by Kip Hanson
THE PROBLEM Meeting a price-conscious OEM’s high production challenge
THE SOLUTION Buy the right machine tool and engineer the heck out of the process
Anyone who has quoted on automotive work knows it’s incredibly competitive. Bids are often determined on fractions of a penny-per-part, with expectations of stringent part quality and no excuses, on-time delivery. Once the contract is won, the production part approval process complete, automakers then expect a rapid ramp-up to full production levels, one that scarcely provides time to tool up, let alone order new machine tools. Simply put, automotive work is not for the faint of heart.
Making the leap
This was the scenario facing Gurpreet Badh, vice president of A’s Precision Machining Inc., and Gagan Singh, engineer manager of A’s sister company, Dieform Automation. When given the opportunity to quote on a multi-year contract for a fuel injection junction block, they evaluated their existing machining capabilities—which were already extensive—and realized they would be unable to compete on the part. Together with company president and Badh’s brother, Jatinder Singh, they decided to invest in five-axis multitasking machining centers from Brother.
“The junction block is for one of our customers in Mexico, who supplies parts to Ford Motor Co.,” says Badh. “They were having a hard time finding anyone to make it for them at their target price and approached us about taking on the project. Obviously, we needed a way to not only reduce the machining time but also complete the part in fewer operations. So we started by buying four used SPEEDIOs, and after seeing how well they worked, ended up buying two brand new ones—the M140X2—which are also equipped with C-axis turning.”
A’s Precision Machining was founded in 2002. The Badh brothers started with a single machine and 170 sq m (1800 sq ft) of operating space. Today, the shop floor is 20 times that size and the company employs 50 people operating 60 different CNC machine tools. Its equipment list includes a massive RB 200-F five axis bridge mill from SNK, a Makino A81 horizontal machining centre, an Okuma twin-spindle lathe, a Nakamura-Tome NTJ-100, and a Star SR-32J CNC screw machine.
The engineering solutions side of the company—Dieform Automation—grew out of a need to focus on its customers’ prototyping, tooling, automation, and product development needs. Among its many projects are a custom-built robotic tapping machine, numerous welding and machining fixtures, and tooling up the Brothers old and new for the junction block project.
Fast and furious
Ray Vander Kooy, regional sales manager at Brother distributor Ferro Technique Ltd., describes the M140X2 as a compact, extremely reliable workhorse for anyone looking to minimize non-cutting time. All five machine axes can be positioned simultaneously during tool changes, significantly reducing chip-to-chip time, and the unique design allows a variety of complex parts to be machined in a single handling.
For these and other reasons, a machine that at first glance appears to be “just another drill-tap center” has been shown to outperform larger, more expensive machine tools on high-volume parts such as alternator housings, steering pumps, turbocharger casings, and, eventually, junction blocks.
As it turns out, it was a perfect fit for the junction block. Made of C1018 steel, the block contains several “very close tolerance” features, small holes, and deep threads that Badh says the M140X2s handle with ease. Over the past two years of operation, he and his team have come to appreciate the reliability, small footprint, and surprisingly robust metal removal capabilities of their six SPEEDIOs, as well as the support they’ve received from Ferro Technique. “They are very impressive machines,” says Badh. SMT