There’s no shortage of advancement in CNC technology. For manufactures it’s almost impossible to keep up knowing what’s out there. When we’re looking at new equipment, we have to weigh technology vs. the cost. Like the flat-screen TVs of the late 90s, there’s only a small percentage of end-users that can both afford and utilize the latest tech.
The positive side for tool builders, is that like those TVs, the technology gets more cost-effective over time. The downside though, is you don’t want to get stuck with a bunch of tube TVs in today’s competitive market. If you’ve been in a few tool shops, you know there are almost no two alike. As manufacturers, we’d like to think our customers wouldn’t judge a shop by its cover. The reality is it happens and in some ways, it should. I have seen a man with 50 years of tool building under his belt hold a +/-.0001 tolerance on an OD grinder using a wood stick. It blew me away, considering he likely helped install the grinder brand new. At some point though, the machine can’t keep up. Doing things the old and slow way will make the tool builder miss deliveries or put out sub-par work.
The bottom line is that equipment matters. Not as much as having great people running it, but it makes a big difference. Check out the difference between traditional drilling vs. through the spindle drilling in the video below. We did this test on a Makino A61 horizontal machining center at Basilius Inc.
On the left, you will see a traditional drilling operation. We center drill and then peck drill using external cooling. On the right is a carbide drill with internal cooling. The difference is clear. No center drilling required, no pecking, and higher feeds are possible. For fun, we drilled five with the carbide and two with the high-speed drill. This machine also has an FCS working holding system for reducing downtime. Note: This machine can run faster and we used recommended feeds and speeds.
This technology is nothing new, but watching a drill peck away at a piece of steel is like watching that tube TV. Timing matters more than ever, and technologies like these are no longer a luxury. Instead, they are a necessity for the modern tool builder. Nothing can replace a talented tool builder, but the equipment and technology they use is more critical than ever.