Coordinating Quality at Express Engineering

Mitutoyo UK recently completed the installation of the company’s largest ever coordinating measuring machine (CMM) sold in the UK. The Crysta-Apex C CMM, with a measuring volume of 2,000 mm x 4,005 mm x 2,005 mm, enables Express Engineering to undertake the rapid, accurate inspection of large oil and gas components, including huge wellheads.

Established in 1973, Express Engineering has grown from its origins as a precision engineering and tool-making company to what is now a leading global contract manufacturing group.

Express Engineering supplies the global oil and gas market with a wide range of highly integrated precision machined components, kits of parts and fully assembled pressure tested products, including wellheads, christmas tree valves, manifolds, completions, tooling, flowlines and connections.

During the past four decades the company has earned an enviable reputation for producing high integrity products from a range of traceable materials. This has enabled Express Engineering to gain both national and international accreditations from a multitude of multinational companies, such as Aker Solutions, Cameron, FMC Technologies, GE Oil & Gas, Schlumberger, NOV and Weatherford.

Express Engineering has a skilled workforce of approximately 300 people at its Tyneside oil and gas headquarters where it boasts 160,000 square feet of manufacturing space that accommodates more than 70 machine tools, including advanced CNC vertical boring, turning and milling machines.

Given their critical nature and the environments they operate in, the quality of the products manufactured by Express Engineering are of paramount importance to the company. In addition to regular in-process, on-machine checks, the quality of the company’s output is ensured by comprehensive final inspection routines performed by a range of inspection aids, including Mitutoyo CMMs that are located strategically throughout the Gateshead facility.

Consequently, having invited quotes for an extremely large, very precise coordinate measuring machine with the volumetric capacity to enable the efficient measurement of the company’s largest components, an order was soon placed for what turned out to be the largest Mitutoyo CMM ever installed in the UK.

This recently installed Mitutoyo CMM is an adapted version of a large capacity MitutoyoBI7U1892 Crysta-Apex C, model 204020. To enable oversize components to stand upright when being measured, the CMM was modified by an extended Z axis and a 1.2 m diameter hole bored through its granite measuring table. Riser plates were fitted to elevate the granite table and a lower component support was located beneath the hole. These modifications enable extra-large components such as 2-meter high, 4-ton wellheads to be lowered by crane through the table and accurately measured at a single setting.

Express Engineering Quality Manager, Bill Mole explained, “Our company is accredited to ISO 9001:2008 and aerospace standard AS9100; we maintain a quality management system which meets the requirements of both of these standards and other more extensive customer and industry requirements.

“Our quality personnel are a highly motivated team with vast practical experience and an excellent understanding of our customers’ documentation requirements within the oil and gas sector.

“Previous to purchasing our new Mitutoyo CMM, to inspect our increasing range of larger components with demanding dimensional tolerances, such as wellheads that stand 2 meters high, we would make a partial inspection on one of our larger CMMs, then reposition the component to complete the inspection routine.

“Although our previous inspection techniques were accurate, the volume of wellheads, and other large oil and gas industry components we now manufacture, meant that we needed to find a quicker, more efficient solution.

“As our existing seven Mitutoyo CMMs have proven very reliable, and given the outstanding service and back-up we have always received from Mitutoyo UK, we approached the manufacturer with our capacity needs and accuracy requirements.

“Although we enjoy an excellent relationship with Mitutoyo UK and have been very impressed by our existing CMMs, in accordance with our policy of seeking more than one quote for capital equipment, such as machine tools, we contacted another manufacturer whose products also met our requirements.

“In addition to the quote we received from Mitutoyo, for a specially adapted version of the company’s large Crysta-Apex C 204020 CMM, representing the best solution, it also proved to be the most cost-effective option.

express“Also, as our inspection staff are fully conversant with Mitutoyo’s software, and given that we replicated our previously used tooling racks on the new machine, the choice of the Mitutoyo option has helped enormously in terms of staff flexibility, training and continuity.

“Given the challenging delivery times that are often required by the global oil and gas industry, we have made significant investments in the best available CNC machine tools to help reduce our lead times and to ensure the best possible manufacturing standards.

“Now, in addition to further improving our already excellent large-component accuracy capability, our new CMM has enabled us to slash our inspection times on components such as wellheads. For instance, a comprehensive final inspection routine on a complex wellhead that previously took over 12 hours, now takes just 4 hours.

“Not only does our new CMM help us to adhere to the most challenging of component lead times, it is a perfect example of Express Engineering’s continuing commitment to ensuring the highest standards of manufactured quality.”

Mitutoyo’s Crysta-Apex-C 204020

Mitutoyo’s Crysta-Apex-C 204020 is a high-speed, moving-bridge type coordinate measuring machine. The advanced CMM features a robust granite base that incorporates a Y-Axis guide way, while a unique design of self-adjusting air bearings on each axis provides excellent stability throughout high-speed movement and measuring routines.

To further improve stability when measuring critical components, and to help provide BI7U1877excellent wear resistance, the CMM’s moving bridge is constructed from low mass alloy. In addition, the external surfaces of the X beam and Z spindle are impregnated by an oxide coating process to create extremely hard surfaces.

The Crysta-Apex-C CMM’s power drive is activated via a remote joystick unit for manual drive operation. Also, each axis can be locked and fine movement adjustment activated. Twin joystick units are provided for precise control of X and Y axis movements and for Z axis and optional rotary table control.

To provide a direct digital output of measured data and to ensure thermal stability, Mitutoyo SRD linear encoders are fitted as an integral part of the machine. A CMMCJ machine control unit provides full digital servo control for high-speed, high-accuracy positioning, with 3-axis vector drive and automatic computation of all acceleration and deceleration without operator input. Circular path motion is also provided for continuous movement between relative positions.

The CMMs FCR25 flexible change rack unit provides three changer ports that can be configured to accept any SP25M system elements. SM25 scanning modules and the TM25-20 TTP module adaptor can be docked directly into the FCR25 ports.

In addition to the Crysta-Apex-C’s impressive hardware, the CMM uses Mitutoyo’s popular MCOSMOS-1 software. MCosmos-1 allows the generation of repeat part programs by automatically storing all commands. An intuitive operator interface displays easily identifiable icons to help support simple operation. The use of recognisable symbols removes the need for complex programming code, even when editing programs. Features being measured are automatically identified, calculated and in some cases, automatically aligned, removing the need for operator intervention. Automatic probe calibration of motorized heads is also included as an integral part of the system

Particularly important for Express Engineering, due to the in-depth report requirements and traceability demands of the global oil and gas industry, is Mitutoyo’s user-defined report generation software. Supplied as standard with all Mitutoyo CMMs, the flexible function allows reports to be created in a range of formats including PDF, HTML and JPEG.

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