Peter Zelinski has been a writer and editor for Modern Machine Shop for more than a decade. One of the aspects of this work that he enjoys the most is visiting machining facilities to learn about the manufacturing technology, systems and strategies they have adopted, and the successes they’ve realized as a result. Pete earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and he first learned about machining by running and programming machine tools in a metalworking laboratory within GE Aircraft Engines. Follow Pete on Twitter at Z_Axis_MMS.
Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies makes an award-winning head that enables additive manufacturing capability to be added to a standard machine tool. Far from being competing capabilities, Hybrid cofounder Jason Jones, Ph.D., says “subtractive” CNC machining and additive manufacturing complement one another. Additive makes sense on machine tools, he says, for three reasons:
1. Setup reduction. A production metal part made through additive manufacturing is probably going to need machining before it is complete. Mating surfaces and threaded holes, for example, need to be machined. Therefore, why not perform the additive build on the machine tool, where this finish machining can be performed as part of the same cycle?
2. Energy expense. Additive manufacturing requires a heat source intense enough to melt metal. If you are going to invest in the power needed for this melting, then why limit the capability to the small build volume typical of a stand-alone additive machine? Bringing additive manufacturing to a big machine tool permits the use of that machine’s travels.
3. Less dramatic shift. Cultural inertia impedes the adoption of additive manufacturing. Longtime manufacturing professionals are familiar with CNC machine tools, but the additive machines are strange to them. Adding the additive capability to the machine tool provides an easier path to adoption.
Rekluse is the motorcycle clutch maker that spun off a new company, VersaBuilt, after its own challenges with fluctuating production demand led to the development of a system for robotically loading not just the machined part but the part and workholding together. We described the significance of this approach to machine loading in a recent feature article. Now, ABB Robotics has produced this video describing Rekluse and VersaBuilt’s story, and showing the robot in action. Note also in the video how the robot, shelving system and controller all are wheeled as a single unit up to the face of the machining center.
In what Thane Russell of Absolute Completion Technologies describes as “the most advanced manufacturing cell in Alberta,” a level of automation not typically associated with oilfield manufacturing is being applied to downhole parts. Absolute makes well completion tools for the oil and gas industry. Mr. Russell says the company’s new robot-loaded cell applies production techniques from automotive manufacturers elsewhere in Canada. He spoke in this video report about the new cell from the Edmonton Journal.
Another place robot loading is being used for manufacturing downhole components is Louisiana.
Hear “automation,” and we usually think of something external to the machine, such as a robot or gantry loader. Okuma produced this video in which the company’s Jeff Estes points out that time-saving automation can also be achieved using components that locate entirely inside the machine tool. The options he cites here include a Koma Precision rotary table, Schunk quick-change vise, and probing for part measurement and tool break detection.
The Ingersoll Cutting Tools event was held at the historic Cleveland Public Auditorium.
An improved cutting tool could deliver its improvement in any of three different ways. That tool could be cheaper, it could provide longer tool life or it could deliver greater productivity. IMC Group President and CEO Jacob Harpaz says go for the productivity. Now is the time for this.
That was his message at an Ingersoll Cutting Tools 125-year anniversary event last week. The event was held in Cleveland, birthplace of the cutting tool company. Now based in Rockford, Illinois, Ingersoll is today part of the IMC Group, which also includes cutting tool makers such as Iscar, Taegutec and Tungaloy. In presentations throughout the day-long event, Mr. Harpaz described various offerings in Ingersoll’s milling, turning and holemaking lines to an audience of about 850.
Business is good. After Ingersoll’s sales dropped in ’09, following the crash, the company had sales in ’10 that surpassed ’08. Then, after a flattening from ’11 to ’12, business has been increasing through the past two years. All of this is relevant to his message because many machining facilities have seen something like this same pattern of activity. Business is now strong enough in machining, particularly in North America, that any open time on a plant’s machine tools often can be filled. That means far and away the most lucrative return to get from a cutting tool is an improvement in productivity.
Shops do not necessarily see this, Mr. Harpaz says. Because a cutting tool is a consumable that is purchased again and again, its price is seen frequently, and therefore seems more significant than it might be. In most manufacturing processes, the impact of fixed costs and labor costs are actually much higher.
Specifically, for a representative machined part, he says the cost of machinery represents 26 percent of the cost of machining a part. Overhead represents 21 percent of the unit cost of machining. Labor and raw material account for 28 and 22 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the cost of cutting tools accounts for just 3 percent.
That such a low share of the total cost comes from cutting tools has significant implications. Dropping the price of the tool by 20 percent, as big a change as this might seem, would deliver only a 0.6-percent unit cost reduction. The seemingly even greater change of increasing the life of the tool by a factor of 2 would save only 1.5 percent. But increasing productivity would increase the number of pieces the shop can produce in the same period of time, meaning the labor cost, overhead cost, and machinery cost per piece all go down. Increasing productivity by 20 percent thus produces a savings of 15 percent overall. Productivity increase delivers far and away the greatest savings, he says, because it is the only type of cutting tool improvement that can affect all the other cost factors.
The Ingersoll event showcased various new or improved cutting tool offerings aimed at this productivity increase. For example, the company’s TC430 whisker-reinforced ceramic insert for turning superalloys is more expensive than carbide tools used to turn these metals, but it is so much more productive that the cost increase is easily justified. (See video of the tool turning Inconel.) A couple of the company’s unusual offerings for productivity include:
The Chip Surfer milling tool line, which consists of tools with changeable tips. The time savings here comes from quickly being able to replace a worn tool or switch to a different tool type just by changing the tip.
Coolant-driven spindles able to deliver 40,000 rpm on a lower-speed machine for small tools requiring this rotational speed.
The most prominent product line at the event was the company’s “Gold Rush” line, which consists of tools benefiting from a post-coating treatment that enhances performance. Tools in this line can deliver long tool life compared to tools without the surface treatment. However, the more profitable use of the tooling is to let tool life remain steady, he says, and instead use the performance enhancement to increase speed and feed rate. Now is the time to go for productivity.