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Shop Thrives on Advanced Manufacturing and Machining Technologies

Jim Lorincz
By Jim Lorincz Contributing Editor, SME Media

DP Tool & Machine Inc. (Avon, NY) is a contract machine shop that benefits from a well-rounded array of advanced machining and manufacturing technologies. These include multitasking and five-axis machines as well as automation and some digital connectivity.

DP Tool’s management team is led by (left to right) Pete Phillips, president; Dave Phillips, vice president, and Garland Beasley, director of operations, who oversee its advanced manufacturing technologies, including Mazak Multi-Tasking and five-axis machining centers.

DP Tool’s key business strategy is standardization when it comes to machine tools and automation. Standardization of machines and control platforms gives the shop consistency and flexibility, makes machine maintenance easier, shortens the learning curve for employees and allows them to move from one machine to the next without causing bottlenecks or loss of production time.

Brothers Peter and David Phillips run DP Tool, the company their father started back in 1972. The business as grown from one that took on any job that came through the door to one with over 100 customers in industries as diverse as automotive, food and beverage, health imaging, machinery, oil and gas, and power distribution. Growth is driven by new work coming in from both existing and first-time customers.

According to the Phillips brothers, DP Tool tends to leave commoditized jobs to other shops while it pursues high value-added jobs involving complex, tight-tolerance parts that most shops cannot produce cost effectively. Targeted jobs for DP Tool are those that encompass families of parts that require just-in-time deliveries. This type of work like machining automotive components for specialty vehicles such as the Ford Raptor truck and Ford Shelby GT 500 Mustang lends itself well to the shop’s many automated machines.

DP Tool has over 50 machine tools, all of them from Mazak Corp. (Florence, KY). The lineup includes everything from turning centers, multi-tasking machines and full five-axis machines to standard verticals, horizontals, and vertical turning lathes.

Workpieces at DP Tool are both round and prismatic and are made from a variety of materials, including copper, Inconel, stainless steels, brass, aluminum, ductile iron and tool steels. Typical sizes can range from parts measuring 0.500-36 in(12.7-914 mm) in diameter and feature tolerances that run from ±0.001to as tight as ±0.0003(0.01 mm). The shop’s part-processing operations encompass turning, milling, drilling and threading in addition to deep boring and hard turning.

One operator with Mazak’s Palletech Automation System can keep multiple HCN 5000s running by serving the load/unload stations and keeping up with required tool changes. The system features a fully automatic programmable presetter and Mazak’s Smooth PMC software.

Job lot sizes are anywhere from one piece to hundreds, but the average typically falls between 15 and 20 pieces. Most of the shop’s high-mix/low-volume jobs and short-run production work are part of recurring jobs, and within the course of a month, DP Tool can ship parts for upwards of 500 jobs.

The shop’s most recent Mazaks are seven HCN 5000 horizontal machining centers, some of which feature Mazak’s new Mazatrol Smooth Controls. All seven of the machines are part of a two-level Mazak Palletech high-rise automation system. It features a rail guided robot, 60-pallet stocker capacity and Mazak’s Smooth PMC cell controller that oversees all operations and helps DP Tool take advantage of the cell’s flexibility.

With the Palletech Automation System, one operator can, at times, keep all seven HCN 5000s running by serving the load/unload stations and keeping up with required tool changes. The system features a fully automatic programmable presetter and Mazak’s Smooth PMC software. While initially acquired for one big production job, additional machines were added, and the cell’s flexibility allows the shop to fill in production ups and downs with other work to keep the cell’s schedule full.

“What we do is load a production job, then fill in any available space with just-in-time jobs,” explained Peter Phillips, president of DP Tool. “We usually dedicate the high-volume work to maybe three of the HCNs, while short run jobs go to the other four with 160-tool capacity magazines. The cell is very flexible and we can set it up to meet our specific needs, running certain jobs during the day and others overnight.”

On its automated Multiplexes, DP Tool, again, runs more than just high-volume machining jobs: some involve only 10 or 20 pieces, usually in the form of product families. Operators at these automated machines simply keep gantry tables supplied with raw parts that enter the machines and exit complete. Operators aren’t responsible for any machining operations except changing worn tools and making offsets when necessary. They are, however, responsible for part quality checking as well as measuring and entering the datain to an SPC. They also do some assembly and finishing work when needed.

DP Tool performs both milling and turning operations with its Mazak Multi-Tasking machines to process components in single setups while holding extremely tight
relational tolerances.

“With us, automation isn’t all about the money, it’s about part handling,” commented Phillips. “Every time someone reaches into a machine to load or unload a part, even if it only weighs 15 lb [6.8 kg], and has to do it all day long, you end up with ergonomic issues. So, for us, it’s always better to have a robot or some sort of automation.”

He added that the shop gets a bigger return on its investment when able to set up jobs quickly, and the basic Mazak gantry allows them to do that given how easy it is to change over and program. “It’s all canned cycles,” he said. “We type in a couple of variables and the system loads the part.”

In addition to optimizing production through automation, the shop has been implementing MTConnect and most recently piloted the standard communications protocol on a subset of smaller machines.

“We immediately recognized its value,” said Phillips. “At this point it’s not only data collection, but also the fact that it gives our people greater visibility into their individual operational results. Eventually, we want to get to the level where we have monitors throughout the shop so everyone can measure their department’s output, then use that data to set and obtain goals. We will also measure some utilization/overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).”

Almost all of DP Tool’s Mazak Multi-Tasking turning machines have Y-axis capability and either single or twin spindles. These machines, along with the shop’s full five-axis verticals, allow DP Tool to machine as many, if not all, of a part’s features in a single setup to hold extremely tight relational tolerances. Its Integrex machines, in particular, provide the flexibility to produce prismatic parts those rarely considered for a turning operation from round stock to eliminate part handling.

“Every time a machine stops for operator intervention, the time span can vary,” explained Phillips. “There’s no consistency. And with the Mazaks, parts come off the machines complete with Done in One production. This boosts quality because we can control and guarantee the positional accuracy as the machine does all the part handling.”

“For our type of work, the Mazaks make job setups much faster and easier,” said David Phillips, vice president of DP Tool. “The new Mazatrol Smooth controls, for instance, are much more powerful and allow us to import part model files and create machine programs directly from them. The controls greatly reduce the risk of scrapping the first part of a job.”

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