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  • Roland’s rapid prototyping solution helps Marshall make more

  • .News

    November 7, 2011 at 3:25 am

    Roland’s rapid prototyping solution helps Marshall make more music

    To anyone in the music business, the name Marshall is certain to be familiar thanks to the high reputation built up by its guitar amplifiers that have been in regular use worldwide for the past 50 years. Around 18 months ago Marshall Amplification acquired Natal Drums with the intention of continuing development and production of this product family.

    Designed in the UK, the prototyping of these products is now entrusted to a Roland MDX-540 rapid prototyping machine at Marshall Amplification. The investment in this machine ensures that final production models will retain the engineering, sound qualities and aesthetics expected in premium ranges of equipment.

    The creation of new amplifiers and drums require meticulous design and construction techniques to ensure acoustic correctness, with every component tested thoroughly before the final manufacturing begins. Marshall Amplification’s products are surprisingly complex to the untrained eye, with each drum containing as many as 60 separate parts, all of which need prototyping before the finished element is ready for general production.

    Roland MDX-540 milling machine

    Already the owner of a Roland VersaCAMM SP-540i wide-format ink-jet printer, utilised in Marshall’s design department, Drawing Office Manager Andy Golding was pleasantly surprised to discover that the company also manufactured 3D prototyping and milling equipment. Aware that his existing unit was due for replacement, Golding quickly decided that the Roland MDX-540 machine was ideal for the type of work needed to be output.

    At Marshall Amplification a tough, compact and versatile 3D milling machine is vital as the parts being worked cover a huge range of substrates, from foam through to aluminium. Similarly, computer-driven multi-axis capabilities are essential, with the third, or Z axis, being an essential element for machining a variety of depths to critical levels of accuracy.

    Although Marshall Amplification had been accustomed to working with specialist milling equipment, Golding was immediately impressed with the capabilities of the Roland MDX-540. The machine comes complete with its own software, but its flexibility across file formats is so good that the company can continue with its existing Autodesk Inventor 3D CAD program to produce mechanical designs and prototypes.

    As a desktop unit, the Roland MDX-540 features a maximum work-piece capacity of 500mm x 400mm with a build depth of 155mm, ISO standard collets up to 10mm, spindle speed range of 400 to 12,000 rpm and an operating speed of up to 7.5m/minute. The throughput rates and extreme accuracy generated by the unit are complemented by its ease of use, lack of spindle vibration and suitability for many types of materials. Standard support of Roland RML and ISO NC-code programming allows total integration with any CAD/CAM system.

    Each drum can contain as many as 60 separate parts, all of which are prototyped on the Roland MDX-540
    The Roland MDX-540 ensures that even the most intricate part can be prototyped successfully

    The Roland MDX-540 features an XYZ-axis drive system which is powered by an AC servo motor, with its high precision spindle designed to produce complex jobs with a smooth and perfect finish. These precision levels of positioning and repeat accuracy make the machine ideal for subtractive rapid prototyping applications in plastics, woods, resins and non-ferrous metals where critical tolerances need to be maintained throughout.

    “Every prototype we make must perform as though it is the finished product, and this is particularly important when so many machined elements are used in our amplification and drum products,” explains Golding. “Although we had considered other technologies, such as a 3D printer, the fact that the Roland MDX-540 offered all the features needed to machine intricate parts made it the right solution for Marshall Amplification.

    “It’s a very clever machine and, once we’d received initial training from Roland’s 3D Premier Consultant, Patrick Thorn, the system has literally been working non-stop,” Golding continues. “Operation is straightforward via the unit’s hand-held controller and virtual control panel, and the safety features are second to none. Roland has thought of everything with this machine, and it’s turned out to be an essential investment for us.”

    Marshall Amplification was founded by drum specialist, Jim Marshall, during the early sixties in London. Following demand from guitarists who tended to accompany drummers visiting his shop to try out kit, he set out to design and build amplifiers that met the quality criteria they needed and which wasn’t available elsewhere.

    The acquisition by Marshall Amplification of Natal Drums was one reason the company opted to invest in a Roland MDX-540
    The precision finish is essential as each drum element relies on accurate prototyping, handled easily by the Roland MDX-540

    The company’s family of amplifiers and, more recently, the addition of the Natal drum kit range both require a blend of technology with the skills of building by hand and this has led to careful investment in manufacturing equipment which complements but doesn’t replace manual production. Today’s Marshall’s equipment caters for every type of amateur or professional guitarist, whilst Natal Drums offer a catalogue of premium quality sets, snares, percussion instruments, stands and hardware.

    “Marshall Amplification is a great example of a company which relies on total precision in its subtractive prototyping and, as a result, needs a cost-effective work-horse 3D milling solution that it can rely on, day in and day out,” comments Thorn. “The Roland MDX-540 fulfills all of these requirements and is now playing a major role in the development of future series of drums and amplifiers being created by this innovative British specialist manufacturer.”

    Click the centre of the following video screen to start watching the Roland MDX-540 rapid prototyping machine in action. [You will need Sound] (-music)

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    Further information on Marshall Amplification Ltd can be found at or by calling 01908 375411.

    Details on Roland’s MDX-540 milling machine can be found on the Roland DG website.

    Roland DG (UK) Ltd
    Westway House
    Hither Green
    North Somerset
    BS21 6XT

    Tel: +44 (0)1275 335554
    Fax: +44 (0)1275 335541


  • Phill Fenton

    November 7, 2011 at 8:56 am

    I want one (puppy-eyes)

  • Robert Lambie

    November 7, 2011 at 9:31 am

    me too! I did not know Roland offered this sorta thing till i saw this editorial.. Every days a school day eh. 😀

    We have an a AXYZ CNC router that engraves, cuts, mills etc but nothing like this…

    very impressive!

  • Stephen Morriss

    November 8, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Your AXYZ should be able to do all that Rob, and a lot bigger!


  • Robert Lambie

    November 14, 2011 at 4:16 am

    with additional special 3D software for the AXYZ, it can route 3D images etc.
    but this is routing 360 degree prototypes mate. granted its small, but still very impressive.
    I remember looking at the 3D software upgrade for our AXYZ at the time. many years ago now it was called "Type 3" and i think that was an extra £5000 for the software alone. That said, AXYZ has come along way since then and use different software i believe.

  • Stephen Morriss

    November 14, 2011 at 9:42 am

    The main part is just the addition of a 4th axis, quite common in CNC, and you don’t always have to use the software provided by AXYZ.

    I assume it still uses Gcode in which case you can use a program like Meshcam which has 4 axis cam ability, seem to remember it was around $150.

    The main thing on the Roland is its ease of setting up, I’d imagine the 4th axis is in a set position so the controller knows the centre position and I also assume it has sensors for automatic height setting. On my machines this all has to be done manually.


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