The following story is probably the most difficult column that I have written for Modern Machine Shop. It's not so much because of the product that I want to share with you, but the president and owner of the company we are going to discuss is one of my oldest and dearest friends in our industry.
I first met Jim Reynolds almost 25 years ago and worked closely with him while I served on the international staff of NMTBA (National Machine Tool Builders' Association—the predecessor to today's AMT). Even at his young age, Jim possessed insight into the relationship among machine tool manufacturer, distributor and user. He was one of the driving forces behind the scheduling of regular joint distributor/builder association meetings. He has served on many committees, but one major contribution to the industry was the time he spent on the Society of Manufacturing Engineers show committee.
I hope that my admiration and friendship with Jim has not unjustly influenced my approach to this story. Recently I urged you to take time to visit the workholding, tooling and accessory halls at IMTS 2000 in Chicago. I suggested that after you "kicked the tires" and looked at all the latest "bells and whistles" on the entries, you should leave ample time to search out some of the less expensive ideas that would affect your immediate productivity.
Surprise—the inexpensive idea came off the main machine tool floor of the South Hall. Even more impressive, it came from one of the oldest machine names in the business . . . Snow Tapper! A couple of years ago Jim bought the aging Snow organization and added it to his RMT Technology group.
RMT Technology (Bellwood, Illinois) expanded the Snow vers/a/matic technology to include a horizontal "way type" modular feed unit as an affordable "plug-n-play," servo-controlled, multi-task machine that will free up precious manufacturing time. I can see manufacturers and job shops with numerous drilling or tapping production jobs are probably the ideal users for this functional machine.
Introduced at the recent IMTS, the unit boasts a 5-horsepower spindle motor, 8-inch stroke and adjustable rapid travel with spindle speeds ranging from 150 rpm to 3,000 rpm. The unit features a keypad control panel for easy shifting from one task to the next. With its servodriven, ballscrew feed and variable speed, the machine will drill, rigid tap, skip feed, peck feed, ream and drill/tap. The machine has a user-friendly interface and performs up to 12 operations with no programming codes to remember, no software to learn and no additional computer to buy.
The Snow vers/a/matic appears to be ideally suited for machining any variety of materials from aluminum to steel. The unit is rigid and smooth in operation because it is built on linear rails with ball separated carriers. It also has a cast iron, heavy duty spindle and has the ability to perform right and left hand tapping operations.
This versatile unit can readily change over to different machining operations. In many cases the setup would not change as the machine allows the operator to simply go from drilling to tapping or reaming the same part by use of the keypad functions. Training amounts to minutes on this machine, which is very important in our tight job market, and almost anyone can learn to operate the unit efficiently.
Since tapping is the slowest machine operation to execute, the vers/a/matic offers increased production at a fraction of the cost of using a CNC machine. Plus, when combined with a multiple spindle-tapping head to produce multiple holes at one time, the savings over a CNC tapping cycle could practically pay for this machine.