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Contract Manufacturer Increases Spindle Speed and Improves Control with New High-Performance Vertical Machining Centers

Monks Manufacturing upgraded to new Methods' VMC's and reduced the cycle time enough to save the shop 45 hours on one 60 part project.

While older machinery may be adequate to get the job done, at some point the advantages of the latest technology cannot be ignored. This was the case for Monks Manufacturing Company, Inc. (Wilmington, MA), where they recently recognized they had not purchased new milling equipment in about ten years. Although they were not encountering a specific problem per se with their existing machines, they suspected that newer technology could improve their productivity.

Methods provided training to help shorten the learning curve to utilize the new machines purchased by Monks Manufacturing.

 

 

Monks Manufacturing, a contract manufacturer employing 20 people, does approximately 80 -- 90% of their work in aluminum and a portion in stainless steel. Aluminum parts may include anything from ruggedized enclosures for computers on drilling rigs, to sound system assemblies. Their work in stainless is used primarily for manufacturing medical parts. Examples include 316 stainless steel discs with cutouts, small holes and patterns.

Mr. Lee Monks, President of Monks Manufacturing Company said, "We felt we were starting to fall behind the technology curve and sought new equipment so we could begin the process of overhauling our technology base." Monks Manufacturing's primary goals were to increase spindle RPM and have a controller which would handle the new feed rates they planned to use. Even though much of their older technology was still performing as good as the day they installed it, some of their machines were operating at 6,000 RPM -- a rate too slow for today's applications and turn-around times.

The HV-1000 features a FANUC 18i-MB controller with 4th Axis prep and 150 line look-ahead combined with a 15,000 RPM spindle.

 

 

Monks continued, "We wanted to cut parts faster and needed a machine which offered faster spindle speeds and improved control to handle the cutting tools we wanted to use. Also, our customers require us to decipher information from 3D models of large components and parts. Providing this information and programming the most optimal tool paths requires state-of-the-art controls and software which are critical to successfully compete today."

Reliable Machine Tool Provider & Technology

Monks Manufacturing looked to their long standing machine tool provider, Methods Machine Tools, Inc. (Sudbury, MA), to help revamp their technology. Methods' machines already accounted for the majority of machining equipment at Monks Manufacturing, including eight Matsuura 3-Axis vertical machining centers and two FANUC RoboDrill 5-Axis machining centers. "Given our relationship with Methods and their solid service history, it was easy to feel comfortable consulting with their application engineers," said Monks. "Also, we knew our biggest challenge would likely be the learning curve required to take advantage of all a new controller and machine could offer. We needed a technology partner we could rely on and Methods is our go-to source."

Methods' engineers evaluated the requirements at Monks Manufacturing and presented the contract manufacturer with some solid options available in the new FEELER HV-Series High Performance Vertical Machining Center line which features extensive design and engineering from Methods. Monks Manufacturing was both comfortable with Methods' expertise, and impressed with the capabilities and price of the rugged FEELER VMC line. Two FEELER HV-1000's were chosen. The HV-1000's feature a FANUC 18i-MB controller with 4th Axis prep and 150 line look-ahead combined with a 15,000 RPM spindle. The FEELER systems also feature 1G X-Axis acceleration and a 1.9 second tool change time in either a 800 mm X-Axis travel or in a 1,000 mm option which Monks Manufacturing received. A 30 HP direct drive, 40 taper spindle and 30-tool automatic tool changer are standard.

Monks has been so successful in implementing the technology improvements that they are already assessing other areas of the shop floor that can be upgraded.

 

 

Methods provided training to help shorten the learning curve to utilize the faster spindle speeds, as well as the more advanced tooling and toolholders used on the new systems. Monks Manufacturing also regularly updates their CAD / CAM software to maximize the benefits of using the new machining technology.

Productivity Gains

Now in production with the new machines since spring 2011, Monks said, "We did not realize what we were missing until we fully learned the potential of our new FEELER VMCs. Now we feel we simply cannot afford to do without this latest technology."

Since the FEELER purchase, Monks Manufacturing has achieved a more competitive edge. A good example is a job where they make 60-72 parts in aluminum. The parts are machined out of 6061 aluminum billets that are 1-1/8" thick x 14.674" wide x 16.424" long. On this job, Monks was able to reduce a 2 hour cycle time on a 12,000 RPM machine, down to 1 hour and 15 minutes by incorporating advances from the radial chip thinning capability provided by the high efficiency 15,000 RPM FEELER machine.

"At 45 minutes per part in quantities of 60 pieces, a savings of 45 hours is realized on this one job. Multiply this by whatever your shop rate is and it easy to see how this machine can pay for itself within a year," said Monks.

Monks has been so successful in implementing the technology improvements that they are already assessing other areas of the shop floor that can be upgraded. Monks said, "I am confident that in the not too distant future we will be exploring even greater spindle speeds in order to make more gains on our competition."

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