The investment in setting up a quality machine shop is substantial. You must be dedicated to the trade and to grow your business with investment in people and equipment. With new technology and a movement towards more automation and robotics, it is smart to perform a cost analysis on investment and change versus skillfully using current equipment. Working with an invested partner, as we have with Mastercam, allows you to take strategic account of what you already own to maximize efficiencies before you upgrade.
The biggest loss for any machine shop is a machine sitting idle. Maximizing the capacity and function of your machine can increase your bottom line exponentially.
Upgrading a lathe to live tooling allows a single workpiece to be held in a stationary position while the active spindle introduces a number of tools to perform all the tasks on one machine such as cutting, drilling, and threading, Live tooling introduces shorter tools with closer access to the part along the 3 axes offering the cutting performance of 5-axis machining.
A secondary benefit of live tooling is that by adding drilling capacity to a lathe the milling machine is freed up to be available for other projects. This increases efficiency both with the quick setup of the lathe, as well as the output capacity of two machines working simultaneously.
Tool management is a step machine shop can overlook. You have a vast amount of tools, tool holders, spindles, and clamps. A tool manager keeps a complete log of tools along with their cutting parameters and the material they can work with. This makes building tool assemblies and tool selection for production easy to assign and easy to find.
The Mastercam Tool Manager program works independently from tool managers assigned to specific machines. It is non-proprietary making it easy to receive input and updates directly from tool manufacturers. This translates to efficient tool use throughout the shop.
Introducing software that provides real-time data aids in finding efficiencies in production through intelligent machining you simply can’t attain through manual intervention. The software can sense the size of the machined part on each toolpath as it changes providing the most accurate information for the precision cuts. The tool can cut cleanly on every toolpath with no wasted passes.
Gaging is another area where machine operator time can slow down production. Size and specific dimensions can be gaged during processing as the part moves through the machining process. A separate robotic operation can be added to production to assess components sending measurements back to the main controller. In larger production runs this may be a good addition to the machine shop. A step before this may be to add sensors and new software commands into the machine commands as a part is turned for a new machining operation. No time is added to production, just the addition of software and sensors set with speed and part tolerances in mind.
It makes good business sense to review your production methods periodically. Keeping up with trends is a sign of a quality machine shop. Those trends may include investing in new machines, but when you take strategic account of what you already own you may find quality software additions can increase value to your client with good planning and added efficiencies.