Matt Danford joined the MMS team in 2006 straight out of college as a true neophyte, with a B.S. degree in Journalism from Ohio University (Bobcats, not Buckeyes!) and limited knowledge of metalworking technology. He’s come a long way since then, with a number of bylined case studies and a few feature articles under his belt. Matt also uses his skills to copy edit other staffers’ work and prepare submitted articles and news releases for publication.
The thing Matt enjoys most about working at MMS is using his writing ability to boil down and communicate complicated technical information in an easily understandable way. He looks forward to learning more about machine tool technology and completing his transition from an editing-based role to generating more original content.
The DSI machine project is the latest in an extensive series of retrofits at Major Tool & Machine. Here, Scott Elder of Indiana Automation installs wiring at the electrical enclosure of one of the previously upgraded machines, a Cincinnati U5.
Major Tool & Machine (MTM) is no stranger to extensive retrofit projects, and the company’s latest order is no exception. Set for completion in 2015, the job involves equipping a DSI (Dorries Scharmann) turn-mill gantry machine with not only a new Siemens CNC and drive system, but also a new cross-saddle, ram, and five interchangeable cutting heads, among other components. This work follows close on the heels of a series of similar projects that the shop began to undertake in 2010, and it can be similarly informative for manufacturers considering their own rebuilds.
As detailed in this article from our May issue, these previous projects demonstrate that retrofits provide the opportunity to not just restore machines to like-new condition, but also to add new capabilities. Just as importantly, the article describes why rebuilding MTM’s old machines would have been a complicated, involved process even if the company had less lofty goals. In fact, anything less than a total motion system upgrade wouldn’t even have been an option.
The DSI machine rebuild also demonstrates the need to plan around downtime. The project is part of a multi-million dollar order from MAG IAS that also includes two new machine tools: A VTC 2500 and a U5 XL 2500 universal portal mill with turning capabilities. The rail-type U5 XL 2500, the newest and largest model of the U5 portal mill series, will initially replace production capacity during the rebuild the DSI machine. “This is an extremely complex project that involves much more than simply adding machine tools, because it is critical that we maintain our large-part mill/turn capacity when the DSI machine goes offline,” says Steve Weyreter, chairman and CEO of MTM. “Part of our reputation is based on the depth of our capacity, so coordination and timing are vital when we take a critical machine offline.”
One demo involved machining of a cast iron engine block, shown here in the pallet station of the Makino A81 HMC. Demonstrated processes included closed-loop boring and finish-honing operations.
As the North American automotive industry moves from recession to recovery, manufacturers are contending with not only increased volumes, but also increasingly compressed lead times, a range of new product designs and more stringent quality-control requirements. “Automotive and Part Production Day,” a May 8 event at Makino’s headquarters facility in Mason, Ohio, revealed steps the machine tool builder has taken to keep itself—and by extension, its customers—ahead of these trends.
North American light-duty vehicle production moved from 8.6 to 15.4 million between 2011 and 2012 and is expected to continue to increase, a result of reshoring, OEMs moving to global platforms, and increasing quality standards, among other forces. Equipment demand has followed suit, and Makino has increased inventories to ensure quick deliveries of production resources suited for the smaller, lighter components used in today’s increasingly efficient engine designs. Chief among such equipment is horizontal machining centers with 400- to 500-mm pallets, such as the company’s a51nx and a61nx models, of which it sold more than 300 last year.
Likewise, the company is boosting stocks of automation accessories that it deems critical to extract the most efficiency from these machines. Specific examples include robot interfaces, continuous pressure hydraulic fixture control, automatic stacker doors, tool-break detection functions, machine monitoring software and more.
The company has also ramped up its service and support offerings by increasing regional staffing of field service engineers and applications specialists. This is especially critical in an era when automotive suppliers depend on automated production systems that are tailor-made to fit their specific needs. It also marks a departure from the model in place about a decade ago, when most support functions were handled directly from the Mason office.
Click here for more specific information on the various Makino technology and support offerings that were the focus of presentations and product demos throughout the day.
These rail-mounted robots employ integrated robot vision (iRVision) to measure parts in 3D without a PC or other external devices. To facilitate high-speed bin picking, a 3D area sensor mounted above the bin maps the relative height levels of randomly oriented parts.
Many of the new products on display at FANUC Corporation’s annual open house event earlier this month at the company’s headquarters in Japan offered performance advances compared to previous systems. However, given the current shortage of skilled workers and the increasing trend toward automation, U.S. manufacturers might be particularly interested in enhancements that make technology easier to use and easier integrate. Examples include new CNC interfaces, new data monitoring and reporting functions, a new PC-based front-end CNC panel, improved automation integration capabilities, and more. View the full report here.
Faster, more intuitive programming, reduced setup times, improved flexibility—these are just a few of the results of Major Tool & Machine’s move to a new CNC platform for many of its largest machine tools. The video above, produced by Siemens, provides an overview of these and other benefits.
However, realizing these advantages involved far more than just a CNC swap. In fact, most large-machine retrofits do. That was a major takeaway from a series of conversations I had with Doug Huber of Indiana Automation, the company that performed the retrofits at MTM. In this article, Mr. Huber describes why projects like the one at MTM not only tend to necessitate new drives, motors and other motion system components, but also present opportunities for more substantial improvements.
George Smith, president of EGW, says he is confident in his comparisons of the SGS’ Z-Carb mills and the previously used tool is because both ran for an extended period of time in the same conditions on the same machine: the Fadal VMC visible here.
Product literature abounds with claims about reducing cycle time or improving productivity by such-and-such percent. Assuming the supplier is reputable, such data aren’t conjured from thin air; they’re the result of extensive testing. And any proper testing will apply a principle that we all (should have) learned in science class: it’s imperative to keep all process variables constant except the one being evaluated.
That’s worth keeping in mind when evaluating a new product on your own shop floor. Consider this case study, which details the benefits firearm component manufacturer Evolution Gun Works (EGW) gleaned from a new end mill. The reason company founder George Smith can be so confident in the capabilities of the new tool boils down to process consistency. As Mr. Smith puts it, “We have a good gauge on end mills because we’ve been running the same job on the same machine with the same material for four months straight.”