Sliding Head Machining – Case Study

Behind the scenes – Sliding head machining a showpiece

We were looking for a unique Christmas gift to send out for 2020 that would show off our capabilities in design and machining. The aim was to create something that would be proudly displayed by the recipients and that would last for many years. GA Sliding Head, part of Pryme Group, was perfectly suited to this task. They specialise in sliding head machining, which is perfect for producing small, intricate components in volume. It was decided amongst the team that a small Christmas tree desk ornament would be well received and a good demonstration of our machining capabilities.

Overcoming design challenges

The sizing of the tree was critical factor; too large and the postage costs would become an issue; too small and the tree would be more susceptible to damage during transit and accidental damage over its intended lifespan. Choice of material would need to balance cost, weight, durability, and appearance. We also needed to ensure that our company details appeared on the design so that it would be recognisable.

Designing the machined workpiece

We chose to machine the tree from brass because it would give the best appearance and would not add extra complexity to the machining process. A number of Christmas tree designs were modelled in SolidWorks by one of our talented CNC programmers, Steve Chopra.

Initially, the plan was to download a .PNG file of a tree-shaped car air freshener design and convert it to a .DXF file to be imported into Delcam PartMaker/Swisscam. This did not give the desired look and was too far detached from the traditional Christmas tree shape. Steve used SolidWorks to design a more traditionally shaped, yet stylised tree from scratch.

Once the trees were modelled in SolidWorks, the 3D model was saved as a X_T Parasolid file and then imported into our programming software (Delcam PartMaker/Swisscam). From here we added all the text, logos, tooling and machining processes. Once this was completed, we ran a simulation to show a 3D simulation of the tree to see what it would look like when machined. In doing so we were able to preview finished look and make any adjustments as necessary without the need for any machining.

The trees were machined on our ‘Star SV32’ sliding head machine. This is one of our most versatile sliding head machines, with 9-axis capability. The machined trees were inspected on our new Vicivision M306 Techno and, once passed, they were carefully packaged for distribution.

The final result

The finished Christmas trees were sent out to customers before Christmas 2020 and the feedback was fantastic. We are immeasurably proud of the team effort on this project and it brought smiles to many of the recipients.


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