Production Machining

MAR 2018

Production Machining - Your access to the precision machining industrial buyer.

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Learning by Doing e original impetus that led Economy Spring to look at laser cutting and eventually invest in the technology as applied on a Swiss machine came from one of its customers. According to Dan Bartlett, engineering manager for Economy Spring, "We had a customer that wanted us to produce a 0.063- inch hole in a stainless-steel tube used in surgery. We tried piercing it first using a secondary machine, but the results were not satisfactory." "We contracted with a nearby vendor that had a Citizen laser Swiss machine to see if they could do the job. ey started making the part for us," says Nick Coburn, project engineer for Economy Spring. "We were trying to make these parts using conventional techniques, which weren't working well for this application. After seeing the capabilities that our vendor was experiencing using a laser (in combination with Swiss cutting), it got the wheels turning for us to see what else that technology might bring to our shop." Economy Spring took delivery of its first Citizen machine in April 2016. It was equipped with a laser attachment, and the company began developing its in-house processes to make the job it had previously sent out. In fact, the company now makes a similar part using stainless steel tube stock that has an 0.020-inch OD and a 0.01-inch ID in which it drills a 0.007-inch hole. e laser has opened up new opportunities for the shop. Demand was such that Economy Spring took delivery of its second machine a year later. e increased machining capability that the new machines bring to Economy Spring is freeing up designers of medical devices to design using specifications that weren't possible before. "As the medical device community is learning that there are methods to produce fine holes as well as other types of cuts we are able to produce using the laser, they are seeking out companies with those capabili- ties," Mr. Coburn says. "eir designers are advancing the capabilities of their instruments in step with our industry's ability to manufacture the designs." Working With the Laser Swiss Machine In our interview at Economy Spring was Dale Akerley, the department leader for Swiss applications who has a front row seat for the company's development of its processes involving the use of the machine-mounted laser. "A benefit we see from the laser over conventional cutting tools," he says, "is the laser cuts without wear. Conventional cutting tools wear over time and require compensation as they wear. Moreover, they exert cutting forces and often leave burrs on the workpiece. e laser does none of these things. With the correct gas, the HAZ (heat affected zone) associated with laser cutting can be managed. Any dross left around the cutting area comes off in the cleaning process using an acid dip and ultrasonic parts cleaner." Production across the Citizen machines is set up like a job shop. ey are not dedicated to a single job, rather the quick change-over of the laser makes small lot sizes practical. In the shop, one of the Citizen machines is used for prototype and process development work. According to Mr. Coburn, "It can take as much as two years for a manufac- turing process to become certified in the medical industry. In the meantime, those jobs that are already certified can be run in production on the second machine." Production for Economy Spring is generally in the 10,000- to 30,000-lot size range and are made to existing orders. Economy Spring sees its laser cutting capability as a value-added service for its customers and rightly so. e company's efforts at soliciting work for the machines focuses on that capability in large part because the process is still relatively new to the industry. However, it is also working to integrate the metalcutting capability of the Swiss machine in concert with the laser. e primary variables for part production on its Citizens :: Cutting small holes accurately and without burrs is an example of an operation that the laser machine has enabled Economy Spring to perform. :: Economy Spring's laser team, (left to right) Dan Bartlett, Nick Coburn and Dale Akerley, are driving development of the laser process technology on the shop floor. CNC SWISS-TYPE 34 PRODUCTION MACHINING :: MARCH 2018

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