Throwback Thursday: The Costs and Benefits of Horizontal Machining

14. June 2018

Horizontal machining can be a difficult proposition, but with enormous potential. We’ve written before about what to consider when buying a horizontal machining center. A Modern Machine Shop article from 2014 came across our desks the other day however, and in it was a handy sidebar with a list of both the costs and the benefits of horizontal machining based on the experience of Ohio-based Advance CNC Machining. The sidebar was almost an article unto itself, and we thought we’d share. Here’s Peter Zelinski’s sidebar:

The Costs of Horizontal Machining

Advance CNC Machining president Jeremy Hamilton says the machine tool itself is just the beginning of the move into horizontal machining. To make full use of the higher-level machine, other parts of the process need to be raised to a higher level as well. Here is a partial list of the additional investments his shop made:

1. Inspection equipment. With the move to horizontals, “we went far past being able to get by with mikes and height gages,” he says. As part complexity and production rate increased, the shop had to elevate its capability to validate production. One example of a new inspection resource is a 6-foot portable CMM arm from Faro, which enables shop personnel to validate particularly complex components while the part is still on the machine.

2. Computers. The processing speed of the shop’s computers had never inhibited programmers before. Now, with the complex machining routines made possible by merging various faces into one setup, plus the technique of milling with many fast, light cuts, NC programs grew much longer and processing speed became a limitation. The shop bought new computer hardware.

3. Coolant. “We can’t use the cheap stuff anymore,” Mr. Hamilton says. High-pressure coolant delivery required a higher caliber of coolant.

4. Tool presetter. Tool offsets used to be measured at the machine tool. Setup time was long enough on the verticals that the additional time for tool measurement did not seem like a big loss. That changed with the HMCs. Measuring tools at these machines would waste valuable time. The shop bought a Parlec presetter and now measures tools offline while the machine is cutting.

5. Fixturing. Workholding for Advance used to mean just vises. On the HMCs, workholding often entails a column fixture mounted in the machine using the Ball Lock system from Jergens, a system that assures rapid clamping and precise setup location. This system pays for itself when customer demands suddenly change, because the Ball Lock tooling enables jobs to be rapidly swapped in and out of a machine.

6. Tool vending. The HMCs are too expensive to be brought to a stop for lack of a critical tool. To save itself from running out of a needed cutter, the shop bought a tool vending system with automatic reordering of stock items so it can maintain its tool inventory levels. (Mr. Dunaway says the vending system’s tool usage reports also give him good information about the jobs in which tooling is being consumed too quickly, suggesting the cuts where experimentation with a different tool might be in order.)

The Benefits of Horizontal Machining

Advance first invested in horizontal machining in order to simplify setups so that less experienced employees could oversee high-value work. But the benefits only began there. The shop has since transitioned almost all of its machining center work to horizontals, because of additional benefits such as these:

1. Shorter processing time per part. There are many reasons the time per part is shorter on these machines, says Advance’s Jeremy Hamilton. With horizontals’ ability to swap pallets, there is no significant delay between machining cycles for job change-over. Plus, on the tombstone fixtures, various pieces can be completed in a single cycle.

2. Lower prices. Both machining time and labor time are lower for parts run on the HMCs. Thus, even though the shop rate on the HMCs is higher, the machines have brought down the overall price per part quoted to customers.

3. Three-side machining. With the B axis, the HMC can reach three faces of the part in one cycle. Features that relate to one another often can be machined in the same cycle to assure accuracy.

4. Ability to machine complex parts. Advance now bids on parts that would have been too complex for it to machine in the past. An example is airfoils. These parts could justify a five-axis machine, but Advance gets enough contouring ability on its four-axis HMC to be able to produce the parts effectively in two setups apiece. The Faro arm (see page 73) is used to inspect the complex form.

5. Platform for advanced tooling. The HMCs can take advantage of the latest cutting tool technology, meaning the tool suppliers visiting Advance with recently released tooling sometimes bring resources the shop can use. “We now have machines you can run new technology on,” says Kyle Dunaway, Advance’s VP of manufacturing.

6. Serve customers simultaneously. Alternating the jobs run on alternate pallets—that is, loading job A while job B runs, then loading job B while job A runs, and so on—lets the shop use one machine to fill the orders for two customers in the same shift.

7. On-machine deburring. The shop’s largest HMC has enough tool capacity that the shop can even keep various deburring tools in the magazine. Meanwhile, the horizontal orientation facilitates on-machine deburring because the removed burrs fall away. Replacing manual deburring with on-machine deburring saves labor and expense.

8. Cleaner shop. The horizontals keep chips more contained and therefore help keep the shop cleaner. This contributes to the original aim of developing and making use of a changing workforce, Mr. Hamilton says. A cleaner shop attracts a more quality-conscious employee.


GF Machining Solutions Names New Distributor in Ohio and Kentucky

4. June 2018

GF Machining Solutions, provider of machines, diverse technical solutions and services, continues to expand its strategic partnership with machine tool distributor Ellison Technologies. The company has named Ellison its official distributor in Kentucky and Southern Ohio, including Columbus and Dayton.

TekQuest will remain a part of the GF distributor family and focus its efforts on northern Ohio.

GF Machining Solutions selected Ellison Technologies based on the company’s proven abilities to provide extensive service and support to customers as well as offering more comprehensive coverage in Southern Ohio and Kentucky. Ellison also supports GF Machining Solutions in Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and several states on the West Coast.

“We count on our distributor partners to help us deliver the highest level of service and support,” says Scott Fosdick, president of GF Machining Solutions. “Ellison’s focus on customized solutions enables them to grow market share and build very strong relationships with customers.”

Ellison now provides Southern Ohio- and Kentucky-based manufacturers in the automotive, aerospace, die/mold, medical and other industries with GF Machining Solutions’ full range of EDM, milling, laser texturing, additive, micromachining and System 3R automation solutions along with a wide variety of machine tool consumables. The distributor’s high-tech demonstration centers and large sales and support teams are said to enable customers to benefit from timely front-line service and application support on equipment.


New Specs: Ewag Machines from United Grinding

24. May 2018
various United Grinding Ewag grinding machines

We recently made a broad update to specs on a variety of tool-grinding machines from United Grinding within the company’s Ewag brand.

  • The Ewag Insert line of machines includes high-speed, four-axis peripheral grinders for volume production of indexable inserts. 
  • The Ewamatic Linear is another production grinding center for manufacturing indexable inserts. It is also suitable for grinding rotationally-symmetrical tools. 
  • The Ewag Compact line offers versatile grinding performance with a smaller footprint for machining indexable inserts made of carbide, cermet, ceramic or PCB/PCD. 
  • The Ewag RS 15 is an enlarged version of the RS 09, retaining its accuracy and extending its application to the grinding of complex rotary and step tools.
  • The Ewag WS 11 is especially suitable for grinding and regrinding of high-precision tools as well as some small workpieces, while the WS 11-SP is capable of grinding cylindrical and tapered tools with either straight or spiral flutes. 

Find more machine models to browse and compare on United Grinding’s manufacturer page here on Techspex.

And while you’re at it, subscribe to our free email newsletter and follow us on Twitter @techspex to stay current on additions and updates to the Techspex database.


The Remarkable Abilities of Wire EDM

14. May 2018
wire EDM

Industry expert Barry Rogers has completed another article for the Techspex Knowledge Center, “What to Consider when Buying a Machine Tool.” 

This time, Rogers walks through an introduction to wire electrical discharge machines. They’ve come a long way in the past few decades: 

EDM units from the early 1980s might achieve cutting speeds of 3 to 4 square inches per hour. With changes in machine design and power supplies, speeds of 17 square inches per hour became attainable in the 1990s. Today, with improved power supplies, working in conjunction with sophisticated adaptive controls, it is not uncommon to achieve 24, 37 and in some cases 45 square inches per hour.

Read up on the basics of wire EDM here. 

This marks the sixth article in our ongoing series on the considerations machine tool buyers should keep in mind, focusing on various types of machine monitored in Techspex’s database of over 7,000 machine models. Past articles include: 

Find all these articles as well as a sampling of products from our supplier partners on the Knowledge Center mini-site


5 Things to Remember When Installing a New Machine Tool

Posted by: Mike Lynch 3. May 2018
woman operating a CNC machine tool

When you evaluate CNC machine tools to determine which would best suit your needs, there are surely countless factors that will affect your buying decision. Rapid rates, axis travels, spindle horsepower and cutting tool capacity are but a few of the many criteria that will help you determine whether a given machine will do what you need it to do—based on the price you are willing to pay.

Once you make the buying decision, you likely set about ensuring that the machine will hit the floor running. You order cutting tool components, workholding, accessories, fluids and anything else you will need once the new machine is delivered. The following are five considerations that tend to get overlooked in a new machine installation, however. While they would probably not affect your decision to buy a given machine, they can have a big impact on long-term machine utilization.

1. Power curves for the spindle drive system.

All machine tool builders specify spindle horsepower as part of their standard quotations. This is usually a duty rating, meaning the motor can output the specified horsepower for a given percentage of usage time per hour. It is important to know that the spindle cannot output maximum horsepower and torque at all rotational speeds. Generally speaking, the faster the motor runs, the greater the available power. 

For this reason, builders often provide multiple spindle ranges to increase power output at lower motor speeds. This can be done using some kind of transmission gearbox or with multiple coil windings on the motor. Spindle-range changing can be somewhat transparent. With many machining centers, for example, it is done using an S word, without requiring a special programming command. Thus, some programmers may not even know that a machine has multiple spindle ranges.

Of course, in order to make the best use of a machine, you must know how much power is available throughout the various speeds in each spindle range. Surprisingly, power curve information may not be as readily available as you might think. Some machine builders include a power curve graph in their programming manuals. With others, you may have to make a special request.

2. List of recommended spare parts.

Hopefully, your brand-new CNC machine will run for a long time before anything wears out. Even so, you must be prepared for eventual failures. Your machine builder and control manufacturer should be able to provide a list of components that are most prone to failure and specify those components that will most likely break during a mishap (crash). Common examples include batteries for memory and absolute encoder position backup, filters, fluids, and taper alignment pins. Don’t wait until something fails before ordering a replacement. Instead, maintain a complement of recommended spare parts for the time when they are needed. 

3. New or different maintenance procedures.

It is likely that any new machine will include new features and functions that require your maintenance personnel to do some things differently. For example, you may be buying your first machine that has absolute pulse coders on axis drive motors. These motors require a battery to maintain position while the power is off, and a special (different) procedure to reset the home position should it be lost for reasons such as battery failure or crash. The time to prepare for these new procedures is while the machine is new, before the procedure is required.

4. Memory backup.

I’ve said this many times before: You must know how to create backup copies of all data stored with the CNC. This is especially true with a new machine. Backing up common usage data like CNC programs and offset settings may be part of your company’s standard operating procedure, and you likely have a direct numerical control system to save CNC programs for repeated jobs. For maintenance purposes, you must create backup copies of all other data as well. This data includes CNC parameters, custom macro variables (if your machine has a touch probe), the programmable machine controller (PMC) ladder program and PMC parameters.

5. Confirm some basic usage settings.

If you have other machines that are similar to the one you are buying, you will probably want to use similar (or identical) operational techniques. You must first know if any initial settings are dramatically different on the new machine, however. ]

The set of initialized states, that is, modes automatically instated during power-up, should be the same for all of your machines. For example, you will not want some machines powering up in the metric measurement system while others power up in the imperial (inch) measurement system. One severe complication is related to decimal point entry or, better said, what happens if a value is entered without a decimal point. Typically, on older machines, if you enter a value of 20 (no decimal point) in the imperial system, the CNC will interpret the value as 0.0020 inches. Newer CNCs provide a setting choice (commonly called calculator input) that determines what happens if a value is entered without a decimal point. With these CNCs, it is possible that a value of 20 (again, no decimal point) will be interpreted as 20.0 inches. 


This blog post originally appeared in Modern Machine Shop under the title “Considerations for a New CNC Machine.”

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