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A productive partnership in sliding head technology

A productive partnership in sliding head technology

NSR Engineering, a Bristol-based subcontractor specialising in turned and milled components, is celebrating twenty years of success through its partnership with sliding head lathe supplier Star Micronics GB Ltd.

Formerly known as North Somerset Reproductions Limited with its manufacturing heritage dating back to 1963, the family-run business now recognised as NSR Engineering has become an established supplier of precision components with an international customer base.

Specialising in a range of materials, NSR began its journey with an array of cam automatic lathes at a modest facility it acquired on Feeder Road, Bristol. It was here where the company’s founder, Gordon Duerden, built a reputation for exceptional service and quality, whilst laying the foundations for the business that would see it steadily expand and conquer several economic recessions.

The passing of the late Gordon Duerden in 1989 prompted his son John to take ownership of the company in 1989. Despite joining the business at a young age, just seven years prior to his appointment as managing director, it was under Mr Duerden’s leadership that a fundamental new path for the company was forged through its partnership with Star GB.

Maximising potential

Investing in its first Star lathe in 2000, the immediate advantages of incorporating sliding head technology enabled NSR to quickly expand its machining portfolio further within just 18 months. With the additional two Star machines it acquired, the company’s expanding order book soon led it to outgrow its workshop. In response, NSR purchased its own dedicated 5,000 square-foot facility in 2002 and transferred its full capacity of three Star lathes and 14 cam auto machines.

Supported by Star GB, NSR’s engineering team became increasingly confident with the new type of technology and quickly learnt how to optimise their applications for maximum productivity. As a result, the relationship between the two companies flourished and word quickly spread of NSR’s ability to manufacture complex mill-turn components that many subcontractors could simply not compete with.

With work for its sliding head section increasing in demand, and each machine already in production around the clock, the company structured a continuous improvement programme which would see each of its cam auto machines systematically upgraded to Star sliding head lathes.

Leading innovation

Growing from strength to strength with each machine he upgraded, Mr Duerden set his sights on developing NSR into an internationally recognised leader in the supply of turned and milled parts, with specialist capabilities to machine brass, stainless steel, plastic and exotic alloys. Driven to offer its customers the best possible service and adopt the latest advancements in technology, NSR became the very first company to take delivery of a Star SR-20RIII following its launch in 2007.

Speaking of his history with Star GB, Mr Duerden comments: “Star technology has progressed extensively throughout the years and our relationship with Star GB has been paramount to our success. If we need support, we can contact engineers directly or call the office where we are immediately transferred to the correct person, without wading through a switchboard. This unwavering support gives us the confidence to continually adopt the latest technology at the earliest opportunity. Our loyalty to the Star brand is deep-rooted and will never change.”

Comprehensive capabilities

Fast forward to today, NSR has developed into a predominantly Star sliding head shop with an international customer base. Spanning a plethora of industries including oil and gas, aerospace, automotive and electronics, NSR has built its reputation on offering comprehensive solutions to complex challenges, while maintaining a high standard of customer service and component quality.

With a total of nine modern Star lathes running twenty-four hours a day, NSR’s sliding head section alone offers over 1,500 hours of machining potential per week. Covering the full spectrum of capacity within the machine tool supplier’s portfolio, NSR’s range of Star machines are able to produce precision mill-turn components from 42mm diameter material all the way down to 3.175mm (1/8″ bar).

Mr Duerden continues: “The performance and reliability of the machines often allows us to compete with prices abroad, and the short setup time between jobs gives us truly dynamic production capabilities to suit the demands of our customers. As our components come off the machines complete, running the Stars lights-means that each morning we are presented with nine bins full of parts ready to clean, inspect and dispatch.”

Ongoing investments

The company’s most recent investment was an SR-20JII Type B; the latest addition to Star’s 20mm SR range offering enhanced power on the spindles and live tools, more tooling positions, increased rigidity and the latest features on the newest Fanuc control.

As with all of NSR’s machines – of which each is replaced with a new model every five years – its latest addition comes equipped with an FMB Turbo 3-36 bar feeder, P&E high-pressure coolant, LNS MH swarf conveyor, Absolent mist extraction and Star’s High Frequency Turning (HFT) swarf control software.

HFT has been pivotal to NSR’s success when machining a range of challenging materials. The software enables intermittent cutting on any linear axis which breaks swarf from traditionally stringy material into more manageable chips. The advantages of this system are reduced nesting around the workpiece, longer unmanned operation before operator intervention is required, extended tool life and lower machining temperatures.

Mr Duerden explains: “HFT has allowed us to become self-proclaimed experts in grade 316 stainless steel, a typically very difficult-to-chip material. The software enables us to extend tool life and can double our production runs as swarf clears much better. In some cases, it even allows us to run jobs that would otherwise be practically impossible. We first trialled HFT when it was retrofitted to an existing machine of ours in 2019. We now specify it with every new machine as standard.”

A bright future

Faced with the unprecedented challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the strategic management of NSR has meant that despite a 35% decrease in turnover, the company remains profitable with no reduction in staff. In fact, John Duerden has recently welcomed his son, Harry Duerden, to his engineering team with plans for the next generation of NSR to remain within the family.

Mr Duerden is optimistic for the future: “Our business has always been run with healthy levels of cash in the bank, so despite the several economic difficulties the UK has faced, NSR has always risen to the challenge and powered through. The fact that all of our machines have been purchased in full, without finance, pays testament to just how valuable these types of machines can be to a business like ours”

“I believe that in less than twelve months our industry will bounce back with a lesser dependence on parts acquired from abroad. With such outstanding engineering talent and machine tool technology on our doorstep in the UK, this consolidation period will prepare British manufacturing for the next twenty years to come.”

NSR Engineering – www.nsr-eng.co.uk