A high-precision CNC machining specialist, Northamptonshire-based Smart Turn is widely renowned for the manufacture of ultra-precise prototype, batch and volume components. The company is a leading valve component supplier to the offshore oil & gas industry and produces tooling for use in the design and development of Formula One powertrains. Every year, Smart Turn also manufactures thousands of specialist parts for the fastener industries.
Established in 1992, Smart Turn began by producing turned components for motorsport customers. However, it wasn't long before its considerable knowledge of working with difficult-to-engineer alloys led to contracts from the oil & gas sector. Such work demanded complete component traceability and, in 2009, the company invested in three Technifor dot-peen marking machines.
Even though the bulk of Smart Turn's work at the time centred upon oil & gas contracts, interest in its motorsport expertise never really subsided. In fact, by 2010, it was securing significant amounts of work in relation to the development of Formula One high-performance powertrains - work that continues to this day.
“Our association with Formula One involves the manufacture of precision tooling for fixtures and test rigs,” comments Smart Turn's Production Manager, Keith Howell. “Here, just as with our oil & gas work, the highest levels of component traceability are required.”
Depending on the fixture concerned, Smart Turn's Formula One customer would specify either dot-peen or laser marking. Any dot-peen requirements would be completed using one of the company's in-house Technifor machines. Laser marking - usually for more intricate fixtures - typically involved adding a part number and a complex 2-D matrix scan code.
With only dot-peen and acid marking capabilities on site, however, Smart Turn outsourced its laser marking requirements to a local specialist. The quality of the lasering was exceptional and Smart Turn later discovered that the work was completed on a Technifor 'Fibre Series' machine. As Smart Turn's Formula One workload increased, however, so did the cost of outsourcing. As a result, in late 2018 the decision was made to bring laser marking in-house.
“We were spending so much on outsourcing laser marking that we decided it simply had to be more cost-effective to purchase our own machine,” adds Keith Howell. “We invited three laser marking companies, one of which was Technifor, to provide product demonstrations. We were, of course, already aware of the quality of Technifor's laser marking. With three older - and trouble-free - Technifor dot-peen machines in daily use on site, we also knew the brand could be counted on for reliability.”
Of the three companies Smart Turn approached, one didn't reply, and another didn't offer a demonstration. Only Technifor took the trouble to research the business's needs and showcase the machine they believed was best equipped to meet them. Technifor brought along one of its LW2 stand-alone Laser Stations equipped with a Technifor H10 Hybrid Series high-performance laser and demonstrated the machine's ability to precision-mark a wide range of components, metals and plastics. Both the clarity and accuracy of the lasering process were outstanding, even when creating part numbers as little as one millimetre in height.
Suitably impressed, in January 2019 Smart Turn placed an order for a Technifor LW2/H10 combination. Installation and full training took place just a few weeks later.
“We are delighted with our new Technifor laser,” says Keith Howell. “It is incredibly easy to use and can accommodate a wide range of components. Our Technifor technical sales engineer, Adam McGivern, is absolutely brilliant. He is never more than a phone call away and is always happy to drop in should we need face-to-face advice or guidance. I believe we are still only scratching the surface of the machine's capabilities. Regarding cost, our monthly funding package represents only a fraction of the amount we were spending each month on outsourcing.”
Having no fewer than 50 machines on site - including multi-pallet vertical and horizontal machining centres - has taught us that aftersales support is paramount when choosing any new machine, as you have to live with the decision you have made for many years. Needless to say, the support we receive from Technifor is outstanding.
The Technifor UK team thanks Smart Turn for their time and testimony.