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Adam Plastics

Two decades after buying its first Rover CNC from Biesse, Adam Plastics, part of the Vink Scotland family, has purchased a state-of-the-art Rover Plast K FT machining centre. The investment is central to Vink Scotland’s strategy of building its business in industrial plastics. It will open up new markets for the East Kilbride-based plastic processor by enabling it to increase capacity, take on more complex projects, including 3D work, and work with a variety of materials with different properties.

Customer: Adam Plastics
City: Glasgow
Country: United Kingdom

For the last 25 years, Adam Plastics has been an industry leader in the supply of Point Of Sale (POS) and retail display units as well as integrated shopfitting solutions. Working mainly with sheet materials such as acrylics, PETG and polycarbonate, the company built up a reputation as an expert in the forming of complex acrylic shapes and bespoke retail solutions. Card and magazine displays, dividers, display cases, holders, shelving units and furniture were its bread and butter.

Biesse’s machining technology - in the form of a Rover 24 purchased 20 years ago and still running today - has been fundamental to the growth and development of the business over the years.

95% of what we do - whether that is pure machining for a customer or routing sheets so that we can fabricate units - goes through that machine. It is a true workhorse and a lynchpin of our operation,” says Alan Johnston, manager at Vink Scotland’s manufacturing facility.

A shift in focus
Today, although acrylic fabrication remains an important source of revenue for Vink Scotland, the company and the retailscape have changed considerably. Firstly, at the start of 2021, Adam Plastics became part of Vink Holdings - Europe’s largest distributor of plastic products. Secondly, the bricks and mortar retail industry has contracted over the last decade, as consumers have shifted to online shopping. This trend has gone hand in hand with falling demand for retail fixtures, fittings and POS products, prompting the company to look to other markets for future growth.

This diversification has seen Vink Scotland making inroads in a number of markets, but it sees the greatest potential in producing plastic products for industrial applications. These could be anything from wear strips to cogs, shims and gaskets - and are often milled from specialist or performance engineering plastics.

From a machining perspective, industrial products and retail products are worlds apart. In the retail industry, it is all about how it looks - everything has to be scratch-free and perfectly finished. In industrial applications, aesthetics are secondary to the precision of the machining and the functionality of the product. A part might be going into a factory or on an oil rig so it doesn’t matter how it looks - it is whether it can do its job,” explains Alan.

Time to invest
Last year, with demand from the industrial market building momentum, Vink Scotland decided it was time to invest in a second CNC.

The reasons were twofold,” says Alan. “Firstly, we didn’t want to get caught out as we recognised that with new build machine lead times at six months to a year, we’d be in trouble if our only CNC went down. Secondly, we were looking to widen the mix of products we were machining and needed additional CNC capabilities if we were to take full advantage of the opportunities that diversification presented.”

Having had a positive experience first time round, when it came to buying a second machine, it made sense to see whether Biesse could meet the brief.

We looked at other machines, but we felt that the Biesse machines were better made. Biesse’s engineering has always been solid. Buying from Biesse again also made it easier on the software compatibility and familiarity front.”

Four metre table
Biesse had a machine with a 4.1m x 2.2m bed in stock, which fitted the bill perfectly. Designed for milling and cutting plastics and composite materials, the Rover Plast K FT is the ideal solution for operations that require ease of use and flexibility.

This model was the perfect choice for several reasons, not least because of the short lead time and the large table.

We are one of the few machining centres in the country that can cut a 4m sheet,” says Alan.

Vink Scotland also wanted a larger table, as its existing machine has a 3m x 1350mm cutting area, and most materials come as 3m x 2m sheets.

Plastic processor moves into new markets with Rover Plast K FT: Photo 1

3D capabilities
The B_SOLID CAD/CAM software that is supplied on the new machine is a major advantage, as it will open up new avenues by enabling the company to produce relief work, domed units, 3D lettering and shaped or curved products.

These are products we have never been able to do before, so we are excited about having this capability,” says Alan.

Automatic nesting
The Rover Plast K FT also comes with B_NEST, the B_SOLID plug-in for nesting operations, which will dramatically reduce set-up times and reduce waste.

Previously we would programme the individual parts manually and rotate them to fit onto the sheets, which was very time consuming. The B_NEST software will automatically nest the different parts into the optimum configuration, taking the most efficient tool path and producing the minimum waste possible,” says Alan.

Rapid tool changes
One of the most valuable benefits is the Rover Plast K FT’s ability to change quickly between tools, thanks to a 13-position tool changer and Biesse’s automatic tool pre-setter option.

Without this feature we would have to use callipers and manual measurements to set up the tool. On the Rover Plast K FT tool calibration is performed automatically, reducing ‘dead’ time between jobs,” says Alan.

This feature is particularly important now that Vink Scotland is doing so much work in industrial plastics as this involves so many more tool changeovers and adjustments to tool settings.

When machining acrylics and PETG, you only ever use one or two tools. Industrial plastics are a different ball game. There are new engineering plastics coming out all the time. They may require different speeds and tools depending on how soft or hard they are - if you get it wrong the materials can melt onto the tools. Fortunately, with the new Rover, all of this intelligence is in the programming rather than relying on operator skill,” says Alan.

Precision applications
Lastly, the accuracy of the Rover Plast K FT has enabled Vink Scotland to take on orders for sign trays, which require high precision when v-grooving the aluminium composite.

You are trying to machine a v-groove into something that is only 3mm thick, so you have to be accurate to 0.1-0.2mm. The old machine isn’t capable of that level of precision, whereas the new one is,” says Alan.

The Rover Plast K FT, which was delivered at the end of last year, is now running alongside the Rover 24 - giving Vink Scotland expanded capacity and the confidence it can fulfil orders.

Machining centre 
As well as filling its order book with jobs for new customers, Vink Scotland is taking on more work for other companies within the Vink group on the back of the investment.

Every Vink UK site has saws and some have CNC capabilities but only for more basic work. We are the most specialised UK site in terms of CNC and the idea is that, ultimately, we will become a machining and fabrication centre for the UK, handling the more complex projects,” says Alan.

95% of what we do - whether that is pure machining for a customer or routing sheets so that we can fabricate units - goes through the Rover Plast K FT. It is a true workhorse and a lynchpin of our operation.
Alan Johnston Director
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