CNC Helps Shop Make Machining Headway

This watercraft/motorcycle manufacturer found a machining center to help boost production because of longer travels, speed and the ability to set up multiple fixtures quickly and easily.

After Ron Gitlin took over Triton Engineering & Manufacturing from his father in 1989, he decided to manufacture his own products. Mr. Gitlin had thought about how to make the transition from traditional job shop to full-blown manufacturing. He had prototyped his first designs in the late 1980s. Upon taking the helm at Triton, he was able to implement the designs and jump-start production. His experience in the motorcycle and watercraft industries gave Mr. Gitlin an in-road—he knew what to make, whom to sell it to, and the weaknesses of the competition.

Triton now specializes in manufacturing high-performance parts for personal watercraft, motorcycles, Go Peds and the occasional motorcycle race team. It produces a full line of performance products for just about every personal watercraft on the market.

After Triton began production of Mr. Gitlin's original designs, increasing demand and rapid expansion of the product line necessitated the purchase of additional equipment. Though it had several older lathes and machining centers, Triton needed another machining center to boost production, especially of its larger cylinder heads. The company wanted a machine that had longer travels, was faster and would allow it to set up multiple fixtures quickly and easily. After thorough research, the company selected a VF-3 vertical machining center (40 by 20 by 25 inches travels) from Haas Automation, Inc. (Oxnard, California).

Many things contributed to the decision to buy the VF-3, but, "It was the control that really sold us," said David Weaver, Triton's head machinist and second in command.

Typical batch sizes are 50 to 100 pieces, depending on the model, and Triton uses multiple fixtures to hold up to four heads at a time on the table. The Yamaha 1100 triple is one example of a typical cylinder head operation on the VF-3. The head starts as a two- by six- by 16-inch block of 6061 T6 aluminum. The block is drilled for mounting holes, and the spark plug holes are drilled and tapped. The periphery is then roughed to within 0.025 inch using a high-speed, inserted end mill from Iscar at 10,000 rpm and 130 inches per minute. Two clean-up passes take the part to its finished size, then the bottom of the head is machined and the combustion chambers cut. The head is then refixtured to finish the top. This takes about one hour, 15 minutes.

"I would say we probably took 10 to 12 minutes off the Yamaha triple with the Haas," Mr. Weaver said, a big savings on a run of 50 heads. Triton has achieved similar results on its other products.

"We were able to take a lot of our existing programs and speed up the processes," Mr. Gitlin said. "Via the 10,000-rpm spindle and the torque of the servo- motors, we were able to run much heavier chip loads, and the size of the machine (48 by 20 inches table) enables us to run more vises and more parts at one time for faster turnaround times. If somebody wants billet side covers for a [Yamaha] YZF 600, we can run 100 of them on the Haas and be out of there and onto another job faster than we can on any of our other machines."

"The Haas produces a much nicer looking product," Mr. Weaver added. "A lot of our products are aesthetic. That's what a lot of the Go Ped kids and the Jet Ski world want: to look cool."

The Haas has been reliable, with no downtime, according to Mr. Gitlin. It is also accurate. "The Haas holds plus or minus two-tenths (0.0002 inch), which is not required for most of what the company does," Mr. Weaver added.

The Haas does not change at all during the day, regardless of how much downtime there is between cycles, Mr. Gitlin said. The part made after a break in production will be the same size as the part before the break.

Triton's ability to produce quality products and quickly react to market fluctuations has provided the stability it needs in today's competitive marketplace. MMS

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