Feature

Moldmaking Report: Light-speed machining

More and more moldmakers are realizing that acquiring significant high-speed machining capacity is the only way to compete with off-shore tool shops, to say nothing of the shop down the street. The good news is that it's a buyer's market, with more types of machines, from high-end to affordable, to meet the specific needs of any given toolroom.


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September 1, 2002 by Michael LeGault, editor




Perhaps it’s a sign of growing maturity in the moldmaking industry that semantics are suddenly important.

“We don’t like to call it high-speed machining,” says Tony Facione, sales engineering, Single Source Technologies, Windsor, ON. “We view it as high efficiency machining.”

Facione explains: “You can have a machine that runs at a million inches a minute, but as for using it effectively to produce a mold, there are many other factors involved.”

SST is a distributor of Makino machines, as well as a line of Chinese-made, high-speed machines. Facione says the Chinese machines are high-quality, bridge-style machines that sell for half the cost of higher-end machines. A smaller model, called the Topper, is built by Tong-Tai Machine & Tool Company in Taiwan; and a larger model, the Johnford, is built by Roundtop Machinery Industries Company, also in Taiwan. SST has sold nine of the Chinese machines in Southwest Ontario and Michigan in the last year.

The Johnford machine is built with heavy duty, high rigidity support columns, extra large milling head and large diameter X-Y-Z ballscrews. The standard spindle speed is 18,000 rpm; but an optional spindle is capable of 30,000 rpm. The machine can achieve cutting feeds rates of up to 4000 mm/min.

“We see a really bright future for the sales of these machines into the Canadian market,” Facione says, noting SST plans to have sales staff on the ground in Toronto in the near future.

HORIZONTAL MACHINES CATCHING ON

Makino has recently introduced its new MCC2013 Die/Mold horizontal machining centre. The company says the MCC2013 is up to 400% more efficient than existing equipment used for machining large molds weighing up to 22,000 lb., and also provides a 50% improvement in machining accuracy over current machines.

“The MCC2013 can do both roughing and finishing and it has a great reach, so you can do deep pocket work,” says Mark Rentschler, Makino marketing manager.

The machine has X, Y and Z strokes of 78.7 in. x 53.2 in. x 39.4 in. respectively, and maximum workpiece size of 98.4 in. x 43.3 in. x 66.9 in. The machine is fitted with a high-performance, 15,000 rpm, 40 Hp RJ spindle. The RJ spindle is an integral motor design, which allows for low vibration and high reliability, with support provided by highly rigid cylindrical roller bearings. The machine is also equipped with Makino’s patent-pending Thermo-stabilizer system. This system suppresses thermal growth of the machine by circulating cooling fluid through the Mechanite column and optional angle plate. The machine is capable of achieving a linear positioning accuracy of +/-0.000080 in. and repeatability of +/-0.000040 in.

“Horizontal machines are catching on,” says Facione, reporting that a well-known moldmaker in the Windsor area is the first to purchase Makino’s MCC2013. “The main advantage of a horizontal machine is that the mold is on the side, so the chips fall out, which means better tool life and better finish.”

Facione says Makino is the leader in building horizontal machines because its Thermo-stabilizer system controls thermal growth of the machine and provides high accuracy.

EUROPEAN MACHINES INTRODUCED TO CANADA

Fidia and Ferro Technique gave a demonstration of Fidia’s HS644 high-speed machining centre at a recent Canadian Association of Moldmakers meeting in Windsor, ON. HS644 refers to a line of vertical spindle machines with X-axis travel from 600 to 1650 mm and Y and Z axis travel of 450 and 400 mm, respectively.

The machines are ideal for high-speed milling of molds, dies and electrodes of medium- to small dimensions. Some of the more typical applications for the machine include the machining of molds for footwear, domestic appliances, electrical components, toys, jewels, as well as the machining of copper and graphite electrodes.

Deckel Maho Gildemeister (Mississauga, ON) offers the Canadian market a range of high-end, high-speed, multi-axis machining centres. The DMU 50 eVolution is a 5-axis CNC machine capable of simultaneous 5-sided machining and contouring. The machine was designed with a 40% increase in pivot speed of the NC swivel rotary table, which allows for much faster tool changes. The standard version comes with spindle speed of 18,000 rpm, a 1 g acceleration in the linear axis and a rapid transverse speed of 50 m/min.

SST’s Facione says many shops do not utilize the full capabilities of high-speed machining. “It’s a matter of training,” he says. “Typically, when a company buys a machine, the machine manufacturer sends out a controls guy to set it up and tell them which buttons to push.”

Facione says SST’s approach is provide the moldmaker with turnkey service, from building the mold to programming, setting up and running the machine under various scenarios.

“It’s a continuous hand-holding scenario as long as our customer needs us,” says Facione.