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Taking Care of your Equipment: a Guide to Machine Maintenance

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In the machining world, there’s a saying “the machine is only as good as the machinist operating it.” Whether you are operating a 25-year-old machine or a brand new machine, if as a machinist you do not contemplate every area of machining you will not be successful. Maintaining your machine is an essential component of machining and it is how productivity is attained. The objective of this article is to emphasize how important it is to maintain your machine and the benefits of doing so.

Regardless if it is a single work-piece or a mass production, every manufacturing company across the globe utilizes manufacturing machines to assist with their production. Here at Rapid Enterprises, we rely on DMG Mori machines to assist with the manufacturing of products and for the sake of time and efficiency, we rely only on their technicians to troubleshoot and repair our machines.

To avoid troubleshooting complications, we recommend that whenever your machines require repair or troubleshooting that you turn to the manufacturer of the machine rather than a random technician.  In the past, we have found random technicians to be less reliable than the technician brought in by the machine manufacturer. Having such tenure in the industry, we have worked with different types of technicians. We’ve experienced technicians, who advised us that a part of our machine needs to be changed; only to be wrong. We have experienced technicians who spent 2-3 hours and some in cases an entire day to troubleshoot our machines to still come up with no results; as you could imagine those scenarios have been a big waste of time for us.

Generally speaking, a manufacturing machine can make you $125+/hr however if your machine is not running for let’s say for 8 hours,  due to delays in troubleshooting you can easily lose out on thousands of dollars. This is why we recommend that manufacturing companies rely on the machine manufacturer to assist with the repair and/or troubleshooting of a machine and in our case, it is DMG Mori technicians. Truth be told, a random technician may not be familiar with your machining equipment which can lead to delays in troubleshooting or even the wrong diagnosis. All of this can be avoided by working with the technician provided by your machine manufacturer.

In our experience, working with the machine manufacturer is beneficial because they will gather all the necessary information for troubleshooting. They will provide the gathered information to their technicians and educate them on alternative solutions before sending them out to do the work.  A few months ago we had a situation where the lathe in one of our machines had not been working for 3-days; we were under the impression that we needed a new motherboard so we called the manufacture of our machine to order a new one. To ensure that we were correct we also requested their technician to come by and check it out. When the technician came by it took him less than 30 minutes to troubleshoot and advised us that it was not a motherboard issue rather an LCD issue. Rather than charging us for the motherboard, they did not and the technician took it back. We cannot confirm or disagree that a random technician would have been able to do both, especially the latter.

In some instances, it may appear that going through a random technician is less expensive than going through the machine manufacturer’s technician however with them you can be assured that the repair is done right without any complications or time wasted. When a random technician wastes time troubleshooting your machine you end up spending the same amount or even more as you would with the machine’s manufacture. 

Machine maintenance is not only about employing the right technician to repair your equipment but also about how the machine is kept and looked after. Similar to a car, machines require oil changes, filter changes, etc.  Adding lubrication oil or grease are simple maintenance tasks that can be done by any certified machinist. Also, implementing machine safety measures such as adding brushes to your machine’s guide-ways can be very effective in ensuring that chips or dirt do not come into your guide-ways. Lubrication oil or grease should be the only components that enter the guides for they are required for machines to travel on. It is also extremely important that the spindle of your machine is always clean and that the tools used are balanced and not old. Remember, your spindle can run anywhere from 10-20k RPM applying a tool that is not balanced can damage your entire spindle and a spindle can cost you anywhere from 40-50k it’s just not worth it so make sure the toolholder you are using is balanced.

Depending on the machine you may have to manually lubricate/grease all functioning parts and manually change its filter.  Newer machines generally come with lubrication pumps that are automated and only need to be refilled; nonetheless, these actions have to be taken to make sure your machine is functioning to its best. Another important measure of machine maintenance is the type of tools that are used with the machine; high-end tools must be used for machining.  Similar to a Ferrari you’re not just going to go to any random tire shop to purchase any type of tires you’re going to ensure that you have the best tires, it is the same for the machine’s tools.

At the end of your shift, make sure your machine is clean and that you wash everything down, you can use a coolant spray or alternative options recommended by the machine manufacturer. Wipe down your windows so that they are clean and transparent. Performing these cleanliness tasks will have you feeling confident about the capabilities of your machine; dirty machines do not motivate and in fact, can turn you off from properly using it. The dirtier the machine, the worse you will treat the machine and the worse the machine will treat you.  Machine maintenance is an important part of machining, as a machinist; you must take pride in how your machine looks as well as how it functions. No machinist wants to work with dirty machines that have been unkempt. Although there may be cheaper options to assist with the maintenance of your machine money shouldn’t determine the choices made for your machine, a dedicated machinist should always turn to the option that will deliver the best results. Proper machine maintenance permits for machine longevity and that alone can save you tons of money. 

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