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Machine Footprint, Cutting Power Surpasses Arizona Shop’s Expectations

By Alicat Scientific

Alicat Scientific is an ISO 9001 manufacturer of mass flow meters, mass flow controllers and pressure controllers for gases and liquids. Based in Tucson, Ariz., Alicat has been designing and manufacturing precision instruments since its inception in 1991. The company’s success is due to more than just selling great instruments; it is also focused on providing affordable solutions to complex control and measurement problems.

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Greg Camron (left), shop manager at Alicat Scientific, and Bernie Otto, Kiwa product manager for Methods Machine Tools, going over the Kiwa KHM-300A PC6.

Alicat Scientific is an intellectual warehouse of engineers and technical support staff educated and tested in a variety of disciplines. These include degrees and field experience in areas such as aerospace, astrophysics, atmospheric sciences, electrical design engineering, mechanical engineering, optical engineering, fuel cell sciences, paint robotics, bio-pharmaceutical instrumentation, semiconductor manufacturing, and food packaging and processing.

Alicat understands that there is seldom an “off-the-shelf” solution to a problem. The unique design and measuring technologies of Alicat’s flow and control products allow their instruments to be used in applications where competing devices may not have the flexibility or durability to survive. You can find Alicat in everything from mining projects to NASA space programs to environmental monitoring and even artificial heart machines.

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One of the Kiwa KHM-300A machines installed at Alicat Scientific’s Tuscon manufacturing operation.

Alicat Scientific was first introduced to Methods Machine Tools, Sudbury, Mass., in 2015 when it purchased a used vertical machining center (VMC) from a customer and the Methods Phoenix service team helped install the machine. A year later, Alicat was hit with a surge of orders and the VMCs it was using at the time weren’t able to keep up with production needs. “Business was skyrocketing and lead time went up sixfold,” said Greg Camron, machine shop manager. Lead times were up to 28 days, which caused Camron to look into adding a new machine to the shop floor. During his research into a new machine, Camron met with Tony Harrod, sales manager for Methods Phoenix, who talked to him about getting a horizontal machining center (HMC).

Harrod knew that floor space in Alicat’s shop was limited, which is one of the reasons it hadn’t explored an HMC before. He brought up the Kiwa KMH-300A from Methods, as it was a 300-mm machine that fit the shop’s spacing needs and was perfect for the part it was cutting.

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The Kiwa KHM-300A PC6 from Methods, which includes a horizontal machining center and a six-pallet pool and changer.

“I was skeptical about the capability of the KMH-300A because I was told by other salesmen I was talking to that a 300-mm machine doesn’t have the capability to cut stainless, but the small footprint while being able to handle our part was a huge game changer for us,” said Camron. “We decided to take a shot with the KMH-300A and trusted Tony when he said it would be able to handle the job. The results blew us away.” Kiwa KMH-300 PC2 machines (with standard two-pallet changer) have a footprint of 140 x 107" (3,556 x 2,718 mm) and the KMH-300 PC6 (with optional six-pallet changer) has a footprint of 196 x 165" (4,978 x 4,191 mm).

The first KMH-300A was delivered to Alicat’s facility within one week of the order being placed and was cutting just one week after install. Six weeks after install the KMH-300A was performing well beyond expectations, and the immediate production prompted Alicat to purchase another KMH-300A right away. The two machines were able to pull the shop out of its production hole and get production lead times back down to a maximum of five days. “We are cutting 316 stainless at 140 ipm (356 cm/min) and 303 stainless at 200 ipm (508 cm/min),” said Camron. “The machines are cutting so well that it sounds like I am cutting aluminum instead of stainless steel.”

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An inside view of the PC6 pallet changer.

The two KMH-300A HMCs sustained the shop’s production until 2017, when Alicat underwent another period of massive growth. The manufacturer immediately added another KMH-300A, but this time with a PC6 pallet pool. The added pallets allowed Camron to run the machines unattended overnight, trusting the reliability of the machines. Alicat can run the PC2 for five hours unattended, and its new PC6 can run overnight. An additional KMH-300A PC6 was purchased a year later, which has kept up with Alicat’s continued rapid growth by allowing for more unattended operation.

“Since switching over to the Kiwas we have shortened our time per part by about 50 percent and are now running 24/7,” said Camron. “We run three shifts and have no problem letting the Kiwas run unattended knowing that they are going to keep going without any issues.”

As Alicat has continued to grow and expand, the Kiwas have kept the shop from falling behind in production and keep up with sales. The small footprint is perfect for its small shop environment, where floor space is at a premium.

The productivity and reliability of the Kiwa KMH-300As, paired with the service team at Methods Phoenix, has made Methods Machine Tools the go-to supplier for all of Alicat’s needs, according to Camron. “Nobody can match the service department at Methods,” he said. “We have had other machines where we called for service and were told they would send someone in two weeks. With Methods, if it’s an easy fix they walk us through it on the phone or if it’s a hard one they come out quickly. We have even called for parts and received them within 24 hours. They recognize the importance of not letting a machine sit idle.”

For information on Alicat Scientific, visit www.alicat.com or call 888-290-6060. For information on Methods Machine Tools, visit www.methodsmachine.com or call 978-443-5388.

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