32-year-old insert grinders given new lease of life – and production times now reduced by 10 minutes per part
US cutting tool manufacturer McQuade Industries, Inc., has gained a highly cost-effective productivity advantage by implementing a CNC upgrade program for a line of 5-axis insert grinders. The upgraded machines are much easier to set up and operate, which has enabled the company to shave more than ten minutes per part off the production time of complex geometric cutting tools.
Founded in 1978, McQuade Industries has built an enviable reputation in the metal cutting industry for the very high quality of its precision indexable cutting tools. Based in Clinton Township, Michigan, the company produces a diverse range of cutting tools, including boring bars, milling cutters, generating heads, draw bar style tooling and cartridges, as well as complete turnkey tooling packages. It also provides customers with fast turnaround tool regrinding and repair services, backed by extensive expertise in special carbide and precision form inserts.
The machines that are being upgraded are RS-12 insert grinders, originally manufactured by Ewag AG in Switzerland. McQuade installed a number of these highly regarded precision grinders back in 1988, and over the years they have provided stalwart performance. However, as McQuade’s Production Manager, Donald Ostgen, explains, “After 30-plus years, even the best machines can begin to show signs of their age! Although still in good mechanical order, the grinders’ control systems were beginning to lack the flexibility we needed for some of today’s more complex tool geometries, leading to lengthy set-up and machining times.”
Aside from the fact that the insert grinders still represent a valuable asset, McQuade had developed a large number of part programs over the years, which ideally would need to run on any replacement machines without requiring modification. The company therefore decided to preserve its investment by implementing a program to upgrade the machines’ CNC systems, and subsequently engaged the services of Advanced Machine Technologies, LLC., a specialist CNC retrofit company based in Owosso, Michigan.
The original RS-12 insert grinders were fitted with NUM 760 CNC systems, NUM Güttinger NGS 610 servo drives and NUM/SEM brushed servomotors.
Having partnered with NUM on numerous automation upgrade projects over the past 22 years, Advanced Machine Technologies has considerable experience in replacing legacy systems such as these. In this instance, the company recommended upgrading to NUM’s latest-generation Flexium+ 68 CNC system, and replacing the drives and motors on all five axes with NUMDrive X digital servo drives and new NUM brushless servomotors.
By transitioning to NUM’s Flexium+ CNC platform, McQuade would secure full grind cycle flexibility while continuing to use a familiar HMI (human-machine interface) and machine setup operations. This upgrade path also provides full backwards compatibility with part programs that the company had made over the last thirty years. Furthermore, the embedded PC in Flexium+ represents a flexible IIoT platform that is Industry 4.0 ready, offering McQuade powerful connectivity advantages for future productivity enhancements and enabling NUM or Advanced Machine Technologies to provide remote support services if required.
McQuade sanctioned the work, requesting that Advanced Machine Technologies initially upgraded a single machine so that its performance could be evaluated before progressing further. As part of the upgrade, in addition to the CNC system, drives and motors, the insert grinder was fitted with a new NUM FS122 touch-sensitive operator’s panel, an MP08 machine panel, and an HBA series portable hand-wheel. The variable frequency drive for the existing grinding spindle motor was also replaced, using a smaller footprint NUMDrive X servo drive to fulfill the role. This approach has the advantage that all command, feedback and status information is now exchanged over a fast digital bus, which simplifies wiring and improves diagnostic capabilities.
The upgrade has proved a resounding success. The move to all-digital drives and motors has significantly increased the overall speed and performance of the machine, resulting in faster grind feed rates and improved surface finishing. Donald Ostgen is extremely pleased with the level of service provided by Advanced Machine Technologies, and with the insert grinder’s rejuvenated capabilities. “If anyone doubts the benefits of a CNC upgrade, they should take a look at our installation. The quality of workmanship is superb, the grinder is now much easier to program and the handheld pendant really helps simplify the operation. We are able to run parts on this machine that we could previously only run on our wire EDM (electrical discharge machining) machines, and its increased flexibility means that we are now saving over 10 minutes per part compared to the pre-retrofit model.”
The first upgraded RS-12 insert grinder is now in full operation on McQuade’s production line, and the company has already commenced upgrading the next machine on the line.