Gilkes invests in next generation machining capability

24 November 2020

Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon Ltd has released details of its latest investment in next-generation machining capability.

Hydropower turbine runners are traditionally cast and polished by hand and recent years has seen Gilkes purchase these runners from specialist machine shops adding high precision and repeatability but at significant cost.

The challenge set by Rebecca Sandham, Gilkes’ Head of Operations, was to install the capacity to fully machine a hydropower turbine runner from a solid billet of material.

With an overall project investment of £1.3million, approved by the Board of Gilkes, Mazak installed & commissioned an INTEGREX E-1250V/8S 5-axis machine tool in early March 2020 with the project team wholly committed to delivering a fully machined Pelton runner to a Hydro scheme by January 2021.  

Partnering with Mazak, Brown & Holmes, Nikken, Iscar, SolidCAM and VERICUT the team encountered many challenges along the way, the greatest of these being to have the ability to completely machine the runner without the need to finish off hard to reach elements with sub-contract spark erosion. 

With Mazak’s innovative technology, Brown and Holmes workholding, Nikken and Iscar tooling skills and Gilkes’ production engineering talent supported by SolidCAM and VERICUT, the team met this challenge with a solution that saves the need for sub-contract spark erosion reducing lead times and cost.

As well as onshoring a complex and high value component back to the UK, the project also moved the Gilkes team into new areas of expertise including 3D scanning, laser measurement, tool optimisation & real-time sensing.

summarised this success. “This new machining addition fully complements Gilkes’ manufacturing strategy and helps nurture our engineering skills, capabilities and knowledge,” said  Rebecca Sandham. “The entire project team has worked tirelessly to deliver this project. Their enthusiasm, talent & determination has inspired many young engineers on our shop floor.”

Watch the machine in action on the video here, courtesy of SolidCAM UK Ltd.


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