, Kent the company started with three staff members and two CNC machines housed in one industrial unit. TMS now employs 28 people over four sites.
TMS manufactures patterns, moulds, models, film and TV props and a multitude of other products from Polyurethane (PU) and epoxy-based materials, as well as aluminium. The company serves sectors including F1 teams, other racing and automotive companies through to aerospace and film and TV productions. Operating in a highly competitive market, TMS compete, not just on price but also on the speed of work and the quality of finish. Many of these sectors require very precise tolerances in the final product, so accuracy is paramount - backed by highly efficient quality assurance and inspection regimes.
Q) Firstly, bring me up to speed with your latest company news regarding any new equipment purchases, etc.?
We’re delighted to have taken delivery of the UK’s largest - Large Format Additive Machine (LFAM). This machine is capable of 3D printing various materials, such as commercial 20% glass-filled polypropylene through to aerospace-grade carbon-filled polymer. It will be possible to create complex shapes and constructs, forms that cannot be conventionally machined. Printing large forms prior to CNC machining means that much less waste is produced than by using traditional blocks of PU/epoxy materials. There are less offcuts, it takes less power and less time. It’s also more environmentally-friendly, as the machine has the ability to recycle old materials and reprint it, making it more sustainable. We have a second, identical machine arriving in March 2023. We’re confident that the technological advances will prove advantageous for us as a business providing a cutting edge to ensure clients receive their products quicker without compromising stringent tolerances.
Q) What are the types of demands placed on your company by today’s designers?
Today’s customers are very focused and largely understand what they want and need. They’re looking for flexibility, adaptability and speed of production. We pride ourselves on our customer and supplier relationships, and this has been the key to our success which enables us to help our customers achieve success.
We are always looking for long-term relationships where we are working together in collaboration. One particular success story involved a specialist cutting technique for foam protection which is now in use in almost all Formula 1 cars. We cannot divulge the details, but we are proud that our methods are able to contribute to the safety of such a high-profile sport.
Q) What was the main reason for entering into a partnership agreement with Fanum and selecting its hybrid machine tool?
We carried out extensive research and looked at many offerings before deciding on Fanum and its additive manufacturing (AM) CNC machine. We have evaluated many systems alongside this, but for ease of use, together with the functionality and the flexibility the machine offers made it our first choice. After undertaking this evaluation, we established a partnership with Fanum so that we would be the first company to bring this machine to the UK market.
Q) Primarily, what production processes is your Fanum most suitable for?
Having evaluated the best use of this machine we will be making models, moulds and fixtures with it. As a new technology, we do not need to follow the traditional guidelines and it’s open to us to create what will become the ‘normal’ in the future. We love being at the cutting edge of this technology and using our experience to make a difference.
Q) Briefly outline your Fanum machine’s cycle time production process?
The material and printing process combined will cost significantly less than the current method of cutting and gluing blocks, consequently providing savings to our customers. The printing specifications of the nozzle permit both horizontal and vertical printing of materials. Initially, we’re looking to print within about a 10mm tolerance and then machine away but as our experience grows, we suspect that this will be significantly reduced, ensuring greater effectiveness and efficiency with even less environmental waste.
Q) Will it help reduce the amount of material used?
This is a certainty because we’re no longer using large slabs of PU, epoxy materials and glue with this machine. We will print the required shape and only machine relatively small amounts away from that shape. The overall process will give a massive reduction in material usage. Furthermore, the printing material is recyclable, unlike PU/epoxy materials. In line with our programme of continual improvement and investment, we have also purchased another machine which will convert the waste into pellets ready to be reused in the Fanum machine again, making it much more environmentally-friendly.
Q) Will the Fanum machine also help reduce your energy requirements?
With energy at the forefront of everybody’s mind at the moment - both commercially and domestically - having the latest technology means the power consumption is less than older machines; and this new machine is no exception. We are regularly updating our machines from the inception of the business 12 years ago, even though they are not broken or have stopped working. We are continually looking to take advantage of new technology, particularly if there are environmental implications.
We exhibited at the International Composites Summit in September and will be again at the Advanced Engineering UK show this November. By then, we will have demonstration models to show and a greater understanding of this technology. We are looking forward to meeting many people who will be interested in this technology and what we can provide for them.
Q) What do you feel are the most important assets of a company?
In the CNC machining sector, we are aware that large machines in themselves qualify as a worthy asset to a business, but they only play part of the story. The expertise in programming them and using the machines with highly skilled people is absolutely paramount. The cumulative experiences of our workforce means that we can have a cutting edge over our competition. The use of technology, combined with a strategy of diversification into new fields enables us to provide a blended approach to what is the best assets of a business. Like baking a cake, it’s the mixing and blending of these together which makes the most successful outcome.
Q) Finally, what differentiates your company from the competition?
We are in a very competitive market where the customers are focused, they know what they want and understand when they need it. There are price sensitivities, as well as huge demands to produce highly skilled parts within finite tolerances at the fastest possible time. We are proud to promote a service which provides the customer with what they want and when they want it. It is because we have been successfully doing all of this for the past 12 years that we have so much repeat business and satisfied customers who come to us year in year out. As the company name suggests, we provide total machining solutions.