AET Advanced Engineering Techniques

Advanced Engineering Techniques (AET) is one of the UK’s leading subcontract engineering providers, supplying to a host of sectors including road transport, coach & bus, construction equipment manufacturers and rail. AET are perfectly placed to supply finished and assembled components line-side with a comprehensive range of in house services, including laser cutting, metal forming and press-braking, fabrication, robotic welding, machining and assembly.

Founded in 1989, AET is one of the largest and fastest growing sub contract engineering companies in the North of England, with a highly skilled and experienced workforce utilising the very latest technology.

Situated in Sheffield, the company operates from a 65,000-ft2 manufacturing facility on a 2½ acre site and currently employs 180 staff. The organisation’s policy of developing its skills base, in addition to the continued commitment to invest in the latest plant and equipment, allows AET to remain at the forefront of the industry with a yearly turnover in excess of £11,000,000.

David Birch, managing director, bought the company’s first Haas machine after seeing one being put through its paces at Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Park.

He explains: “Our CNC machining workshop is now exclusively Haas. We had a couple of older machines that needed replacing and in 2002 we bought two Haas verticals, a VF-1 and a VF-5.

“The VF-9 is powerful with lots of torque, which is ideal because we often use large diameter end mills on stainless steel. It still makes me smile when I see a big U-drill push through steel, like the proverbial hot knife through butter. We’re currently using it to machine railway fishplates.”

In rail terminology, a fishplate, is a metal bar that is bolted to the ends of two rails to join them together in a track, usually using 4 or 6 bolts. The top and bottom edges are tapered inwards so the device wedges itself between the top and bottom of the rail when it is bolted into place.

“We take advantage of the long table on the VF-9 and load it up with as many parts as possible. Our fixturing allows us to drill and machine 10 fishplates in one set-up. The fishplates are 45mm thick EN-24 mild steel and we use a 32mm U-drill to cut the boltholes.

“We specified through-spindle-coolant, which has cut our cycle time for the drilling operation by 40%.”

The Haas VF-9 vertical machining centre has 2,134 x 1,016 x 762 mm xyz travels. The 30-hp spindle runs up to 8,100-rpm. It has a 24-pocket side mount tool changer and is available in both 40 and 50 taper.

“We run two shifts at the moment, our CNC operators will each run two or three machines. They all like the Haas control, which is very easy to use. We’ve found it to be similar to Fanuc and the built in can-cycles and macros are really useful.”

Most importantly, David Birch claims that the Haas machines have allowed AET to reach and maintain the standards demanded by its customers.

“The machines have helped us to evolve,” he says. “We can now simply design the parts on our OneCNC CAD/CAM system, and the finished program can be downloaded via a USB stick to the machine. It really is that simple. We have hundreds of parts programmed. We simply select the required component, and the machine takes care of the rest. Our operators can easily make any adjustments directly at the control.”

Their stable of Haas machines has helped AET attract industry giants such as JCB, Alexander Dennis Buses and Terex to its growing order books. Yet, supplying directly to these kinds of companies means AET has to be sure the quality of the product is good.

“We certify our own products,” says David Birch, “which means that when they leave here, they have been checked to the standards the client requires, and can go directly into service without further inspection by the customer.”

Service has been another important factor in AET’s decision to only invest in Haas technology. “In the 13 years we’ve been running Haas machines any problems have been sorted out on the first visit. The service guy is here the next day, or sometimes the same day we report an issue, and has always had all the parts necessary to get a machine up and running. He’s never left us without sorting a problem. I wish all our suppliers were like Haas.

“AET has a policy of sticking with single manufacturers to supply our equipment. It keeps things simple. We’ll certainly continue investing in Haas,” concludes David Birch. “We’re happy with the machines, and the clients are happy with the work we do. We can’t ask for more than that.”

These machines impressed us so much we’ve continued to invest in Haas and we’re currently running 4 lathes and 5 mills. Our latest purchase was a VF-9, which was installed at the end of 2014. We decided on the VF-9 as the bigger bed gives us real flexibility. We machine some very large components like chassis for double decker buses and tipping links and arms for diggers.

David Birch, Managing Director