Matt Smith, owner of The Precision Edge Machine, needed a mill that he could learn to program quickly because he specializes in high tolerance, low-volume parts for medical devices, the aerospace industry, and power sports. Additionally, he manufactures custom wheels and snowmobile parts from his Zimmerman, Minnesota shop, which is about 35 miles northwest of Minneapolis.
From Turning to Milling
“When I started The Precision Edge, it was a turning-only shop. I bought a 1993 KM3P CNC Knee Mill to do secondary milling operations on the turned parts, but I was amazed at how capable a machine of that size was and how easy it was to program. A year later, business was really beginning to take off. My customers were impressed with the milled parts and orders for 50 or more parts kept coming in. That was a problem. The KM3 didn’t have a tool changer. I was the tool changer. Purchasing a CNC mill was a huge decision, but I knew it was time to take the leap,” explains Smith.
During the decision-making process, Smith knew he needed an accurate machine that was reliable and would last. He also knew he needed conversational programming that was intuitive and easy to learn.
“I didn’t want to deal with the expense and maintenance costs of a CAM package. For me, the Hurco conversational control was the perfect solution because I was a lathe guy,” says Smith.
His first CNC mill was the Hurco VM10 and he says he never looked back.“The Hurco control was really easy to learn. I pretty much taught myself. A former co-worker came to the shop for about two hours and I was able to figure out everything else as I went along…the added speed and capacity of the VM10 absolutely sky-rocketed sales. Sales increased so much that I had to move to a bigger building six months later. I was able to hire a full-time employee and bought two used turning centers one month after moving in—all because the VM10 was so efficient!” says Smith.
Smith says about eight months later, he realized he needed to add more CNC milling capacity because the VM10 was so backlogged with work.
Shop's Growth Leads to a Second Hurco
“The decision to buy another Hurco was a no brainer. The employee that I had hired eight months prior had no previous CNC programming experience. In eight months he learned how to program, set up and run jobs with little supervision. That is a testament to the power of the WinMax control!”
This time Matt bought a VM20 with a H160 4th axis. The VM20 was the perfect size machine eliminates the need to fixture parts for complicated side profile machining,” explains Smith.
The Most Valuable Control Features for Matt's Shop: Hurco DXF and the Advanced Verification Graphics
The two features Smith has found to be the most useful are DXF Transfer and the Solid Model Verifications Graphics. Hurco’s DXF Transfer feature lets Matt import part geometry from the dxf file directly to control. While other controls have similar features, Hurco’s DXF Transfer has an easy programming interface that allows you to edit DXF geometry, automatically chain contours, and select a group of hole operations based on the hole diameter. It also handles all 2D geometries on each plane of the part and multiple part planes can be linked into a single program, which is extremely efficient for processing complex parts on compound rotary tables.
“Bar none the verification graphics has been the most valuable. That feature alone has saved us thousands of dollars because of sudden rapid moves, wrong tool paths, broken tools and scrap materials. If you fat fingered a button. You put negative instead of positive. In that graphics screen you can see clearly if the part looks like it’s supposed to,” explains Smith.
Smith’s five-year plan is to double his business each year. To do that he says he will focus on what has worked during the first five years: outstanding service, quality parts, and the right equipment.
“Hurco has been instrumental with the success of our business. I can say without any doubt that we would not be the shop we are today without the support of Hurco. As time goes on we will hopefully be able to replace our turning centers with Hurcos,” says Smith.
In addition to relying on Hurco technology for fast turnaround of small batch part production, Smith will continue to run a customer-centric business. “I believe my customers’ needs are of the utmost importance. I take pride in every finished part we make. I really focus on providing customers with fast, courteous service, quality parts, and on-time delivery. So far, that formula has given me a lot of repeat business and referrals.”
Matt's Shop was featured in Modern Machine Shop magazine.To read the article, click this link
The Precision Edge Machine
25730 7th Street West, Suite 1
Zimmerman, MN 55398
Lou Ferriero was working in a plastics vacuum forming house when he identified a market that wasn’t being served. When he started PlasTech Machining and Fabrication Inc., he had one employee (himself) and one manual machine. Today, PlasTech has nine employees, six vertical machining centers, one 5 axis machining center, three turning centers, and Ferriero is thinking about upgrading to a multi-tasking turning center with live tooling and a sub-spindle.
With more than 35 years of experience in the machining and fabrication of plastics, Ferriero is proud that 80 percent of PlasTech’s business is from repeat customers. Approximately 50% of his business is devoted to medical equipment.
“We focus on high quality and precision. We don’t waste time trying to be the cheapest machine shop out there. Our prices are usually in the middle of the road compared to our competitors. We are the best at what we do and pride ourselves on delivering quality parts on time.” It appears PlasTech’s focus on quality versus price is working. According to Ferriero, companies that shipped jobs overseas for cheaper rates have started bringing the business back to PlasTech. “We lost jobs to overseas suppliers about five years ago and most of that work has come back,” said Ferriero.
A big part of PlasTech’s success is due to Ferriero’s commitment to stay current with technology by investing in new equipment. As PlasTech has grown, so has his investment in Hurco machine tools and Hurco technology. His latest investment in a Hurco software feature called UltiMotion continues to provide benefits beyond Ferriero’s expectations. As an example, Ferriero cites a part used for head restraints on hospital beds. “When we machined the parts on our RoboDrill, it took 30 minutes per part. On our Hurco with UltiMotion, it takes 20 minutes and the surface finish quality improved significantly,” says Ferrierro.
UltiMotion is able to simultaneously decrease cycle time and increase surface finish quality due to the underlying motion control algorithm Hurco developed that uses software-based motion instead of conventional hardware-based motion. UltiMotion software has rapid cornering capabilities that allow the spindle to travel through corners at high speed with negligible deviation without overshooting or stopping. Therefore, cycle time is significantly reduced when machining parts with complex geometries and/or repetitive tasks, such as drilling and tapping. Customers with UltiMotion also see improvement in surface finish because UltiMotion minimizes vibration, which results in smoother motion overall.
Flexible Control that Supports NC and Conversational
While PlasTech finds the conversational programming of the integrated Hurco control extremely useful to quickly make a fixture, Ferriero says he uses the NC side of the control for all of his jobs. Keeping his CAM system current is another technology investment that Ferriero continually makes to keep his company up to speed. PlasTech uses Mastercam X5 Cad /Cam software with Mill Level 3 and solids, Mastercam Lathe, verification software, Solidworks, and E2 Shop Systems for shop control.
The Power of Five
Like many prudent job shop owners, Ferriero’s latest machining center investment was a Hurco VM10U 5-axis machining center instead of a traditional 3-axis machine. The VM10U is part of the integrated trunnion style 5-axis machines from Hurco. With X/Y/Z travels of 21x16x19 and a 20-station ATC, the VM10U is one of the highest value 5-axis machines on the market.
Ferriero bought the VM10U to cut down on setups and has realized numerous productivity benefits. "The Hurco VM10U has exceeded our expectations. It has cut down on cost, time, labor and material," said Ferriero.
He cited a specific example for an article that appeared in Manufacturing News. The job entailed the manufacture of plastic components for prototype parts for de-icing the C-130 aircraft. "Without the VM10U 5-axis machine this would have been nearly impossible to get done on time for our customer," said Ferriero. "After offline programming, the setup time on the machine was done in a few hours. The part surface quality and time comparison was much better than expected. It would have been a minimum of 2 days just to make fixtures to machine these parts on a 3-axis machine."
Beyond the technology, beyond the equipment, Ferriero says he continues to invest in Hurco machining centers because of the high quality service he gets from Hurco and Hurco’s distributor, Brooks Associates. Says Ferriero, “The service we get from Hurco and Brooks is second to none. They listen and they are responsive. They understand that your machines are your business.”
Click this link to read the article about PlasTech that appeared in Manufacturing News.
When John Zigler told people he was starting his own machine shop, they didn't exactly encourage him to take the leap into entrepreneurship. "The manufacturing field was in an economic downturn and no one could believe I wanted to start my own business. But ever since shop class in high school, I had a dream of one day having my own shop," explains Zigler.
The industry was in the midst of the worst downturn ever recorded and shops were closing daily. Zigler says he focused on his dream for the future rather than the dismal reality of the present. "My desire to own my own shop outweighed the 'what was' from 'what could be'...my biggest motivation was the desire my wife and I had to control our future,” explains Zigler.
John had worked at several machine shops. But in addition to manufacturing experience, he got some important life experience in figuring out what was most important to him personally..."I gained knowledge of what I did and didn't want for my life. What I did want was to be treated respectfully and fairly with a possibility for future growth."
Today, Zigler’s Machine & Metal Works in Dixon, Illinois, has 13 employees in addition to John and his family (his wife is the office manager and his eldest son runs the CNC lathe area), and a full-service machine shop that is fully equipped with four CNC mills, three CNC lathes, two manual mills, welding equipment, fabricating equipment, band saws, and Delcam CAD/CAM software. Zigler’s straightforward philosophy guides the company: treat people fairly, develop good relationships with your customers, and pay good help well.
Zigler attributes his company’s success to building strong relationships with customers and investing in the right manufacturing technology. “I think we have been able to retain our customers because we machine quality products with quick turn-around times. We’ve been able to continue growing and being profitable because we stay current with cutting-edge technology, which allows us to be efficient and profitable in a low-volume environment.”
When deciding which machine tools to buy, Zigler faced the challenges many shops experience—he needed to deliver high quality parts at low volumes, which meant he needed to find a way to reduce setup and programming time. His solution was the Hurco line of machine tools. “We needed to meet high quality performance with fast set-up and programming capability. Buying into the Hurco family offers us room to grow because they are continually expanding the product line. All of their machine tools have the Hurco control with conversational programming, which is the solution we needed to reduce programming time,” says Zigler.
Zigler says 50 pieces is a large run for his shop, which means time spent on setup and programming cuts into a part’s profit margin because there are multiple setups each day. On the shop floor, he has five Hurco mills (two BMC30s, a VMX50, and two VMX24s) and two lathes (TM6 and TM8) in addition to other brands of mills and lathes. While Zigler’s Machine & Metal Works manufactures a wide range of parts, their core business is manufacturing machine components for industries such as mining, automotive, equipment automation, and aerospace/defense.
“We machine all sorts of steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, brass, magnesium and plastic, with magnesium being the most challenging due to its flammability,” says Zigler. He and his employees say the Hurco integrated control is key to the shop’s success. “Hurco’s conversational control is so easy to use. We have six Hurco machines in-house and our operators are able to go from one machine to the other without having to remember or re-learn a different programming language,” says Zigler.
One of his favorite control features is the Tool & Material Library because it saves time and eliminates redundancy. “It’s like your cell phone—you don’t need to remember everybody’s number, you can just press one button. The Tool & Material Library is the same thing. I press a button that says aluminum and I don’t have to enter the information for the tool. It saves me three or four keystrokes each time on every page of that program. When I’m getting into a particular job, I might need to fine tune it. Instead of stopping, going back to review, I just press one button, and it updates the entire program,” explains Zigler.The Hurco VMX24 is by far his favorite machine. “When machining similar types of parts, our VMX24 shines the most. With the windows-based editing functions, we can copy and paste program language quickly and accurately. Along with the higher RPM, feed rates, rapiding feeds, the Tool & Material Library improvements, and tool change speed, we are able to be more efficient,” says Zigler.
Beyond the control technology and the rigid machine tools, Zigler says the culture at Hurco is important to him. “I’ve noticed that the people I dealt with back when I started my shop are still there, which I think indicates the company is well run. If a company is turning over a lot of employees, I wonder if things aren’t being managed properly or they aren’t treating their employees well,” says Zigler.
Zigler’s philosophy mirrors Hurco’s approach to business. When a customer invests in a Hurco machine tool, Hurco is invested in the success of that business. We are honored that a company like Zigler’s Machine has made Hurco their machine tool of choice.www.ZiglersMachine.com
During the last 30 years, Injection Mold, Inc. (North Vernon, Indiana) has grown from a small garage shop dedicated to producing lens molds for the automotive industry to a full-service shop that that specializes in Rapid Prototyping (RP) molds for multiple industries, such as medical, electronics, safety, baby products, appliance, and plumbing. A desire to reduce set-up times and increase accuracy led the company to upgrade from three-axis to five-axis machines.
According to General Manager Jason Vawter, Injection Mold has a stellar reputation when it comes to speed. “Customers call us immediately when they need something quick, without even considering their other suppliers, because we are the quickest," he says. This need for speed led Injection Mold to consider upgrading from three-axis to five-axis technology. “A lot of our RP work involves multiple setups on three-axis machines, and with the short deliveries we do, we needed to find a way to speed up our times,” Vawter explains. “Using five-axis technology would allow us to eliminate a lot of set-ups.”Vawter looked at a number of different machines, but all roads led to Hurco. “One of the reasons we went with Hurco is that they are right down the road from us,” he says. “We also owned Hurcos in the past and have been very happy with them. We found that the VMX30U was exactly what we were looking for.” Hurco decided to make 5-Axis a priority 10 years ago and has dedicated resources to the development of features that make the transition easy for 3-axis shops. Hurco even started a website devoted to five-axis education (www.FiveAxisMachining.com) that includes a dedicated telephone number and email that goes directly to Hurco Applications Engineers with expertise in 5-axis/5-sided. The VMX30U that Injection Mold purchased is one of 11 Hurco 5-Axis machining centers that are the result of Hurco’s focus on 5-axis. While the transition from 3-axis machining to 5-axis can be intimidating, most machinists grasp the concept fairly quickly and continue to realize additional benefits the more they use the machine. “Five-axis was a brand new area for us,” Vawter recalls. “Since we have always had three-axis, we grew accustomed to working in three planes. Then, all of a sudden, there were five.” While he says it took the employees several months to get completely comfortable with the machine, Hurco was always readily available to field questions.Multiple AdvantagesInjection Mold bought the machine solely for the purpose of eliminating multiple set-ups, but Vawter notes the more they use the VMX30U, the more they find they can do with it. “For example, we had some slides (multicavity tool with multiple slides per cavity) and they have angled holes through them on 20 degrees,” he elaborates. “There’s a 25-degree angle on the back with tapped holes. To machine these in the past, we would have one set-up for each operation on a 3-axis mill and it would have taken probably five set-ups with an hour to an hour-and-a-half on each block. When we do it on the VMX30U, it is one set-up and 20 minutes in each piece.”Another payoff is higher accuracy. “Each time you have to take the piece out of the machine to put in another setup, you take a chance of everything not blending out,” he explains. “Now we just pick it up one time and we will cut from the top and the machine will rotate and cut the piece from the side—so accuracy is better. We maintain .005 micron accuracy on our work.” Vawter is very pleased with the VMX30U. “Once we made the leap, we continue to find more benefits—things we didn’t even consider are now possible. We have had it a little over a year and we feel like we are just starting to scratch the surface of what we can utilize it for. We will definitely consider another five-axis purchase by year’s end.”Injection Mold, Inc. / (812) email@example.com / injectiomoldinc.com
Click this link to read the article about Injection Mold as it appeared in MoldMaking Technology Magazine
S-3 Industries in Ontario, Canada, produces a wide variety of products using multiple materials, such as aluminum, nickel-based alloys, castings, stainless steel, cold-rolled steel, titanium, exotic metals, and plastics. Customers include aerospace, military/defense, satellite and communications, and enery and resource companies.
S-3 purchased a VM10i due to the power of the integrated Hurco control. S-3 Operations Manager Vince Ferri says, "You can do many production pieces on the VM10i with ease, but it's also great for secondary operations...It is fast to set up, and incredibly user-friendly."
To read the entire article, which appeared in Metalworking Purchasing & Production, click here.