VIDEO: An Inside Look at One of the Largest Five-Axis Machining Centers in the U.S.

Posted by: Brent Donaldson 2. May 2019

The PowerMill can maintain total error of 42 microns over the complete 46-foot length of the X axis. During my visit, the machine was drilling holes on eight steel plates for an undisclosed aerospace tool, a job that required more than a week to set up and a lot of forethought into how to ensure they were properly stress relieved before these drilling operations began.


Baker Industries, a subcontract manufacturer that primarily serves the OEM and Tier-One aerospace and automotive sectors, is located on a vast industrial campus housing several complexes in the sleepy Detroit suburb of Macomb, Michigan. But inside one nondescript building on the corner of campus you’ll find a true metal giant—a five-axis horizontal machining center with a build platform large enough to double as a car pad for a fleet of full-size SUVs. 

Baker Industries invested $3.4 million in the  Emco Mecof PowerMill to expand its capacity to serve its customers’ largest machining projects, typically for the aerospace and automotive sectors. The installation took roughly 11 months from beginning to end, starting with the removal of 1. 2 million pounds of concrete and earth to excavate a 45-by-75-by-7-foot pit. The pit was then filled with nearly 2 million pounds of crushed stone and concrete—the latter of which had to be individually sampled per truckload by inspectors to ensure it was the right consistency. 

The reinforced foundation was needed to guarantee stability while the overhead gantry—which itself weighs more than 100,000 pounds—travels along a 52-by-20-by-10-foot work envelope that can handle parts weighing up to 2.6 million pounds. 

Yet, for all of this mass, the machining center giant can achieve almost shocking precision, able to maintain total error of less than 42 microns over the complete 46-foot-long X axis. During my visit, the machine was drilling holes into eight steel plates for an undisclosed aerospace tool, a job that required more than a week to set up and a lot of forethought into how to ensure they were properly stress-relieved before drilling operations began. Four different cutting heads powered by spindle motors that reach up to 18,000 rpm enable the machine to handle operations from roughing to finishing all in one setup.

Check out this time-lapse video that in 60 seconds shows the entire four-month installation process of the PowerMill, and stay tuned to Modern Machine Shop for a deeper dive into the challenges and opportunities presented by working with giants.

This blog post originally appeared on MMS Online. 


New Specs: Machines from APEC, CNC-Takang, Litz Hitech and Yong Ju Precision

17. April 2019
Techspex new specs announcement

Techspex has added a large number of updated machine specs to our database of machine tools distributed in the United States by J2 Machine Tool Group LLC. Among the original equipment manufacturers involved are: 

  • APEC (Asia Pacific Elite Corp.), which manufacturers five-axis gantry machines for heavy-duty machining
  • CNC-Takang, known for its heavy-duty lathes made specifically for the oil and gas industry, in addition to machining centers
  • Litz Hitech, which manufactures turning, milling, tapping and grinding machines
  • Yong Ju Precision Technology Co., which specializes in large gantry-style machines for milling and boring

While you’re taking note, be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter and follow us on Twitter @techspex to stay current on additions and updates to the Techspex database.


Gardner Business Index: Metalworking Extends Its Consistent Growth Pattern

Posted by: Michael Guckes 12. April 2019
GBI Metalworking

March’s data extended the trends witnessed in prior months. Supplier deliveries, production, new orders and employment continue to expand at slowing rates while backlogs and exports contract.


The Gardner Business Index (GBI): Metalworking was unchanged from the prior month, sustaining a reading of 53.6 in March. The latest data extend the recent trend of slower growth readings first experienced in November. Readings above 50 indicate business activity expansion while readings below 50 indicate business activity contraction. The latest reading is 10.4 percent lower than it was in March 2018, when the Index was near its all-time high.

Gardner Intelligence’s review of the underlying data for the month observed that the Index, which is calculated as an average of its components, was supported by supplier deliveries, new orders, production and employment. Export and backlogs lowered the Index for the second consecutive month, with backlogs contracting faster than exports.

New orders rebounded from February, when the component registered its lowest reading since late 2016. This coupled with a fourth consecutive month of contracting exports resulted in a significant draw down in backlogs. For the month, the backlog component further contracted to its lowest reading in more than two years.

GBI Metalworking details

Exports have contracted in six of the last seven months, however, new orders readings (which represent total metalworking manufacturing orders activity) have expanded every month since October of 2016. This indicates that domestic orders through March have more than offset weak foreign orders.


Moving counter to the weakness in exports and backlogs, supplier deliveries and production continued to register business activity at levels reminiscent of those experienced earlier in the business cycle. Employment activity also expanded at levels consistent with those reported earlier in the current cycle. Strong employment readings often indicate a positive mid- to long-range outlook for the industry due to the time and resources required to find and train talent.


Manufacturing News of Note: Rocket Engines, Employee Ownership and Events

Posted by: Jedd Cole 25. March 2019
rocket engine 

Orbex, a U.K.-based spaceflight company, has introduced what is being called the world’s largest metal rocket engine to be 3D printed in a single piece using the SLM Solutions SLM800. Orbex develops small satellite launch vehicles, and the 3D-printed engine part was produced specifically for Prime, a supposedly environmentally friendly rocket. The launcher uses only 100-percent renewable fuel to cut carbon emissions by 90 percent. A zero-shock staging and payload separation eliminates orbital debris. The launcher was design-optimized for selective laser melting, an additive manufacturing (AM) process, producing a structure 30 percent lighter and 20 percent more efficient than other launch vehicles in its category. Orbex aerospace engineers partnered closely with the applications engineering team at SLM Solutions headquarters in Lübeck, Germany, to ensure success transferring the design into selective laser melting production—a feat that required the partnership of the equipment provider due to the complexity and size of the component. Read More.

Here is some other news to note: 


New Specs: Turning Machines from Mazak

11. March 2019
new specs from Mazak

Techspex is in the midst of adding a host of updated machine specs to our database of Mazak machine tools. Among the additions so far are turning machines, such as:

  • The QT 350 HP universal turning center with a 20" swing for those processing medical devices, engine parts, electronic enclosures and more
  • The Megaturn 1600 vertical turning center, excelling in heavy-duty cutting of large and low- to medium-profile workpieces
  • The QT 100 MSY with multitasking capability and Y-axis functionality, in addition to a secondary turning spindle to process parts in one setup

This is only a sampling of the specs being added to Mazak’s list of turning machines, with more to come. Find more Mazak machine models to browse and compare on its company showroom 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.

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