thumbnail group

Connect With Us:

ME Channels / Viewpoints Blog

A Smarter Mix of Technology to Meet Your Needs

 Michael Defer







 By Michael Defer
Director of Technical Sales 
Heller Machine Tools

Shorter value creation chains and higher degrees of component accuracy have helped ignite the trend toward the complete machining of complex workpieces on a single machine. Standard machines are increasingly capable of taking on intelligently expanded technology combinations that promise to optimize piece cost and machine availability.

A standard machining center can now be configured to accomplish complete machining, including operations not common to traditional machining centers. Multitasking machining centers offer a broad range of solutions in developing and implementing customized and component-specific complete machining processes.

From the machine manufacturer, a move to more capable machining centers must be supported by knowledge of how a state-of-the-art flexible use of a machining center can be permanently guaranteed throughout its service life. The continuing trend toward shorter delivery times, more challenging tolerances, more complex geometries and a broad downward pressure on prices should contribute to interest in multitasking machining centers.

In contract manufacturing especially, the material required for an order is not always provided just-in-time, resulting in machine idle time. To avoid this, shops can incur extremely high inventory costs—the longer the process chain, the more acutely these times impact the company’s cash-flow. Another aspect is space. When a machine is scrapped, its successor should offer higher productivity from the same floor space.


Smart Technology Mix

For all these challenges, increasing the integration density of processes in a complete machining center offers a solution worth considering. Today’s machining technology providers must be able to provide manufacturers every kind of support for such considerations: advisory, development, implementation, evaluation, and long-term service support.

The starting point is always the machining center. Technologically speaking, four and five-axis horizontal machining centers for production applications meet all the preconditions for integrating processes other than the core operations of milling and hole-making.

Based on the machining center, manufacturers are now able to accomplish more, implementing the technologies of turning, grinding, shaping, honing and gear cutting while accomplishing the desired process and profit. Heller talks about a smart technology mix; keeping the goal of improved machine utilization in sight also requires intelligence; economic viability, flexibility, productivity, quality and availability to the extent that is required and is affordable.

A smart technology mix is not about upgrading a machine with every available function. The idea, instead, is to select a combination of essential machining methods that are tailored to the customer’s range of components, and combining these methods to create an efficient, reliable integrated process.
A number of future-oriented process solutions have been deployed based on standard machining centers rather than on costly special machines or complex production plants.

A recent example of a process that can be integrated extremely economically is that of honing. Those with practical experience like to classify honing as a high-precision process that requires special honing machines. Experience shows, however, that with the right technological expertise, honing can in fact also be accomplished and well-controlled on standard machining centers. This creates new potential for the efficient complete machining of a broad range of components, which until now have been produced in multiple operations on various types of special machines.

The combination of honing and Heller’s established out-facing head system is unique. The out-facing head, integrated into the machine unit, precisely controls the hone, thereby creating far greater potential for honing on a machining center. This smart technology mix is effectively increasing accuracy and process reliability over the conventional solution. This was possible due to the Heller out-facing head having been applied with external process and programming partners to tailor the solution to the customer’s requirements. In just under a year after installation, this combination delivered a machine availability of 98%.

This article was first published in the May 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read “A Smarter Mix of Technology to Meet Your Needs” as a PDF.

Published Date : 5/1/2016

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