Honeycutt Manufacturing, Mukilteo, Wash., a job shop that serves the aerospace, marine and general industrial markets, made a major investment recently in a Grob G550T five-axis universal machining center. To say the purchase was a “game changer” would be an understatement.
This family-owned and operated machine shop was running two-axis lathes and vertical machining centers (VMCs) for a number of years and doing quite well. The business came largely from the various Boeing Everett facilities and other aerospace-related companies in the local supply chain to that major OEM. As General Manager Nick Honeycutt explained, “We didn’t feel we had the workload for a five-axis machine at the time our local machine tool dealer, Vince Selway of Machine Tools NW, approached us about the Grob machines. We have had a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Vince, so we were certainly interested in his suggestions.”
Honeycutt subsequently purchased a four-axis horizontal machining center (HMC); the results were acceptable and a base savings had been realized, but when a particular job opportunity presented itself the shop purchased its first Grob, a G550T five-axis machine with advanced machining technologies.
After the commissioning and training—including sessions with the Siemens CNC account manager, Daniel Vitullo, who gave the operators assistance with the SINUMERIK 840D sl control—the first parts were produced to spec on the first day of run-time. In two weeks, Honeycutt Manufacturing brought a variety of customers into the shop to see the Grob machine in action and the company was immediately awarded more work.
“We were able to reduce the machining setup operations from six to two with the Grob, cutting cycle times by 50 percent and reducing our tooling costs about 60-70 percent,” said Honeycutt. Within 30 days, the shop was ready to buy its second Grob with a Siemens CNC and plans are in the works for an addition to the building to house three to four more machines.
While much of the aerospace work at Honeycutt Manufacturing is aluminum with very high removal rates, a further advantage emerged with the Grob-Siemens combination. On jobs involving Inconel and titanium, the power of the machine plus the 0.0006" (0.0152 mm) typical accuracies and 32 Ra finishes the shop was able to achieve won the machine shop even more work, according to Honeycutt. These levels of accuracy and finish are critical on parts produced, which range from a aluminum leading edge to titanium elevator controls on the Boeing 737, lab devices for precision measurement, and commercial as well as pleasure boat components.
Selway, who represents Grob in the area, is a longtime partner with Honeycutt. “My father sold machines to Honeycutt, so we have a long history with the shop,” he said. Selway explained the sale of the first five-axis machine, noting that, “…they were so excited by what they witnessed on their shop floor, as it performed aluminum hog outs at such an incredible rate, they could barely keep up with the chips flying. Even better were the accuracy, finish and speed being achieved on the really tough-to-machine materials.”
Andy Krupp, a universal machine applications engineer at Grob, elaborated on his company’s focus for this project. “Grob is a global supplier to the automotive, aerospace, mold-and-die and energy industries. We’re also involved in many emerging technology developments, such as e-mobility. We build our five-axis machining centers for metalworking customers, plus we can supply full automation cells to meet their specific production requirements. This can be a dedicated, high-volume solution or a flexible solution for low-volume, high-mix production. The Grob horizontal five-axis design is unique and offers many advantages over conventional five-axis vertical machines. All these machines are built at our factory in Bluffton, Ohio. On this Honeycutt project, the addition of our five-axis machines helped to significantly improve their aerospace part production, while maintaining the highest quality standards.”
Commenting on the SINUMERIK 840D sl CNC, he further noted, “Siemens is one of several controls we use on our machines, but is the only control for special complex machining options we’ve developed, including multi-tasking, mill-turn, skiving (used for gear production), high-end hobbing, crossfeed spindle configurations and more.
“One of the great things about using the SINUMERIK 840D control is its ease of use,” Krupp continued. “Training people who have used other brands of CNCs and bringing them to a comfort level using Siemens has actually been quite simple. Inputting information and using the control seem to be much more intuitive than with other brands and we’ve found this cuts the learning curve significantly.”
Complimenting his customer, Selway said “The capabilities of the Grob machines with Siemens helped [boost] sales at Honeycutt almost immediately. My customers who are most successful are the ones who follow the proper protocol for training, invest in it and take the time to do it properly. They go to the factory, meet the people at Grob, get a deep understanding of the machine’s functionalities and diligently complete the training for their operators. This all contributes to more success with the machines in a much shorter time span. The owners of Honeycutt Manufacturing were motivated and took the time to learn. It’s clearly paid dividends at their company… and mine,” Selway said.
On the five-axis machines at Honeycutt, the SINUMERIK CNC is outfitted with the Grob-4 Pilot control panel, allowing the machine builder to incorporate additional applications onto the 24" (610-mm) operator interface.
“The Siemens CNC was a relatively easy learn for our operators, due to the training we received from Grob and Daniel from Siemens,” said Honeycutt. “We had a lot of experience with other control brands, but the speed and power of the Grob five-axis machines with SINUMERIK made the higher-level CNC necessary to execute our complex operations on a single machining center.” He also noted the Siemens control on the GROB machines easily interfaces with the Honeycutt CAD and CAM platforms the shop uses, namely, Dassault Systèmes’ SolidWorks and hyperMill from Open Mind.
Nick and his brothers, Steve and Tim, run the company their father founded in 1980. The shop runs multiple shifts, seven days a week, and is continuing to expand to meet the additional business generated by the Grob five-axis machines and other services they provide, such as waterjet machining and laser marking. Honeycutt has a network of local machine shop partners, who provide swaging, certified aerospace and marine welding, precision gun-drilling, wire EDM, super-finishing, and large-scale as well as flat precision grinding services.
For more information from Honeycutt Manufacturing Inc., go to www.honeycutt-mfg.com or phone 425-493-0525. For more information from Grob Systems Inc., go to www.grobsystems.com or phone 419-369-6994.
For more information from Siemens Industry Inc., visit www.usa.siemens.com/cnc or phone 847-640-1595.