Six-Axis Machine Fits Metalex’s Big Plans

May 28, 2020
Starrag Group is addressing one contract manufacturer's expansion and development strategy with a large-scale portal machining center.

Metalex Manufacturing has been in business for nearly 50 years, and a significant expansion is coming this year. The contract manufacturer plans to open a new Center for Advanced Large Manufacturing, to establish the type of flexible production capacity that will address all of Metalex’s foreseeable demands for high-accuracy, milled and turned workpieces in a single set-up. At its core, the new center will have large-capacity, multi-axis Droop+Rein portal-type machining center — the largest machine ever for Metalex —  supplied by Starrag Group.

The six-axis Droop+Rein T series machine is projected to satisfy not only the existing project requirements for Metalex, but its extraordinarily large machining envelope — a work table up to 709-in.-long, 374 inches between the columns and 276 inches below the spindle — is sure to attract new orders, too.

The portal type milling and turning machine is being specifically configured to meet Metalex’s current and future needs: 748 inches in the X axis, 354 inches in the Y axis. The 276-in. vertical clearance will be covered by 118-in. ram stroke (Z-axis) and a continuously moveable crossrail of 217 inches (W axis.) The C axis integrated to the ram with infinite rotation and the +/- 203-degree swiveling B-axis of the universal fork-type milling head will complete the available six axes.

The 136-hp main spindle will transfer up to 66,372 lbs./ft-in. to the heavy vertical and horizontal milling head. A heavy-duty, fork-type head and a spindle-cartridge change, fork-type head both enable five-axis operation and a slim spindle extension round out the initial milling head configuration.

All the milling heads will be designed, built, and tested in Germany by Droop+Rein, a Starrag Group holding. Furthermore, the machine will be prepped to be fitted with even more heads as new jobs may require. The 400-pocket, robotic tool magazine will ensure automatic loading of three different tooling systems into selected milling and turning heads.

One distinctive feature is the table design. The X-bed carries two 236x 315-in. tables that can be operated separately under the spindle, while the other table is unloaded outside the machining area. Working ‘in tandem’, the tables can be extended to 709 inches for machining extra-long workpieces.

In addition, each table holds an integrated 236-in. rotary table that uses the 2x149-hp main drives to turn components weighing up to 440,925 lbs. (using one of the turning tool holders provided in addition to the milling heads), or to position as a C-axis for high-accuracy milling and drilling. 

The result will be an exceptional, one-stop precision machining center, for extra-large components with complex geometry requiring precision tolerances.

Established in 1971, Metalex is a contract manufacturer specializing in producing high-quality, complex workpieces for aerospace, energy, marine and consumer goods products.

Over the past decades Metalex has acquired several machines from Starrag Group, including a Dörries vertical turning lathe and two Starrag STC horizontal five-axis machining centers. According to Droop+Rein product sales manager Heiko Quack, “We sat down with Metalex to discuss what was needed: in short, a very flexible, large-capacity and high-accuracy machine with five-axis capability that would efficiently accommodate a variety of parts in a range of materials and produced to tight tolerances.”

He continued: “Applying our ‘Engineering precisely what you value’ philosophy, our project with Metalex evolved by looking at various solutions and machine types available under the Starrag portfolio.

“Together we arrived at the Droop+Rein T series, a portal milling machine that offers superb rigidity, essential for highly-accurate machining. We added the two rotary tables and the turning tool holders for in-cycle turning operations, and expanded the horizontal and vertical clearance to suit.

“With no comparable workpieces, from the outset we knew that Metalex wanted a machine that would meet all eventualities," Quack added. "And, as always, Starrag applied the best world-class technology solutions including Balluff tool identification, Renishaw probing, BLUM laser tool measuring, video monitoring of the work area using four cameras, ARTIS tool and process monitoring and Brankamp collision monitoring all integrated via the machine’s Siemens 840 D SL CNC system.”

The new machine is due for delivery this year, and the start of production is scheduled in 2021.

“For Metalex to continuously evolve and be a company of the future, a combination of our capabilities, technology, and people must work together to create innovation that sets us apart from others," CEO Kevin Kummerle explained. "Our customers need to know that their key suppliers are committed to be at the leading edge of their industry offering the best total value in terms of quality, technology, cost and service for today and for the long run."