Waynesboro, VA-based Virginia Panel Corp. produces a sophisticated line of electrical components, including Mass Power Interconnects. These components allow customers to connect equipment, such as computers or complex aerospace modules, to test equipment. Established in 1959, Virginia Panel’s products are part of several major commercial and military testing programs.
Due to the company’s growth, Ronnie Martin, director of mechanical products, began looking for contract machining help. But outside help would increase costs, and Virginia Panel supplies premium products with thin margins.
Martin began investigating production and machine-tool technology for solutions, and quickly focused in on the cost and performance aspects of horizontal machining centers. “I’ve been running vertical machining centers for 30 years,” he explains. “At every tool show I would look at horizontal machining centers, but the sticker price made it out of the question.”
|Setups on Mazak’s HMC are quick and easy due to common baseplate fixtures and a two-pallet changer. Click here to enlarge
Vertical to Horizontal
What the company needed was a new way of thinking, and it started by assembling a team of their manufacturing and engineering personnel. “Our components command a premium price in the marketplace, so the only way we’re going to protect our margins is to lower costs in production. Where we can better control our quality through our process, programming, and equipment, we save money in the long run,” according to Rick Ebinger, manufacturing manager.
After researching different horizontal machining centers (HMC), Martin selected Mazak’s PFH-5800 that offers a two-pallet changer with the capability of expanding into a full palletized system.
It didn’t take long for the company to begin realizing numerous productivity benefits. Setup takes 75% less time compared to the company’s vertical machining center, and cycle times are down an average of 50% per part. “Roughly 25% of our parts have migrated to the new horizontal machining center from our verticals,” Martin says. “That will grow.”
For one cast aluminum part produced from a sand casting, that the company moved to the new horizontal machining center, machining time was reduced from 1 hour and 15 minutes to 35 minutes. Additionally, the horizontal system could accommodate end-hole operations that the vertical could not, saving even more process time by eliminating the drilling operation and its setup time on a separate machine.
When roughing steel with the new horizontal, Martin found that they could increase feeds from three inches per minute on the vertical to 23 inches per minute on the PFH. Setup times were also decreased in some cases from one and a half hours to two hours on the vertical to just 15 minutes on the horizontal machining center.
Less Labor; More Flexibility
With its two-pallet system and fast tool-change time, the PFH-5800 can provide double spindle usage, loading and unloading takes place without interrupting machining. The unit can also be designed for an unattended lights-out system that has the flexibility to grow as manufacturing expands.
A horizontal system also gives users more flexibility over a vertical since more work can be processed at one time with tombstone fixtures. With the horizontal machining center, the company is able to machine three sides of the part. They can then turn the parts over on another fixture and finish them in two operations.
The PFH-5800 horizontal machining center features a 15,000-rpm maximum spindle speed with 1.9-sec. acceleration powered by a heavy-duty 30-Hp spindle motor (optional 40) and 1.0 G acceleration in X, Y, and Z axes. It has a standard 40 tool storage capacity with 80, 120, 180, 220, and 330 as options. With the larger tool storage options, a company can have redundant tooling for jobs done untended or when a palletized system is used.
Making Parts and Money
The cost/benefit issue was resolved, according to Martin because “with the HMC, in the long run, our parts from door-to-door are actually less expensive to produce, which is good, because our customers continue to demand better price, quality and delivery. I also think that if business continues to increase, the future of our company is to someday go unattended with the Palletech system. We’ll turn the lights out and go home while the machine makes us parts and money.”