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ADVANCED MANUFACTURING NOW Don Baskin


a T


he vertical machining center (VMC) is the most widely consumed machine tool platform in America. It goes back to our roots with the production in 1938 of the legendary


Bridgeport three-axis manual knee mill. As revolutionary as that was for American manufacturing, the confi guration’s limitations became obvious over time. The manufacturer and resourceful customers created all sorts of accessories for its table—sine plates, dividing heads and such—to access and machine more sides of the workpiece than just the top. By defi nition, the VMC is the single most ineffi cient machine tool in the shop and yet, we love it qualitatively. Fast forward to today and we have compelling quantitative reasons to love it because, while the horizontal approach still has the edge on productivity, the latest VMC models coming to market have advanced features, con- struction attributes and components that contribute to reliability and effi ciency levels never thought possible on a VMC. Here are the newer characteristics and capabilities you’ll want to ensure are incorporated into your next VMC:


Review how the machine is constructed so that in 10, 15 perhaps even 20 years, it’s still running as accurately as the day you installed it. Check that the manufacturer uses fi nite element analysis (FEA) to design the castings for its spindle head, base, column and saddle. The idea is to get the natural harmonics of the structure outside of the operational range of the machine. Also make sure that the casting method used is licensed by the Meehanite Worldwide organization. This patented process demands the highest quality iron-producing procedures, providing long-term rigidity, heavy-duty cutting capability and proper vibration dampening over the life of the machine. Other construction highlights of a quality machine include an arched pyramid column that is hand-scraped to the bed, making the two castings behave almost like one, also ensuring tight machine geometry that refl ects in part accuracy. High-quality ceramic spindle bearings, double- anchored pre-tensioned ballscrews and linear roller motion guides are among other construction aspects to consider.


8 AdvancedManufacturing.org | June 2017 President Ellison Technologies MODERN MANUFACTURING PROCESSES, SOLUTIONS & STRATEGIES


New Generation VMCs Are More Productive and Effi cient Than Ever


Roller guides have three times the rigidity and twice the life of ball bearing motion guides. Upon a sound structure, scrutinize additional components, such as spindles, the coolant system and chip conveying mecha- nism. All of these contribute to effi ciency. Look for features like a dual-contact spindle (taper/face) such as Big Plus, tool load moni- toring, through-spindle coolant and adaptive feed rate control for optimal tooling application and cycle time. Further, understand how the machine is designed to handle heat. Arguably the great- est advancement in recent years is the application of a variety of thermal stability improvements. For example, the new Doosan DNM line pays particular attention to this with a sensorless ther- mal compensation system—standard on these machines—that applies algorithms to calculate heat displacement based upon ambient temperature and operational conditions. An oil-cooled spindle head and a larger coolant tank with an eco-friendly cy- clonic fi ltration system support the overall thermally stable design. A sealed electrical cabinet with cooling system and an oil skimmer for the coolant tank reduce overall machine maintenance. Even ergonomics, such as the ability to access the work


area from three sides, table height and how close the table comes to the door, work zone lighting and a portable manual pulse generator affect effi ciency on a VMC. Contributing to productivity is the ability to easily add pallet changers to reduce load/unload time, part and tool probing to decrease setup time and Ethernet connectivity for easy program transfer. Program- mable tilting rotary tables and creative fi xturing have certainly made the VMC a practical choice for even prismatic parts that need work on four or fi ve sides in one setup. Lastly, check that the machine is set up to accept MT Connect, establishing a plant-wide data-gathering system to understand and quantify the machine’s OEE (overall equipment effectiveness). In light of these remarkable advancements, our love of the VMC will continue unabated, especially as the ultimate goal is achieved: more good parts produced at the end of each shift.


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