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Dunedin firm stays at cutting edge

Kim Stewart Nov 11
Dunedin firm stays at cutting edge
Farra Engineering recently invested $1.3 million in a new milling machine.

Dunedin’s Farra Engineering might be more than 150 years old, but its machining and field services company is casting a strong reputation as a powerhouse throughout Australasia.

With a large dedicated machine shop equipped with an impressive array of computer numerical controlled (CNC) and manual machine tools, it is the largest contract machining shop in the South Island, bar none, says its manager Mike Ryan.

“We have a very well equipped machine shop with a wealth of experience and good capacity,” says Mike.

“When a job’s too hard or too big for people in Christchurch or elsewhere, they don’t have to send it up North.”

Established in 1863 on the coat tails of the Otago Gold Rush, Farra Engineering has continually adapted, surviving the conditions of the day to become a modern and diverse engineering company with a multinational focus.

The company recently invested $1.3 million in a new milling machine that it hopes will establish Dunedin and Farra Engineering as a genuine engineering solution base in New Zealand and abroad.

The large-scale Japanese built DMG Mori NHX8000 multi pallet horizontal machine centre has all the speed and agility of a smaller machine, increasing accuracy and productivity.

“People buy small mills that move around 60 metres per minute that are considered pretty fast,” explains Mike.

“Our big machine moves around at that. It’s like a big prop being able to move as fast as a back,” he says.

Fully installed and utilising existing technical expertise to drive the machine, it has the capacity to work around the clock—it’s hungry and looking for work.

The machine’s adaptability enables it to work on items weighing a few grams right up to the more respectable 3 tonnes, secured within a 1400 wide x 1200 high envelope.

With an eight pallet pool, eight jobs can be set up at anyone time, prioritsed in any order with 20 seconds load time for the next job.

Mike says the NXH8000 is the go-to machine when you really get serious about productivity, ideally suited for high volume machining/or repeat business.

“It certainly catches us up with the rest of the world. It’s the sort of machine that you would find in a state-of-the art Toyota or a BMW type factory anywhere in the world—unlike anything else around this neck of the wood that is available for contract works.”

Mike says that while the machine will provide competitive advantage for its milling operations, the division also does a lot of site machining around the Country and Australia.

“We designed and built a special CNC machine from scratch to go into a power station, lift part of the power station up, go in and do a special pocketing procedure in a very confined/restricted space. We have just been in Australia doing a precision boring job that many approached before us thought wasn’t possible to do.”

Adding to the company’s drive to offer its customers a complete sheetmetal service is Farra Sheetmetal’s investment in a brand-new Powder Coating plant utilising the latest in paint technology, which will be Dulux, approved when completed.

Manager Mark Stuart, says this includes the latest automated painting and conveyor line for items up to 2.2m long travel through an 8m long x 4.5m wide and 3m high batch oven which can also accommodate bigger jobs like balustrades up to 8 metres long.

The automated line provides consistency of quality and in certain areas price reductions.

Dipping tanks utilising the latest deionizing technology dedicated to the cleaning of aluminum are 86m long to enable the full range of extrusions to be professionally prepared to international standards.

Dunedin firm stays at cutting edge

“We had Worksafe involved right from the start,” says Mark. “They had a few key areas they wanted us to look at to lift the safety of staff compared to existing operations.”

The plant is one of the safest and environmentally friendly operations that we are aware of, largely due to our fully enclosed vapouriser that degreases parts.

“Our decision to start up powder coating was initially based on frustration from our customers’ deadlines not being met and the inability to have control over quality and delivery times.

“Another objective was to provide alloy parts with Dulux warranties, which was previously unavailable in Dunedin.”

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