Derek Korn joined Modern Machine Shop in 2004, but has been writing about manufacturing since 1997. His mechanical engineering degree from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Applied Science provides a solid foundation for understanding and explaining how innovative shops apply advanced machining technologies. As you might gather from this photo, he’s the car guy of the MMS bunch. But his ’55 Chevy isn’t as nice as the hotrod he’s standing next to. In fact, his car needs a right-front fender spear if you know anybody willing to part with one.
The Swiss tour wrapped up with a visit to the Kaiser plant to see the machining equipment and assembly processes behind the company’s digital boring heads.
Early this month, I got the chance to visit a number of manufacturers in Switzerland as part of a tour set up by the NTMA. I and a number of NTMA members got a chance to tour the facilities of Blaser Swisslube, Kaiser (aka BIG Kaiser), and Mikron and Liechti (both part of the GF Machining Solutions group). We also saw some large-scale manufacturing performed at SR Technics (aircraft refurbisher and turbine engine rebuilder) and Burckhardt Compression (world’s largest manufacturer of reciprocating compressors).
At Mikron, we saw a presentation about the company’s Machine and Spindle Protection (MSP) option available on Mikron HPM 600U and HPM 800U machines. MSP uses a mechanical system that allows the spindle to slightly deflect in X, Y and Z axes at the moment of a collision, using a sensor to detect this and trigger the machine to stop before the spindle/spindle bearings are damaged. This video shows a collision that demonstrates how quickly the system stops the spindle travel.
GF Machining Solutions acquired Liechti last year, a builder of machine tools like this one for turbine blades, blisks and impellers. Key to high material removal rates and quality surface finishes on these contoured parts is the company’s Turbosoft Plus CAM software, which uses toolpath strategies designed specifically for efficient roughing and finishing of airfoil shapes.
Blaser has an impressive laboratory as well as tech center with a number of high-end machine tools where various cutting tests are performed. Its Liquidtool concept combines advanced cutting fluids and oils, application and consulting knowledge, and customer and training services. It is ideal for tough applications such as this deep-hole drilling operation, in which an 8-mm-diameter hole that’s 200 mm deep is drilled into chromium molybdenum steel in only 10 seconds (without pecking).
The visit to the Kaiser plant was interesting because we were able to see the machining equipment and assembly processes behind the company’s digital boring heads. Test cuts in the company’s tech center showed how easy adjustments can be made thanks to the digital technology. (As a side note, Kaiser has decided to strengthen its partnership with long-term partner BIG Daishowa Seiki of Japan, agreeing to become a company of the BIG Daishowa group as of April 15, 2015.)
My hat’s off to the NTMA and hosts for an informative and interesting trip.
Although screw machine shops were the first to integrate CNC Swiss-type lathes when those machines were introduced years ago, “conventional” shops are considering them more these days. If you’d like to learn more about that and other precision machining technologies, consider joining me at the Precision Machining Technology Show this month in Columbus, Ohio.
These before and after shots show the difference in lighting quality at Kenwal’s production facility since adding an intelligent LED lighting system.
Kenwal Steel Corp. in Dearborn, Michigan, isn’t a company we’d profile in the magazine. It’s a flat-rolled steel distributor, not a machine shop. However, the concepts it is applying in terms of improving lighting conditions in its facility and lowering lighting costs could be leveraged by a machine shop.
When Kenwal management was confronted with the need to replace aging 1,000-watt metal halide fixtures within its production facility, they reached out to Total Source LED to evaluate their options. The team initially evaluated both T5 fluorescent and LED lighting options. However, they were reluctant to replace the facility’s 369 metal halide fixtures with 6-lamp T5 fluorescents, which would result in more than 2,200 lamps to maintain. Instead, the team turned their attention toward high-efficiency, maintenance-free LED lighting alternatives, deciding to install an Intelligent LED Lighting System from Digital Lumens. This system resulted in a 93-percent savings in annual lighting-related energy costs, an investment payback period of less than one year with a return on investment (ROI) of more than 124 percent, reduced fixture counts by more than 60 percent, and higher lighting quality and illumination levels throughout the facility.
The team also recognized that intelligent LEDs (with integrated controls, wireless networking and sensors in every fixture) would have a significant impact on their budgets in a rising utility rate environment. This is because, in addition to wattage-based savings, the Intelligent Lighting System would enable them to:
Automatically turn off lighting within its massive steel storage area when overhead crane operators were not actively picking stock for its pickling operations and instantly back on when needed.
Leverage the independently rotatable and dimmable light bars within each fixture to direct lighting to work surfaces within the production area, eliminating the need to over-light space while providing better lighting for inspection operations.
Dim aisle lighting to 20 percent in lower-traffic areas when employees were not present, reducing energy usage while providing background and security lighting.
Leverage daylight from open bay doors in the facility’s shipping and receiving areas via integrated daylight-harvesting sensors in each fixture.
Schedule automatic changes to lighting behaviors, such as shorter timeout settings and increased dimming factors during weekends and holidays when employees typically aren’t present within the facility.
For any timeframe needed, the Kenwal team now also has access to a wide range of energy usage and occupancy data, which is accessed through the system’s LightRules lighting management software. Data that are visually depicted on interactive maps of the mill facility that can also be used to change fixture settings and behaviors enables management to:
Quickly report, down to the kWh, how much energy is used by fixture, zone or facility, and document the efficiency savings.
Observe when peak usage occurs in different areas of the facility and change settings such as fixture timeout delays to match actual operating conditions.
Track occupancy patterns, enabling the optimization of lighting to support high-transit, -occupancy or -usage areas, and vice versa.
Collect other energy management and operational efficiency metrics.
“Tracking a wide variety of decision-making metrics surrounding lighting and energy use is the secret to achieving upwards of 90 percent energy savings over T5 and metal halide fixtures,” said Ron Cimino, CEO of Total Source LED.
During my visit to the Blaine, Minnesota, shop, I picked up on a few tricks it uses to be more effective at machining micro features. Here are a few I cite in the article above:
The shop sometimes starts the creation of square-edge micro-slots by first using a ball end mill to essentially rough out the slot before coming back with a standard end mill to create the sharp corners. This minimizes the load on the standard end mill.
Pecking cycles are used for some micro-drilling operations, and the pecking feed distance depends on the material and hole size. However, Challenge Machine has found that some applications lend themselves to drilling without pecking. This is often the case for polyetheretherketone (PEEK), requiring an adjustment of speeds and feeds to generate the proper chip size per tooth so chips can be evacuated out of the hole.
The shop tries to integrate deburring operations during the machining cycle as much as possible to minimize manual deburring work. If face milling is required after holes are drilled, the shop might slowly run a drill backward down each hole to remove any burrs that milling created.
Challenge Machine also commonly provides micromachining lessons to its customers. For nearly every prototype project, the shop works closely with the customer to offer design-for-manufacturability (DFM) suggestions. For example, a part with a callout for a 0.001-inch tip radius would require the shop to use a 0.002-inch-diameter tool. If the designer can accept a 0.0015-inch tip radius, then the shop can use a cutter with a 0.003-inch diameter to speed the machining process.
Switzerland’s Reiden Technik is new to the U.S. market. Its five-axis machine tools are available through Cincinnati, Ohio’s Pilsen Imports, which also offers large Toshulin vertical turning machines and Colgar horizontal boring mills.
Reiden has developed an interesting concept it calls Double-Drive Technology (DDT). This features two separate spindle motors in one spindle housing to enable its RX series machines to effectively perform both roughing and finishing operations. A hydraulic circuit is used to engage the high-torque spindle motor via a bevel gear coupling while the high-speed spindle motor freewheels. When the hydraulic circuit is off, the bevel gear on the high-torque spindle motor retracts to enable the high-speed spindle to be used. Learn more.