Shop Solutions: Shop Leaps Into Latest Grinding Technology
Technology change has had a universal impact on competitiveness—from the smallest shop to the largest plants. Most who invested in new technology have found that once they’ve made the leap forward, they have to continue to keep up with technological change. "You know, it wasn’t all that long ago we all thought the fax machine was a brilliant idea," says John Bachmeier, president, Damen Carbide (Wood Dale, IL). "Today, the fax is just about obsolete. Everything now is executed through electronics—e-mail, texting, instant messaging, and tweeting. It’s gotten to the point that some customers don’t want to talk with you on the phone."
A decade ago, Bachmeier thought about upgrading Damen Carbide’s battery of grinders with the latest technology, taking his grinding capability to the "next level." Damen Carbide is a 60-year-old shop of 25 employees operating in a 20,000 ft² (1858-m²) facility. "I see us as very much the definition of the job shop. We do just about anything: turning, milling, EDM, jig grinding, flat grinding, ID/OD grinding, and profile grinding. We work in very tough materials: tool steel, alloy steel, carbide, tungsten carbide, ceramics, and titanium. Our lot sizes are one part and up to tens of thousands. Some of what we make includes solid-carbide saws, knives, flat and circular form tools, carbide dies, CNC ID/OD and out-of-round grinding," says Bachmeier. "We’re in just about any industry you can think of: energy, agricultural, automotive, electronics, aerospace, medical, defense, and military."
Bachmeier called on Integrated Machinery Systems (IMS; Itasca, IL), a firm he had worked successfully with in the past. Together, they looked at various brands of grinders, comparing features, ease of programming, level of automation, loading/unloading systems, processing capability, wheel and dressing monitoring systems, and industry reputation, especially regarding service and, of course, price.
From the beginning of their search, both Bachmeier and IMS were drawn toward grinding technology from United Grinding Technologies (UGT; Miamisburg, OH). "One of the things that comes with every UGT machine—besides superior technology—is the peace of mind knowing that you’ve got the best applications and service team in North America behind you," says Bachmeier.
In a 10-year period, Bachmeier bought five CNC Studers: three S40s, one S31, and the latest, an S22 with the HSG (high-speed grinding) package. He also has a Walter tool and cutter grinder and has just purchased a Blohm Profimat MT 408 for surface, profile, and creep-feed grinding. "Today, customers expect jobs to be done faster, cheaper, with absolute accuracy and lightning-fast turnaround—tolerances of ±0.0001" [0.003 mm] and tighter, with surface finishes to 2–3 µm rms, a true polish finish. The only way you can achieve this kind of accuracy, speed, and turnaround is to have the very best technology. In our case that means CNC Studers from UGT," says Bachmeier.
The Studer CNC S31 is designed for grinding workpieces in individual, as well as short and long series production. It can be automated and is especially well-suited for use in the tooling and aerospace sectors. The machine features a revolving wheelhead that can be swiveled manually or automatically, a high-resolution B-axis, a frequency-controlled motor spindle for ID and OD grinding, and a C-axis for the workhead for form and thread grinding. The Granitan mineral casting machine base provides dampening and thermal stability, producing high-quality finishes and holding tolerance at high speeds.
The CNC S40 features up to four grinding wheels via a turret wheelhead that swivels automatically, a high-resolution B-axis, and a C-axis for form and thread grinding. "The advantage the CNC S40s gives us is the capability to grind long and heavy workpieces. These machines have a grinding length of 63" (1.6 m) and workpiece weight of 286 lb [130 kg]," says Bachmeier. "Once people found we had that kind of workpiece capacity, we began receiving RFQs from companies that produce heavy shafts—50 to 60" [1270–1500-mm] long. The CNC S40s have opened new doors to customers in the long shaft business."
Bachmeier’s latest addition to his shop is the Studer S22 with HSG package. The new S22 grinding platform is flexible, with its diverse expansion options, enabling it to be configured for most any production grinding application. Linear-motor axis drives, short reaction times, and optimized travel combine with the HSG feature’s speeds up to 140 m/sec contribute to its productivity. The S22 can be used with one or multiple grinding wheels to complete a part with different features in one clamping. The machine can also be used to do high-speed grinding as well as high-speed machining in conjunction with the high-precision C-axis.
"When customers visit and they see our battery of CNC Studers, they know what we’re capable of—the tight tolerances, polished surface finishes, accuracy, and repeatability due to machine stability. When we put on our Web site that we had five CNC Studers, it was amazing the number of new and large customers that called us." What Bachmeier didn’t know—at least right away was that taking Damen’s grinding capabilities to the "next level" would require making the same leap with other grinding-related processes like inspection.
"The Studers were so much faster than previous methods of grinding that we soon found we were processing parts faster than we could inspect them. Micrometers and comparators were soon going the way of the fax machine," Bachmeier says. "We had to find a faster, more accurate means of inspection. We bought Zeiss CMMs and contour tracers. With this technology, we are not only keeping up with processing, but I’m now involved with companies with special needs—unique thread rolls, special shapes, complex and complicated parts, because with the CMMs and contour tracers we can now tackle jobs we couldn’t before."
About a year ago, Damen Carbide received ISO 9001 certification. Certification and advanced inspection equipment are required if one wants to go after new and larger companies, Bachmeier believes, and he says that one customer had put a hold on a job in process and waited until Damen Carbide had the CMM before it could finish the job.
"The truth of the matter," Bachmeier explains "is that customers, especially the big guys, are less and less willing to do incoming inspection. They’ve thrown this back on the suppliers. They don’t want to have sophisticated inspection facilities. They want their suppliers to make that investment. They rely on us, and not just for the physical inspection. They want data—all the data relevant to their particular parts, data that systems like CMMs and contour tracers can generate. They want this data in inspection report form, printed out, and included in every shipment. Now they have complete traceability. Customers know when their parts were made, on what machine, how the parts were made, what was inspected, process variations—just about anything involved in making their parts."
Rather than scrapping out equipment, Bachmeier has put some older manual equipment to work processing small-lot orders. "We can’t make any money setting up one-part or two-part jobs on one of our CNC grinders. Nor would the customer want to pay for a one-part job that’s been run on one of our CNC Studers. So, we direct all our small-lot jobs to the manual machines, and this seems to work out fine. We’ve drawn a line at 10 pieces. Any jobs above that line are candidates for the CNC machines; below the line, and they run on our manual machines," Bachmeier says.
Bachmeier came into the business working his way up through his father’s shop. Today, succession at the shop will come from his two sons and his sister Rita Olvera’s son. She is vice president, and all of them are actively involved in the business. "They’re going through CMM training right now, but they’ll have to work their way up just as I did. When they’re ready to take over managing Damen Carbide, they’ll know the business inside out. Of this you can be certain," Bachmeier concludes. ME
For more information on Damen Carbide, go to www.damencarbide.com, or phone 630-766-7875; on United Grinding Technologies, go to www.grinding.com, or phone 937-847-1253.
Shop Machines Complex
Brisker GmbH (Vienna, Austria) specializes in turning and milling precision parts, mostly small or microparts in production runs of 20–5000, machined from materials like stainless, aluminum, and titanium. Founded in 1950 by Johann Brisker and under the management since 1984 of his son, also Johann Brisker, the company has grown by acquiring the latest machine technology, enabling it to expand its capabilities for processing complex, high-tech parts. "We try to have the newest machines, and turn them over after eight to 10 years, while they’re still working and replace them with the latest turning and milling technology," says Brisker. The company currently employs 25 working in an 800-m² shop running 1½ shifts.
Brisker manufactures more than 2000 parts, many for the transportation industry, such as brakes for high-speed trains, brake armatures, pistons, cylinders, as well as hydraulic and pneumatic couplings and valve bodies. Only one is an automotive part. It’s a set screw machined from a specialty Swiss steel for the Porsche 911 at the rate of 30,000 per year. "It’s the lowest margin job in shop," says Brisker, "and we’ve been producing it for about seven years." Other parts that are manufactured include bodies for gun sights used in hunting, joints for frameworks and awnings used for exhibit displays, and a coated steel flange for a windshield wiper unit used on intercity trains.
The shop has a total of 27 machines, 17 of which are supplied by Emco Maier GmbH (Hallein, Austria, and Columbus, OH). Six are milling machines, and the rest are turning machines. Brisker’s turning capability has evolved from initially purchasing an Emcoturn 320 in 1987, and following that up with the purchase of nine Emcoturn 332 machines with counter spindles and two turrets. For complete machining from bar stock, the company followed with the purchase of two Hyperturn 665 models.
The most recent acquisition was aimed at filling a need for machining parts at the smaller end of the parts size spectrum. Brisker acquired the Hyperturn 45 milling/turning center. The Hyperturn 45 features a counter-spindle machine with two turrets with a total of up to 24 driven tools, a VDI25 rapid-change system, and a Y axis in a space-saving compact footprint. One great advantage of the Hyperturn 45 over the Emcoturn 332 is the Y axis with a 70-mm traverse path in the upper slide, and a Z axis in the lower slide system. Just like the Hyperturn 645/665, the main and counter spindles of the Hyperturn 45 are equipped with integrated, water-cooled spindle motors with 15-kW drives, delivering a maximum speed of 7000 rpm and torque of 100 N•m. For longer parts, 45-mm through-hole counter spindle is available (32 mm is standard).
"The high dynamics of the machine meant that we had to install harder vibration dampers and screw the machine to the floor at four points, rather than just two," Brisker explains. In addition, the spindle length of the Hyperturn 45 was adjusted to match the short bar loader magazine. The machine can process the typical 1-m bar stock without the need for an additional support. The large dimensions of the counter-spindle connection with the A2-5 nose enables the counter spindle to be used to remove bar stock parts up to 45-mm diam.
An important advantage of using the same or related machines with the same control technology is machine compatibility. Brisker uses workshop programming for turning, and the Hyperturn 45 features the Siemens Sinumerik 840D-sl, which provides quick and easy programming. When coupled with the Esprit CAM software from DP Technology, the Hyperturn 45 is transformed into a high-tech production center with 3-D simulation.
Comparison of the Hyperturn 45’s machining performance with that of the Emcoturn 332 in processing a workpiece with a high amount of milling content (about 50%) showed significant improvement. With the Emcoturn 332, machining took about 3 min, which, according to Brisker, "is already a good time." Without any optimization, however, the Hyperturn 45 reduced this machining time to under 2 min, for an improvement of about 35%. "For parts with a large number of turning operations, the average increase in productivity is about 20%, and this result was achieved solely through the significantly higher machine dynamics, faster rapid traverses, and reduced tool-change times," the company reports.
Brisker, which acquired its first Hyperturn 45 in January 2010, is in the process of adding to its machine lineup. "We are so happy with its performance that we are replacing the 10 Emco 332 MC Pluses with the HT45s. The 332s were acquired over seven years, and we intend to replace them with HT45s at the same pace," says Brisker. "The HT 45 is 20% faster than the 332 in most operations, sometimes more. A simple nut takes 25% less time to totally machine and mark with a serial number using the HT45, rather than just machining with the 332, and having to mark the serial number with a separate operation. In the past, there were some jobs that we just couldn’t do, because they were so complicated and required tolerances of 0.01 mm. The Y axis on the HT 45 has allowed us to go after and bid successfully on these jobs," says Brisker.
At Brisker, on-machine automation using bar feeders figures prominently in overcoming the difficulty of finding qualified machinists. "It’s tough getting qualified employees," says Brisker. "There is no formal apprenticeship program, but one generation of machinists teaches the next, and our average employee has 10 years experience." A walk on the shop floor reveals five machines being run by one operator. One machine was turning a stainless pneumatic control unit, while the four other machines were making other parts.
"We don’t just blindly buy Emco out of habit," says Brisker, "we have also used CNC machines from other manufacturers." In commenting on the latest acquisition of the Hyperturn 45, Brisker says, "However, for this range of parts in particular, there is simply no comparable two-spindle machine on the market that offers such a high level of precision from such a small footprint. Our machine hall [shop floor] is designed and planned down to the very last corner," Brisker explains, "which means that the machine footprint is always one of our key criteria." ME
For more information on Emco Maier Corp. go to www.emco-maier-usa.com or phone 614-771-5991.
Gets Online Response
Founded in 1978, Delta Machining Inc. (Niles, MI) specializes in providing engineering and manufacturing services to companies in the energy industry. Much of the shop’s work involves machining castings for the air-compressor and gas-compressor markets, with more recent expansions into solar and wind energy products. Currently employing 67 individuals and using 35 CNC machines, Delta has succeeded by building and sustaining a reputation for quality, both in services and products.
Delta maximizes its return on machine investment by purchasing reliable equipment and using it for as long as it provides benefits. The oldest machines at the company date back to the mid-1980s, with the rest of the shop’s assortment providing a snapshot of the technological evolution of the past two and a half decades. As would be expected, operating machines of such varying ages provides a unique challenge in terms of service and maintenance.
Traditionally, Delta relied primarily on a responsive model to maintenance issues and problems were dealt with as they arose. In 2005, the company hired Jeff Oursler to the position of maintenance manager, with the goal of achieving smoother operations with less unexpected downtime.
"When I first started, we took somewhat of a firefighting approach," says Oursler. "We weren’t paying enough attention to preventive maintenance and usually didn’t have a lot of warning when a machine went down. There were mornings I’d come in and find something had gone wrong overnight, and a machine had been sitting idle for quite a few hours. We knew we had to improve our approach."
Initial efforts at improvement focused on increasing internal knowledge of the broad range of machines operated at the shop. While service representatives from machine tool builders usually provided quick responses, even the fastest external response couldn’t compare to being able to tackle an issue internally. In 2006, the initiative began to shift to focusing on preventive maintenance as a key to ensuring operational reliability.
With the new objective in mind, Oursler concentrated on establishing firmly scheduled maintenance routines based on machine tool builders’ recommended programs. He also instituted regular machine inspections so that any potential issues could be identified before they affected production.
"You have to apply the same mindset as you do to an automobile," says Oursler. "You can buy the most reliable car out there, but if you don’t take it in for oil changes and follow the manufacturer’s maintenance suggestions, you’re eventually going to start encountering problems on a pretty regular basis. When your car breaks down and it’s unexpected, it creates a major hassle in your life. It’s much easier to work the maintenance into your schedule and eliminate that unpredictability. That holds even truer when you’re dealing with a production line and a whole array of equipment."
Initially, Oursler faced a challenge in convincing employees of the benefits of preventive maintenance. Workers in production felt that they simply could not afford to schedule machine downtime. Breakdowns caused by a lack of maintenance would throw production behind, creating a vicious cycle in which the idea of planning to take a machine offline could cause substantial anxiety. Slowly, but surely, Oursler and his team converted others on the shop floor, selling the benefits of routine maintenance.
After several years of the new focus, preventive maintenance became second nature to Delta, though it did still require substantial effort and time. Operators assumed responsibility for many of the small daily and weekly tasks required to keep the program on schedule.
Recently, the company has achieved substantial success through implementation of a preventive maintenance initiative, a program that integrates use of the Mazak PartsWeb online parts ordering system. In 2009, the new option provided by Mazak Corp. (Florence, KY) helped to streamline some of Oursler’s duties. At that point, the machine tool builder launched Mazak PartsWeb, a Web site dedicated to receiving and processing spare parts orders. With Mazak accounting for over 85% of the machines in its shop, Delta became an early adopter of the service.
"With traditional parts ordering, you’re subject to fluctuations in demand from the market as a whole," says Oursler. "A machine builder can only keep so many call-center reps on hand and have it be cost-effective. If a bunch of customers call at once and you’re at the tail end of that line, you either have to wait to talk to someone or leave a message and hope you’re available when you get called back. Online ordering transforms that whole experience."
Under Mazak PartsWeb, the ordering experience bears a strong resemblance to shopping at a consumer products "e-tailer". Users can search for parts by ID number or description and then view pricing information and real-time inventory to see if the needed component is in stock. If it is, the item can be added to the virtual shopping cart. The user checks out, either paying by credit card or placing the order on account. E-mails are then sent to provide notification of order receipt, shipping, and delivery. These include tracking information for the courier transporting the order, allowing customers to always see their parts current location and expected delivery time. Additionally, Mazak now offers after-hours emergency part shipments for urgent, unexpected needs.
"On Mazak PartsWeb, most orders can be placed in a matter of a minute or so," says Oursler. "That represents a huge time-savings over calling in or placing an order via fax. It’s freed up a couple hours per month out of my schedule, and that’s time I can use to find other ways of improving our systems and processes. It’s also nice that there’s an automatic 3% discount for orders placed online."
Mazak PartsWeb provides a valuable complement to the goals Delta has achieved through its own efforts. On a weekly basis, the company identifies components it will consume for upcoming scheduled maintenance and places orders reflecting its needs. After four years of refining an aggressive approach to improving its in-house preventive maintenance and service program, the company has come close to reaching self-sufficiency. These days, Oursler rarely needs to call in outside help for any type of issue.
"It’s gotten to be pretty rare that we have to call in the Mazak field service guys to help with a machine issue," says Oursler. "When I do give them a call, they like to joke that it’s probably going to be one of the harder things they’ve worked on in a while. If we can’t handle something ourselves, it’s guaranteed to be a pretty tough situation."
Through consistent efforts to increase the reliability of its processes, Delta Machining has dramatically decreased machine downtime and improved workflow through its processes. The results have been impressive. In 2008, the company averaged 380 hr of unplanned downtime per month. The following year, that figure dropped to 280 hr per month. For 2010, it fell to just 120 hr per month.
Delta’s current goal is to eliminate breakdowns altogether, an objective that many within the company feel will be attained in the near future. By maintaining its dedication to improving its processes and adopting new technology wherever it provides benefit, the company continues to hone its competitive advantage and maximize its chances of future success. ME
This article was first published in the June 2011 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.