Case Study:
Automotive Challenge

Complex design, short timescale
High-precision requirement. Tolerance: 10µm. Surface finish: 0.4RA
Scarce material with long delivery timeframes


A highly complex task with a very short lead time

This client approached us to produce a mould tool for their engine casting department. They needed the part quickly, within one month. Because the mould tool we were replacing had been on site many years, the drawing the client provided only showed basic details but didn’t include detail on tolerances or finish levels. This meant we did not have sufficient detail to start work immediately.

Because of the complex design, the job required several processes, from detailed 5-axis machining to specific heat treatment. This combination of processes would normally take longer than the tight deadline the client specified. To compound our challenges, the material needed for the job, Unimax tool steel, was difficult to source quickly.


Innovative project planning with a tight deadline in mind

We began the project with an onsite visit. This gave us the opportunity to see similar tooling which provided us with additional information. The visit also allowed us to see the project from the client’s perspective and understand their full requirements.

Because of the short timescales, we needed to be creative with the way in which we lined up the project tasks. We collaborated with our heat-treatment specialist to understand more about how we could meet the customer’s demands. The specialist ran test pieces using the correct material to ensure they could deliver the work “right first time” when the parts were delivered. This pre-testing was all the more important, because of the low heat-treatment values.

The complexity of the design and the scarcity of the material further increased project risk. To limit the potential for costly, time-consuming errors, we programmed and tested the job on a cheaper material to ensure the milling would be “right first time”. This meant when the Unimax tool steel arrived, we were ready to mill it immediately, confident in the programming we’d set up. It then went straight to the heat-treatment plant where it was processed without delay.


Despite the numerous challenges encountered, we were able to support our client by delivering a part that met their needs on the timescales they set us. This was particularly important to them as they are a global business with complex manufacturing operations that run 24/7.

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