Southeast Manufacturing News October 2011 : Page 30

APPLYING TECHNOLOGY Automation • Machines • Spindles • Tooling • Software • Workholding Tooling Helps Firearms Manufacturer Hit Production Target To support new product launches, Smith & Wesson needed to increase throughput of its production of revolver frames. However, the firearms manu-facturer wanted to avoid, if possible, having to add new machine tools to ac-complish its production goals. After extensive evaluation, Smith & Wesson determined the best plan of at-tack would be to target aluminum re-volver frames, the highest volume frames produced at the company. The strategy was to chip away portions of time from individual machining operations to re-duce overall revolver frame cycle times. While the reduction of part cycle times is always a goal at Smith & Wesson, the challenge was to do so without compro-mising part quality. Two years ago, Kris Gallant, Manu-facturing Engineer at Smith & Wesson, took a hard look at the company’s re-volver frame machining operations and realized that toolholding was keeping machine tools from operating at their full potential, as far as cutting speed RPM was concerned. The culprits were cutting tool deflection and runout, which dictated that machines be run slower during heavy milling to maintain part quality. Aluminum revolver frames are ma-chined on 4-axis horizontal milling ma-chines with CAT 40 spindles, and Gallant’s MDF Mold Patterns Fashioned Via Robotic Milling A 130 kg. payload Motoman robot is outfitted with a 7.5 HP spindle, ER32 collet-chuck tool holder and cutting tools to create a flexible, affordable machining cell. Patternmaking keeps Supreme’s machining robot busy as much as 10 hours per day, for the most part performing three-axis milling on MDF patterns. Kris Gallant, Manufacturing Engineer at Smith & Wesson, stands next to one of the four powRgrip tooling units situated around the company’s manufacturing areas. department was using standard ER collets for holding cutters. Unfortunately, these holders lacked the necessary precision and rigidity, restricting machine spindle speeds during rough milling operations to just 5,000 RPM on machines rated to run at 10,000 RPM. Gallant considered several other tool-holding options but decided to incorpo-rate high-precision REGO-FIX ER collets Continued on Page 32 For the last four to five years, pat-tern-making operations at Supreme Corp. have been supplemented by the firm’s six-axis robot, a 130 kg payload model from Motoman outfitted with a 7.5 HP spindle. The spindle holder and cutting tools have transformed the robot into a substitute CNC machining center. Supreme Corp. Manufacturing En-gineer Tom Nowak wondered if the company could achieve higher mate-rial removal rates with a dedicated ma-chining center. “Sure, but to get the 10 ft. of horizontal reach and 3 ft. of verti-cal reach we need would require a very large and very expensive machine,” said Nowak. “The robot has proved to be all we need in terms of work enve-lope as well as flexibility, and it’s much more affordable. It paid for itself in about a year and continues to provide dividends daily in our pattern-making shop.” The pattern shop to which Nowak refers makes molds for fiberglass and ABS plastic components. The compo-nents are used for specialty vehicles such as box trucks, recreational vehicles, Continued on Page 31 Process Change Reduced Need to Outsource Mercer Machine Uses Okuma Technology Nearly the whole Mercer Machine team. Third from right is Brian Robinson, Vice President, and to his left, Tracy Robinson, President, Mercer Machine. Mercer was founded in 1954 in the basement of Wayne Mercer’s home with a single lathe. Automation Development utilizes the Hurco VM1 and VM30 for part manufacturing. According to the company, parts can now be made in hours rather than weeks. In 1954, Wayne Mercer opened Mer-cer Machine Company in his basement with a single lathe. Now, 57 years later, Mercer is 14,400 sq. ft., has 16 full time employees and is open 22 hours a day. The company is run by Brian and Tracy Robinson, who bought the business in 2008 from Tracy’s parents, who in their time had taken over the business from Rita Elliot and her husband Dave. According to Vice President Brian Robinson, Mercer does production saw-ing, turning and milling and some EDM 30 October 2011 • SOUTHEAST MANUFACTURING NEWS • www.mfgnewsweb.com work. “We work with carbon steels, high alloy materials, hasteloy, titanium, in-conels, waspoloy, aluminum and iron castings and many serious exotics as well,” said Robinson. “We serve aero-space, automotive, race car components (Sarah Fisher on the Indy Car circuit), agriculture and defense. “With the new Okuma LB3000 EX-MY multitasking production center we’re increasing the size of our net, going after new markets, taking a hard Continued on Page 34 Automation Development, Inc. in Terryville, CT, specializes in engineering and manufacturing custom turnkey auto-mated assembly and packaging machin-ery for the medical, cosmetic, automotive and food industries. “As our business in-creased we had to eliminate the need to outsource to other shops any of our high volume machining of parts,” said Dan Tonn, President. “Outsourcing made it difficult to control costs and delivery times. The way we solved this problem was to change our process.” Mr. Tonn and Jeff Behrendt, Co-Own-ers, called on Brooks Associates, Inc. of Norwell, MA, and Hurco for advice on changing from older bed mills to new ma-chines with faster setup and simpler pro-gramming. They had considered CNC machines requiring complicated G-Code programming and decided to look for CNC controls with simpler, conversa-tional programming. Initially, Automation Development management chose a Hurco VM2, 3-axis vertical milling machine with the WinMax control. This machine provided, not only the conversational, simple-to-use graphi-cal interface control but also featured the Continued on Page 36

Tooling Helps Firearms Manufacturer Hit Production Target

To support new product launches, Smith & Wesson needed to increase throughput of its production of revolver frames. However, the firearms manufacturer wanted to avoid, if possible, having to add new machine tools to accomplish its production goals.<br /> <br /> After extensive evaluation, Smith & Wesson determined the best plan of attack would be to target aluminum revolver frames, the highest volume frames produced at the company. The strategy was to chip away portions of time from individual machining operations to reduce overall revolver frame cycle times.While the reduction of part cycle times is always a goal at Smith & Wesson, the challenge was to do so without compromising part quality.<br /> <br /> Two years ago, Kris Gallant, Manufacturing Engineer at Smith & Wesson, took a hard look at the company’s revolver frame machining operations and realized that toolholding was keeping machine tools from operating at their full potential, as far as cutting speedRPMwas concerned. The culpritswere cutting tool deflection and runout,whichdictated that machines be run slower during heavy milling tomaintain part quality.<br /> <br /> Aluminum revolver frames are machined on 4-axis horizontalmillingmachineswithCAT40 spindles,andGallant’s departmentwasusing standardERcollets for holding cutters.Unfortunately, these holders lacked the necessaryprecisionand rigidity, restrictingmachine spindle speeds during roughmilling operations to just 5,000 RPM on machines rated to run at 10,000 RPM.<br /> <br /> Gallant considered several other toolholding options but decided to incorporate high-precision REGO-FIX ER collets paired with that company’s powRgrip press-fit toolholding system. As a result, his team was able to ramp up rough milling speeds to 10,000 RPM, maxing outmachine tool capability and permitting higher feedrates. This reduced revolver frame cycle times, which helped the company gain a greater throughput, without having to addmachine tool capacity.Additionally, overall cutter life was increased.<br /> <br /> REGO-FIX offers its ER collets in two levels of precision - standard and ultra-precision (UP). Available in standard and metric sizes, both precision levels range from the ER 8 series to the ER 50 series.With thiswide selection of ER collets, Smith & Wesson can accurately clamp tool shanks ranging from0.2 mm (0.0079”) up to 34.0 mm (1.3386”). <br /> <br /> The powRgrip toolholding system is suitable for high-speed machining applications and is applicable to an extensive taper selection, including CAT, BT, HSK and TC versions. PowRgrip toolholders are balanced by design, improving part quality and surface finish and lowering manufacturing costs, the company said.<br /> <br /> Smith & Wesson’s machine operators insert collets into the powRgrip holders using the system’s tabletop press that generates nine tons of force.Available in both metric and inch diameters, the system relies on the interference between the holder and collet to create its clamping force.<br /> <br /> Different from other clamping systems where heat or hydraulics are used to expand the material, the powRgrip system uses the mechanical properties of the holder material to generate tremendous gripping forcewith runout below 0.0001”. Designed for easy operation, powRgrip allows operators to press in or remove a tool from a holder in less than 10 seconds. Because no heat is used, tools can be used immediately after a tool change.

MDF Mold Patterns Fashioned Via Robotic Milling

For the last four to five years, pattern- making operations at Supreme Corp. have been supplemented by the firm’s six-axis robot, a 130 kg payload model from Motoman outfitted with a7. 5 HP spindle. The spindle holder and cutting tools have transformed the robot into a substitute CNCmachining center.<br /> <br /> Supreme Corp.Manufacturing Engineer Tom Nowak wondered if the company could achieve higher material removal rateswith a dedicatedmachining center. “Sure, but to get the 10 ft. Of horizontal reach and 3 ft. Of vertical reachwe needwould require a very large and very expensive machine,” said Nowak. “The robot has proved to be all we need in terms of work envelope as well as flexibility, and it’smuch more affordable. It paid for itself in about a year and continues to provide dividends daily in our pattern-making shop.” <br /> <br /> The pattern shop to which Nowak refers makes molds for fiberglass and ABS plastic components. The components are used for specialty vehicles such as box trucks, recreational vehicles,armored vehicles for the U.S. State Department and even mobile commandcenter vehicles for the Department of Homeland Security.<br /> <br /> “When our division in Texas has to outfit a vehicle with armor plating,” Nowak said, “we’ll custom-build new interior door panels, making sure they are as close to the OEM look as possible.They’re of thermoformed ABS plastic, molded from patterns milled by the robot.” <br /> <br /> Productive Patternmaking <br /> <br /> Patternmaking keeps Supreme’s machining robot busy as much as 10 hours per day, for the most part performing three-axismilling onmediumdensity fiberboard (MDF) patterns used for fiberglass trim components such as wind deflectors and skirting, to help with aerodynamics.MDF, a resinimpregnated pressed-wood fiber product, is ideal for prototype tooling that is useful for making a set of prototype parts. MDF can also be used to build a heavy fiberglass part that can be then used to build a production tool.<br /> <br /> The firm originally acquired the robot to trim molded fiberglass panels for truck bodies but quickly decided that patternmaking made a better fit for Supreme’s needs. Part volumes were relatively low, and each part would require its own unique vacuum fixture to locate the parts for robotic trimming, not a very cost effective use of the robot, according to Nowak.Comparatively, the robot can machine patterns in a fraction of time it used to take tomanually craft a pattern. For example, machining the pattern for the front end of an RV takes the robot three to fourweeks;manually, that same pattern used to take 16 weeks to complete.<br /> <br /> The robot tends to its tasks at a 6’ by 10’ worktable.With a radial reach of 2,650 mm (104.3”), the robot has a big work envelope that allows it to machine molds without repositioning. To machine patterns for extremely large parts, such as an RV front, Nowak breaks the pattern into segments which are then bonded together to fabricate a complete pattern.<br /> <br /> No Simple Programming Task <br /> <br /> Of course, preparing its robot for multi-axis machining rather than relatively simple contour cutting required a more sophisticated approach to programming, said Nowak. The traditional teach methods don’t suffice; for true CNC-type machining, the robot can’t be taught its movements since each part program contains hundreds of thousands of points. Instead, to program the robot for CNC-type machining, Nowak employs Robotmaster (from Jabez Technologies), a translator that converts CNC toolpath data from Mastercam into optimized six-axis robot programs. It includes a process simulator that allows users to viewmachine operation in continuous or step mode and detect collisions.<br /> <br /> Programming acumen takes center stage when faced with five-axis programming tasks. “Early on, we learned that the robot’s movements are very predictable in a three-axis environment,” said Nowak, describing themajority of the robot’s tasks. “But for those patterns requiring the robot’s entire six degrees of freedom, and where we have to program the fourth and fifth axes of movement, we fight singularities that can cause collisions.<br /> <br /> “Singularities arise when we need to machine patterns for RV fronts. In particular, cutting a nice tight profile along the edge of the vehicle’s windshield requires a five-axis curve. At first, the robot would try to flip the spindle over and would cause a collision.To overcome those challenges, we worked very closely with Mastercam and Jabez, who provided the training necessary to avoid singularities.” <br /> <br /> Repeatability Reboot Requires Recalibration <br /> <br /> “We rough-machine the MDF blanks with an inserted carbide tool,” said Nowak, “and finish machine with solid carbide-either a 1/2-in. Ball nose or, for added precision when needed, a 1/4-in. Ball nose. We custom-designed and built a tool changer for the cell that allows the robot to move from roughing to finishing in seconds.” <br /> <br /> Critical to the success of the twostage robotic machining process is the repeatability of the robot motion from roughing to finishing, “otherwise our patternmakers can struggle to complete a job,” said Nowak. “Several months ago we noted some disparity between the tool paths during roughing and finishing. We turned to Motoman to help us recalibrate the robot, which reduced the variance between the two tasks by 75 percent.” <br /> <br /> Motoman’s “Johnny-on-the-spot” to help recalibrate Supreme’s hardworking robot was John Patchett, Regional Support Specialist for the Great Lakes region. “It’s important thatmanufacturers understand the difference between accuracy and repeatability,” said Patchett, explaining how a difference in the robot axis motions when off just one or two degrees can affect how accurately a robot’s tool tip can get to a programmed point in space. “Periodically, robots, in particular robots subjected to high forces such as those found in machining applications, need to be recalibrated. For non-critical applications, manual calibration suffices, but in Supreme’s casewe needed something more.” <br /> <br /> That something more was an economical software tool (Motoman’sMotoCalV EG) that correlates points in space that are taught by a programmer to the theoretical points, using a software algorithm. “This approach is much more cost effective than using a full-featured software program that works with an external encoder connected to the robot’s tool tip,” said Patchett. “Using MotocalV EG at Supreme Corp. proved to be all that was needed to get them back on track. Average positioning error was reduced by 90 percent, which in real dimensional terms took position variation between roughing and finishing from 1/8 in.Down to just 1/32 in.” <br /> <br /> For more information contact: <br /> Yaskawa America, Inc. <br /> Motoman Robotics Division <br /> 10455 Austin Boulevard <br /> Miamisburg, OH 45342 <br /> 937-847-6200 <br /> www.motoman.com <br /> <br /> Supreme Corporation<br /> P. O. Box 463, 46527 <br /> 2581 East Kercher Road <br /> Goshen, IN 46528 <br /> 574-642-4888 <br /> www.supremecorp.com

Mercer Machine Uses Okuma Technology

In 1954,WayneMercer openedMercerMachine Company in his basement with a single lathe. Now, 57 years later, Mercer is 14,400 sq. ft., has 16 full time employees and is open 22 hours a day.The company is run by Brian and Tracy Robinson, who bought the business in 2008 from Tracy’s parents, who in their time had taken over the business from Rita Elliot and her husband Dave.<br /> <br /> According to Vice President Brian Robinson, Mercer does production sawing, turning andmilling and some EDM work.“Weworkwith carbon steels, high alloy materials, hasteloy, titanium, inconels, waspoloy, aluminum and iron castings and many serious exotics as well,” said Robinson. “We serve aerospace, automotive, race car components (Sarah Fisher on the Indy Car circuit), agriculture and defense.<br /> <br /> “With the new Okuma LB3000 EXMY multitasking production center we’re increasing the size of our net, going after newmarkets, taking a hard look at aerospace engine coolers and a large array ofmedical applications. It’s amazingwhat you can dowith the new Okuma LB3000 EX-MY, things no one tells you you can do, suddenly you’re doing. If you can imagine the shape and geometry of a complex part, you can program and produce the part in a single setup.” <br /> <br /> A House of Okumas <br /> <br /> Mercer has been an Okuma user since 1976. The company currently has 11 Okuma CNCs on the shop floor.<br /> <br /> “I can still remember the first Okuma,” Robinson said. “It was an LSN-10 with a GE Mark Century 550 control. At that time Okuma offered their lathes with three different controls.As well as the GE control, you could get an Okuma OSP-2200 or a Fanuc 2000C, and that’swhatmade the machine ‘talk.’ It was tape-fed; the machine read a tape, and when the job was done, the tape would rewind and start the next part. We’ve still got the old teletype machine that created the tapes.” All of the following machines had Okuma controls.<br /> <br /> Robinson said that early in his career with Mercer he ran turret lathes from Warner & Swasey, (founded in 1880 by Worcester Reed Warner and Ambrose Swasey). “I can remember operating a Warner & Swasey turret lathe and, a little later on, a bunch of Fuji automatics that worked off of microswitches, which were at the time considered the latest, best thing in technology.” <br /> <br /> From that first CNC in 1976, Robinson said, Mercer Machine has bought Okuma CNC products steadily through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. “I bought my first Okuma mill in 2006, then in 2009 I got my second Okumamill. The latest Okuma CNC is the LB3000 EX-MY multitasking production center,” he said. “You could say we’ve been leaning on Okuma pretty heavily, and Okuma CNCs are not exactly inexpensive. But this is a case where you really do get what you pay for.” <br /> <br /> Surviving Tough Times <br /> <br /> The sudden shift by many customers to outsourcing in the 1980s and 1990s, coupled with the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009, caused a severe upheaval and many casualties in the precision parts-making business.Many shops closed down, especially those whoweremaking one, two or three uncomplicated, high volume jobs, jobs that could be easily sent to a country whose only perceived attraction was low cost labor.<br /> <br /> “We’ve always known therewould be some very hard times, and we intentionally salted money away for just those times,” said Robinson. “More importantly, we’ve always been a lean operation, and we’ve never ‘put all our eggs in one basket.’We’ve always been highly diversified in our customer base. As a CNC shop we constantly look for jobs that require multiple secondary operations. Plus, we’ve always had strong, reciprocal relationships with our customers.” <br /> <br /> Robinson adds that they have one customer who came to them and warned them that a job they were doing was probably in line for outsourcing.The customer gave Mercer a heads-up and enough lead time to find another part before theymoved the one part offshore.<br /> <br /> “What a marvelous example of a great customer-supplier relationship,” Robinson said. “Imagine, a customer held us in such high esteem that they informed us of the loss of a job before the job actually went away. I think this is reflective of our commitment to always give customers top quality and on time delivery.” <br /> <br /> As a businessman, Robinson admits he can understand the move to offshore production. It’s all about chasing cheap labor. What he can’t understand is those who were gleefully offshoring to achieve perceived benefits of cheap labor didn’t see the downsides, the long supply lines, intellectual property rights theft, the stretched out lead times, the frustratingly high number of parts that would arrive back in the Uswoefully inaccurate and have to be returned to the source for reworking.Then, as if the above wasn’t enough, the cheap labor offshore production lines would go down, bringing production to a standstill and causing again delays and missed delivery dates.<br /> <br /> “We have a customer right now who is having his parts made in Germany,” Robinson said. “The parts come back here, and they aren’t right and have to be sent back to Germany for reworking.He’s about to start working with us. All he really wants is just to have control over his product. It’s these kind of experiences, quality control, the recent Japanese earthquakes and tsunami negatively impacting auto makers worldwide, shipping and storage, the rising cost of oil and the fact that Chinese labor rates are increasing at 17 percent annually, that have taken the luster off cheap labor (if it ever really was cheap) and are causing many manufacturers to begin reshoring to domestic suppliers.” <br /> <br /> The LB3000 EX-MY <br /> <br /> Offering high accuracy with enhanced multi-tasking capacity, the EX series is the flagship 2-axis lathe in the Okuma lineup, said Okuma. Built on a high quality box slant bed and a thoroughly tested thermal design, the EX series is able to achieve machining dimensional change over time of less than O5ƒÊm.<br /> <br /> Further, the LB3000 EX offers a max machining diameter of 13.39" and max machining length of 39". With a ball-screw driven tailstock, along with X and Z rapid traverse rates of 984 and 1,181 IPM respectively, the LB3000 EXMY was created with accuracy and flexibility in mind. In addition, the LB3000EX can be equipped with milling capability, a sub-spindle (W), Yaxis, two bed sizes (500 and 1,000 mm) and two spindle sizes, making the machine capable of fitting a wide array of applications and need<br /> <br /> I have a bar feeder and parts catcher on the new Okuma,"said Robinson. "I can load the feeder up with bar stock and the Okuma will run until it's out of stock. It runs without operator intervention and keeps my quality and throughput consistently high. Without operator involvement I don't have operator-induced variabilities.I can run simple parts and very complex parts. The machine is just tremendous at repeatably holding tolerances and surface finishes." <br /> <br /> Using a simple part, a pin for electrical transformers, as an example, the pin gets a cross hole drilled through the diameter, then is chamfered on both sides, parted off, done. Cycle time is 67 seconds. "If this pin wasn't being made on the LB3000 EX-MY, cycle time would be three minutes because the part would have to be parted off the bar, then go to the mill, drill the hole, chamfer one side, then flip the part over and chamfer the other side," said an Okuma spokesperson. "That would be three distinct setups and operator involvement in moving the part from setup to setup, resulting in possible quality variations from pin to pin.Now the part is done in a single setup.<br /> <br /> "Using a more complex part for an aerospace customer, Robinson said, "On the LB3000 EX-MY, we start out with 3 inch long bar stock, bore the jaws out, rough turn, finish turn, thread a 3/4"-10 thread on the end and then mill and drill three holes in the flange face, all in a singe setup. Cycle time of three minutes, 30 seconds. Before the new Okuma, I'd have to chuck the part, turn everything down and thread. Then I'd have to take it over to themill, get a chuck, bore out the chuck jaws, chuck the part on the turned diameter, then drill the three holes, debur and then send it on to the customer.With the LB3000 EX-MY cycle time has been greatly reduced, I've eliminated work holding, building fixtures and operator involvement." <br /> <br /> Another example: Robinson said Mercer does some hard turning, but not on the LB3000 EX-MY. He's got an Okuma LB15, circa late 1980s, that's setup to do hard turning all day long, holding 0.0006" tolerance with a 5 micron finish.<br /> <br /> Okuma's Control <br /> <br /> "The ease of programming is just great," Robinson said. "You know, we looked at other machines over the years, but so many of them don't build their own controls. The Okuma control is friendly, it comes to the operators and setup people easily.And the newer Okumas come with the P200 control with Windows XP built in. If there's a problem, Okuma can look right into your machine via the Ethernet and see what's going on and help fix it. This is standard on the LB3000 EX-MY. The P200 is very intuitive, easy to learn and you can change things on the fly. In addition, I've got manufacturing software in the control, so the operator can pull up the software and see their job routings and such, right there on the screen." <br /> <br /> Enter Gosiger <br /> <br /> According to Robinson, "Gosiger is a great bunch of guys. If I call them, I've got a service guy out here the next day or the day after. Many times we can talk a problem through over the phone. They just listen and then walk me through the solution. They're very knowledgeable and responsive. What a pleasure, working with service personnel who actually know what they are doing.” <br /> <br /> Before Gosiger bought the distributorship, it was owned by Joachim & Jones. Once Gosiger took over, it occurred to them that they didn’t have enough display space to show off the Okuma line (of which there were two models). So an arrangement was struck such that Mercer Machine Company would serve as Gosiger’s showroom, allowing them to bring potential customers through the shop, showing them the Okumas in action on Mercer Machine’s floor.<br /> <br /> The Team <br /> <br /> Robinson said of his employee, “We’ve got a good team of people here.They’re dedicated, loyal and they always get the job done. We believe in them and invest in them.We’re always looking at what we can do to keep them happy. Like most places today, skilled workers are hard to come by.We’ve found it easier to reward them rather than lose them.And they should be rewarded commensurate with their abilities, talents and their contribution to the company.” <br /> <br /> He notes that the shop floor superintendent took the position on a part time basis and only for two weeks.That was 15 years ago, and he’s still at it.<br /> <br /> A Strategy for the Long Run <br /> <br /> “There’s really nothing complicated about our strategy,” Robinson said. “We cast a large net, selecting only those RFQs that require serious multiple secondary operations, which is what the LB3000 EX-MY is dedicated to. We keep our eye on our customers, our competitors and on developments in new advanced technology.We invest regularly to stay ahead of the competition, allowing us to dowhat others cannot.We try to learn from our mistakes, of which there haven’t been a great number during the past 57 years. Then we work very hard to be the best supplier a customer can find.<br /> <br /> “Our strategy for the way we address our employees, customers and suppliers is again really quite simple.We treat our employees as family and our customers and suppliers as our best friends. It’s just a matter of honesty.We listen to our employees, customers and suppliers very carefully.Then we try to meet or exceed everyone’s needs.” <br /> <br /> For more information contact: <br /> Julie Murphy, Marketing Manager <br /> Okuma America Corporation <br /> 11900 Westhall Drive <br /> Charlotte, NC 28278 <br /> 704-588-7000 <br /> www.Okuma.com <br /> <br /> Brian Robinson <br /> Vice President of Operations <br /> Mercer Machine Company <br /> 1421 S. Holt Road <br /> Indianapolis, IN 46241 <br /> 877-241-9908 <br /> 317-241-9903 <br /> brobinson@mercermachine.net <br /> www.mercermachine.net

Process Change Reduced Need to Outsource

In 1954,WayneMercer openedMercerMachine Company in his basement with a single lathe. Now, 57 years later, Mercer is 14,400 sq. ft., has 16 full time employees and is open 22 hours a day.The company is run by Brian and Tracy Robinson, who bought the business in 2008 from Tracy’s parents, who in their time had taken over the business from Rita Elliot and her husband Dave.<br /> <br /> According to Vice President Brian Robinson, Mercer does production sawing, turning andmilling and some EDM work.“Weworkwith carbon steels, high alloy materials, hasteloy, titanium, inconels, waspoloy, aluminum and iron castings and many serious exotics as well,” said Robinson. “We serve aerospace, automotive, race car components (Sarah Fisher on the Indy Car circuit), agriculture and defense.<br /> <br /> “With the new Okuma LB3000 EXMY multitasking production center we’re increasing the size of our net, going after newmarkets, taking a hard look at aerospace engine coolers and a large array ofmedical applications. It’s amazingwhat you can dowith the new Okuma LB3000 EX-MY, things no one tells you you can do, suddenly you’re doing. If you can imagine the shape and geometry of a complex part, you can program and produce the part in a single setup.”<br /> <br /> A House of Okumas<br /> <br /> Mercer has been an Okuma user since 1976. The company currently has 11 Okuma CNCs on the shop floor.<br /> <br /> “I can still remember the first Okuma,” Robinson said. “It was an LSN-10 with a GE Mark Century 550 control. At that time Okuma offered their lathes with three different controls.As well as the GE control, you could get an Okuma OSP-2200 or a Fanuc 2000C, and that’swhatmade the machine ‘talk.’ It was tape-fed; the machine read a tape, and when the job was done, the tape would rewind and start the next part. We’ve still got the old teletype machine that created the tapes.” All of the following machines had Okuma controls.<br /> <br /> Robinson said that early in his career with Mercer he ran turret lathes from Warner & Swasey, (founded in 1880 by Worcester Reed Warner and Ambrose Swasey). “I can remember operating a Warner & Swasey turret lathe and, a little later on, a bunch of Fuji automatics that worked off of microswitches, which were at the time considered the latest, best thing in technology.”<br /> <br /> From that first CNC in 1976, Robinson said, Mercer Machine has bought Okuma CNC products steadily through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. “I bought my first Okuma mill in 2006, then in 2009 I got my second Okumamill. The latest Okuma CNC is the LB3000 EX-MY multitasking production center,” he said. “You could say we’ve been leaning on Okuma pretty heavily, and Okuma CNCs are not exactly inexpensive. But this is a case where you really do get what you pay for.”<br /> <br /> Surviving Tough Times<br /> <br /> The sudden shift by many customers to outsourcing in the 1980s and 1990s, coupled with the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009, caused a severe upheaval and many casualties in the precision parts-making business.Many shops closed down, especially those whoweremaking one, two or three uncomplicated, high volume jobs, jobs that could be easily sent to a country whose only perceived attraction was low cost labor.<br /> <br /> “We’ve always known therewould be some very hard times, and we intentionally salted money away for just those times,” said Robinson. “More importantly, we’ve always been a lean operation, and we’ve never ‘put all our eggs in one basket.’We’ve always been highly diversified in our customer base. As a CNC shop we constantly look for jobs that require multiple secondary operations. Plus, we’ve always had strong, reciprocal relationships with our customers.”<br /> <br /> Robinson adds that they have one customer who came to them and warned them that a job they were doing was probably in line for outsourcing.The customer gave Mercer a heads-up and enough lead time to find another part before theymoved the one part offshore.<br /> <br /> “What a marvelous example of a great customer-supplier relationship,” Robinson said. “Imagine, a customer held us in such high esteem that they informed us of the loss of a job before the job actually went away. I think this is reflective of our commitment to always give customers top quality and on time delivery.”<br /> <br /> As a businessman, Robinson admits he can understand the move to offshore production. It’s all about chasing cheap labor. What he can’t understand is those who were gleefully offshoring to achieve perceived benefits of cheap labor didn’t see the downsides, the long supply lines, intellectual property rights theft, the stretched out lead times, the frustratingly high number of parts that would arrive back in the Uswoefully inaccurate and have to be returned to the source for reworking.Then, as if the above wasn’t enough, the cheap labor offshore production lines would go down, bringing production to a standstill and causing again delays and missed delivery dates.<br /> <br /> “We have a customer right now who is having his parts made in Germany,” Robinson said. “The parts come back here, and they aren’t right and have to be sent back to Germany for reworking.He’s about to start working with us. All he really wants is just to have control over his product. It’s these kind of experiences, quality control, the recent Japanese earthquakes and tsunami negatively impacting auto makers worldwide, shipping and storage, the rising cost of oil and the fact that Chinese labor rates are increasing at 17 percent annually, that have taken the luster off cheap labor (if it ever really was cheap) and are causing many manufacturers to begin reshoring to domestic suppliers.”<br /> <br /> The LB3000 EX-MY<br /> <br /> Offering high accuracy with enhanced multi-tasking capacity, the EX series is the flagship 2-axis lathe in the Okuma lineup, said Okuma. Built on a high quality box slant bed and a thoroughly tested thermal design, the EX series is able to achieve machining dimensional change over time of less than O5ƒÊm.<br /> <br /> Further, the LB3000 EX offers a max machining diameter of 13.39" and max machining length of 39". With a ball-screw driven tailstock, along with X and Z rapid traverse rates of 984 and 1,181 IPM respectively, the LB3000 EXMY was created with accuracy and flexibility in mind. In addition, the LB3000EX can be equipped with milling capability, a sub-spindle (W), Yaxis, two bed sizes (500 and 1,000 mm) and two spindle sizes, making the machine capable of fitting a wide array of applications and need<br /> <br /> I have a bar feeder and parts catcher on the new Okuma,"said Robinson. "I can load the feeder up with bar stock and the Okuma will run until it's out of stock. It runs without operator intervention and keeps my quality and throughput consistently high. Without operator involvement I don't have operator-induced variabilities.I can run simple parts and very complex parts. The machine is just tremendous at repeatably holding tolerances and surface finishes."<br /> <br /> Using a simple part, a pin for electrical transformers, as an example, the pin gets a cross hole drilled through the diameter, then is chamfered on both sides, parted off, done. Cycle time is 67 seconds. "If this pin wasn't being made on the LB3000 EX-MY, cycle time would be three minutes because the part would have to be parted off the bar, then go to the mill, drill the hole, chamfer one side, then flip the part over and chamfer the other side," said an Okuma spokesperson. "That would be three distinct setups and operator involvement in moving the part from setup to setup, resulting in possible quality variations from pin to pin.Now the part is done in a single setup.<br /> <br /> "Using a more complex part for an aerospace customer, Robinson said, "On the LB3000 EX-MY, we start out with 3 inch long bar stock, bore the jaws out, rough turn, finish turn, thread a 3/4"-10 thread on the end and then mill and drill three holes in the flange face, all in a singe setup. Cycle time of three minutes, 30 seconds. Before the new Okuma, I'd have to chuck the part, turn everything down and thread. Then I'd have to take it over to themill, get a chuck, bore out the chuck jaws, chuck the part on the turned diameter, then drill the three holes, debur and then send it on to the customer.With the LB3000 EX-MY cycle time has been greatly reduced, I've eliminated work holding, building fixtures and operator involvement."<br /> <br /> Another example: Robinson said Mercer does some hard turning, but not on the LB3000 EX-MY. He's got an Okuma LB15, circa late 1980s, that's setup to do hard turning all day long, holding 0.0006" tolerance with a 5 micron finish.<br /> <br /> Okuma's Control<br /> <br /> "The ease of programming is just great," Robinson said. "You know, we looked at other machines over the years, but so many of them don't build their own controls. The Okuma control is friendly, it comes to the operators and setup people easily.And the newer Okumas come with the P200 control with Windows XP built in. If there's a problem, Okuma can look right into your machine via the Ethernet and see what's going on and help fix it. This is standard on the LB3000 EX-MY. The P200 is very intuitive, easy to learn and you can change things on the fly. In addition, I've got manufacturing software in the control, so the operator can pull up the software and see their job routings and such, right there on the screen."<br /> <br /> Enter Gosiger<br /> <br /> According to Robinson, "Gosiger is a great bunch of guys. If I call them, I've got a service guy out here the next day or the day after. Many times we can talk a problem through over the phone. They just listen and then walk me through the solution. They're very dxf drawing converter.After designing the part and machine in Solidworks, a 2D dxf drawing f i l e i s output to the Hurco for conversational programming . The Hurco VM2 has an 8,000 RPM, 20 HP spindle, comes with a 20-tool changer and a work envelope of 40” x 18” x 18”.<br /> <br /> The purchase of a smaller Hurco VM1 vertical milling machine one year later totally eliminated the need to outsource any milling of parts. A few years later a purchase of a Hurco TM6 CNC turning center with a 6” chuck, 12-station turret and 6,000 RPM spindle, eliminated the need to outsource parts that required turning. Theirmost recent expansion was a larger Hurco VM-30 with 50” x 20” x 20” of travel.The growth and success ofAutomation Development is the result of providing their customers with a high quality automatic assembly system in a timely manner and at a fair price. Hurco was a key factor in Automation Development’s success.<br /> <br /> The automation and assembly equipment designed and manufactured at Automation Development, Inc. is complex, in many cases requiring over 6,000 parts. “Eliminating outsourcing has given us control over the project costs and schedules. Instead of waiting 1-3 weeks for parts from an outside source,we canmake rush parts in hours, not days or weeks,” said Mr. Tonn.<br /> <br /> “We now have total project control,” said Mr. Tonn. “Ourmachines are designed in-house using our Solid Works CAD software. The frames for themachines are fabricated in-house as are all of the machined parts. We have two electrical engineers who design and program the control systems for the machinery we build.” <br /> <br /> Quick changeover from one part to another is now a capability on the new Hurco machines. Many of the parts only require simple shop floor programming so the machine operators take advantage of the ease of programming on the HurcoWinMax conversational control.<br /> <br /> The custom automation and assembly machines manufactured by Automation Development Inc. include rotary dial, chassis, and robotic assembly equipment, high speed continuous motion machines, assembly machines tied directly to molding, packaging machinery, custom tooling and assembly fixtures, vibratory feeders and part loading systems and vision inspection and measurement systems. All machines are custom designed for customers as 3D models. After being manufactured the machines go through testing and runoff before shipment. Automation Development, Inc. provides design services, CNC milling and turning, fabricating and also does grinding and welding. An added capability with the new Hurco machines is engraving of parts for tracking purposes.<br /> <br /> Jeff Behrendt, with a manufacturing engineering background, and Dan Tonn,with CAD andmachinery design background, founded Automation Development, Inc. in 1996 and have continued to expand the company.Bringing 100% of the machining of parts in-house has helped them improve control of costs, time and quality of the parts manufactured, resulting in improved quality and deliveries for their customers.<br /> <br /> For more information contact: <br /> Dan Tonn <br /> President Automation Development, Inc. <br /> 73 Container Dr. <br /> Terryville, CT 06786 <br /> 860-583-0852 <br /> sales@automationdevelopment.com www.automatindevelopment.com <br /> <br /> Hurco Companies, Inc. <br /> One TechnologyWay<br /> P. O. Box 68180 <br /> Indianapolis, IN 46268 <br /> 800-634-2416 / 317-298-2622 <br /> info@hurco.com <br /> www.hurco.com

Previous Page  Next Page


Publication List
 

Loading