By Hélène Horent

When one hears the words “machine shop,” the images conjured are not necessarily of the neat and tidy variety.

And while not every shop is operated under three inches of coolant and a smear of grease, Castle Precision Engineering Services, a row of blue buildings placed neatly within an industrial-yet-evergreen Scottish landscape is clearly in a league of its own.

Precise in more ways than one, the company of 60-plus years has made high standards and creative problem-solving the order of the day, not the exception.

Founded in Glasgow by Jack Tiefenbrun in 1951 — when its largest customer was the Glasgow-based Singer Sewing Machine Co. — Castle Precision has made a legacy of evolving with the changing landscape of manufacturing.

Present Chairman and Managing Director Marcus Tiefenbrun took the company’s reins in the early 1990s, when he set his sights on areas of precision engineering that require the highest levels of expertise and innovation.

An example of one of the range of fan disk products Castle Precision Engineering produces for its clients

One reason Castle has progressed and maintained high standards is its impressive, integrated Information Technology, or IT, structure. By using off-the-shelf applications linked to an entirely in-house developed and bespoke production-control system, the company is able to customize equipment and monitor its operations from a number of consoles around its factory.

The company strives continually to improve processes, automate when possible and integrate all elements into its well-oiled company machine. From machine tools to a system for tracking the daily goings on of an organization with multiple moving parts, every movement is accounted for.

Quite simply, IT is core to the business’s success.

“Without the IT systems, the business couldn’t exist,” says Operations Director Yan Tiefenbrun. “The system changes as we change.” In 2009 Castle extended its operations, adding 12,000 square feet to the plant, increasing its capacity and range of technology within its walls.

Throughout the 2000s, the company developed rapidly and, toward the end of the decade was the first Scottish company to receive the SC21 Award signifying it had sustained 90-plus percent on-time delivery and 95-plus percent quality for aerospace customers over a 24-month period. The company was named The Manufacturer’s “SME of the Year” in 2010 when, it also accepted the “Scottish Engineering President’s Award” and “Manufacturer of the Year” award. Based in the United Kingdom, The Manufacturer is an industry publication that provides manufacturing news, articles and insights. A panel composed of senior representatives from the manufacturing industry, as well as "previous award winners and manufacturing-oriented academia” decide the winners in the magazine's annual contest.

Finding and Fulfilling Evolving Demands

A majority of  of Castle Precision’s clientele are counted as members of the aerospace industry, which means that the parts it produces must adhere to that industry’s stringent manufacturing and documentation standards. The company also serves the defense, automotive, electronics and energy industries.

On-site at the Castle facility it’s easy to catch glimpses of complex projects, including ophthalmology equipment, top-of-the line audio gear and other parts.

Castle manufactures components for various markets in materials ranging from aluminum to titanium. These include items such as fan discs for aerospace engines, valves, disk brakes and axle components. In the electronics sector, Castle manufactures a range of parts for Linn Products, a world leader in ultra-high-end audio equipment.

Castle manufacturing engineer using the range of advanced CAD/CAM and process simulation tools

How Castle Found ESPRIT

As customer demands evolve in step with the evolution of machine tools and computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM) software, the need for manufacturers to remain competitive and capable by investing in the latest technology is more important than ever.

As machine tools grow more complex and customer products more complicated, the demand for higher-quality products in shorter and shorter time frames continues to grow. Gone are the days of programming solely at the control.

Thirty years ago, programming was done in long hand and with code written line by line and products were less complex because designs followed the capabilities of manufacturing.

In 2011, Castle Precision realized that its CAM software was limited in terms of its ability to successfully machine increasingly complex parts — and that its CAM provider did not offer sufficient customer-support services.

“We wanted the best software available, as well as a flexible support team and the ability to simplify our processes,” Tiefenbrun said.  

After investigating an array of choices, Castle Precision acquired ESPRIT® CAM by DP Technology, as it found the sophisticated software especially adept at programming the variety of high-precision parts that are the company’s specialty.

It was also influenced by DP Technology’s level of customer support, and its strong relationship with Mori Seiki Co., Ltd. As Castle Precision uses almost all Mori Seiki machine tools to manufacture complex, multi-featured parts with tight tolerances, it made sense to choose a CAM that integrated seamlessly with existing equipment.

Simulation of finishing operation on the Mori Seiki NT6600

Integration is Key

Castle Precision houses 70-plus major CNC machine tools, including more than 30 lathes, four vertical 5-axis machining centers, 5 mill-turn machine tools, 20 horizontal machining centers and four CNC grinding machines.

Castle purchased its first Mori Seiki machine tool almost 40 years ago and now lays claim to being the machine-tool maker’s No. 1 customer in the U. K. In choosing ESPRIT, it found CAM software that could program any type of machine tool and integrated seamlessly with the products of its preferred machine-tool provider.

In addition to its easy integration with Mori Seiki, for which ESPRIT has been embedded into the Mori Seiki MAPPS IV Control, Castle Precision  chose ESPRIT because of its interoperability with both SolidWorks® computer-aided-design (CAD) software and Vericut® toolpath verification software. With this combination of software at its fingertips, Castle is able to adhere to its strict “zero edit” policy.

According to Tiefenbrun, “The complete integration of CAD-CAM and verification is a key to being competitive.”

While ESPRIT has aided Castle Precision in reducing its number of machining operations, which eliminates a significant amount of transfer and set-up time — as well as human error — it is currently laying the foundations to make use of ESPRIT KnowledgeBase™ machining.

The ESPRIT KnowledgeBase stores best machining practices, oftentimes developed over several years, for maximized productivity. It provides a push-button approach for any programmer or operator to determine the best method to machine a given part or feature by automatically selecting the most appropriate machining cycles, cutting tools, and machining parameters.

The open architecture of ESPRIT has also enabled the company to better integrate the software into its self-developed IT system.

Though it is difficult to quantify the time savings that Castle Precision has experienced with ESPRIT, the company reports that it is turning out complex parts faster than ever. “We get the quality that we’re looking for and are on time on very complex projects,” Tiefenbrun said.

From his point of view, an additional bonus has been the support provided by DP Technology staff and resellers who assisted Castle in adopting new 5-axis machining strategies for complex aerospace parts.

Having the right CAD/CAM system is only half the battle, the other half is still getting the right people to drive them.

Recently, the Scottish manufacturing company was selected to produce the wheels for the vehicle that will attempt to raise the land speed record to 1,000 mph. Bloodhound, the latest in the line of land speed record-breaking vehicles is now entering the early building stages after five years of development. Castle Precision is the first Scottish company to be involved in the manufacture of a critical part of the vehicle and is the lead integrator and manufacturer of the wheel package.

There will be four wheels machined for testing the car, and four additional ones for Bloodhound’s actual attempt to break the land-speed record in the desert 

Simulation in ESPRIT of one roughing operation (drilling) of the Speed Land Record Wheel 

“Bloodhound is a huge technological and manufacturing challenge and an opportunity to be part of something very special,” says Castle Operations Director Yan Tiefenbrun. It’s a real point of pride and motivation in the company and a fantastic opportunity to showcase some of our capabilities.”

For more information about ESPRIT, contact:

-- (in North America) DP Technology Corp., 1150 Avenida Acaso, Camarillo, California 93012, USA. Telephone: +1-(800) 627-8479, Fax: +1-805-388-3085. E-mail: esprit@dptechnology.com, Website: http://www.espritcam.com/

-- (in Europe) Hélène Horent, DP Technology Europe, MIBI, 672 rue du Mas de Verchant-CS37777, 34967 Montpellier Cedex 2, France. Tel: +33 (0)4 67 64 99 40, Cell: +33 (0)6 50 76 78 77, Fax: +33 (0)4 67 64 99 41. Email: esprit.europe@dptechnology.com, Website: http://www.espritcam.fr/

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