Cutting time to save money

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The problem
Time-consuming set-ups on multiple machines for complex parts

The solution
Five axis turn/mill machine to reduce part set-ups and potential for errors

Quebec manufacturer reduces part set-ups, improves productivity with new five axis turn/mill machine

by Mary Scianna

Manufacturers in this country are recognized for producing high quality innovative products, but if we want to maintain our position we must invest in technologies that improve productivity, says Patrick Bolduc, president of Usitech 2000 Inc., a machine shop in St. Anselme, QC.

“If we want to be competitive in CNC machining, we need to be the best at manufacturing complex parts and to achieve this, we must invest in equipment, such as multi-axis machines and automation.”

It’s the reason Usitech embarked on an 18-month machining technology investment journey that culminated in the recent $575,000 purchase of a DMG turn/mill CNC machine, the CTX Beta 1250 TC with full five axis machining. The machine was purchased last December, and installed in February 2012 with production start-up in May.

“It’s exactly the kind of equipment that allows us to be very competitive on price and still offer a high quality product,” says Bolduc.

Bolduc and his partner, co-owner Gaetan Cyr, formed the company in 2007. The business began in a 1000 sq ft shop with a three axis lathe and three axis mill. Today the 6,000 sq ft machine shop operates five CNC machines and since 2008, Usitech has invested $1.3 million in new machine tools. The shop houses a Doosan three axis turn/mill 240M, a Doosan 4020 four axis milling machine, an Awea 3016 SP (60 in. x 120 in./1,524 mm x 3,048 mm), a Huron VX12 equipped with a fourth axis, and the recent DMG turn/mill machine.

The machinery investments fit in with the company’s manufacturing philosophy.

“Our manufacturing strategy is based on continuous improvement of machining cycles. We are always on the lookout for innovations in tooling and machinery, such as the turn/mill machine, which helps us reduce setups and improve our manufacturing flexibility,” says Bolduc.

Such machinery investments also help Usitech set itself apart from competitors. The company prides itself on high quality machining of complex parts for the energy sector (primarily wind turbine and oil), automation and controls, general industrial (with a focus on recycling and agriculture markets), transportation (bus and truck manufacturing) and construction. Its customers are national in scope, from Quebec and west as far as Alberta.

When Usitech decided it was time to invest in new technology, it wanted a machine that could help increase productivity, offer single part set-up for multiple machining processes, and be five axis capable. It didn’t take Bolduc and Cyr long to decide on the DMG mill/turn CTX Beta 1250 TC.

While there are many mill/turn machines to choose from, Bolduc says Usitech selected DMG’s machine because of the machine tool builder’s reputation for building quality machine tools.

“I know DMG machines are very good because I have followed the company for three years and I’ve seen the huge progress in technology it has made. The company seems to come out with new software and new design innovations every year. We liked the flexibility the CTX offered because it allows us to machine different complex parts for many customers much more efficiently. It has German engineering and long term, I know I will not have problems with this machine; it is reliable.”

The machine has been operating problem-free since it was installed in May.

“This is the first full five axis equipment we’ve purchased. The technology has allowed us to reduce operating costs, reduce the risk of error and improve the quality of our machined parts,” explains Bolduc.

Five axis machining does introduce a level of complexity that some shops might not like, but Bolduc says the learning curve was “very easy because of the support we received from the DMG Canada team. It took us three months to integrate the machine and the programming; we had planned for a nine-month integration.”

Not only has the machine run problem-free since it began to operate, its performance—and the benefits Usitech has achieved—has been impressive.

“Productivity gains have been considerable. The equipment allowed us to fill an immediate need for a job and it has also allowed us to develop more business in new markets requiring machining of complex parts,” says Bolduc.

The Equipment
One of the most appealing features of the DMG CTX Beta 1250 TC for Usitech 2000 is its design, which provides the shop with greater machining flexibility to machine tight tolerances on round or square parts. More importantly, it cuts part set-up times—and the potential for errors—required for multiple machines.

While it means longer machining cycle times for some parts, co-owner Patrick Bolduc says the ability to machine a part complete from raw material to final finish in one setup is much more productive and cost efficient.

The 12,000 rpm mill/turn machine is designed with a turn/mill spindle with a swivel range of +/- 120°, Y axis on the turret with a travel length of 3.9 in. (99.06 mm), and a direct drive B axis milling spindle for six-sided or five axis simultaneous machining. The machine is designed with a disk-type magazine for 24 tools (main tooling supplier is Sandvik Coromant) and features a user-friendly (DIN programming) Siemens 840D solutionline control—ShopTurn 3G and shop floor orientation. Key features include integrated water-cooled motors on the main and counter spindles. The turret—12 pocket direct drive VDI turret with a maximum rotation speed of 10,000 rpm—is equipped with DMG’s TriFix precision quick change system for VDI tools.

Short machining times are possible because of the rapid traverse rate of 45 m/min. SMT

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