British company develops 3D workcentre

A British company have developed and patented what they say is the first truly three dimensional CNC workcentre. The first machines in production beyond the prototype stage are working in the jewellery trade. Now Joe McLean, of Cyba Manufacturing Technology in Hyde, Cheshire, would like to introduce the Cybaman Repli-cator to the stone industry.

He describes existing five axes CNC workcentres as really being 21/2D machines rather than full 3D machines, whereas his offers six axes synchronised movement to give complete three-dimensional working. The clever part, says Joe, is having two robotic heads moving through three-dimensional space while keeping track of the surface of the object being machined.

Joe McLean\'s first machine was developed to solve a welding problem. As well as the jewellery trade, the latest version has attracted the attention of an American dental company who want to make plastic braces for straightening teeth. Joe became aware of the needs of the stone industry from John Western, the retired former director of masonry and conservation company S&J Whitehead in Oldham, who could see the machine being useful to reproduce historic stone carvings in conservation projects.

Joe says to move from the jewellery trade to the stone industry would simply be a question of scaling up the gearbox and motors. And, he says, he would "without question" be able to compete on price with existing five axes CNC workcentres. His machine is encased in epoxy resin granite, which he says has 10 times the sound damping properties of cast iron and one-tenth its coefficient of expansion. In other words it is quiet and stable.