Forgemasters creates new facility – first of its kind the UK

Sheffield Forgemasters International has opened a new machining facility, the only one of its kind in the UK.
It’s the UK’s largest five-axis Vertical Turning Lathe, made by Spanish company BOST as part of a £6m upgrade to machining facilities and to dramatically improve its capacity and throughput for complicated machining requirements.
Commissioning of the VTL was attended by delegates from Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, which helped to fund the VTL installation, alongside senior supply chain partners and officials from BOST and their UK supplier, McDowell Machine Tools Ltd.
Sheffield Forgemasters CEO David Bond said: “The improvement of our machining facilities is of particular interest to customers such as those in the defence industry as it has superior accuracy and will significantly reduce lead times on delivery for crucial components both for the UK and US submarine programmes.
“Our new VTL will also have significant implications for the machining of domed or cylindrical components such as those required in the civil nuclear power market and pressure vessel markets.”
Weighing almost 250 tonnes, the BOST VTL is the largest and most capable 5 axis Vertical Turning Lathe in the UK and required the removal of 6,000 tonnes of earth and 3,400 tonnes of concrete to create a foundation.
It has a maximum machining height of 4m, maximum swing diameter of 8.5m, table weight capacity of 100 tonnes and embraces modern I4.0 techniques of process control, adaptive control, and real-time interactive maintenance protocols.
Stuart McDowell, MD at McDowell Machine Tools, said: “Sheffield Forgemasters is one of the last iconic British manufacturing companies and flies the flag for UK heavy industry globally. We are delighted to have supplied our prestigious and technically advanced BOST five-axis VTL.
“BOST hydrosphere machines offer key benefits of being extremely heavy, rigid and powerful yet still capable of the highest levels of accuracy. This technology is a significant investment for Forgemasters and gives the company capability unrivalled in the UK and matched by only a handful of companies throughout the world.”
The installation of the machine has taken 330 days to complete and precedes the installation of a BOST ram, Horizontal Floor Borer, which will increase Forgemasters’ capacity for the machining of ultra-complex shapes including node castings for offshore oil and gas markets.
The BOST ram machine is scheduled to be commissioned later this year and both machines will allow Sheffield Forgemasters’ machine shops to substantially improve machining times on key components.
Mr Bond added: “Despite the high levels of competition for contracts that we face on a global level, the business has always recognised the need to keep investing and pushing technological boundaries and capacity so that we can compete at the highest level.
“Upgrades to our plant will continue and improved facilities in each department from steel making to machining are helping this company to make great strides in what we can achieve.”