Cla-Val (Newport Beach, California) is a 65-year-old manufacturer that designs and produces valves for fire protection, water works, aviation, ground fueling, marine, industrial waste and numerous other applications. Its valve sizes range from 3/8 inch to 24 inches. Most valve components are produced from precision castings delivered from its in-house foundry.
"Altogether, we have about 50,000 parts to track and produce," explains Michael Castaldo, machine shop manager. This means it's critical for the company to focus on fast turnaround of short runs. Also, the fact that the highest percentage of its sales is custom work puts a lot of strain on the shop. "To stay competitive, our shop's goal is to attain the fastest delivery possible," he adds.
With this goal in mind, it became evident that the shop needed to cut down on the 14 or more setups that were often required to complete a job. "We knew we had to do something about that," Mr. Castaldo explains. "Here in Newport, we've always used manual equipment. We started buying CNC equipment about 8 or 9 years ago. About 3 years ago, we realized even that wasn't sufficient. We needed to make a major move into multitasking machining."
Mr. Castaldo's team spent a good deal of time analyzing company requirements and looking at new equipment solutions. The team wanted to turn 14 setups into one or two. After researching a lot of quality equipment that could do the job, Cla-Val made a decision based mainly on price. The company purchased an Integrex 300Y multitasking system from Mazak Corp. (Florence, Kentucky). "The 300 Y did everything we needed it to do at about half the price," says Mr. Castaldo.
Because the company had never bought equipment like the 300 Y, the new purchase was somewhat intimidating. However, with Mazak's help, the Cla-Val staff quickly familiarized itself with the system. "Within a week or so, we had more work for it than there were hours in the day," says Mr. Castaldo.
The multitasking machine has two spindles (3,500 rpm and 10,000 rpm) and is capable of tasks such as turning, milling and machining angles. The most important feature for Cla-Val is the machine's offset capability. It has 225-degree B-axis positioning in 0.0001-degree increments, and it goes from 30 degrees above the spindle center line on its first spindle side to 15 degrees over center line on the second spindle. "We can go up and do the turning by milling if we want to, plus various other applications," explains Mr. Castaldo.
With Mazak's programming assistance, Mr. Castaldo was able to immediately put the machine to work on a newly designed pit valve used for aviation ground fueling by the U.S. Air Force. Using older procedures, the part would have been costly, with multiple operations. "Those valves are 4D parts, which I don't think we could have made in-house before the Integrex," he says. "Certainly, they would have been expensive to make with 12 to 15 operations. Now, however, we're doing the part in two ops. We ended up with hundreds of parts we wanted to put on the 300Y, which is why we just bought a second one with an 80-tool magazine."
To handle the 12-inch valves the company manufactures, Mr. Castaldo started looking for something with a larger work envelope that still offered the advantages of Integrex's multitasking capabilities. After some research, the shop bought Mazak's Integrex e-1060V6.
The six-axis machine offers high speed machining and a rotating B axis. Its e-Tower is a communication center capable of providing management information about the machine and production performance, and it also offers a combination of built-in voice and video training tools.
"Our goal is to cut costs," explains Mr. Castaldo. "With the 1060's dual pallets, we literally have no downtime for setup. We load one pallet while the other one is being machined. When that pallet is done, the machine accepts the next one and goes to work."
The company also appreciates the machine's maintenance. "One month after we purchased the machine, we got ourselves in a jam and thought we needed to call Mazak," says Mr. Castaldo. "Then, my guys went to the e-Tower and found a maintenance training simulation that guided them through the steps needed to fix the problem. As it turned out, we didn't need the manufacturer at all.
"To be honest, it's getting harder and harder to compete with the low wages in China and other areas of the world," he adds. "As far as I can tell, the only way for us to compete is to use multitasking to cut our costs to the bone."