From one-offs to high-precision production

Feb. 12, 2009
Shop steps up machining capabilities to meet customer needs.
IDM stepped up its high-precision milling capabilities with a Bridgeport XR 1500 high-performance vertical machining center.
(Inset from left to right) IDM now machines aftermarket motorcycle parts and magnetic coils for electric brakes on one Hardinge turning center instead of using multiple machines, and precision milling at IDM involves parts such as tire molds.

IDM “I do machining” had always specialized in prototype and oneoff job shop work, and the equipment on its shop floor reflected that. Housed at the shop were several manual machines and what would today be considered old CNCs.

When IDM decided to expand its capabilities to take on larger projects and high-precision production work, yet still retain its prototype work, the shop canvassed its customers to find out what their needs were and what kind of machine tools would help fulfill those needs.

Today, IDM boasts high-performance vertical machining centers and cnc lathes as well as manual mills and lathes, EDM, and plastic injection molding equipment. The shop supplies precision-machined parts for industries that include medical, aerospace, industrial and automotive.

While developing and building its customer base, IDM was doing work for a local company called SEPAC that custom engineers brake and clutch motion control systems. In early 2008, John Meier, owner of IDM, acquired SEPAC, allowing IDM to grow even more with work from its own businesses – SEPAC was the fourth company IDM had acquired over the years.

“This arrangement has allowed us to migrate from being a prototype shop to one that is precision production oriented,” Scott Beecher, vice president of sales and marketing at IDM, said. “We have a great group of knowledgeable employees and the latest technological equipment, both of which keep us on the leading edge of the competition curve.”

One of the first machines IDM needed was a turning center with a lot of capability and one that would provide a done-inone approach to jobs. Otherwise, the shop would have had to quote jobs that added extra part handling into the equation.

“We looked at many different brands of turning centers, but settled on a Hardinge highperformance multi-axis SR-MSY turning center equipped with VDI top plate with live tooling, C axis, Y axis and subspindle. The Y axis, especially, opens up a lot of avenues for us,” Meier said.

The shop outfitted the machine with an LNS America Inc. barfeeder, an arrangement that makes for complete part machining in single setups. This capability, Meier said, wins the shop jobs that would have been lost to other bidders.

One such job was an aftermarket motorcycle component with threads that change from one job to the next, depending on the make of the motorcycle. The shop runs about 100 pieces at a time with 12-minute total per-piece cycle times, and the SR-MSY’s subspindle and Y axis made it possible to move the job from two separate machines to one.

“Y-axis capability is extremely helpful. Was it absolutely necessary to use it on the motorcycle parts? No, but it sure shortened up the cycle time. Also, the manual guide-i feature in the machine’s Fanuc i-Series control lets us prove out the part program prior to machining to save time and money by preventing scrap work and possible broken tools,” Bob Briggs, IDM production manager, said.

The capabilities of the SR-MSY also helped IDM win a job previously outsourced to Asia.

“We had a customer, actually one of our sister companies, that we produced parts for, and they eventually started sourcing from overseas to reduce cost per piece. But they faced having to really manage the production cycle and order way out to meet deadlines. The last thing they wanted was to jeopardize responsiveness to customers, but they needed to reduce costs. With the SR-MSY, we found we could reduce our costs substantially to the point where we were competitive, especially when it came to quality and delivery,” Meier said.

The job involved magnetic coils used in electric brakes. The par t , made complete f rom 2.500-in.-diameter, 12L14 steel bar stock in 600-piece lots, requires a very deep trepan face groove and 0.0005-in. total tolerance on a critical counter bore and through hole. The machine’s main spindle holds the parts for machining these critical features, then the part transfers to the subspindle for machining its other end.

“The customer inspects every part that we supply, so maintaining these specifications is crucial. We previously ran the parts on two lathes, but that wasn’t cost effective. In fact, it was this part that helped justify the purchase of the SR-MSY machine and why we stepped up to a 2.500-in. bar machine. A 40 percent reduction in cycle time also helped,” Meier said.

To step up its milling capabilities for high-precision work, IDM added a Bridgeport XR 1500 high-performance vertical machining center, also from Hardinge. The machine had the required work envelope, repeatability and tolerance capabilities.

IDM uses the XR 1500’s 60-in. bed for large setups of multiple small parts to speed throughput and, obviously, to machine large parts such as tire molds that would have had to be done in two steps on other machines.

The tire molds are for a local manufacturer, Green Diamond Tires. Initial machining of the molds involves engraving the brand name, tire size and other cosmetic features. After the molds have worn from repeated use, they come back to IDM, are again put on the XR 1500, and are “cleaned” up for continued use.

In addition to its XR 1500, IDM has a Bridgeport XR 760 vertical machining center with a smaller footprint for small parts requiring the same repeatability, quality, tolerances and finishes of those done on the larger machine. Part processing on both machines is very manageable because they both use the same programming platform with a Fanuc 18i-MB control.

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