In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), Michael Cope, product technical specialist at Hurco Companies Inc. talks about HMCs and VMCs, and which machining centre to use for your specific applications. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
Hurco Companies Inc. manufactures computer numeric control (CNC) machine tools for the metal cutting and metal forming industry. Two of the company’s brands of machine tools, Hurco and Milltronics, are equipped with interactive controls that include software that is proprietary to each respective brand. Hurco designs these controls and develops the software. The third brand of CNC machine tools, Takumi, is equipped with third-party industrial controls, allowing customers to decide the type of control they need.
Hurco’s products are used by independent job shops, short-run manufacturing operations within large corporations, and manufacturers with production-oriented operations. Its customers are manufacturers of precision parts, tools, dies, and moulds for industries such as aerospace, defence, medical equipment, energy, transportation, and computer equipment. Based in Indiana, USA, Hurco has manufacturing operations in Taiwan, Italy, the US, and China. It also has sales, application engineering support, and service subsidiaries in England, France, India, Singapore, and Taiwan, to name a few.
In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), Michael Cope, product technical specialist at Hurco, speaks about the latest technology developments in machining centres, in particular, horizontal machining centres (HMCs) and vertical machining centres (VMCs), and discusses whether one is better than the other. He also explains their applications, the latest customer requirements, and how machine manufacturers are keeping up to meet those demands.
Q: What is your company’s ‘sweet spot’?
Michael Cope: Hurco’s ‘sweet spot’ lies in our proprietary CNC controller. Powered by WinMax software, our CNC control is the key to making job shops more profitable because it is designed to make small-batch/high-mix production efficient by reducing setup time and programming time. In fact, 65 percent of our customers answered in a recent survey that ‘The Control’ is what they most like about Hurco.
Q: What are the biggest process challenges that your customers are facing and how are you helping them address such issues?
MC: Customers are getting jobs with increasing complexity in terms of geometries and number of set-ups, but at the same time lack the machinist and programmers with the necessary knowledge and experience to execute these jobs. We help them assess their new jobs and discuss practical ways to machine their parts. It may involve a new investment with addition capabilities such as 5-axis or HMC, or simply adding a rotary (fourth axis) or trunnion table (fourth and fifth axis) to their existing Hurco machines. There are also cases where the customer utilizes our showroom demo machine to run their first article with the assistance of our applications engineer.
Q: What opportunities do you see for your company in the coming years in Asia?
MC: The recent trade disputes between the US and China, and the impending review of the cross-border tariffs in various jurisdictions have affected overall market sentiments. Global manufacturers will re-evaluate their supply chain and would likely change their investment strategies, that is, new plants and sourcing territories. We see imminent growth potential in the ASEAN region as global manufacturers realign their strategies. We will continue our investment in Southeast Asia with our partners/distributors so that our technology will help bridge the knowledge gap faced by end users in these emerging economies.
Q: How would you differentiate HMC from VMC, and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
MC: HMCs typically cost more than a standard VMC, but can provide lots of benefits to the customer: better chip and coolant control, almost always are equipped with a fourth axis rotary table, and can allow the operator to utilize multi-sided tombstone type fixturing that will facilitate a larger number of parts in a single setup. HMCs are also usually equipped with a pallet changer, which allows the operator to be loading parts while the machine is running—therefore reducing the down time necessary between cycles.
VMCs are the more traditional type of machine configuration and are found in almost every shop. For everyday job-shops, where they are running small to medium lot sizes, the required amount of machine setups necessary in a single week (or even in a single day) might make a HMC less attractive. Although they are very good at machining lots of parts—even multi-sided work—HMCs typically are not as quick and easy to setup as a VMC, and therefore might not be the best choice for a shop with a high mix of low-volume work.
In high production scenarios, a HMC can really shine. Again, the ability to fixture a larger number of parts in one setup on a multi-sided tombstone fixture, and the ability to reach at least three sides of each part, can help tremendously when running a production run with large volumes. Also, when running large volumes, with lots of cutting, a large amount of chips will be produced. The HMC is designed to assist with the efficient removal of these chips.
Q: What are the latest technology developments in HMCs and VMCs?
MC: One area of technology that comes to mind is speed and motion control. Modern machines are getting faster—both in programmable feedrates, as well as rapid traverse feedrates—and the motion control systems are getting faster, too. This increased speed not only allows shops to get work done faster, but they are also producing better parts. Surface finishes, part accuracies, and overall machine longevity are all things that are benefiting from these technology advancements, and are helping shops become more productive and more efficient.
Q: Tell us more about your latest machining centres.
MC: We have launched our second-generation Performance cantilever style 5-axis machining centre, the VCX600i, designed for high speed cutting. The VCX600i features a motorized spindle with spindle speed up to 18,000rpm, a torque table with absolute rotary encoders, and several tool change options. Coupled with our new 3D Solid Model Import software, programming of a multi-sided part can be easily completed via Hurco conversational programming with literally just a few clicks.
We have also delivered our first two HM1700Ri HMCs in Asia to the oil and gas industry. The HM1700Ri features BT50 Motorized Spindle and an 800mm diameter rotary torque table that is embedded within a 1,650x840mm worktable. This unique table set-up provides the end user the flexibility to work on parts larger than the rotary table using its X, Y, Z travels.
Q: What advice would you give your customers when it comes to their machining processes and choosing their machining solutions?
MC: If a customer has a machine that is performing well in their shop, then they should use that machine as long as it keeps making them money—especially if it is paid for! However, we see too any shops that fall into the trap of buying used equipment when they need to add a machine to their shop. They think they are saving money by spending less on the purchase, but truthfully—with all the advancements in today’s controls and machine technology as a whole—they are probably losing money. The time it will take to see a return on that additional investment will be short, and the benefit they will reap from the new technology will be quick and the impact will be substantial over time.
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