Legacy Precision Molds recognized early on that its first-ever five-axis machine, a DMU 50 from DMG MORI, would present a significant learning curve. As explained by Tyler VanRee and his crew in this February-issue article, a deliberately incremental approach to ramping up operations on this trunnion-type machine helped the Grand Rapids, Michigan shop navigate significant challenges in setup, cutting tool selection and programming. Although none of these challenges were product-specific, specific products the shop chose in all three areas made a significant impact on how easily the shop could navigate the transition. Here’s a brief look at how:
Workholding. Thanks to a practice carried over from Legacy’s three-axis operations, setup challenges had little to do with lifting parts off the table or lining them up exactly where intended. That practice is the use of Brey’s FCS modular fixturing system from Single Source Technologies, a subsidiary of machine tool builder Makino. At the heart of this system is a base plate with a grid of threaded holes that accept clamping bodies, which interface to both the base plate and the part/pallet via rods and TiN-coated steel rings for an H7-class fit. Fully modeled within the shop's CAM software, this grid plate provides permanent reference points that ease the process of finding zero and locking it in. More notably, the system’s modularity makes it easier and faster to mount workpieces at virtually any height and configuration necessary to ensure full spindle access. “FCS is like a box of Legos,” VanRee says. “It’s limited only by your imagination. If you have a complex part, you can always figure out a way to hold it.”
Although not taken at Legacy Precision Molds, this photo from Single Source Technologies demonstrates the setup flexibility for which the FCS modular clamping system is designed.
Perhaps more notably, the DMU 50 has prompted the shop to significantly expand its FCS clamping options. Taller clamp bodies enable lifting workpieces farther off the table, which improves access to the undersides of parts and limits the risk of interference between spindle and worktable. Additional adapter ring sizes also help balance competing needs for fixtures that clamp rigidly, yet have minimal impact on machining access and part design, Vanree says.
This piece provides more detail on the FCS system and how it works.
Programming. One section of the article details the shop’s experience with collaborating with Vero Software, developer of the WorkNC CAM system used to program the machine, on the postprocessor. However, the CAM system offers features that help streamline programming as well. The shop credits one feature in particular for not just saving time, but enabling it to ramp up more quickly on five-axis than it otherwise would have. That feature is Auto5, and it is designed to automatically convert three-axis toolpaths to full five-axis toolpaths at the touch of a button. According to various materials published by Vero, the system’s algorithms not only introduce unwind and flip movements based on machine-axis limit data, but also ensure the shortest possible tool length, all while avoiding collisions. “If there’s say, a sharp corner where the toolholder will collide with the part, flipping into Auto 5 will move it out of the way for me,” says John Camfferman, CNC programmer at Legacy.
Cutting Tools. The importance of symmetrical ballnose tooling is covered in detail in the article, but tight radius and diameter tolerances aren’t the only reason why Legacy appreciates Innova Tool’s VHM line. Prior to standardizing on these cutters for all five-axis work, operators often spent hour after hour grinding back tool shanks, both to make them as short as possible (at least short enough to fit in the shop’s shrink-fit holders) and to ensure adequate clearance. The fact that VHM tools are available with a variety of standard shank lengths helps cut back on this work.
Legacy’s experience shows that the right supporting cast of technology can go a long way toward freeing enough time to focus on the fundamental challenges of adopting five-axis machining for the first time. For more about what the shop learned, read the article.
Insistence that all tools employed for contouring have diameter and radius tolerances within ±0.0005 inch led Legacy Precision Molds to standardize on Innova Tool’s VHM line of ballnose end mills.
DMG MORI opened its Pfronten, Germany, plant to more than 8,000 visitors including journalists and customers for its annual open house January 26-29. Ninety machines were on display spread throughout 4,200 square meters of floor space, including six world premieres:
The CTX Gamma 3000 TC second generation turn-mill, with an extended turning length of 3,050 mm;
The DMU 160 P DuoBlock fourth generation universal milling machine, the largest model in its series with a work envelope measuring 1,600 × 1,600 × 1,100 mm;
The DMU 210 P second generation universal milling machine equipped with an intelligent cooling system to boost precision and long-term accuracy;
The DMU 600 Gantry linear XXL, a gantry-style machining center that can accommodate workpieces weighing as much as 150,000 kg;
The Dixi 125, the smallest in its series of high-precision milling machines designed for workpieces ranging to 1.250 mm in diameter; and
The Ultrasonic 20 linear second generation machining center, equipped with SmartSonic technology to automatically implement the ultrasonic frequency that is best suited to the actuator and tool.
That all these premieres build on past generations speaks to a point brought up during the event. In a press conference, DMG MORI President Dr. Masahiko Mori noted that the company is focused on improving the performance of existing machines, and placing an increased emphasis on streamlining its product line. The company aims to reduce its product offerings from around 300 to about 220 over the next year, with an ultimate goal of reducing that further to 150 or 160 total.
Along with consolidating the lines, the company is also moving toward more standardization, with components that will be interchangeable across products. For instance, a wheel-type toolchanger prevalent on machines throughout the plant is one such component. The modular ATC is a replacement for chain-type magazines and is said to be easy to maintain; one through five wheels can be combined on a single system. Standardized physical components like this simplify machine tool building and assembly, and make it easier to produce and supply spare parts to customers. Combined with the Celos control used across DMG MORI machines, the strategy also supports the implementation of process tracking and data-driven manufacturing.
Dr. Mori and Dr. Rüdiger Kapitza, DMG MORI chairman, also spoke about the company’s recent decision to serve U.S. customers directly rather than through distributors. In order to support this move, DMG MORI will open more technical centers as well as employ more local agents who can act as training and support personnel for customers. By providing a more direct link to users, DMG MORI hopes to provide better solutions to its users and also acquire more direct feedback to help it improve its products.
The press conference included announcements of several new technical centers worldwide, including Moscow, Russia, (opening May 23, 2016) and Seoul, South Korea (opening during the second quarter of 2016).
In search of new customers, new markets and new business, a machine shop might consider hiring an outside salesperson. When this person finds new business, it is important that he or she not be met with internal resistance. For instance, a shop might have to change its culture by making new types of parts or working for unfamiliar customers. The shop also might need to update its equipment and certifications to meet the technical requirements of new jobs. Unless this salesperson is backed by the entire team, business opportunity will be lost, says David Bassler, president of Bassler Sales and Management Consulting LLC.
With that said, an outside salesperson is only one element of a coherent business development strategy. Mr. Bassler has developed a list of tips that owners or managers of growing machine shops, along with their entire team, should embrace:
A website. If you don’t have one, get one. A subcontractor can easily and affordably build one.
A company page on a social media platform. The same subcontractor can create this as a package deal with the website.
Brochures and other marketing material.
An updated quality system. If you are not ISO compliant, many big OEMs simply don’t want to talk to you.
An understanding that when you solicit machined parts from a new prospect, they will likely only send you their hardest, most complex parts. Why should they send you easy parts? They can do those themselves.
Additional inside sales staff or someone dedicated to the role. Someone has to respond to all inquiries accurately and in a timely fashion.
An understanding that your machinists, engineers, sales staff and management will need to continue to grow, along with the organization, and that there is a need for continuous training.
An understanding that you will have to do things differently than you did in the past.
An understanding that a new customer is not a hindrance, but something the whole organization should embrace enthusiastically. If leadership embraces it, the rank and file will too.
An understanding that new machines, tools, measurement systems, software systems and specific personnel with niche training will be needed to aggressively pursue new business.
An understanding that this is good for everyone. Everyone needs to grow together.
A shop that does this can pursue new business from a whole variety of new customers, and win it, he says. And when the outside salesperson shows up in the prospect’s office, he or she is not the only one showing up—the entire shop is. Then and only then, can they all grow and succeed.
With a reading of 44.4, the Gardner Business Index showed that the metalworking industry improved in January for the second month in a row. While the industry was still contracting in the month, the index reached its highest level since July 2015 and has slowly trended up since August.
New orders contracted for the 10th month in a row, but this subindex was at its highest level since July. Production also contracted for the seventh month in a row, although this subindex has improved noticeably since October. The backlog index, however, contracted for the 22nd consecutive month. It has steadily declined since early 2014, but there are signs the backlog index may be breaking out of its downward trend. In the months ahead, it still indicates falling capacity utilization, however. Employment contracted for the sixth straight month, although this subindex has improved since August. The export index contracted at a faster rate in January after contracting a steadily slower rate the previous five months. Supplier deliveries shortened for the fourth time in five months. Shorter delivery times indicate that suppliers aren’t as busy and can more easily meet the demands of customers.
The material prices index decreased at a faster rate in January and was at its lowest level since May 2009. Material prices have decreased since September 2015, and prices received have decreased since June, although their rate of decrease accelerated in January. Material prices were falling faster than prices received, however. While future business expectations had been steady over the previous four months, in January they weakened to their lowest level since November 2012.
Future capital spending plans fell to their lowest level since July 2015. Compared with one year earlier, they were down 24.3 percent. The annual rate of change has contracted at a fairly constant rate since November, but it does appear that it will contract at a slower rate in the upcoming months, indicating that the weakest part of the capital spending cycle may be over.
Go here for more economic news from Gardner Business Media.
A small slice of the infographic. Click on the link below to see the entire illustration.
MMS’s outreach to future manufacturing professionals typically focuses on careers in machining. A closely related field is welding, and the Tulsa Welding School has recently produced a detailed infographic summarizing the work, opportunities and compensation in this field. Most of the jobs are in manufacturing, but the illustration points out the traveling job opportunities as well. It also notes the increasing extent to which welding work involves automation. For the benefit of a young person in your life who might make a good welder or welding technician, find the complete infographic here.