Founded in 1983 by former Disney Imagineers, Southern California’s WET Design creates water features that are quite a few cuts above the fountains you might see at your local mall or city park. Their expansive portfolio is an impressive showcase of what’s possible when water, light, music, and human ingenuity come together.
If you’ve ever scrambled for a prime spot to watch the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, booked a once-in-a-lifetime experience at The Dubai Fountain at Dubai’s Burj Khalifa skyscraper (the tallest building in the world), or stopped to rest at the fountains at Salt Lake City’s City Creek Center, you’ve enjoyed WET’s work. WET installations can be found on three continents and have even made an appearance in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 and 2014 Winter Olympics.
“From a two-man company to a much sought-after service provider for industry and trade.”
This summarises the success story of the California company Metal Cutting Service (MCS). In 1956, Milon Viel and his father-in-law, Ross Clarke, founded the company, which initially focused on the development and manufacture of aluminium window frames. Both men brought their aviation industry experience to the new company—and that would pay off later. MCS decided to specialise in cutting various materials exactly to customer specifications, especially for companies that did not have their own sawing capabilities, and this decision laid the foundation for the successful development of the company.
Today, MCS is a partner and supplier for many well-known manufacturers in the aerospace, defence, aluminium and steel distribution, and semiconductor industries. The customers supply the materials to be cut, and they get them back exactly to their ordered specifications. Complex geometries and large dimensions are an MCS specialty: the company saws plate, bar, forging, and extrusions up to 50 inches (1,270 mm) thick and 700 inches (17,780 mm) long. The spectrum of materials ranges from plastics and acrylic materials to steel and special metals that are highly temperature-resistant.
With increased focus on environmental health, the smoke and mist produced during Gear cutting and grinding applications have become one of the main concerns. With the Blaser solutions smoke and mist are significantly better controlled.
For an Indian customer, the metalworking experts from Blaser Swisslube were able to reduce the cut time by 24 percent, lower smoke and mist tremendously and achieve overall cost savings per produced component. A result which is promising for the Asian gear hobbing and grinding production.
In terms of new gear hobbing and grinding technologies, Blaser Swisslube offers solutions to its customers and addresses their challenges for improved efficiency, increased tool life, and reduced cycle times. These can be accomplished with higher parameters, which cause higher machining temperatures.
“We aim to improve these points in cooperation with our customers,” Punit Gupta, Managing Director West Asia at Blaser Swisslube says. “As higher parameters produce more heat in the machine, we have to find the optimal cutting fluids. With our product range of cutting fluids, we want to deliver an added value where higher cutting parameters in combination with lowest risk of smoke formation are achievable. The focus to reduce smoke production is a need in the area environmental health which the top management needs to focus on”, he adds.
Blaser Swisslube has created already years ago optimal conditions to run machining tests in its Technology Center at headquarters in Hasle-Rüegsau, Switzerland. The Technology Center is unique in the industry and allows Blaser to test recently developed cutting and grinding fluids of an incredibly diverse range of materials, as well as conduct close-to-reality simulation of production situations.
When buying your CNC machine tool, what factors come into consideration? Cost? Quality? Design? Functionality? Find out the key considerations in choosing your CNC Machine in this article by Sue Neo, Hwacheon Asia Pacific.
What is the cheapest CNC machine tool which you can buy? Can you save money for your factory using affordable low-budget CNC lathes and milling machines? Or is it better in the long run to buy a premium quality CNC machine tool at a higher initial price?
There are two schools of thought here.
The first considers spending less on a machine tool to be cost-effective in reducing your overall investment and production costs. After all, these machines do cost quite a significant sum – any initial savings will help to improve overall cost effectiveness and efficiency.
The second, however, looks at the lifetime cost and better overall performance of the CNC machine tool. While cheaper machines may yield short-term savings, such machines may have higher long-term maintenance, parts replacement and other costs. They may also have limited functions, capabilities, and performance relative to premium models.
To answer this question well, let us first look at the countries of origin for CNC machine tools.
Manufacturing in Low Labour Cost Countries
Traditionally, countries with low labour costs tend to attract manufacturers of mainly mass-produced products, cheap components, or items.
While this is still true today, the rapid rise of technology has allowed high-end electronics and other consumer goods to be produced in these countries. Examples of such products include smartphones, tablets, smart televisions, fridges, automobiles, laptops, sport shoes, etc.
To keep themselves competitive, factory lines in low cost countries tend to use low cost equipment that are easier to operate. These cheaper machine tools have fewer functions and requires more customising effort on the part of the operator.
Often, machine operators in such countries tend to have lower education – their jobs are simply to load or unload parts and materials. It is also common for such firms to station one operator with one machine (after all, salaries are low and manpower is easily available).
Should crashes or incidents happen during the machining process, most likely the machine will stop. A factory supervisor will then come in to intervene. These may include tool breakages, power supply cut-off, insufficient air-supply, to the lack of raw material.
Manufacturing Norms in Industrialized Countries
Comparatively speaking, an industrialized “first-world” country tend to have higher labour, land, utility and other costs – even if they manufacture the same product, part or item as the low-cost country.
To maximise worker productivity, the CNC machine tools that you find at industrialized countries tend to be of higher grade.
Optimized for automation, they are designed for unmanned operation runs – allowing a single operator to handle multiple machines, change tools where needed, or re-set machines independently.
In such a production environment, more spindles are working at any one time. Beyond allowing for one-man operations, such machines may also have automation features such as self-loading/unloading systems, robots, tool changers, and smart software.
Due to the sophistication of these smarter multi-tasked machines, manufacturers can hire fewer operators – highly qualified specialist engineers who can handle the equipment efficiently and cost effectively, managing production runs on a 24 by 7 basis.
Key Considerations: Low-Cost vs High Quality CNC Machine Tools
Drilling down more deeply into the issue, the term “you get what you pay for” is highly relevant in the machine tool business.
For factory owners, saving thousands (or 10s of thousands of dollars) to purchase the cheapest CNC machine tool out there may actually be more expensive in the long-run. This is due to several reasons.
#1 Comparing Spindle Power, Lubrication, and Chilling Units
Low cost machines are often fitted with a less powerful spindle (e.g. 11-18 Kw motor) compared to high quality machines (e.g. a 37Kw motor). Using cheaper smaller bearings, these poorer performing spindles are usually grease-lubricated compared to the superior Air-Oil or Oil injected lubrication used in more powerful machines.
The good quality chilling units used in higher quality CNC machine tools will also provide a more stable and healthy temperature for the spindle bearing over many hours. This is much better than the simple heat exchanger unit used in cheaper machines.
Hence, spindles from higher quality machines will last longer than the cheaper machines, resulting in long-term savings for the manufacturer.
#2 Manufacturing Quality and Stability – Casting, Guideways and Ball Screw Diameters
In low cost machines, the casting is often kept small. Hence, the guideways used will not provide the same levels of stability as the more widely designed casting part used in better quality machines.
You need to also consider the materials and the methods used in manufacturing the casting of the machine. Poor quality machines are often not casted well – evidence of this includes the presence of sand, stones or air-bubbles within the casting itself.
The smaller ball screw diameters and lower quality grade used in cheap machines can also compromise both stability and life spans of the machine tool.
#3 Safety Considerations
Most importantly of all is safety.
Due to the higher safety standards in high labour cost industrialized countries, the CNC machine tools that you get from these places tend to have more safety features buffered into them.
While following higher safety standards may be more costly, you can’t really put a price tag to the well-being and lives of your people. Besides, protecting your machine operators and the people around them can also help your firm to save on insurance costs.
Checklist: Evaluating the Design and Build Quality of Machine Tools
To help you to better evaluate if the CNC machine tool that you’re purchasing is of the right quality, consider following the pointers in this simple checklist.
Rigidity of Machine
CNC machine crashes can result in significant downtime. Since cheaper machines are often less rigid, a crash can result in greater damage to your equipment. A rigid machine can also confer a better finish and tool life, and help to preserve the lifespan of the spindle.
Ball Screws, Linear Guides/ Box Ways
In low cost machines, such components may not hold up as well during crash, resulting in further repair costs. There are also cost differences between Ball and Roller Linear Guides. In addition, Box or Solid Guide Ways may also cost differently, depending on their sizes and treatment.
Accessing and Replacing Machine Parts
Have a look at the different models and see how easily can you access and replace individual machine parts. The difference between a low cost and high-quality machine is significant.
Tool Changer Design
Have a look at the designs used for the tool changer. Is it located inside the work area? How easy is it to replace the cam followers that usually break? Does it use a Cam drive or Servo drive?
As poor-quality spindle may fail more easily whenever run at high speed or a crash happens. High quality spindles tend to have not only have more and larger bearings, but they are often of better quality – these can handle more abuse over time.
Good quality spindles are also powered by more horse power, ensuring that the spindles will not stall even when large cuts are made or tough materials are used. Spindles with fewer horse power may stall or be unstable in terms of their RPM during heavy cuts. Belt-driven spindles (the cheaper kind) may also stall during such operations.
Due to the consistent speed of high-quality spindles, the finish of the part will be better with higher Rpm. This will also result in a longer tool life and savings in cycle time.
Do check for tighter tolerances in your machine – these normally translate into a longer life and smoother operation.
How Service Readiness Affects CNC Machine Tool Pricing
Last, but certainly not least, you need to consider the after-sales and ongoing services offered by your CNC machine tool manufacturer or supplier.
Here are some important factors to think about:
Wait time for service technician: How closely located is your supplier / dealer? If they take over 1.5 hours to response or travel to your location, the time taken to get your machine fixed can be excruciatingly long.
Quality of service technician: This is a major consideration. As technology becomes more complex, factory trained engineers and knowledge of service engineers are crucial. Information and support from manufacturers are also essential.
Warranty of parts: When it comes to warranties of parts being replaced, you will need to get them from your supplier / dealer. This may include the replacement of spindles or calibration jobs.
Parts availability: Does your dealer / supplier operate from a predictive or reactive position? Are spare parts available readily or easily?
Supplier / dealer response time for information and parts: For some suppliers / dealers it takes at least a day or two to get parts or information from the manufacturer through the dealer. This has to be factored into your production plans.
As you can see from our detailed analysis above, there are many factors which you need to consider when you purchase a CNC Machine Tool.
While a low price may be attractive from the onset, the long-term headaches and costs incurred in repairs and replacements may outweigh any initial cost savings.
Over the long run, companies which invest in good quality equipment, tooling, and accessories – plus invest from time to time in training their staff in the latest techniques – will stand to enjoy greater cost effectiveness and efficiency in their manufacturing operations.
Ready to maximise the yield from your shop floor? Visit our website or contact us for recommendations on the right machine tools to improve your productivity and cost-effectiveness over the long-term.
While every situation is different, and different challenges play a role in every factory, here are some tips to prevent your CNC machine from standing idle. Article by BMO Automation.
With a servo controlled gripper, the operator no longer has to adjusts gripper fingers to the correct size.
A machine that is producing generates money. A machine that stands still costs money. In the machining sector, the full production capacity of CNC machines is often not used. Here are 10 tips to prevent your CNC machine from standing idle.
Tip 1: Standardise the raw material.
By standardizing the raw material, multiple product series can be made from the same format material. Simply put: mill more off. Changing products happens faster because the operator can use the same fixture. Resulting in less downtime.
Tip 2: Provide the CNC machine with a zero point clamping system.
With a zero point clamping system on the machining table, the operator can quickly change fixtures. Moreover, the advantage is that new fixtures can be prepared while the CNC machine is machining. With a zero point clamping system on the machining table you are also prepared for automated fixture changes.
Tip 3: Automate!
By providing a CNC machine with an automation solution, it will make more spindle hours. You can start automating at different levels. The easiest form is bar feed on a lathe. The next step is pallet and/or product loading.
Tip 4: Are you opting for single-batch or multi-batch automation?
What is single-batch automation? Automating of one product series. No continuous production but simply one unique product in one program loaded on the CNC machine through product loading. A higher level is multi-batch automation. Automating multiple product series in one continuous process. You combine the loading of products with the changing of a pallet with an automatic machine clamp or a clamped product on top. This makes 24/7 production of multiple product formats and product series possible. The biggest step towards less downtime is made with multi-batch automation. It is important that the machining table is equipped with the correct connections to control the machine clamps.
Tip 5: Choose one gripper that can handle it all.
The span on multiple product formats is great, but if the gripper cannot pick up all the sizes, the added value remains low. One solution is to use multiple grippers, but the changing will take time and the format range is often still limited and it comes at the expense of storage capacity. Another solution and a better one is the servo-controlled gripper that adjusts itself fully automatically to all possible product sizes. The setting time is 0 and the flexibility very high.
Tip 6: Continuous production of multiple product jobs.
All the previous tips are of little utility if only one CNC program can be produced with the automation software. Continuous production is necessary, otherwise the CNC machine will stop when the program comes to an end. Choose a software with which multiple different product series can be edited in a continuous process.
Tip 7: Focus on automating single pieces and small series.
On which products do you make the highest margins? Often these are single pieces and small series. By implementing all the previous tips, you have an automation that is fully set to this. With automation you can produce 24/7 and deliver faster due to a shorter product turnaround time. Selling ‘No’ because of a low capacity is something of the past. At least until your CNC machine makes 160 hours a week and you have to link a second CNC machine to the automation to meet the growing customer demand.
Tip 8: Make sure you have enough tools in your CNC machine.
A simple calculation. On average, a CNC machine has 60 tools of which 40 are standard. If you produce more than 5 different product series with 5 unique tools per series unmanned, you will already run into problems. A large tool stockroom is unnecessary luxury. Of course this can be taken into account by using the same tools as much as possible in the CNC programs during the preparation. But what happens when a miller breaks? Will you lose production and will the CNC machine stand still? Tip 9 offers a solution.
Tip 9: Manage the stand life of your tools.
The solution? Tool life management. The robot controls the total machining process but also calculates exactly which production per mill is feasible. Can the tools in the machine handle the numbers? What does the machine do if it breaks? The Tool Life Management module cleverly handles this and prevents the shutdown of your CNC machine.
Tip 10: Manage the automated process.
Continuous production and a maximum number of spindle hours are not simply achieved. Your operator has to become a process engineer. Does the coolant retain the correct values? Can the chip conveyor handle the quantity? Is the collection bin large enough? The total automated process must be optimized to avoid downtime.
These are just 10 tips to prevent your CNC machine from standing idle. Every situation is different, and different challenges play a role in every factory. Full use of production capacity involves attention, knowledge and experience. Be sufficiently informed and, above all, look carefully at your own process and the products that you produce.
Andrew Parkin, chief representative for Asia at Heller, talks about Heller’s activities in Asia, horizontal machining centres (HMCs), and trends shaping the metalworking industry. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
At the recent EMO Hannover 2019 exhibition in Germany, Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News sat down with Andrew Parkin, chief representative for Asia at Heller, to talk about Heller’s activities in Asia and their growth drivers. He also discussed horizontal machining centres (HMCs), and why the company focuses on this segment.
Tell us more about Heller in Asia and your role in the company.
Andrew Parkin (AP): Heller is a traditional German machine tool builder. We have been building machines for 125 years now; so, we are celebrating our anniversary this year. Right now, our focus is in four- and five-axis horizontal milling and milling/turning machining centres, and we have a global footprint to support this.
I have been in the company for 11 years. I left the UK in 1984, so I’ve lived in Asia now for more than 30 years. I was brought in to manage all of the operations Heller has in Asia. I am responsible for the four companies we have in China, the company we have in Singapore, in Thailand, and in Pune, India.
What opportunities and trends are you seeing in southeast Asia?
AP: Southeast Asia is a very important region for us. Based on potential, all of the ASEAN region together represent a very high consumption percentage of the global total. The difficulties, of course, are the different cultures and the different markets—you got a Thai culture, a Malaysian culture, an Indonesian culture, a Singaporean culture—these have to be managed carefully. We manage this from two operations: we have an operation in Singapore—which is our headquarters in Southeast Asia—and we have an operation in Thailand, focusing on the Thai automotive and aerospace sectors.
Apart from culture, what other challenges do you experience in southeast Asia?
AP: The challenges are varying. A lot of our customers have a Japanese background, for example, and we are very German. A lot of our customers have different manufacturing methods; a lot of customers have different relationships; and a few are challenged with financial goals. There’s always the difficulty of fluctuating currencies in the region. On top of that, language is often a barrier when it comes to explaining things and doing service jobs—so, it is not so easy. But it is a very rewarding market.
Are there particular industries in the region that are driving growth for Heller?
AP: We have been driven by various industries; but at present, the big drivers are automotive, general mechanical engineering and aerospace, where Heller has a lot of advantages due to the stability of the machines. If you are machining difficult materials such as Inconel-based materials or titanium-based materials, you need a very strong and rigid machine in order to reduce vibration. Vibration takes the edge of the cutting tool—that’s the only interface to the workpiece and the cutting tool—and tool life shortening means a longer cycle time. In some of the components we are machining, we have more than 50 hours machining time. If you save 10 percent of that, that’s a lot of time.
How do you help your customers on their smarter manufacturing journey?
AP: Some customers would like to have it all straightaway from the beginning; while the others like the most cost-effective solution, and then they add a lot of these processes to the system as it is going on. That’s one of the advantages of dealing with Heller: we are predominantly a technical and engineering based company who work together with customers in steps and stages for the whole duration of the machine tool’s life. So, we have some customers who have 20-year-old machines who we still service and modify for them. This is part of our core business.
Earlier on, you mentioned that the company focuses only on horizontal machining products. why is this so?
AP: Horizontal machining offers you more stability and accuracy. When you have more stability, you have a higher metal removal rate—that is the main difference between the vertical and horizontal option. We don’t manufacture vertical machines; we manufacture five-axis machines where you can move the head into the vertical machining position, but that’s basically a horizontal machine with a five axis. By the way, we have also 5-axis machining centres with the fifth axis in the workpiece and a horizontal spindle completing our comprehensive product range.
What’s your outlook for next year?
AP: There has been a downturn this year; there are political uncertainties in the market now, which are making people invest in a more cautious manner. There are also disruptive elements in the market. Electromobility is going to change the way we drive a lot, and we have to keep our eye on this.
At Heller, we are not seeing such a pronounced downturn because we do have a lot of manufacturing solutions for so many different industry segments, so we are doing a lot of modification work, and we do a lot more redeployment work—redeployment is where we take all the machines and put them on the new products. All in all, we are still very busy.
Where the market goes, I expect a rebound in the second or third quarter next year.
Are there any new applications that you see emerging soon?
AP: There are new applications emerging and there are also new materials emerging. And one of the trends is that everybody wants to machine these materials in a lights-off environment. That means many more of our customers are forcing us towards automation, and machinery and equipment that almost run itself. Heller is completely open as far as the three main groups of automation—overhead loading, pallet automation and flexible robot cells—are concerned when it comes to enhancing productivity, availability and economic efficiency.
This means as well we need to be a lot cleverer with software interfaces to the machine, because there’s nobody monitoring the machine anymore. If the machine has a problem, we have to know this. We have packages for Industry 4.0, we call it Heller4Industry. Within this, we have modules for preventive maintenance, for machine monitoring, and for production optimisation; all of these things are being used at the moment and pushing us in this direction.
Is the umati standard something you are looking at?
AP: As a core partner of umati, the universal machine interface developed on the initiative of VDW, HELLER has the finger on the pulse of the industry as far as digitisation is concerned. We like to adopt an active role in the design to promote our idea of a universal compatibility of different machines, units and software.
Do you have any final comments?
AP: I would just like to say it is an interesting time we are in. We believe quality is selling. The industry sector we are involved in is becoming more complicated because the standards are becoming much tighter, the tolerance is becoming much lower, and the materials are becoming much tougher to machine—therefore, I see a bright future for companies like Heller.