Grinding puts machine tool manufacturer at the top

Grinding puts machine tool manufacturer at the top

Noboru Watanabe says his grinding machines regularly keep tolerances to 0.3 microns.

That claim, he said, instilled skepticism in machine tool makers and, Watanabe said, one of the biggest challenges his 23-year-old company faced was to convince its customers that his claims were real.

Today, Taiyo Koki is known as Japan’s leading grinding machine company. It now is a subsidiary of Mori Seiki, and it has gained worldwide recognition.

Watanabe, president of Taiyo Koki, said his company has focused on the production of grinding machines for the past 20 years, and that it now counts most of the leading machine tool manufacturers and the leading bearing manufacturers around the world as its customers.

Both the machine tool and the bearing manufacturers rely on Taiyo Koki’s precision. Machine tool makers do for the production of their spindles and other critical components, he said.

Taiyo Koki produces a variety of grinding machines, including internal grinding machines, cylindrical grinding machines, large and compact machines.

Three-quarters of the company’s sales are derived from vertical grinding machines, and horizontal and cylindrical grinding machines contribute about 20 percent of its sales. The other component of sales — about 5 percent — comes from specialty machines. Taiyo Koki expects to post sales of approximately $75 million a year for fiscal 2009.

Focusing on grinding machines has allowed Taiyo Koki to develop unique technology that includes the integration of several grinding processes in one machine, Watanabe said.

The company’s typical machine is designed to perform hog grinding, rough grinding and finish grinding in one set up.

The integration of those processes reduces seven operations — and the potential for the use of seven separate machines — into one chucking on one machine, Watanabe said.

In addition, the grinding machines are designed with a continuous turret that indexes to 0.0001 degrees. That allows the machines to grind multiple contours on a single part.

Machines with indexing turrets feature a tool changer that contributes to the ability to perform multiple grinding operations in a single set-up. In a single set-up, multiple faces, outer and inner diameters, and outer and inner tapers can be ground.

The machines are built with an external wheel spindle driven by a standard, 11-kw motor. Spindle motors with 15 kw and 22 kw power are available as options. They have high precision, continuous indexing on their wheel heads that allows the grinding of multiple tapers with a repeatability of 0.0006 degrees, Watanabe said.

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