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Take Control of the Multitasking Fear Factor

Chuck Birkle
By Chuck Birkle Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Mazak
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To get operators up to speed and productive in the shortest time, MAZATROL allows shops to program Mazak machines using either conversational or EIA/ISO programming. (Provided by Mazak)

When it comes to their cars, cameras, computers, cell phones and other devices, most people would agree that they understand only about 25 percent of these devices’ full capabilities. With some manufacturing shops, the same holds true for multi-tasking machines.

Fortunately, however, today’s control technology—paired with effective training as well as support from machine tool OEMs—can help shops reap all the benefits of their multi-tasking machines. Those benefits include higher part accuracy and significantly shorter job setup times. Plus, without the need to transfer workpieces from one machine to the next, multi-tasking machines require minimal human intervention and operate unattended. They allow shops to accomplish more with fewer machine tools on their floors, which saves valuable production space. In turn, fewer required machines results in lower production costs and shorter job turnaround times.

Multi-tasking machine configurations have progressed significantly from the early simple combination of milling and turning operations. Modern multi-tasking machines incorporate such advanced components and capabilities as twin turning spindles, multiple tool turrets with rotary tool stations and Y-axis off-centerline machining, tilt/rotary B-axis milling spindles, rotary/tilt tables, large capacity tool magazines and full simultaneous five-axis part processing.

Even with all the benefits multi-tasking has to offer, some manufacturers still hesitate to embrace the technology because they perceive its learning curves as long and arduous. To significantly shorten those learning curves, Mazak developed its MAZATROL conversational programming language, which provides both versatility and ease of use.

To get lesser skilled operators up to speed and productive in the shortest time, MAZATROL allows shops to program Mazak machines using either conversational or EIA/ISO programming. Mazak continues to enhance this programming language and its CNC technology for infinite part production capabilities.

Within its SMOOTH Technology platform, Mazak’s SmoothG, SmoothX, SmoothAi and SmoothEz CNCs feature robust power and processing speeds, and ensure ease of use along with high-speed, high-accuracy machining performance. These controls make programming even the most complex multi-tasking parts simple and straightforward.

To further simplify and speed set up times of multi-tasking parts, Mazak’s MAZATROL SMOOTH Set & Inspect on-machine work measurement solution allows operators to replace time-consuming manual setups and gauging with the precision of digital metrology—without a lengthy learning curve or a mishap that could damage a probe or a machine spindle.

MAZATROL SMOOTH Set & Inspect uses Renishaw probes to shorten setup inspection from a manual routine that averages 10 to 15 minutes to a precise 20-second automated process, reclaiming otherwise lost time and freeing up operators. In high-volume, low-mix production, operators can create in-process gauging routines that they can copy and paste into a part program to add mid-process or finished-part inspection.

Even with easy-to-use controls on multi-tasking machines and such features as Set and Inspect, shops still need ongoing support to overcome their fears. Through its MPower service and support program, Mazak MPower On Demand Learning (MODL) system helps these shops embrace higher levels of multi-tasking through on-demand training that happens in-person at one of Mazak’s Regional Technology Centers or at the company’s National Technology Center in Florence, Ky.

When in-person instruction becomes impossible or inconvenient, MODL allows users to custom-tailor training programs, select subject matter from more than 100 multi-level courses and schedule classes for times that suit their schedules. Through MPower, the MODL system makes essential courses accessible on demand to shops anytime, anywhere.

The system offers online instruction and virtual experiences that provide all the engagement of in-person instruction with the same standards of results. It also enables Mazak to customize its course offerings and subject matter to meet customer requests and adapt classes to suit learning levels. This ensures that shops always have access to exactly the right classes that will empower their teams to do more. Mazak’s network of Technology and Technical Centers offers in-person support and additional training that’s close by.

Mazak continues to prove itself as a pioneer in multi-tasking technology, and as a result, has developed more than 200 model machines. These machines allow today’s manufacturers to process virtually any type of workpiece with one Mazak Multi-Tasking machine. With these systems, shops—especially smaller ones—gain much-needed versatility and productivity to succeed in a constantly changing manufacturing world.

As Mazak has produced more models of multi-tasking machines with widely varying part-processing abilities, the company has developed its Five Levels of Multi-Tasking to ensure manufacturers can match their specific part processing needs to the appropriate level of multi-tasking performance. Each of the five levels describes specific multi-tasking machine capabilities and features that can range from turrets with rotating tool spindles to dedicated milling head stocks, tool magazines and additive manufacturing.

The single-piece flow of simple parts on separate machines is right for some shops, while others deal with more-complex workpieces and could benefit from multi-tasking technology. Yet many fail to do so, citing machine complexity and lack of skilled labor as reasons not to invest in multi-tasking.

These are the shops that truly miss out on the benefits of today’s multi-tasking machines, equipped with simple, easy-to-use controls paired with a robust machine tool OEM training and support program, both of which help get inexperienced operators up and running as quickly as possible. With that said, shops should not let fear keep them from multi-tasking their way to higher part accuracy, fewer setups, lower costs per part, shorter job turnaround times and increased productivity.

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