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Shop Solutions: Flexible Solution for Global Automotive Supplier

Modatek Systems, a subsidiary of the Austrian-Canadian company Magna International, manufactures parts all over the world for the automotive industry. The Magna Group is a major diversified global automotive supplier with 315 production sites and 90 engineering and research and development centers in almost 30 countries.

Management of the Canadian branch of Magna International embarked on a search for a suitable systems supplier for production lines for machining trailing arms for SUV platforms. What they found was a standardized yet flexible solution from Licon mt (Laupheim, Germany). Licon mt supplied four twin-spindle LiFLEX II 1078 machining centers to Modatek Systems that offered process flexibility and the ability to accommodate any product variations that came from the final customer, General Motors.

The process-oriented approach and support provided by Licon mt were essential to the success of the project. Previously, Modatek Systems had executed very few machining projects of this kind and welcomed the machining know-how offered by Licion mt and the confidence that “Made in Germany” brought with it. The first of four twin-spindle machining centers, the LiFLEX II 1078 4U model was shipped to Canada six weeks ahead of the officially agreed upon delivery date.
Licon mt supplied four twin-spindle LiFLEX II 1078 machining centers to Magna International’s Canadian subsidiary Modatek Systems that offered process flexibility and the ability to accommodate any product variations that came from the final customer, General Motors.
Modatek Systems approached Licon mt with a description of the parts to be processed. “The process had to be very dynamic from the start because the manufacture of the machines and the start-up of processes needed to be completed within a relatively short timeframe,” said Dorde Zmijanjac, project manager for Licon mt in Germany. “Through web conference calls as well as personal meetings, we were able to quickly and accurately coordinate, determine, and approve order-specific details such as individual concepts for fixtures as well as the customer’s loading system. Our experience enables us to be flexible in responding to individual customer requirements throughout the project process. At the end of the day, this all contributed toward the successful launch of the project and also strengthened the market position of our North American subsidiary.”

Factors such as productivity, process reliability flexibility, durability and longevity, ease of maintenance and servicing, reusability and reconfiguration were the primary considerations for designing the process. “Cost per part is always at the heart of all investment decisions made by our customers,” said Winfried Benz, managing director of Licon mt. “This is the major investment driver which we have to confront in our market environment. In addition, every customer wants a flexible production facility that is not tied to the current order and can be used again for future orders. We then collaborated to configure the appropriate machining center with our LiFLEX modular system. Our goal is to continually optimize the process of machining complex workpieces to minimize costs for scrap as well as additional quality controls.”

“All key modules such as the machining units, spindles and rotary units of Licon mt’s machine are developed and manufactured in-house,” said Benz. “This not only guarantees availability and quality, but also continually develops the capability of all Licon mt employees to meet our customer’s requirements. For our customers, this operating philosophy is an assurance of exceptional service quality and provides Licon mt distinct advantages over other machine builders.”

A vendor of Modatek Systems had already produced these parts, but in an A-B load configuration, meaning the part had to be removed from one fixture, reoriented and reclamped for completion of machining. The heavy weight of the parts, 21 lb (9.5 kg), made refixturing these parts’ clampings prohibitive because these were to be manually loaded. The Licon mt solution allowed for complete machining of the part in one fixture. The fact that the A axis tilted, tipping the parts into the fixture made loading/unloading easy. Licon mt’s five-axis solution allowed for machining a set of parts per spindle so that two pairs of parts were completed every cycle. The result is that there is less material in queue. Traditionally, after a machining run of left-hand parts, they would sit in inventory until the right-hand parts were machined to complete the pair.

The main advantage of five-axis, five-sided machining was that product changes or additions by the end user pose very little problem to implement. The ability to machine at any compound angle or on five of the six sides of a part simplifies process changes to meet product design revisions. During ramp up, for example, there are multiple design changes which were able to be implemented within the parameters of fixture design.

Modatek Systems also benefited from Licon mt’s capability to design and manufacture fixtures. The complex workpiece geometry challenged Licon mt's engineers to integrate all necessary functions in the fixtures while taking into account space requirements, stability, and internal oil lines. All lines for hydraulic supply are incorporated in the main body via long oil channels. As a result, the chip build-up that occurs with clamping jigs that have external piping is largely prevented, increasing the efficiency of the overall system.

Licon mt’s fixture design for machining complex workpieces integrated all necessary functions in the fixtures, which in the machining position are suspended in an inverted position from the fifth axis trunnion for minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) machining.

The alignment of raw components in the fixture is accomplished via a mandrel inserted into the work spindle from the tool magazine, centering the part before clamping. Final clamping under high pressure is only carried out once the alignment has been completed. This procedure ensures that machined holes and surfaces are always optimally positioned in relation to the raw cast bore and that they meet the precision requirements of the final workpiece.

The fixtures in the machining position are suspended in an inverted position from the fifth axis trunnion for minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) machining. Licon mt recommended MQL machining because of its ecological and economic benefits for the customer. “Through minimum quantity lubrication, we are not only working towards a cleaner environment around the machines, but are also saving the money previously spent on acquiring and disposing of cooling lubricants,” said Chris Peters, Modatek Systems manufacturing engineer.

Following installation of the machines and the start-up of processes Modatek Systems, employees were given intensive instruction and training in both Germany and Canada with the aim of enhancing daily operations in the processing of these workpieces. The necessary procedures for machine maintenance for quality and process assurance were also communicated in these training sessions. ME

For more information from Licon mt, go to or phone 734-879-2201.

Click here to watch a video of the machine in action.


This article was first published in the November 2013 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF

Published Date : 11/1/2013

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