Pointe Precision's move into long-running, high-volume production was a bold decision. Best known for low-volume, high-complexity aerospace and medical parts, this shop in Plover, Wisconsin, seized the opportunity to diversify its operations by becoming a major supplier of critical parts to a well-known manufacturer of recreational products. When the demand for these products soared, the manufacturer turned to Pointe Precision to duplicate its original, maxed-out production line to keep up with sales.
Buying and installing several Makino a51nx HMCs at a time, Pointe Precision eventually had 32 of these machines arranged in cells dedicated to this family of stainless steel parts. "Very early, we decided not to invest in automation, although a pallet delivery system with robots would have been feasible," says company owner Joe Kinsella.
His reasons not to automate were clear:
Automation would have added to the cost and complexity of the system.
It would have been difficult to grow the automation as more machines were added, especially since the final configuration of the cells hinged on an expansion to the existing shop building.
A customized, dedicated system of automation would restrict the flexibility of the line, a key factor if the machines needed to be repurposed if and when the current status of this job changed.
Mr. Kinsella’s reasons to develop a workforce of specially trained hires to staff this line were equally clear:
The size of the staff could be flexed as the production line grew.
Suitable candidates for these positions were available in the central Wisconsin area, although special training would be needed.
With proper training, people can be the most flexible and capable asset in a production setting.
Creating jobs in manufacturing is a good thing for the community.
However, careful planning, the right level of on-machine automation and numerous accommodations to ensure the productivity and reliability of the strategy where required for success. You can read the full story here.
At IMTS, I learned about a urea-based (yes, urea) hybrid lubricant that takes advantage of oil’s liquid nature and grease’s adhesive characteristics. LHL (Lube Hybrid Lubrication) is available in the United States through Lube USA and is said to offer a number of advantages. It uses just a fraction of the lubricant quantity compared to conventional oil lubrications systems. The company says lower lubricant requirement can significantly reduce machine maintenance costs while minimizing the chance that lubricant will enter a machine’s coolant tank causing coolant deterioration and/or decomposition. Plus, the LHL hybrid grease doesn’t emulsify and is packaged in convenient cartridges that are simple to replace. Maintenance made easier.
The digital edition of Modern Machine Shop's November issue is now available.
The digital November issue of Modern Machine Shop is now available. The cover story details how it might be better to hire an employee based on his or her strengths and aptitude rather than a hard set of skills. Another feature discusses how one shop went from making low-volume, high-complexity medical and aerospace parts to a high-volume production line. A third story delves into reducing setups with automated pallet systems while a fourth feature takes a look at “dengeling”—an alternative to grinding, polishing and shot peening.
Our Rapid Traverse section is completely devoted to recapping IMTS 2014. More than 20 photos with extended captions will help you get a sense of what we found notable at this year’s show.
This month’s Better Production section includes case studies about how CAD/CAM software helped an aerospace shop machine aluminum guitars, how HMCs helped bow manufacturer Mathews improve its technology and productivity, and how G-code simulation ensures precise machining of large parts.
The Modern Equipment Review section highlights turning equipment.
The two laser cladding heads reside with the machine’s cutting tools in the tool magazine.
In “subtractive” manufacturing (that is, machining), we take it for granted that an efficient process might consist of both a high-speed roughing step and a high-precision finishing step. Why shouldn’t additive manufacturing have these same two options?
At the JIMTOF show concluding this week in Japan, Mazak introduced a new hybrid additive/subtractive multitasking machine, the Integrex i-400AM, which features heads for both high speed and high precision laser cladding for direct metal deposition.
The new machine extends the definition of multitasking, including turning, milling, drilling, additive manufacturing and laser marking in the same machine.
Collaboratively developed with Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies (a company we reported on here), the dual laser cladding heads (or additive manufacturing nozzles) provide options for either rapid and coarse metal deposition or slower deposition with fine precision. The two heads complement one another—and provide for efficient processing—in much the same way that roughing and finishing tools work together in machining.
The cladding heads reside in the machine’s tool magazine and can be called up as needed. Mazak says it views metal deposition as a natural extension of multitasking—that is, an opportunity to perform more steps and add still more value within a single CNC cycle.
The laser cladding can be used to build near-net-shape 3D forms. Thus, the machine is a potentially attractive choice for small-lot production of parts made from difficult-to-machine metals, because it provides the option for some part features to be grown instead of being generated entirely through machining.
The laser cladding can also be used to coat chosen sections of the part with metal, allowing the machine to repair worn or damaged components such as turbine blades. This cladding could even be used to join different metals in the same cycle.
The full five-axis milling and turning machine tool features machining capabilities comparable to other models in its family. The milling spindle feeds through a B-axis range of –30/+210 degrees, while the spindle that holds the part for turning also permits full C-axis contouring. The tailstock too is fully programmable. Learn more about the Integrex i-400AM here.
Combining laser cladding and machining in the same cycle means that surfaces can be added to parts or features can be grown onto parts within the same cycle that also performs turning or five-axis milling.
With more than 3,600 companies on roughly 62 million square feet of space, Elk Grove Village Business Park (located just outside of Chicago, Illinois) has the unique opportunity to showcase local and regional companies all under one roof during the “Made in Elk Grove Manufacturing & Technology Expo.” The event, which took place October 21, focused on giving exhibitors and attendees a chance to network and see the diverse mix of manufacturing in the area—everything from plastics and electronics to precision machining and industrial service providers.
With more than 100 exhibitors and nearly 1,000 registered attendees, “Made in Elk Grove” had the look and feel of a true community trade show. It also featured an exhibitor luncheon during which three local businesses were presented awards:
The Innovation Award went to Crafts Technology, a manufacturer of tooling and components designed to withstand severe abrasion and corrosion with the use of ultra-hard materials. Crafts has developed a new material technology to help injection molders reduce a part of the production cycle by 40 percent or more.
The Sustainability Award went to Lawrence Foods, a broad line manufacturer of bakery products and customized ingredient solutions. The company has implemented a sustainability plan over the past three years, improving manufacturing efficiencies while reducing waste. It has reduced electricity use by 25 percent, natural gas use by 10 to 37 percent and water use by 450,000 gallons. It also recycles more than 400 tons a year.
The Community Support Award went to E-M Metal Fabricator, a provider of contract precision manufacturing services and prototyping-to-production services. President Gladys Moscoso is active in her local church, provides financial assistance to local religious charitable organizations and her company donates funds to a medical organization assisting those in need overseas.
A small, concise event like “Made in Elk Grove” is great exposure for manufacturing companies that might get lost in the trade show halls of a national event. It also gives Elk Grove Village the opportunity to brag about its diverse manufacturing capabilities as well as the transportation/shipping advantages that come from its location just outside Chicago.
Jim Carr, president/owner of Carr Machine and Tool Inc. and a member of the 2014 Expo Planning Committee, has participated in Made in Elk Grove for the last two years. “My objective in exhibiting was the same this year as last. My plan was to build brand awareness and network with other companies in the region. I was happy with the results and left with some great leads.”