Swiss Technology Tour

A recent tour organized by the NTMA revealed insights about spindle collision protection, coolants for challenging applications, digital boring heads and more.

Magazine editors like me often get invited to tour machining equipment production facilities here in the States and overseas. A recent jaunt to Switzerland was different, not just because I was the only editor on the trip, but in that I was accompanied by more than 20 U.S. shop owners/managers who are members of the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA).

The NTMA set up this tour to enable us to see the facilities of Big Kaiser, Blaser Swisslube, 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).

Here are a few technology tidbits I encountered during the trip that I’d like to share with you.

At Mikron, we saw a presentation about the company’s Machine and Spindle Protection (MSP) option available for its HPM 600U and 800U machining centers. 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. (Watch this video of a collision that demonstrates how quickly the system stops the spindle travel.)

Blaser Swisslube has an impressive laboratory and tech center with a number of high-end machine tools where various cutting tests are performed. The company’s Liquidtool concept combines its cutting fluid technology with application consultation and training services, and has been used to improve cutting performance for a variety of tough applications. One example is deep-hole drilling. In fact, this video shows an 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). Many shops get input from cutting tool representatives who get to know the type of work they do and their tooling needs. It seems sensible that they consider building a similar relationship with their coolant supplier, too.

The visit to the Big Kaiser plant was interesting because we were able to see the machining equipment and assembly processes behind the company’s digital boring heads. Subsequent test cuts in the company’s tech center showed how easy adjustments can be made thanks to the digital technology. This video shows how quickly those adjustments can be made to speed setups during hole-making operations.

My hat’s off to the NTMA and hosts for an informative and interesting trip. Also, I suggest taking advantage of opportunities such as this if they’re presented to you. It gives you a good chance to learn more about new machining technology and network with other shop principals. The same goes for regional open houses and events hosted by equipment manufacturers and distributors that often resemble mini trade shows.