thumbnail group

Connect With Us:

ME Channels / Shop Solutions

Shop Solutions: Texas-Sized Tools for Oil Patch Jobs

Parts used in the oil drilling business for the Oil Patch are tough and large with hardness of Rc 36–40 with diameters to 40" (1016 mm), lengths to 220" (5.6 m), and weighing up to 2 t. They
require equally tough, rigid, highly flexible machine tools to deal with them. Some shops with the right tools thrive on the challenge of machining these workpieces.

Juan Alvarez has spent the better part of 40 years in the "Oil Patch" in Texas, as a leading manufacturer of drilling and downhole tools with several major oil-field equipment manufacturers. Today, Alvarez is president of JNB Machine Shop, a ten-year-old supplier of components for downhole drilling applications in oil wells. JNB is a 12,800 ft² (1189 m²) two-bay shop with a 5-t crane in each bay.

"The downhole components that we machine are integrated in a larger assembly that makes up the drilling jar," Alvarez says. "The drilling jar is the part that does the actual drilling. It has bits that cut into the ground. We make shafts, the mandrels, that are part of the drilling jar. And some of these are very long, very large, and very heavy. When these parts are assembled into the drilling jar, the splines engage with another mandrel that has splines, and they are aligned in such a fashion that they provide the torque required for the drilling forces. This is when the jar is rotating and doing the drilling. So these splines interlock with other splines and that provides the torque for the rotational movement of the drilling jar as it rotates and cuts."JC Payne, VP and Juan Alvarez, President of JNB Machine Shop

"The types of materials we turn and mill include 4140, 4340, 4330 steel—all for downhole applications," explains John "JC" Payne, JNB vice president. "The majority of parts machined are mandrels. Some mandrels can be as long as 220" [5.6 m] in length with an 8" [203-mm] OD. Other parts that we run can feature up to a 40" [1016-mm] OD short lengths and can weigh up to 2 t. Previously, we were running the mandrels in a process that required multiple machines.

These long parts required turning the mandrel around to machine both ends. The hardness of the material for downhole tools typically is Rc 36–40. We’d do the turning on a lathe, and then move the part to a mill, do a complete setup, and then mill the splines. So, moving these mandrels from machine to machine not only encouraged damage but involved time-consuming, difficult, and delicate maneuvering involving forklifts and cranes."

Everything has changed now that JNB invested in several new Hyundai WIA machines–a VX650-50 VMC, two L700MA turning centers with live tooling, and an L600 turning center. They have rendered the previous multi-machine process obsolete. "Now these parts are run in a single setup on a single lathe," says Payne. "We load the part on the machine, machine each feature, take it off and it’s ready for shipment. We have gained 30–50% efficiency with the new Hyundais and can now produce about four mandrels with splines per day, versus the two to three per day we were getting with our old process."

Parts run on the turning centers are primarily mandrels, long shafts with a thru hole of various diameters. They rough turn the mandrel, finish it, and then machine two different types of threads—OD Acme threads and API threads. The Acme threads are on one end and the API threads are on the other end. The last operation is cutting the splines that are spaced at 60° and are 35–36" (889–914-mm) long. The splines are cut after the turning and threading operations.  

JNB is capable of cutting a wide array of splines from straight splining to involute splining by using specialized cutting tools on the turret and the live tooling features. The Hyundai machines are versatile, and, in the case of the L700MAs, they can mill the splines in the lathe without having to take the mandrel out of the machine. The Hyundai’s can easily hold 0.001–0.002" (0.03–0.05 mm) in tolerance and repeatability. These tools have to be particularly durable because of the harsh environments in which they work and the Hyundai turning centers offer plenty of rigidity, due to their design and weight of 51,808 lb (23,500 kg).

The fourth axis of the Hyundai WIA VX650-50 VMCs has also significantly helped reduce setup time. "Some of the parts that we run on the VMC include drive shafts, which require turning performed on a smaller lathe and some milling. These parts are used in directional drilling operations," says Payne. "We do elliptical or circular splining on both ends. The most popular of these parts is 3.25" (82.5 mm) in diameter. The material is 4330V modified. Most splines are short, 3.00" [76-mm] long. There are 23 splines on each end. The weight of this shaft is approximately 44 lb [20 kg]. We had the mill equipped with an optional fourth axis which lets us do splining and profiling, which normally couldn’t be done without a fourth axis."

Alvarez describes the close working relationship JNB has with its machine dealer. "The dealer that we work with, Hillary Machinery [Houston], knew we were looking at moving up to larger parts. They also knew at the time we were using multiple machine in our process. Hillary approached us with information on the Hyundai WIA machines they felt would be a good addition and bring value to our company.

"We ordered the first Hyundai WIA machine two years ago, and we now have four turning centers and one vertical machining center," says Payne. "We really like the live tooling in the two L700MA turning centers. Those are the first two machines we bought from Hyundai WIA, and the live tooling was a very strong selling point. The larger turning centers have allowed us to compete for larger and larger parts, whereas before we were not competitive in those markets. These machines have definitely given us a competitive advantage against other companies of our size that don’t have the capabilities that we now do."

The Hyundai WIA L600 heavy-duty CNC turning center has a maximum turning diameter of 36.2" (919 mm), a maximum turning length of 128" (3.2 m), a bar capacity of 4.6" (117 mm) in diameter, a 24" (609-mm) hydraulic chuck, spindle speed of 1800 rpm, with 60-hp (44.7-kW) spindle power.

The two Hyundai WIA L700MA heavy duty CNC turning centers have a maximum turning diameter of 36.2" (919 mm), a maximum turning length of 128" (3.2 m), a bar capacity of 6.5" (165 mm) in diameter, a 24" (609-mm) hydraulic chuck, spindle speed of 1500 rpm, with 60-hp (44.7-kW) spindle power. JNB Machine Shop

The Hyundai WIA VX650-50 vertical machining center has a 63 × 25.6" 1600 × 650-mm) table and a 2866 lb (1300-kg) table load capacity. Axes travels are 55.1" (1.4 m) in the X, 26" (660 mm) in the Y and 25" (635 mm) in the Z. Spindle taper is NT#50, spindle speed is 6000 rpm and spindle power is 20 hp (15 kW). Rapid traverse rates are 1417 ipm (36 m/min) for both X- and Y-axis; 1181 ipm (30 m/min) for the Z axis.

"We’re running these Hyundai machines 68 hours a week and have been from day one," Payne says. "They are never down, and we have parts continuously running through them. Further, these machines are not difficult to change over. A typical change can take 20–30 minutes. This is taking the part off and putting a new one on, requiring a new setup. Once the setup is done, the change can easily be done in five to 10 minutes."

Alvarez is optimistic about the future of his company. "Within the next few months we plan to expand our building by 50% so that we can increase production capacity. Business is very, very good. 2011 was our best year ever. Currently, we’re running at full capacity. That’s the main reason driving our decision to expand—to accommodate new equipment in order to meet customer demand. You can bet who we’ll be turning to: Hillary Machinery and Hyundai WIA." ME

For more information on Hyundai WIA, go to, or telephone 201-489-2887; on JNB Machine Shop go to,
or telephone 832-237-5000.


Auto Inspection
Solution Down Under

Delcam’s Australian sales partner, Camplex, has been able to supply a complete inspection solution to Metalsa, a leading supplier of automotive components in the country. The system comprises Delcam’s PowerSHAPE CAD software for data translation and repair, the company’s PowerINSPECT software for inspection, and a Baces3D portable measuring arm.

Metalsa is a global manufacturer of chassis, suspension, and body structures for both cars and commercial vehicles, with the philosophy "Quality as a way of life." Originally founded in Mexico, the company now also manufactures in North and South America, Germany, and India, as well as in Australia.

The Australian manufacturing plant is located on a large industrial site in Cheltenham, near Melbourne. It supplies local car manufacturers, including Toyota, GM-Holden, and Ford. For example, the company makes and supplies more than 60 components for the Toyota Camry, including under-body and body-shell components. Each component design must pass from Toyota’s design system to the Metalsa data system before manufacturing, prototyping and verification can begin.

Robert Nastasi, Metalsa’s quality engineer, has been part of the process of providing these car companies with quality parts since 1998. It is Nastasi’s job to ensure that Metalsa meets the standards demanded by the car and commercial vehicle companies he represents, without fail.

To do his job Nastasi has been using PowerINSPECT and PowerSHAPE for seven years and finds the tools very flexible, especially because they allow him to work with all the different data formats that the automobile manufacturers use.

Trialling of parts is done at various stages with targets to be met at every stage. As it passes through these stages, a component must be accurate enough to meet the automobile manufacturer’s exacting standards. The last stage is trial fitment. If the part meets parameters, it moves into the manufacturing phase at Metalsa.

DelcamThe increased demand for inspecting parts and tools many times in multiple places within the manufacturing chain, requires a software program that can be used on a variety of different inspection hardware platforms, including manual CMMs, CNC CMMs, inspection arms, and optical equipment.

PowerINSPECT is Metalsa’s first choice because it delivers a complete CAD-based inspection solution. It surpasses traditional 2-D inspection methods by offering the capability to inspect against all CAD data. With its on-screen feedback and detailed graphical displays, Nastasi can gain immediate feedback for each measured point and inspection reports can be generated automatically in a customized format.

PowerINSPECT, a leading hardware-independent inspection software, uses CAD models to provide accurate geometry definition for complex doubly curved surfaces and defines accurate nominal values for the shape. CAD files contain ever richer additional information, including detailed structure information for assemblies and GD&T. PowerINSPECT can read this information from all mainstream CAD formats and uses the design intent from the CAD file to help make inspection programming faster and easier. Using the CAD file also makes graphical reporting easier to visualize and understand, and allows much more effective collision detection for automated measurement

The new 2012 release includes new options to make production inspection even easier with the addition of basic reverse engineering functionality added to the point-cloud module. A new mirror command has been added to save programming time for symmetrical components. This allows the inspection sequence to be mirrored from one half of a component to the other half, or from the left-hand version of a design to the right-hand copy. The new feature can also reduce the possibility of programming errors and improve the consistency of the results between the two halves or parts.

The range of dimensions that can be displayed on the model has been increased to include more types of distance, angles, and diameters and radii. The options to display the various dimensions from the increased range have been made more versatile, to ensure the reports remain easy to read with only the required dimensions shown.

There are two important additions to the PowerINSPECT 2012 point-cloud module for laser scanners and other point cloud devices. STL export provides basic reverse engineering functionality for scanned data. The STL files can be used within PowerSHAPE Pro (Delcam’s hybrid CAD modeller) for more advanced reverse engineering operations. Point-cloud display has been enhanced with an option to show any back-facing points in a second color. This highlights any discontinuities in the data, including gaps or other problem areas, and so makes it easier to identify areas that may need re-scanning to capture the complete model.

It is now possible to measure edge points directly; it is no longer necessary to measure the surface first. This makes the process both easier and faster. However, it is recommended that both the edge and the surface should be checked if there is any likelihood of the part being distorted, for example, when checking flexible sheetmetal components.

The inspection of castings and forgings, and similar near-net shapes, has been improved with the addition of a new best-fit option. This centers the component within the measurement data so that the largest possible minimum stock is located on the part. It ensures that positive material exists in all areas of any semifinished part before it is sent for further machining. The option can be used with the PartAligner software to minimize setup times.

A number of enhancements have been included to give faster and easier programming, with less chance of errors. A new "lock workplane" option automatically creates a datum scheme matching the part’s coordinate system within PowerINSPECT’s GD&T True Position, while standard tolerances for Limit and Fit to ISO 286 and ISO 2768 have been included so that they can be selected from a pre-defined list. ME

For more information on Delcam, go to, or telephone:


High-Definition Plasma Expands Shop Options

GT Metal Products (Edmonton, Alberta, CA) is a custom metal-fabrication job shop that manufactures power-distribution panels, grain-hopper bottoms and aeration tubes, stair cases, hand rails and steel structures, computer module consoles, and complete communication and electrical cabinets. The company’s capabilities include CNC forming, plasma and laser cutting, robotic welding, rolling, shearing, punching and drilling, as well as drafting and engineering design. Their extensive fabrication capabilities range from the design, build, and delivery of a single custom part, to large-scale mass production requiring multi-process manufacturing.

GT Metal Products found that to be competitive in the market there was pressure to supply a far higher level of precision cutting than had previously been required. The company was looking for ways to ensure the proper angularity of cuts and accuracy of parts to customer drawings. They had to maintain required tolerances and make sure parts were straight and smooth, with few customer rejects.

In response to customer demand for more precise cutting than could be obtained with their older plasma system, GT Metal Products replaced it with two new CO2 lasers a few years ago. Unfortunately, while the new CO2 lasers were indeed able to deliver on their high-precision claims, their slower cut speeds seriously disrupted production flow and limited business growth. Operating and maintenance costs for the lasers were higher, and the thickness range able to be cut was adversely affected. The CO2 lasers reached their limit of effectiveness at thicknesses up to ¾" (19 mm) with the result that the company was faced with turning away customer requests for cutting of over ¾" (19-mm) mild steel. In addition, GT Metals had found that the laser tables, which measured 5 × 10' (1.5 × 3 m), imposed plate size limitations when demand was increasing for cutting 6 x 24' (1.8 × 7.3 m) plate.

With increased cutting time critical to its continued growth and success, GT Metals owner Dennis Berreth went looking for a cutting solution that would offer the fast cutting speeds and low maintenance costs typically associated with plasma, combined with a cut quality comparable to laser. His goal was to find a tool that could handle the backlog that had been building up on the lasers, ensure parts flow to the company’s seven full-time welders, and provide more quoting and business growth opportunities. GT Metal Products

Working with Pinnacle Industrial Automation Inc., the OEM that had sold the company the CO2 lasers, Berreth found a plasma-cutting solution that would offer the necessary productivity improvements along with a cut quality comparable to laser. Pinnacle recommended the integrated plasma-cutting solution from Hypertherm (Hanover, NH), which features an ultraprecise table motion that provides a near laser-quality cut. This system expands GT Metal Products’ already extensive offerings beyond the limitations of the lasers and enables greater flexibility in quoting, materials use, and production, with lower operating and maintenance costs. 

The full suite of Hypertherm components includes a HyPerformance Plasma HPR130XD, which delivers near laser-cut quality while minimizing operating and maintenance costs. An EDGE Pro CNC and the ArcGlide THC significantly improve productivity without operator intervention, increasing plasma cut speed 3× over the CO2 laser. The ProNest2010 nesting and process optimization software enables the programmer to monitor material usage and minimize scrap. The system features Hypertherm’s True Hole technology, which minimizes drilling and secondary operations by automatically delivering bolt-quality holes.

"HyPerformance Plasma cuts at lower cost, at higher speeds, with greater quality," Berreth says. "We have gone from cutting at 26 ipm [660 mm/min] with the lasers to 80 ipm [2 m/min] with the plasma, and drilling has been minimized due to the True Hole technology." The addition of the True Hole-enabled cutting machine immediately allowed GT Metal Products to reduce operating expenses by eliminating the second shift, and returning to the one-shift model, which reduced heating and cooling, supervision, and overtime costs.

The ProNest2010 software helps the programmers monitor material usage and minimize scrap, giving GT Metal Products greater flexibility with quoting projects because they can offer both laser and plasma pricing. "With quotes 30% less than laser quotes for the same job, plasma offers a cost-saving option," says Berreth. GT Metals is able to give its customers a choice of the two processes and a way to save money. Reduced maintenance costs have proven to be a benefit as well. "The plasma system is much easier to maintain and requires less than half the time," says Berreth. The material range of the HPR130XD has also expanded the services GT Metal Products offers, by allowing them to cut A516 (PVQ 516-70) steel plate, abrasion resistant (AR) steel, and quenched and tempered (QT) steel plate. Any material with scale or rust now automatically goes to the plasma. "We don’t cut a lot of it, but to keep our customers happy, we can cut it when we need to, and that is important," Berreth states.

GT Metal Products now uses both technologies (laser and plasma) to give customers the full range of processing metal thickness with the level of detail needed for the particular project or application. They offer laser cutting for fine features and extra detail on thinner materials used for precision parts with tight tolerances, very thin (less than 10 gage) stainless, or for parts with lots of holes that are very close together. For the larger, thicker, or longer pieces, like those for drilling rigs, construction, or agricultural installations, the plasma -cutting tool is ideal. Since the high-definition plasma offers excellent cut accuracy at about 30% less cost, some customers who originally requested laser cutting may opt for plasma when they see the results. Having both cutting tools in house removes all the variables and allows GT Metal Products to turn around work more quickly and avoid being at the mercy of a subcontractor’s schedule. ME

For more information on Hypertherm Inc. go to, or phone 800-643-0030.

Shop Solutions is edited by Senior Editor James Lorincz. He can be reached at


This article was first published in the May 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF

Published Date : 5/1/2012

Editor's Picks

Advanced Manufacturing Media - SME
U.S. Office  |  One SME Drive, Dearborn, MI 48128  |  Customer Care: 800.733.4763  |  313.425.3000
Canadian Office  |  7100 Woodbine Avenue, Suite 312, Markham, ON, L3R 5J2  888.322.7333
Tooling U  |   3615 Superior Avenue East, Building 44, 6th Floor, Cleveland, OH 44114  |  866.706.8665