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10 Tips To Prevent Your CNC Machine From Standing Idle

10 Tips to Prevent Your CNC Machine From Standing Idle

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.

10 Tips to Prevent Your CNC Machine From Standing Idle

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.

 

For other exclusive articles, visit www.equipment-news.com.

 

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MESCO: Driving Machining Technology Evolution

MESCO: Driving Machining Technology Evolution

Celebrating its 63rd year in business, MESCO Inc. has been leading and aiding the growth of the Philippine metalworking industry. Allen L. Lee, president, tells us more about the company and his outlook for the country. Article by Stephen Las Marias.

Celebrating its 63rd year in business, MESCO Inc. has been leading and aiding the growth of the Philippine metalworking industry.

Allen L. Lee

Manufacturers’ Equipment and Supply Co. (MESCO) was founded in 1956 by Peter N. Lee. Together with his wife, Mercy, they started out of a small apartment in Manila, Philippines, at the time that the country had begun to rebuild after the Second World War.

MESCO was the first to introduce several significant machining technologies into the Philippines. In fact, the company introduced the first CNC machine tool in the Philippines in 1973. It was also during this time that MESCO was incorporated to MESCO Inc.

The company successfully brought more machining technologies in the country, such as a CNC milling machine, a CMM, a vertical machining centre, and a CNC lathe machine, among many others. (The very same QuickTurn 10 CNC lathe machine that Peter brought in 1981 is now on display in the lobby of the MESCO building as a tribute to his visionary force.)

At the recent PDMEX 2019 tradeshow in the Philippines, Allen L. Lee, president of MESCO Inc., speaks with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN) about how the company has been leading and aiding the growth of the country’s metalworking industry.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE EVOLUTION OF THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY IN THE PHILIPPINES?

Allen L. Lee (AL): MESCO is now 63 years old. It was founded by my parents in 1956. My father passed away in 2004, so since then, I have been running the business together with my siblings and my two sons. If I go back 20 years ago, most of the buyers were the big corporations. The past 20 years have seen a big change wherein the big names—the Toyotas and Toshibas, for example—had among their policies to outsource production, which is good because it led to the creation of several hundred new companies over the past two decades—job shops starting out as husband-and-wife, father-and-son, with five- to 10-people operations with one CNC machine, for example, and have now grown to 30-, 40-, 50-people operations with over a dozen CNC machines.

In that sense, it is good because the technology has spread all around. While it has provided employment, more importantly, it made the Philippines a potential manufacturing base for other overseas companies.

DO YOU ALSO MANUFACTURE METAL PARTS?

AL: Yes. We have our own manufacturing arm with about 80 people, wherein we produce parts not for the Philippines, but for export. We don’t sell those products in the Philippines because we will just be competing with our own customers. So, we export basically to our suppliers, including Mazak in Japan and in Kentucky, USA; we supply to a high-pressure pumps company in Australia; and, starting about two years ago, we are supplying medical components to San Francisco in the United States and in China.

The QuickTurn 10 CNC lathe machine that Peter N. Lee Brought in 1981 is now on display in the lobby of the MESCO building as a tribute to his visionary force.

FROM A METALWORKING STANDPOINT, WHAT ARE THE OPPORTUNITIES IN THE PHILIPPINES?

AL: Let’s take it from two perspectives: domestic and export. Domestic market is very strong because of the construction boom. What you will see is that local companies are investing in higher technology sheet metal systems; they are talking about automation, lasers, and so on and so forth.

The prospect for the export companies is a bit trickier. There is a very big potential, except for one issue: the Philippine government’s Trabaho (Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-quality Opportunities) bill. If that new bill pushes through, it may cause some concerns to some foreign companies, because Trabaho bill will increase the tax rate, from five percent gross to 18% corporate income tax.

I have been talking to some auditors, and what they are telling me is that for an American company, or a Japanese company, there is a thing called worldwide taxation, which means, in the Philippines, for a PEZA company, if we increase the tax rate, they pay more in the Philippines, but they will pay less in the United States or Japan. At the end of the day, it’s just the same.

The impact of the Trabaho bill to the investors is not the tax rate per se, but the uncertainty. It is difficult for investors to consider investing in a country if the business environment is uncertain. Other investors are telling me this: if the Philippines must make the rules, it must stick to the rules. If you change the rules, it’s going to be difficult. Most likely, Trabaho bill will pass by December. But, why wait until December? Make a decision now, so that the investors will know what to do.

WHAT OTHER MARKETS DO YOU SEE DRIVING THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY GROWTH HERE?

AL: Worldwide, aerospace is the one with the biggest potential, wherein over the next 20 years, you will need tens of thousands of aeroplanes. The Philippines has a good potential for the aerospace industry; however, we do not have the infrastructure. We do not have special processes such as anodising and heat treatment. The supply chain for materials and for special processes—these are the challenges. Once we have the supply chain, I would think that the potential for growth in the aerospace industry will be exponential.

Regarding skills, there is no problem. Yes, it is not easy, but it can be developed. You must have certifications, all these things, it is a matter of spending some time, but it is not that difficult.

WHAT ABOUT THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY?

AL: Sure, but consider the traffic! A lot of people can afford cars, interest rates are getting low, and financing gets easier. But where will you park your car? Where will you drive?

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE COUNTRY’S STATE OF METALWORKING TECHNOLOGY?

AL: As far as automation is concerned, we are way behind all the other countries. In this exhibition, we are showing two robots in two Mazak machines. To the best of my knowledge, in all the previous shows, this is the first time an exhibitor has shown a robot in a machine tool. What I gathered in MTA Vietnam—based from one of my principals—they were exhibiting perhaps 70 to 80 machines with robots. in Thai Metalex last year, there were about a hundred robots. In the Philippines, for the first time, two machines!

So, why automation in machine tools is weak in the Philippines? It is because the biggest market here are job shops. And in general, job shops’ production sizes are not really high volume. Twenty units, after two hours, they change the setup. So, it is a matter for the machining model to change. When will it come? I don’t know. But I would like to think that if it comes, it will be in waves.

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING?

AL: What we do think is that the job shop market now is focused on a standard three-axis machining centre, and two-axis to three-axis CNC lathes. I would like to think that there are many other parts that are being done but are imported because they are too difficult to make.

But we are sensing the market trend will go up, go into multitasking machines for job shops. It is just a matter of them developing the confidence to approach the big companies and say, ‘This part that looks so difficult to manufacture, which you are importing, give me a chance to do it for you.’

In that sense, the technological level of the Philippines will go up. Once a job shop has this, the next job shop follows. It multiplies. When will it happen? The sooner the better.

WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE PHILIPPINE METALWORKING INDUSTRY OVER THE NEXT YEAR?

AL: It depends upon the reaction of the foreign investors to the Trabaho bill. But whatever happens in three years after its implementation, you cannot slow down. Meanwhile, regardless of whether the business is up or down, MESCO will continue to invest not just in capital goods but in training—by sending people to Japan, Singapore, Europe, the United States, and so on and so forth.

Do you remember the Lehman Brothers’ collapse in 2008? Our sales plunged 50 percent. But 2009 was the year we had the greatest number of trips of people going abroad for training. The previous years, business was good, we have no time to send them for training. In 2009, there was no business, so, perfect timing. Around that time, some of our competitors laid off their staff, cut down in investments. For us, the policy was that, it is bad now, but it cannot be bad forever. It will pick up; so, in 2009, there’s time to train. In 2010, when the business picked up, we were ready.

Besides, we are here. We are a local company. Foreign companies, during the good times, are here. In bad times, they pull out. For us, we are stuck here, we can’t go anywhere. So, giving jobs, training and upgrading the skills of our workers, the benefits is for everyone.

 

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Hwacheon On VMCs Vs. HMCs

Hwacheon on VMCs vs. HMCs

Hwacheon Machine Tools Co. Ltd compares and contrasts horizontal machining centres (HMCs) and vertical machining centres (VMCs) and explains the uses of each. Article by Stephen Las Marias.

South Korea-based Hwacheon Machine Tools Co. Ltd is a pioneer in the Korean machine tool industry, and one of the first companies in the world to develop smart operating systems and automation software for CNC machine tools.

Its roots come from a local foundry, where founder Kwon Seung Gwan initially worked as an apprentice mould maker. His grit, determination and attention to quality earned him the confidence and respect of the owner, who eventually entrusted the stewardship of the foundry to Kwon in August 1945. The company was later established on December 20, 1945 and became the foundation of Hwacheon.

Hwacheon uses lines of Horizontal Machining Centers A600 with fast overhead gantry systems in its own automotive part production, where the company manufactures crankshafts and cylinder blocks.

Hwacheon uses lines of Horizontal Machining Centers A600 with fast overhead gantry systems in its own automotive part production, where the company manufactures crankshafts and cylinder blocks.

First known as Hwacheon Machine Works, Kwon incorporated Hwacheon Machine Tools Co. Ltd. Designing and building the first lathe machine in Korea, Kwon played a key role empowering Korea’s fledgling manufacturing sector, which was just recovering from the Korean War.

Kwon built on his success later in 1959 with the development of the country’s first direct-coupled belt-driven lathe machine. In 1964, Hwacheon added a feather on its cap with the development of the country’s first gear-driven automatic lathe.

Over the next two decades, Hwacheon focused its energies on R&D. Around this time, the company also established its own manufacturing division. This set the stage for a string of other ‘firsts’ within the South Korean Industry, such as the first NC lathe machine; the first NC milling machine; the first CNC copy milling machine; and the first NC four-axis lathe machine. In 1987, Hwacheon developed the country’s first horizontal machining centre, a multiplex machine tool with automatic tool changer.

The next era saw Hwacheon enjoying steady growth as it shifted its gears towards modern R&D, focusing on using information technology (IT) to reduce manual work. During this period, the company built larger and semi-automated machine tools, including a vertical high-speed machining centre. In 2001, it started its automobile parts business—producing initially up to 30,000 cylinder blocks—with its horizontal machining centre (HMC).

More than 70 years since its founding, Hwacheon has grown to become one of world’s leading CNC machine tool manufacturer with a solid reputation for reliable quality products. Today, the company is a fully integrated machine tool maker offering highly specialised CNC lathes, CNC milling machines, multi-axis machines, and smart machines for a wide spectrum of industries.

In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking News (APMEN) magazine, Hwacheon’s Klaus Ludwig, managing director of Hwacheon Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, and vice president of Hwacheon Machine Tools Co. Ltd, talks about the current trends shaping the machining industry, and their customers’ challenges and how they are helping them address those issues. He also talks about horizontal machining centres (HMCs) and vertical machining centres (VMCs), the uses of each, and their advantages and disadvantages.

Name one of your company’s key competitive advantages.

Klaus Ludwig, Hwacheon

Klaus Ludwig, Hwacheon

Klaus Ludwig (KL): Strong mechanical design and build. All machines are designed and built in-house. Only components like CNC control, bearing and linear guides are purchased from reputable suppliers in Japan and Germany.

From casting to machining of its spindles—all are manufactured by the company in South Korea.

What challenges are your customers facing?

KL: This very much depends on the area and industry. However, one common obstacle being faced practically everywhere is the lack of qualified and motivated manpower. That’s why automation, even the simplest automation solutions, are increasingly implemented around the world in manufacturing.

How is your company helping your customers address their problems?

KL: Our company offers a number of effective automation solutions for our turning and machining centres. At a higher level, our SMART machines are developed to minimise the effect of human involvements and the potential for errors.

We have started with this technology many years ago. Today, we are the only company that is able to offer a real smart machine—just sending the CAD file to the machine, press four buttons, and the SMART Machine does the rest.

Tell us more about HMC and VMC.

KL: VMCs are mainly standard three-axis machines, where the milling head/spindle is positioned vertically. Such VMCs can be designed in a traditional C-frame design or as double-column machining centres.

Five-axis solutions are available too, such as our M-series or the newer D2 five-axis machining centre. All have their spindle vertically positioned.

Standard VMC are the most sold machining centres in the market. They are generally lower in price compared to an HMC, subject to specification and quality, of course.

Meanwhile, HMCs are, in a basic configuration, 3+1 machining centres. Three-axis linear (X–Y–Z) plus one rotary axis (B-axis) to position the mounted workpiece. The spindle is positioned horizontal, providing the possibility to work on four sides of a workpiece by rotating/positioning the part to the spindle.

There are also full four-axis versions available, where the workpiece mounted on the B-axis can be rotated as an axis and synchronised to the three linear axes.

HMCs are normally used for higher production volumes as they usually have an integrated pallet changer. Also, as materials and parts can be replaced/exchanged while the machine is operating, HMCs provide reduced downtime.

Horizontal Machining Center AF-30 and AF-16 (in the background) with automatic pallet changers.

Horizontal Machining Center AF-30 and AF-16 (in the background) with automatic pallet changers.

How would you differentiate a HMC from VMC? Are there specific applications wherein one is better to use than the other?

KL: Standard VMCs require lower investments for job shops—as such they are more commonly used. They are also easy to use and operate.

VMCs are typically used in two- to three-axis operations. A fourth axis (NC Rotary Table) is optional, available but smaller in sizes. Usually, they come without a pallet changer system, while automation is done by robots. However, VMCs used for mould and die are precision machining centres with higher spindle speeds.

On the other hand, HMCs require higher investment—but they are cost-effective when it comes to mass production. One advantage of an HMC is chip removal—due to the nature of its design, chips easily fall to the chip conveyor. Its multi clamping features offer more economical and efficient production solutions. Their pallet system also provides higher productivity. However, HMCs are rarely used in mould and die. Our H8 however, is being used due to its rigidity, available spindle design and speed, as well as achievable accuracy.

How do you position your machining centre solutions in the market?

KL: Hwacheon has solutions for mass production of automotive parts—the A600 is especially designed for this application. This machine is designed to be used as a line machine, meaning, several machines will be placed next to each other and loaded/unloaded by an overhead Gantry system. To save space, the machine width is very slim; in this way, the point to point distance for the loading system is kept very short.

In fact, we use a line of 10 machines with a fast overhead gantry system in our own automotive part production, where we manufacture crankshafts and cylinder blocks.

For extreme tough material and operations, we have our H6 and H8 HMCs. Their extreme rigidity, highest overall machine weight, and the strongest spindle in the market—at 1,650Nm torque—set them apart from any competitor.

For large, heavy and accurate parts, our AF 16 and AF 30 are providing excellent machining platforms and capacities. Whether oil & gas or machine tool parts, these machines provide excellent performances.

Whether a customer is looking for mass production or for a machine that can handle even the toughest material, Hwacheon has a solution available.

Machining parts on Vertical Machining Center SIRIUS-1350/1750/2500.

Machining parts on Vertical Machining
Center SIRIUS-1350/1750/2500.

What trends do you see as you look out at the metalworking industry in Asia?

KL: Over the past years, the trend has been toward more complex machines and effective automation solutions. Of course, there are still those customers who believe a ‘cheap’ machine and equipment makes them competitive; but the industry in Asia is evolving—and it must evolve from cheap manufacturing to more quality products.

Batch sizes have become smaller, while real mass production is rare. Faster deliveries and cost-effective operations are the key today. And this requires good equipment and machines, as well as higher level of operators—because one operator is able to handle multiple machines. This has become the norm.

Finally, what advice would you give your customers when it comes to their machining processes?

KL: First, look at your current standard first. Can you receive orders for the higher quality parts—which come with higher benefits—or should you decline it? How fast can you switch from one part order to the next? What is your level of scrap? How many set-ups do you need to produce your parts? What makes a manufacturer different from the others? Cheaper machines and equipment or higher level capabilities?

Plan your machine purchase in advance, not only when you have the order to produce and you are forced to buy any available machine in the market. You may finally not get what you need and wanted.

With a few simple questions, a customer can determine their level of competitiveness, and where they should improve or focus their efforts on.

For more information on Hwacheon, visit https://hwacheonasia.com.

 

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Choosing The Best Machining Centre For Your Application

Choosing the Best Machining Centre for Your Application

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.

Michael Cope

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.

Figure 1: Powered by its proprietary WinMax software, Hurco’s 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.

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.

Figure 2: The VCX600i cantilever 5-axis machine is equipped with CTS and linear scales, a 12k spindle, and B-axis travel of +40/-110 deg.

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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Y-Axis Parting In Multi-Task Machines And Turning Centres

Y-Axis Parting In Multi-Task Machines And Turning Centres

One of the manufacturing megatrends of recent decades is to simplify and minimise the number of machining set-ups required to produce a specific Y-Axis component. Contributed by Sandvik Coromant

Markets call for shorter lead times and reduced inventories, and this creates a clear incentive for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and perhaps even more so for their suppliers to look for ways to streamline component production as much as possible.

Complex geometries must be accomplished with a minimal number of set-ups and operations, preferably in a Y-Axis single machine. The profitability of a given part may even depend on the capability of combining several set-ups in a single machine.

Machine Tools Upgraded With Live Tooling And Y-Axis

One aspect of the single set-up trend is adding “live tooling”, in other word rotating tools, to turning centres. To accomplish this, Y-axis turn-mill machines were introduced in the late 1990s. The initial idea was to simply make it possible to drive a milling cutter, drill or threading tap on one or more tool positions in the turret to eliminate limitations of polar interpolation and the related programming difficulties.

The first simple types of live tools in turning centres had a significant limitation, however. Because the rotating cutters were in most machine designs simply added to the turret, they could only be driven in the same two axes of motion as the turning tools, in other words on the X- and Z-axes.

As a result of this, any workpiece feature that is not parallel or perpendicular to the spindle centre line or is located along the workpiece centre line, was not within the direct reach of the rotating drill, mill or tap driven by the turret.

To improve the reach, an extra set of ways was added to move the live tool across the spindle face. This was accomplished by mounting the live tools on revolver sides or on its face, by installing the Y-axis ways on a slanted bed, or by using an independent milling head.

Both machine tool makers and manufacturers soon recognised the benefits of this approach. Now, around two decades later, the Y-axis has become a standard feature in nearly all multi-task machines and optional in many new turning centres.

Adding the Y-axis into a turning centre provides 90-degrees angularity between the three linear axes, in a way much like a 3-axis machining centre, as the Z-axis customarily is parallel to the spindle centreline in most lathe-type machine tools. While the X-axis provides the conventional plunge turning feed motion, the Y-axis creates a vertical dimension perpendicular to the plane jointly defined by the Z- and X-axes.

 

Challenges When Parting Off

Parting off is a crucial stage in any turning process where it is required. It takes up only a small percentage of the total cutting time but it is usually the last operation before the part is finished.

A breakage of the parting tool can easily result in machine downtime and quality issues, and in a worst-case scenario the workpiece may have to be scrapped and all the value added during previous work stages is lost. Due to this, manufacturers are reluctant to compromise in any way the process security of a parting operation.

Material cost is another major factor. Particularly when working costly materials, such as heat- resistant super-alloys (HRSA), there is a strong incentive to use the narrowest possible inserts.

These factors result in two diametrically opposite requirements for parting tools: They should be as narrow and slender as possible to minimise the loss of material and to optimise the reach of the tool for maximal work diameters.

Yet slender tools easily suffer from poor stability and consequently from vibrations and noise. Surface finish and dimensional tolerances ruined by chattering are generally unacceptable risks in parting operations.

Y-axis Parting

While the Y-axis substantially broadened the possibilities to use rotating tools in multi-task machines and turning centres, now this capability has inspired a innovation in one of the original missions of these machine tool types: Y-axis parting. This new parting-off tool and method offers significant productivity and process security improvements in potentially any parting operation.

Conceived from Sandvik Coromant, Y-axis parting is based on an simple principle. While conventional parting off tools align with the X-axis of the machine tool, the Y-axis tool has simply been rotated 90 degrees anti-clockwise to align with the Y-axis.

In the conventional parting tool configuration, the relatively long and slender cutting blade and holder is fed at a 90 degree angle into the rotating workpiece and the largest cutting force is generated by the cutting speed, and the rest by feed motion.

The resultant force vector is directed diagonally into the tool at an angle of roughly 30 degrees, in other words across its second weakest section (only the width of the blade is weaker). This is conventionally counteracted by reducing the blade overhang and by increasing the blade height. The downside of both remedies is potentially compromised usability of the tool.

By turning the tip seat 90 degrees and utilising the Y-axis, the tool can cut its way into the workpiece essentially with its front end, which nearly aligns the resulting cutting force vector with the longitudinal axis of the blade.

The finite element method analyses carried out by the company’s research and development team found that the distribution of forces eliminates critical stresses typical to conventional blades and increases the bending stiffness at a maximum cutting depth (CDX) of 60 mm by more than six times. Or, conversely, the susceptibility to plastic deformations and instability is as low as one sixth in the Y-axis design compared with the deformations typical to conventional parting blades.

Y-Axis Parting In Multi-Task Machines And Turning Centres

Benefits Of Y-Axis Parting

The more than 600 percent increase in blade stiffness allows substantially higher feed rates and longer overhangs without a loss in stability, which consequently improves the productivity of the tool in equal measure.

Thanks to this, parts can be parted off closer to the subspindle to save raw material and improve the stability of the operation. Rather than the rigidity of the parting blade and tool holder, it is the insert that now represents the bottleneck for increasing performance of parting operations.

The general recommendation for parting off bars is to minimise overhang (OH) or, at a long OH, to use a light cutting geometry or to reduce feed. A common threshold value for reduced feed is an OH exceeding 1.5 times blade height. With Y-axis tooling, longer overhangs can be achieved without settling for less than optimal feed rates, cutting geometries or tool dimensions.

As in all turning operations, it is important to position the cutting edge of a parting tool as close to the workpiece centre line as possible to avoid pip formation or tool breakage. Parting tools should be set within ±0.1 mm of the workpiece centreline.

The conventional recommendation for long overhangs is to set the cutting edge 0.1 mm above centre to compensate for bending down. Thanks to the increased stiffness and consequently reduced bending, Y-axis tooling may eliminate the need for over-centre settings and prevent the related disadvantages such as premature insert breakages when pushing through centre and rapid flank wear.

Measuring the tool length calls for particular care, because when it comes to Y-axis tools, the length also determines the centre height. On the other hand, this can be seen as a security feature against set-up errors: because measuring the length is always necessary, it also serves as a double-check for the centre height setting. If the cutting edge is difficult to see, there is also a gauge plane on the end of the tool. The distance between the gauge plane and the cutting edge is marked on the Y-axis tools.

Other benefits include lower noise levels, better surface finish and a more reliable process as well as the capability to part off larger diameters than currently possible.

Machine-Specific Aspects Of Y-Axis Parting

Turning centres are generally used for mass production from bar stock, typically 65 mm in diameter, and in this type of machining the biggest benefits of Y-axis parting are improved productivity and surface quality. The opportunities for quality optimisation can also be interesting, since parting off is typically the last stage for a component. An additional opportunity is to improve the machining economics by reducing the parting width.

For multi-task machines, Y-axis parting blades primarily offers increased accessibility and capability for larger diameters. A pre-test saw a 50 percent increase in the overhang when cutting a conventional 120 mm diameter bar at the maximum feed capacity of the insert. A 300 percent productivity increase was achieved with no process security complications. In a customer test case, Y-axis parting successfully replaced band sawing for a 180mm diameter Inconel bar, resulting in significant productivity improvement thanks to dramatically shorter machining times.

In a typical slant-bed machine, the X-axis creates an ‘uphill’ slanted towards the front of the machine, with spindles on one or both side ends of the slant bed, and the X-axis travel is usually substantially longer than the Y-axis travel. The resulting work space limitations must be considered when considering the usability of Y-axis parting for a specific component.

In a multi-task machine, which essentially could be characterised as a machining centre with turning option, typical tool assemblies, such as the HSK63T blade adaptor, are often relatively long to enable sufficient reach between the main chuck and sub-chuck. As a result of this, the total set-up is weak in the X direction compared to the Y-axis load, where the cutting force is directed into the tool assembly and into the machine spindle.

Similar conditions apply to many turning centres equipped with a driven tool/milling option on the Y-axis. Typical Y-axis tool assemblies, usually based on a VDI adaptor or a bolt-on blade adaptor for the machine-adapted clamping unit are long and slender to reach between main- and sub-chuck and allow parting off close to chuck. Again, the result is a weak set-up in the X-direction compared to Y-axis, where the cutting force is directed into the tool assembly and into the turret. Y-axis parting can help to eliminate both problems.

How To Get Started

An investment in Y-axis parting is first and foremost a change in the approach to parting operations and the related ways of working. It offers a way to more fully utilise the capabilities of machines already fitted with a Y-axis. Alternatively, it is an option that can substantially increase the productivity of parting operations in a new machine or a modified process set-up.

The biggest concrete investment is in programming, with obvious implications in terms of personnel resources and scheduling. The tool motion itself is easily programmed, while different machines and control system have different parameter settings that must be changed to get constant cutting speed on the Y-axis. Necessary parameter settings are described in the CNC control manual.

Y-axis parting can even offer a chance to reduce the tool inventory because there is less need for dedicated blades and since the new Y-axis blades fit in standard adaptors and use standard inserts such as CoroCut QD.

As a practical consideration, it should be noted that the cutting edge is 7 mm above the Y = 0 position when mounted on a standard blade adaptor. The operator should make sure that this protrusion is offset in the CNC program.

 

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