Shop Solutions: Texas Shop Automates Precision Production
Data-Matique (Garland, TX) is a full-service, high-precision sheetmetal and machining manufacturer whose parts are used for products from leading innovative companies in a variety of industries. Included are aircraft, ATM and banking automation, computer electronics, medical, oil and gas, and motor vehicle parts, telecommunications, and military industries. Founded in 1973, Data-Matique markets itself as a one-stop shop supplier of high-precision fabrication, precision welding, assembly, and inventory management processes, serving everything from small simple jobs to complex or high-volume production runs.
Today, more than 90 skilled professionals are employed in the company’s sprawling, high-tech 83,000 ft² (7711 m²) plant which houses some of the most specialized equipment that the precision sheetmetal industry has to offer. In 2007, Data-Matique purchased the C5 Compact Express turret punch press from Prima Power North America Inc. (Arlington Hts., IL) which added unmanned operation through its highly compact load/unload automation. The unit’s loading/unloading solution utilizes the space above and below the machine, requiring only slightly more space than a turret punch press.
“The C5 Compact Express was our first automated sheetmetal machine,” said C.A. Theis, general manager. “We can load 6000 lb [2721 kg] of material on the machine and walk away from it. It loads, punches, forms, and unloads automatically. We are certainly interested in automation that helps reduce labor costs, and with automation like this you can have one man operating two or three machines. We currently run the C5 untended on some jobs and are striving for lights-out automation,” Theis said.
Features of the C5 Compact Express provide precision production in a highly automated way. Nibbling speeds up to 1100 hpm are reached with its fast servo-hydraulic punching. The servo-controlled ram, stroke speed, and position are fully and individually adjustable in both directions. Punching modes include Quiet Punch, downforming, and marking. Blanks or full-sized sheets are easily loaded using four optimally positioned gage pins. Sheet loading is performed with a simple push and always close to the table’s edge. Sheet supports rise from the table to handle heavy material.
The C5 delivers the processed components to a freely programmable position on the table, increasing the operator’s efficiency. The entire material flow on the C5 can be conducted from just one side, allowing the machine to be positioned anywhere on the shop floor, even in a corner. Prima Power’s patented automatic clamp-setting PCS automatically positions sheet clamps according to the numerical program, virtually eliminating dead zones. When changing production from full size to small sheets, clamp settings can be made automatically without wasting operator time. In place of a drop chute in the ordinary sense, unloading is done by a mechanism that allows components to 19.7 × 19.7" (500 × 500 mm) in size to be moved onto a lower level where they exit the machine as a stack.
In 2007, Data-Matique began a search for new equipment that would incorporate the latest automated technology for a laser/punch machine. The company chose the Prima Power LP6 laser/punch combination with the LST6 load and stacking robot. The LP laser/punch combination features punching, forming, tapping, and laser cutting in a single unit for the most varied sheet-metal operations.
“The aircraft parts that we build are very hole intensive in order to keep the weight down,” said Theis. “There is also a great deal of punching and forming on these parts. With the laser punch, we can punch the holes, form the countersinks, laser-cut the perimeter, and go straight to the press brake, eliminating secondary operations. We don’t have to deburr because it is such a clean cut.”
Data-Matique has benefited from the LP6 in a number of ways. Piece-part costs have been reduced due to faster punching time, reduction in direct labor assigned to set up and punching, and reduction of number of manual operations. Full sheets can be used, eliminating the need to shear to size blanks being processed, and machine utilization has been increased. If the LP6 is equipped with a load/unload system, untended operation can be achieved from load, punch, upform, laser cut, unload, and sorting of parts in one machine.
“The LP has allowed us to increase our sales considerably,” said Theis. “It has dramatically increased our capacity. In the past the choice was either punching or laser cutting on one machine. We have made parts that went on both the laser and the punch, but then you are moving it from one machine to the other and you lose tolerance. In addition, punching the entire part created a lot of deburring. Conversely, if you just laser-cut the part, you can’t perform such secondary operations like countersinks or forming operations. However, the LP allows us to punch and laser-cut the part on one machine, giving us a higher quality, more precision piece, and we’re doing it a lot faster. As a result, we run a substantial amount of parts lights-out on the LP,” Theis said.
“Faster, better, with less labor is the new mantra of the precision sheetmetal industry these days,” said Theis. “And that’s what we are doing with the Prima Power LP. We are running parts faster with more precision, and we are using less labor to produce the parts. The LP has allowed us to reduce our costs and be more competitive in the marketplace. Cost reduction is extremely important. You must find a way to build parts for less money. If you can’t, you are in trouble. That’s what automation is all about,” said Theis.
The Prima Power LP combines the C-Series 20-station turret punch press with the latest generation of CO2 lasers. The punching part of the LP consists of a 30-t turret punch press that has excellent forming capabilities, including 0.630" (16-mm) high with no die interference, auto-index, Multi-Tool, programmable clamp settings, and brush tables. The 20-station, 33-t C5 hydraulic turret punch press has a maximum sheet capacity of 50 × 100" (1.3 × 2.5 m) and is available with either Siemens or Fanuc controls. ME
For more information from Prima Power North America Inc., go to www.primapower.com, or phone 847-952-6500.
Ganassi Racing, Kennametal
Extend Tooling Partnership
Early last year, following the dramatic first and second-place finishes of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon at the 2012 Indianapolis 500, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams (CGRT) announced a multiyear renewal of its machining technology partnership with tooling and engineering services leader Kennametal Inc. (Latrobe, PA).
“We’ve been in business for 23 years and for 19-plus of those, Kennametal has been a partner,” said Chip Ganassi, owner of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. “We are a 100% Kennametal-tooled shop and our logo is on every one of our cars across all our teams and series. But what really makes the partnership even more important to the race team is how their expertise even helps us on race day. Kennametal comes to us with many solutions for different mechanical challenges we face. It’s great when you have a partner that can do that.”
Dale Lambeth, the machine shop supervisor at the Ganassi Concord, NC, shop, the home of the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (EGR) with Felix Sabates NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams, recalled when much of the shop’s effort was pounding out 2-D components from sheetmetal for the team’s stock cars. “Now, with the amount of components we’re able to supply in-house, with all the 3-D roughing and surfacing we’re doing, it’s more like a moldmaking operation,” Lambeth said. And with races on Sunday and requests from driver teams and engineers for new parts on Monday, quick turnaround time matters. “With the amount of bulk material removal and surfacing we’re doing, the high-feed, high-speed products like the KenFeed and KDMT milling tools are an unbelievable help.”
The new KenFeed 2X double-sided trigon inserts have six cutting edges for superior metal removal and good productivity through high-feed roughing applications. The thick inserts with a straightforward screw-on design make additional clamping devices unnecessary. Used with end mills and shell mill cutters, KenFeed 2X is well-suited for pocketing, ramping, helical interpolations, and Z-plunge milling, making it a first choice for deep cavities and maximum metal removal.
Programmer and machinist Josh Kennedy, a five-year veteran of the shop, uses the KenFeed inserts on steering arms, center links, spindles, and other milling applications. “Being six-sided, we’re getting a lot more parts out of each insert, and being tough, we’re getting the kind of cycle time we want,” Kennedy said.
KDMT flat-bottom and back-draft finishing end mills work with toroidal and high-feed inserts and are suitable for both roughing and finishing operations. With cutting diameter ranges from 0.500 to 1.000" (12.7–25.4 mm), the end mills provide high precision and runout accuracy across a variety of materials. “Our kind of operation isn’t necessarily high volume, but more of switching from one part to another and constantly working with different materials,” Lambeth said. “These are good tools to have at our fingertips.”
Andy Olszewski, a programmer and machinist in the EGR shop specializing in turning applications, agrees on the value of tooling versatility. “There’s not a lot of time to problem-solve, but rather we get done what’s needed and get it done fast.” According to Lambeth, when the situation calls for it, though, Kennametal has been able to deliver custom tools. “Sometimes a part calls for custom thread dimensions or special shapes for undercuts like on shock mounts Andy [Olszewski] does. Our guys from Kennametal have been really flexible in getting custom requests to us quickly.”
Kennametal’s ToolBOSS automated tool management system allows the EGR team to keep its focus on the machining and not waste time searching for the necessary tools. Where just maintaining and restocking tools could take an entire day, the ToolBOSS does it automatically. As machinists come on, the job is set, and when they get the next job, they can see the tools used in the past. Not only does this ensure uniformity, tools are even inspected and run the night before for quality control. The EGR team can focus on making the parts, not tool management.
“We always have the right tooling in stock because ordering and restocking are automatic,” Lambeth said. “Our Kennametal guys keep us up-to-date and the ToolBOSS keeps the latest resources at our fingertips. We’re running titanium, steel, tool steel, aluminum, and even polyurethanes. We’ve gone from having to make do, to having the latest thing quickly and efficiently.”
CGRT benefits from Kennametal tooling and services, which are noted for delivering high performance throughout the automotive industry. Tooling is available for machining such critical components as engine blocks, cylinder heads, pistons, crankshafts, gear boxes, suspension parts, exhaust systems, brake parts, and wheels. The company’s advanced tooling systems are used in turning, milling, and holemaking operations to machine cast irons, steels, stainless steels and aluminum, as well as more exotic metals and alloys, including titanium, magnesium and Inconel. ME
For more information from Kennametal Inc., go to www.kennametal.com, or phone 724-539-5000.
Waterjet Cuts Complex
Parts to Size at Fab Shop
Centerline Machine Inc. (Waupaca, WI) is a custom machine and fabrication shop located in the heart of America’s dairyland. Since its humble beginnings as one man in a garage in 1996, the company has experienced steady growth, and recently Centerline moved into a new 45,000 ft2 (4185 m2) facility that allows it to meet increasing customer demand.
While business is growing by leaps and bounds, and the new facility is mammoth compared to the old, Centerline’s philosophy isn’t “bigger is better.” Rather than focusing on large volume and simple orders, Centerline decided to specialize in quick turnaround of smaller lots of complex parts for its customers, the bulk of which are in the defense and food-related industries. With a standard lead time of two weeks, and the ability to turn some orders in as little as 24 hr, Centerline has streamlined its operations to fill the need for quick turnaround of detailed, small volume orders.
“A lot of our customers think of us first when they’re in a bind and need a quick turnaround,” said Shannon Tews, Centerline sales and marketing manager. “But we offer much more than just speed. Most of our customers don’t come to us for easy, high-volume parts. They turn to us when they need complex work with tight tolerances. Many of the parts we produce require three to four operations and can take up to 3–4 hr to machine a single part.”
By providing just in time (JIT) manufacturing to its customers, Centerline is able to help them reduce inventory costs and meet spikes in demand. The ability to fulfill JIT orders didn’t happen overnight. Centerline adopted a philosophy which focused on streamlining operations from top to bottom and ensuring that quality control remains consistent throughout the process. While its new facility and staff expansion contributed, in many ways, it was waterjet technology that allowed Centerline to make that transition.
Centerline purchased its first waterjet machine, an Omax 80160, in 2000. The company quickly found that abrasive waterjet technology provided it with flexibility and value it couldn’t get from EDM and laser-cutting machines. Centerline has since upgraded the 80160 to an OMAX 120X-2 JetMachining Center.
The Omax 120X-2 is one of the larger machines Omax produces. It is a bridge-style machine featuring Intelli-TRAX high-precision, traction drive technology that was designed exclusively for the abrasive waterjet environment. The 120X-2 allows Centerline to perform complex cuts for its customers. Another key benefit is the versatility to change from one material to the next with reduced setup time.
“We had jobs recently that required us to quickly switch from cutting 3" [76-mm] plate to rubber to armored glass. Without the 120X-2’s ability to cut different types of material without long setup changes, we couldn’t have turned those jobs around as quickly as we did or been able to keep costs at the level we have,” said Tews.
In addition to the 120X-2, Centerline recently purchased an Omax 55100 JetMachining Center with the DualBRIDGE system. The 55100 is the largest cantilever-style machine that Omax offers. It features a completely sealed and protected ball screw drive system, and is a robust and reliable workhorse for shops using larger stock. The 55100 is equipped with an Omax Maxjet5 Nozzle and a bulk abrasive delivery system. With the DualBRIDGE accessory, the machine offers two independent Y-bridges, each with their own cutting nozzle, to dramatically increase capacity and productivity.
Many of Centerline’s defense-related projects include creating parts for the Oshkosh Defense MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) and Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) military vehicles. They require the larger capacity that the Omax 55100 provides. In addition, the DualBRIDGE technology allows Centerline to meet their promise of a quick turnaround.
“With the addition of the new 55100, we can meet any cutting needs our customers have. The flexibility and options we can provide with the machines have brought in new customers and helped expand our work with existing customers,” said Tews. “The new waterjet machine with the DualBRIDGE literally offers double the productivity. With larger jets and the two cutting heads, we can work on two projects at once.”
On most projects, the waterjet machines are the first step in the process. Centerline originally planned to use the waterjet machines mainly to cut stock to size before using other machines for more detailed work, but quickly found that the machines were capable of much more. Given the large beds, capacity to cut many types of materials, and ability to perform smooth finish cuts with no distortion, the Omax 55100 has opened up new revenue streams for Centerline.
“When customers tour the shop, they always want to stop and watch the Omax machines. People are amazed that a stream of water can cut through metal. And not just that, but cut through surprising depths and do it with real detail. Once customers understand what the machines are capable of, we often find new projects we can help them with,” said Tews.
“In our business, every minute that a machine is down is money out the window. Also, we do a lot of defense and food-related work for our customers. Many of their projects are time-critical, and we just can’t have machines down and backing up our orders,” said Tews. “We’ve got a really good relationship with our Omax rep and he’s given us the attention and help we need to make sure that customers looking for a JIT partner will keep coming back to us.” ME
For more information form Omax Corp., go to www.omax.com, or phone 253-872-2300.
This araticle was first published in the January 2013 editio nof Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.