To Keep a Big New Customer, a Startup Company Turns to Hurco to Deliver a Needed Machine Fast.Story and photos by C. H. Bush, editor / As Seen in CNC West, An Arnold Publication Serving the Western Metalworking Industry Since 1981
Okay, here’s the scenario. You’ve dreamed of having your own business from the time you were ten years old in grammar school in Mexico. The kids laughed at you and said, “What are you talking about? That’s for old people. Old people think about that!” But you didn’t care. Later you go to the Institute of Technology in Mexicali, Mexico. After graduation, you work in Mexico for a while as a manual machinist. Eventually you come to America where you work really hard in a variety of companies for a couple of years each, learning all you can at each one. You never stay at one job long enough to rise into management, but again, you don’t care. You’re thinking ahead to your future. You want to learn mold work and how to solve tough machining problems, so you can start your own business. Of course, you’ve been saving your money all along. Finally, you buy a manual mill and stick it in your garage, and you’re in business. But you keep your day job. You get a customer who wants you to build prototypes. You’re happy. Your dream is starting to become a reality. But then that customers says, “Look, we just landed a good contract. We want you to make the parts for us. Can you do it?” You panic. You can’t meet their demands with your manual equipment. And you don’t know anything about CNC programming. What do you do? “That’s exactly what happened to me,” says Carlos Sarabia, founder-president of Mesa, AZ’s Custom Tech Services, LLC. “I had a project for one of my customers, who knew I was working on the side. The parts required a CNC machine to be able to produce them consistently, and all I had was a manual knee mill. I had seen mills with conversational programming before, which I figured I could learn quick, so I called up a company and ordered a CNC knee mill. I told them I needed it in my garage in two weeks. They said fine."CNC operator Fidel Sanchez checks a part produced on a Hurco VM30. In the background, CNC machinist-operator Charles Masters works at a Hurco VM1, while CNC operator Ervin Velasquez sets up the company’s latest Hurco, a VMX30. The company now operates 9 Hurco machining centers, including 2 TM6 lathes, a TM8 lathe, 3 VM1 mills, 1 VM2 mills, 1 VM3 and a VMX30. All Hurcos in the shop have conversational programming, and all are capable of being programmed offline as well, using the company’s seat of Mastercam.
Hurco to the RescueTwo weeks later there was no machine. “I was in trouble,” says Sarabia. “I had told my customer I could do it. They needed parts in a couple of days. I was out of time. Then I remembered talking to Randy Flores from D&R Machine, the Hurco representative in my area, so I cancelled the other order and called Randy.“I asked him if he could get me a machine in two days,” he says. “He said he didn’t have any, but he knew someone who was selling an old Hurco KN3 with an Ultimax CNC control on it. He gave me the information, and I drove there immediately. The machine was in a body shop, never used by the owner. I told him I wanted to buy his machine. And he said he didn’t know if it worked or not. We plugged it in and checked it out. Everything worked fine. I paid him and hauled it back to my garage that same day. I read the manual, plugged it in, and four hours later I was making parts! Hurco had saved my customer for me. I never forgot that. That was back in 2003, and I still have that machine. I love it because it helped me start my business.” Since those early days, Sarabia’s business has grown at an amazing rate, he says, and though it all, he has remained loyal to Hurco. A few months after getting his first Hurco kneemill, Sarabia landed a bigger client, which demanded a bigger machine. “I got a really good customer about two months after I got the KN3,” he recalls. “I was doing all the prototyping for them. They were doing work for military ground vehicles, a lot of protective armor. They finally landed a really good contract based on all the prototyping I was doing. They called me and said they needed a lot of parts, and they wanted me to do them. They liked my work because when I saw something on the design that made the parts more expensive, I’d call the engineers and tell them. Anyway, I knew I couldn’t do the production on my kneemill. I needed a bigger, closed machine, so I called Randy Flores again for help. I told him my customer needed parts right away, and I had to have a vertical mill and a lathe as soon as possible, but that I needed the lathe in my garage immediately. I didn’t have room for the mill.” Once again, Hurco delivered, Sarabia says. “They shipped a TM6 lathe to my house in one weeks,” he recalls. “I never had worked on a CNC lathe before, but it was a Hurco with a conversational control, which I already understood from the kneemill. The lathe was not much different. I got a few hours of training from D&R, and after that I learned by myself. We got the machine set up, and the next day we were running parts. It was very very simple to use, a very simple control. Carlos Sarabia enters data into the conversational WinMax control on a Hurco VMX30 vertical mill. He bought Hurco originally because he needed to make parts fast and didn’t understand CNC programming. He now has 9 Hurcos in his shop.Sarabia moved out of his garage soon after taking delivery of the Hurco TM6 lathe.“I had to find a bigger place fast,” he says. “I had ordered the VM2, which wouldn’t fit in my garage, and I needed to make parts. So, I leased a 1700 square-foot industrial space for two and a half years. Once we got in that space, we just kept growing. Every time we bought another Hurco, we got more business.”In 2009 Sarabia bit the bullet and bought a modern 5,600 square-foot facility, his current location. Today Custom Tech Services employs 3 shop people, plus Sarabia himself, who operates machines and does everything else to keep the business going. Hurco ShopSarabia calls his shop a Hurco shop. “We operate 9 Hurco machines here,” he says. “We have two TM6 and a TM8 lathe, three VM1 mills, two VM2 mills and a VMX30. A lot of people have the idea that Hurco is only for prototype work. But, I started using Hurco for production right from the beginning. And they’ve been great. We’re cutting aluminum, steel, titanium, and we consistently are able to hold tolerances to one or two tenths. I have my first VM2 machine running really heavy titanium, and I still hold tolerance within a couple of tenths on it. You wouldn’t believe how many hours that machine has run. On the first project I got, we were running the VM2 about seven days a week, sixteen hour shifts, probably 90 hours a week. It consistently held tolerance within two tenths and it was extremely reliable. These are great production machines, especially considering the price.”Sarabia operates one seat of Mastercam to handle programming that can’t be done directly on the Hurco controller. “The truth is about 98% of the jobs we run can be programmed directly on the machine,” he says. “Maybe 2% need to be done offline with Mastercam. One really good thing about conversational programming is that it makes it really easy to train new employees. The learning curve is unbelievably short. The controller asks you what you want to do, you answer, and the next thing you know, you’re running parts.What About the Future?As successful as he has been in such a short time, Sarabia might be expected to want to keep growing as fast as possible. “Well, I’m pretty conservative,” he says. “We’ve grown the past two years right through the recession. We’ve paid off all our equipment, so we’re not in debt, which makes it nice. I have a good shop for probably eight people. But I’m a little bit scared to try to move up to become a midsize shop with 20 or more people. That’s kind of dangerous, especially with the economy so unstable. Right now I very happy to sit back and enjoy the success we’ve had, and to give our customers the best quality service we can. Maybe someday when the economy takes off again, we’ll rethink our position. Until then, I’ll just remember where I started and stay happy.”
Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in research and development activity at medical device manufacturing facilities around Galway, while the same area in the west of Ireland has also seen a surge in the growth of companies in the biosciences field.
The following submission was received as part of our Why I Love Hurco Sweepstakes.
Dear Hurco,The Precision Edge Machine (TPEM) would really benefit from the TM6 Lathe sweepstakes. We are a small shop and we owe much of our success to Hurco. TPEM started in a 650 sq./ft. two-car garage. Crammed into that garage were a CNC turning center and a manual tool room lathe. It wasn’t long before I had to add milling capability.
The Beginning: Our First HurcoMy first Hurco was a 1993 KM3P CNC knee Mill. I bought it to mainly do second milling operations to turned parts. I was amazed how capable a machine of that size was and how easy to program it was. Fast forward one year. Business was really beginning to take off! What started out a turning-only shop was quickly becoming a Milling shop. My customers were really impressed with the milled parts they were receiving in small quantities and orders for 50 or more parts were very common. That was a problem. The KM3P did not have a tool changer. I was the tool changer! There simply wasn’t enough time in the day for me to do anything else but babysit that machine. It was time for a change.After shopping for countless hours and weighing everything, I ordered a brand new Hurco VM10. Even though it was a huge decision, I have never looked back.
The added speed and capacity the VM10 offered absolutely skyrocketed sales. It increased sales so much that it forced me to move into a bigger building six months later! The Precision Edge Machine moved into its current location and we have just under 5,000 sq./ft. 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 at doing fast 2nd milling operations!
Success Leads to Our Second HurcoFast forward again eight months. It was clear that we had to add more CNC milling capacity because the VM10 was so backlogged with work. 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 that employee learned how to program, setup and run with little supervision. That is a testament to the power of the WinMax control! We added a Hurco VM20 with the H160 4th axis. The VM20 was the perfect size machine for our larger machined products and the 4th axis eliminates the need to fixture parts for complicated side profile machining. The ability to download the programs into the VM20 that we proved out on the VM10 has saved us so much time and money! I wish we had that same ability on our turning centers.
Looking to Hurco for TurningOur turning centers are not Hurco’s yet! They program via g-code and an expensive external CAM system. The setup process is slow and cumbersome because all three turning centers are different brands with different controls. The time savings we’ve realized with the controls being the same on our mills is pronounced and I only wish we could be as productive with our turning centers. With the Mills we are able to program right at the control but with the Turning centers we have to program everything with the CAM system and download the program into the Turning centers via Rs232 cables. We spend so much time editing code by hand because the posts are not 100% correct. The lack of conversational programming in our turning department is killing our productivity.
Success for the FutureHurco 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 Hurco’s. The TM6 lathe would be a perfect addition to our shop. I’m sure that once in place, Hurco turning centers would increase our productivity, probably to the point that we would have wished that we would have made the switch years earlier! Sadly, we are just are not in the position to be able to make that switch yet. Our fingers are crossed that we may win this sweepstakes to take our company to the next level!
Sincerely,Matthew SmithThe Precision Edge Machine
The people at NuCon Corporation are experts when it comes to impellers. More specifically, they are experts in the manufacturing of radial and axial compressors, pumps and turbines, shrouded impellers, expanders, diffusers, and jet engine cases. They’re also experts in 5-axis machining processes used to manufacture those impellers and the aforementioned parts.
Since 1973, NuCon Corporation has used their proprietary Impeller Machining System to machine thousands of configurations as small as 5 mm in diameter up to 73 inches in diameter. The majority of their products are used for marine propulsion and pumps, industrial compressors, and power generation, but they also machine parts for aircraft and rocket engines. NuCon primarily machines stainless steel, but they have experience machining a variety of materials including aluminum, titanium, exotics, and plastics. They can do any blade configuration a customer needs including straight line element, arbitrary blade shape, blisk, an open or shrouded impeller, and an open or closed turbine. Different blade shapes within a single stator/rotor can be accommodated.
NuCon primarily relies on 15 vintage Sundstrand 5-axis machining centers at their 35,000-square-foot facility in Livonia, Michigan to manufacture these complex blade configurations for customers around the world. In fact, there are only a handful of companies capable of serving this niche market. The NuCon crew has upgraded, retrofitted, and refurbished the massive Sundstrand machining centers so they can handle large parts that vary in complexity and weight, with some blanks weighing as much as 11 tons.
Co-owner David Bernhardt says he started shopping for a smaller 5-axis machining center because it didn’t make sense to tie up a large Sundstrand for smaller parts that were up to 22 inches in diameter. While he considered other brands of 5-axis machines, Bernhardt says a demonstration at Hurco’s technology center in Indianapolis sealed the deal and NuCon purchased two VMX42SR machines. “The VMX42SR’s table had the capacity to handle the weight of stainless steel, which is important because that’s the material we use the most,” explains Bernhardt. The VMX42SR’s C-Axis table with a 24-inch diameter can handle up to 1,100 lbs and the machining center is designed with a B-axis swivel head and C-axis rotary table that lets the tool access hard to reach areas faster. The tilting head design is perfect for the swept surfaces and complex contours NuCon routinely machines. Other advantages of the Hurco VMX42SR include 600-block look ahead, up to 600 ipm programmable feed rate, and processing speed up to 2,277 bps.
Hurco was especially honored that NuCon chose Hurco for its 5-axis machining needs of smaller parts considering the collective expertise of the owners and the exacting standards they demand. NuCon owners David Bernhardt and David Stormont know machine tools inside and out: literally. They were machine tool designers in the 60s at the Buhr Company in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a company well known for developing machine tools designed specifically for the automotive industry. Because of the collective expertise of Bernhardt and Stormont, NuCon has successfully developed their proprietary Impellar Manufacturing Software, designed the spindle head for their rotary head machines, and created their own PC-based controllers. They have achieved accreditation for numerous quality programs and implemented verification and inspection programs throughout their operation.
Bernhardt says he is enamored with the motion control on the Hurco and both VMX42SRs have performed perfectly. Beyond the machine, Bernhardt says the phenomenal service network Hurco has established is probably the best he’s seen in his career. “It’s really something you should promote. The knowledge and customer support is outstanding. I even sold a machine to a fellow down the road. He asked me about our Hurcos and I told him about the phenomenal service network you have and the outstanding performance of our machines. This is still an industry that relies on word-of-mouth, which means a company’s reputation for how they treat customers after they have bought the machine is important,” explains Bernhardt.
While Hurco machine tools are often known for their intuitive conversational programming, NuCon uses the NC side of the control exclusively. The integrated Hurco control powered by WinMax includes both conversational and NC programming methods with ISNC and NC Productivity Packages available for enhanced performance. With an enhanced NC interpreter, the recently released WinMax version 8 (WinMax8) is compatible with more CAD/CAM programs than ever. Other additions to the NC side of the control include Tool Review, Transform Plane, Rotary Tangential Velocity Control, Automatic Safe Repositioning, Recovery Restart, and Cylindrical Wrap.
“It really says a lot for us to go to another machine with an alien control when all of the Sundstrands and turning systems we have use the control system we developed. The integration has been seamless and all of the operators picked up the Hurco control quickly,” says Bernhardt.
NuCon also invests in other technology to enhance efficiency, minimize waste, and maintain outstanding quality. Bernhardt says software packages from OpenMind and Predator are useful to his operation because they analyze part programs to achieve maximum machining efficiency.
Bernhardt attributes his company’s success to great customers, great employees, and the drive to continually find ways to increase efficiency while maintaining the highest quality. “The core of our manufacturing philosophy at NuCon has always been to satisfy our customers. The job isn’t finished until the customer requirements are met. We believe in continual process improvement. You always need to look for ways to work smarter even while you’re working harder,” says Bernhardt.
For NuCon, purchasing the Hurco VMX42SRs helped the company work smarter for smaller 5-axis parts.
NuCon34100 Industrial RoadLivonia, MI 48150734.525.0770www.nuconcorp.comHurco Companies, Inc.One Technology WayIndianapolis, IN 46268800.634.2416www.hurco.com
"Having the large-capacity DCX allows us the opportunity to pitch for a lot of new business up to 3.2 meters by 2.1 meters that we could not have previously undertaken."-Steve Holmes, Director, TGM, Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom
TGM, an aerospace subcontractor in Preston, England, doubled its Y-axis capacity on the shop floor when the company invested in the Hurco DCX32 machining center with a work envelope of 3.2 meters (126 inches) by 2.1 meters (82.7 inches) by 920 millimeters (36.2 inches). With the DCX32, TGM can machine larger airframe components or fixture multiple parts for more efficient production.Nearly half of the components that TGM machines are made from titanium, including wing and fuselage parts, such as longerons for BAE Systems’ Eurofighter Typhoon. The remainder of throughput is aluminum. TGM also does a lot of Airbus wing work in both materials, such as leading and trailing edges as well as main details for delivery to the OEM’s Broughton factory via Tier 1 suppliers. The latest Boeing 737-600 has a backswept wing tip, which TGM manufactures, that yields significantly improved fuel efficiency because of the superior aerodynamics. Boeing has decided to retrofit similar wing tips to its entire fleet of 767s currently in service. Steve Holmes, a director at TGM who joined shortly after its formation in 1998, says, “We see a bright future for the aerospace sector despite the downturn over the past 18 months. Having the large-capacity [Hurco] DCX allows us the opportunity to pitch for a lot of new business up to 3.2 meters by 2.1 meters that we could not have undertaken previously.” Optimism has translated into significant investment recently at the Preston facility, which has doubled in size to 16,000 sq ft. A new factory unit houses the DCX32, which has a twin-column, bridge-type construction that allows the large Y-axis travel without loss of rigidity. A 60 kW spindle mounted in a vertical ram gives ample cutting power and torque for machining titanium. A 40-station, swing-arm toolchanger keeps the carousel clear of swarf and maximizes the work envelope. Before TGM purchased the DCX32, their largest machine was a Hurco VMX84 vertical machining center, which was installed in October 2009, and has travels of 84 x 34 x 30 inches. A total of 10 Hurco machining centers now constitute a majority of TGM’s machining capacity.Holmes says TGM chose Hurco when they decided to expand into large size machining centers because they have experienced a decade of prompt service and reliable production using smaller Hurco equipment. In particular, Holmes cites the proprietary, integrated Hurco control system that runs the latest WinMax® Windows®-based software. The control has a 40GB hard-drive with 2GB RAM and high-speed contouring capability. Approximately 40% of the programs, even complex 2D jobs, are written quickly and easily on the shop floor at TGM’s Preston facility using the control’s conversational programming. The time savings allows TGM to respond promptly to urgent jobs, particularly AOG (aircraft on ground) requests. The remaining 60% of programs are prepared off-line using MasterCam. Whether the customer provides a digital file or a drawing of an older component, a 3D IGES file or a 2D DXF file can be prepared quickly and downloaded directly to the control on any of the Hurco machines for immediate use.