Shop Reduces Cycle Times, Increases Productivity with New CNC Machines

In order to survive in today’s competitive marketplace, small job shops must find ways to cut costs and increase productivity – without sacrificing quality. “People aren’t going to accept second best any more,” said David Goodreau, president of Newman Machine Works in Burbank, California. “You have to exceed the customers’ expectations, or they’re going to go somewhere else.”

Founded in 1939, Newman Machine Works services the commercial and military aerospace industry. Their customer base is the prime aerospace contractor market – Boeing, Northrup, Rockwell, etc. At present, Newman employs 10 people, and has 13 machine tools in their 3,300 sq. ft. shop. “We are very much a traditional, family-owned, small job shop,” Goodreau said.

Faced with a shop full of aging machines that finally started to cause financial troubles, Goodreau and co-owner Gene Newman knew it was time to rebuild the company. “Between the downtime, and trying to find service people to come fix our machines, it was putting us out of business,” Goodreau said. “We just could not afford to wait for these people to return our phone calls – if they did at all.”

“There aren’t many options for companies our size. If you’re going to stay busy, and continue to meet the customer’s needs, you have to invest in new technology and equipment. It’s like continuing your education,” Goodreau said. “For small companies, the future depends on modernization.”

Taking that giant step, Newman Machine Works is now replacing their aging CNC equipment with new machines. They looked to Haas Automation for reliability, price and service. “Our goal is to become a world-class company,” Goodreau said. “Haas gave us the opportunity to buy world-class equipment at a price we could afford.”

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“We needed to replace old, used CNC equipment, and felt that by buying locally, we would have the prompt service we need to keep our machines running,” said Gene Newman, co-owner of the shop. “We knew the reliability of Haas machining centres from talking to people in our industry. Price, financing and availability of the machines made it easier to select Haas,” he said.

Newman Machine Works purchased their first Haas VF-2 vertical machining centre (30" x 16" x 20" travels) in April, and another VF-2 in July of 1996. They then installed a Haas HL-4 lathe (14.5" x 34") in January, 1997, and have plans to purchase a Haas VF-3 VMC (40" x 20" x 25").

“Where the Haas machines have really helped us is in precision,” Goodreau said. “They’ve helped us cut out many operations, and allowed us to bring other operations in-house,” he said. “That saves a lot of money and time. It’s made a huge difference in our company. Plus, our people like running state-of-the-art equipment, and are much more excited about work.”

“Our productivity is up about 30%,” said Harold Howell, Newman’s general manager (pictured above). The Haas machines have enabled them to produce quality aluminum parts faster, and with better surface finishes, he said. And, the geared head allows heavier, deeper rough cuts without stalling the machine, which further shortens cycle times.

One of the main challenges for Newman Machine Works is machining complex shapes out of stainless steels, while maintaining high accuracy and short cycle times that will keep them profitable.

“Predominantly, our work is 15-5PH stainless,” Howell said. “We do a lot of 3-axis machining and blending, with heavy roughing in hard materials, combined with complex shapes. Just about everything we do requires multiple set ups,” he said.

A recent military job is a perfect example of the challenges faced by Newman. The task was to machine a 109-lb piece of 15-5PH stainless plate, 8" x 39" x 1.25", into a mount for a new missile being adapted to the Navy’s F-14 fighter. The finished part weighed a mere 6 pounds, and had to meet stringent military specifications.

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From the blueprint, Howell worked out the tooling needed for the part, which consisted of a base plate and a main fixture plate. Since the part’s length exceeded the x-travel of the VF-2, refixturing was required halfway through the operation. To ensure accuracy and repeatability, location pins were set using the Haas. “I’m able to trust this machine (VF-2) to give me locations that are jig-bore accurate,” Howell said.

With the tooling determined, the part was laid out on a CAM system, the data was translated and the operations extracted. The program was uploaded to the Haas VF-2 via the 3.5" floppy drive. Then, the part was proved out, first in wood, then in aluminum.

The first step was to rough cut the part and get it ready for heat treating. “We hogged off all the excess material, bringing the part to 21 lbs and leaving approximately 0.100" per surface,” Howell said. “The original program for this operation clocked out at 10 hours,” he said, “ but with the Haas, I was able to increase my feed rates and knock that down to 7 hours per part.” The result was a nearly 30% reduction in cycle time.

“I was surprised at the rigidity I was seeing, and the cuts we were taking,” Howell said. “I like to program aggressively, and on other machines I would have to pull back on my program feeds and speeds to keep from stalling the spindle. On the Haas, I did not have to pull back my feed rates. In fact, I was able to increase my aggressive programming,” he said.

When asked about problems stalling the Haas machines, Howell replied “I’ve tried. I’ve pushed it right up to a constant 80% spindle load, and it ran for hours with a 1" endmill taking a pretty good cut in 15-5 stainless. The geared head allows heavier, deeper rough cuts without stalling the machine. Other machines would have stalled under the same conditions. I definitely can say I push harder on the Haas machines,” Howell said.

Once roughed out, the part was sent for heat treating, and a blanch and grind operation to ensure straightness. The next step was to finish cut the 21-lb piece down to the final weight of 6 lbs.

“After heat treating the material was harder, but we still didn’t have any trouble,” Howell said. “We switched to carbide endmills, and TICN-coated cobalt, and were able to finish the parts in 4 hours.” Feed rates on the finish cuts were close to 10 ipm using a 3 /4" carbide endmill at 800-900 rpm.

A 3/4" carbide endmill is used for the finish cuts on the F-14 missile mount. Feed rate is 10 ipm at 800-900 rpm.

“Considering the tool life I got, I probably could have gone faster,” Howell said. “I probably could have increased my rpm and feed rate and cut another 30-45 minutes off each part. Even at the faster rates, we’re able to get a finer finish (than on other machines).”

Howell said he likes the Haas VF-2s because of “how much power they’ve got to push a big endmill through hard materials, then follow it up by holding a fine tolerance. How solid the machine is has a lot to do with the accuracy,” Howell said. “The Haas machine definitely gives a better surface finish because of its rigidity.”

Machining a 109-lb plate down to a 6-lb finished part creates a lot of chips, so Howell was grateful that the Haas VF-2s were fitted with the optional chip conveyor. This auger-style conveyor automatically removes chips from the enclosure to eliminate down-time.

“The chip conveyor is a great idea,” Howell said. “I just use M codes to turn it on and off during the program, and we are able to haul chips out the whole time without opening the doors.”

“I think the coolant nozzle’s the best, though,” Howell said, referring to P-Cool™, Haas’ programmable coolant nozzle option. Controlled via the program, P-Cool™ automatically directs coolant precisely at the part.

“We have the coolant nozzle changing its position with each tool, and we have the ability to program coolant location changes incrementally as tool depths change,” Howell said. “Using M codes, we are able to fine tune the coolant during the cut. That, I think, is fabulous. And, anyone who’s ever gotten a soggy armpit from reaching inside a machine (to adjust coolant nozzles) would appreciate P-Cool™.” Because the operator doesn’t have to open the door, cycle time is reduced. Plus, once programmed, P-Cool™ makes the changes automatically for each of the following parts.

Howell found he had no trouble programming with the Haas control. Having a background in many different controls, including Fanuc™, he fell right into it, he said. “In fact, two of the programs we’re running currently I wrote at the Haas control. I just punched them into MDI (Manual Data Input), then renamed them into memory with a title block, so I could save them afterwards.”

“The Haas control has a great reputation in the marketplace,” said David Goodreau. “I haven’t run a machine in years, and I was able to step up and run programs within a few hours. It’s good for training, and employees take to it quickly. It gives them a sense of confidence,” he said.

“When we started this transition, we had six CNC machines, and every one had a different control. It was a nightmare,” Goodreau said. “We could hire people who had experience with one control or another, but nobody had experience with all of them. Now, with the Haas machines, it’s all the same control, all the same programming – everybody understands it.”

“Our interest is high profitability, and I think that standardization, and staying with the Haas family of machines, really is a strategic move for us that will pay dividends,” Goodreau said.

Harold Howell displays heat-treated and finished versions of an F-14 missile mount he machines out of 15-5PH stainless on a Haas VF-2.

At Newman Machine Works, they’ve invested in their future by purchasing new CNC equipment. Their improved ability to machine stainless steels into complex shapes, while maintaining good cycle times, will assure their success in the long term. Through the use of Haas VF-2 vertical machining centres, Newman has increased their productivity, reduced cycle times, improved accuracy and surface finish, and increased tool life. All this adds up to higher profits.

“We’re pretty confident we can push the part enough to make money on it, and still give our customer a good price,” said general manager Harold Howell. “You have to be able to give the customer a high-quality part at a good price, or you’re not going to be doing the part anyway.”