3 July 2024

Makino top management visits NCMT in 60th year of cooperation

Shotaro Miyazaki, President of Tokyo-based Makino Milling Machine Co, which manufactures machining centres, spark erosion machines and VIPER grinding centres, visited UK and Ireland sales and service agent NCMT in Coventry at the end of May 2024 to participate in their joint 60th anniversary celebrations.

The occasion was especially pertinent, as Makino was Gerry Gray’s first technology partner, which led directly to the founding of NCMT by Mr Gray in 1964 to sell Makino products exclusively, an association that has endured and strengthened over the years. When the initial machine was imported, it was the first Japanese-built CNC machine tool to be installed in the UK.

Utilising NCMT’s engineering expertise and knowledge of industry locally, Makino redesigned and developed many machines to target specific sectors. The MAG series of machines was designed and built to deliver high metal removal rates for aluminium airframe customers. Makino’s commitment to a high level of R&D, particularly regarding the spindle, linear motors and machine rigidity, has led to the introduction of successive generations of MAG and T-series machines that have been sold to aerospace and space industry customers globally.

The history of Viper-Grinding at NCMT

In 1997, a request from Rolls-Royce via NCMT to Makino to design a machining centre capable of grinding the fir tree root forms of nickel alloy turbine blades led to the development of the VIPER machine series. Austrian grinding wheel manufacturer Tyrolit also provided its expertise and supplied the consumables for process development at NCMT’s technical centre in Coventry. To provide stability and accuracy after the additions of a fifth CNC axis, programmable coolant nozzle and wheel dresser, Makino chose its successful A-series horizontal machining centre as the platform. In total, 264 VIPER grinders have been sold worldwide, 188 of which have been supplied by NCMT to customers in the UK, Europe and Asia. The success in the market led Makino to develop purpose-built G-series platforms and the third generation is currently under development.

Four Generations of NCMT Management

More than 100 guests sat down to lunch on 30th May at NCMT’s showroom and technical centre to commemorate all these achievements. Attendees in addition to Miyazaki-san included a selection of Makino customers, supplier companies, and representatives from the last three generations of NCMT management.

In a speech delivered on the day, Miyazaki-San commented, “The trust between our companies has been strong from the outset, when Mr Gray visited Japan to meet our founder, Tsunezo Makino, who established Makino Milling Machine Co in 1937. The agreement they came to was simple. Mr Gray asked to sell Makino equipment in the UK and Mr Makino accepted his offer, without any contract being signed, an arrangement that continues to this day.”

Managing Director Jonathan Smart said, “As one of the longest established overseas distributors for Makino machines, NCMT under the fourth generation of ownership continues to have a close relationship with all of our colleagues in Japan. We thank Makino for their unwavering support over the past six decades. Before his untimely death, Gerry Gray established a future-oriented management structure to ensure ongoing success, safeguarding his vision for the direction and development of the company. His wife Lynn, who is here with us today, has kept in close contact with NCMT over the years through the Gray Foundation, which has supported our apprenticeship scheme for more than 10 years. Her support has been greatly appreciated by the Board as well as the engineers that have started their careers with NCMT.”

NCMT reports on a successful MACH 2024

The Makino event came several weeks after MACH 2024, the UK’s premier machine tool showcase held at the NEC, Birmingham, where NCMT welcomed to its stand visitors from a wide cross section of industry. Manufacturing companies in the aerospace supply chain form a large proportion of UK and Irish customers that purchase Makino and Okuma machine tools from NCMT and many visitors were from that sector.

Notable this year was the considerable interest shown by manufacturers within the automotive industry, as well as the number of people representing start-up companies. The seniority of all visitors and their keenness for in-depth discussion about potential machine purchases made the show especially worthwhile.

Makino UK Launch

A lot of attention was paid to the automation demonstrations on the stand, particularly the Makino DA300 that was being launched in the UK. The 5-axis vertical machining centre was configured as a production cell with a proprietary storage and retrieval system having 40 pallet positions on five levels for extended periods of lights-out running.

Okuma’s European Debut

Likewise, on the Okuma side of the business, the competitively priced Genos L3000-e-MYW lathe fed autonomously with shaft-type parts by a Dutch-built Cellro CoMate cobot (collaborative robot) caught the eye of visitors looking to automate production. A key feature of the NCMT-Okuma stand was the UK introduction of the new Okuma OSP500 control, with double the computing power of conventional CNC systems. It was fitted to the manufacturer’s Genos M460-5AX vertical machining centre, as well as the MULTUS U3000 multi-tasking lathe, and was also shown as a stand-alone demonstrator. Noteworthy features, in addition to compatibility with high-speed, fine-surface machining, are safety features to protect against cyber-attacks, Digital Twin simulation and the control’s ability to minimise the host machine’s power consumption and CO₂ emissions.

NCMT has represented the US photo-activated adhesive workholding systems manufacturer Blue Photon throughout Europe since 2015 and awareness of the products continues to grow. The product offers the ability to hold awkwardly-shaped components securely, while at the same time exposing maximum surface area of metal to the milling cutter.

At the beginning of 2024, NCMT signed an exclusive distribution agreement with the Israeli additive manufacturing machine manufacturer, Tritone Technologies, whose products were presented on the stand for the first time in the UK. Tritone Moldjet powder-free AM technology enables industrial scale manufacture of parts from metal and ceramic.

Jonathan Smart concluded, “Generally the last day of MACH tends to be quieter, but our stand was busy right up to the end of Friday. We recorded hundreds of visits and took sales enquiries that will keep us occupied for many months to come.”