[Reload] 12 Questions to Ask Your Machine Tool Builder
[Our “Reload” blog series spotlights some of the all-time most popular posts on the Okuma America website. Here Rick Kimmins shares a checklist shops can use to evaluate quality during a machine tool review.]
We all know it’s more important than ever to spend money wisely. But “spend” isn’t quite the right word when it comes to buying machine tools. This purchase should always be an “investment” that makes you money. The most critical question in determining the amount of money you can make with a machine tool is: how is quality built into the product? In our daily lives, we can easily recognize quality when we install premium tires on our car, slide on a high-dollar set of shoes or sit down to a gourmet meal. But how can we recognize quality during a machine tool review? Consider these items a checklist for “built-in quality.”
Machine Tool Quality Checklist
- View the machine tool “live” at a distributor, builder, open house, or even a reputable customer.
- Look at the fit and finish of the sheet metal, review the casting, and listen to the machine cutting parts.
- Open the electrical cabinet and view the routing and layout of the electrical wiring. Look for details such as proper cabinet filtering, sealing and a heat exchanger.
- Ask to see the inspection report.
- Request a control demonstration – have your manufacturing engineer or set-up engineer present to ask pertinent questions and evaluate user-friendliness.
- Ask which components are factory items and which are purchased. What key components are made by the builder? Are the purchased components sourced from a well-known supplier?
- What sets this builder apart from the others?
- Ask about thermal compensation and FEM design.
- Has the builder received design awards? Do they have registered patents and unique designs for processes or features?
- Does the builder perform hand scraping?
- What is the weight of the machine and what is the calculated “price per pound?”
- How reliable is the support after the sale?
Quality Makes a Big Difference
I recently visited a customer who has several “Brand X” machine tools. When I questioned the manufacturing engineer about their quality, he replied that they were “OK for the price.” But when I questioned further, I learned the machines were typically down for service every 6 to 8 weeks. Isn’t downtime due to poor quality a concern?
I had a different conversation with a customer who purchased a specialty Okuma lathe several years ago. He had a question regarding the machine’s workholding. Later he commented that “the machine has run flawlessly.” What are some of the differences in the way Okuma fulfills the quality checklist?
Thermo-Friendly Design: As machine tools have evolved into multi-axis, and sometimes as many as 9-axis, the need to create a thermally stable machine has become increasingly important. Multiple axes running in sync with each other can create greater chances for thermal growth in the machine tool. Okuma designed the award winning Thermo-Friendly Concept to address this challenge head-on. This compensation takes place “behind the scenes” while the machine is making quality parts.
Hand Scraping: While in the CNC machine tool industry this is becoming a lost art, hand scraping is still a vital part of quality building practices at Okuma. Why? Hand scraping creates a greater contact between two surfaces, thereby eliminating the need for shims. Shims create an unstable platform but are a low-cost method for correcting alignment issues. Hand scraping also creates lubrication pockets on sliding surfaces, reducing high spots and creating greater surface contact.
Inspections: Each CNC machine is factory inspected and Okuma standards are typically ½ the JIS requirement, and in some cases our result is a fraction of even the Okuma standard. An inspection report is supplied with each machine.
FEM and 3D modeling: These are used to help Okuma design engineers determine the optimum design that creates a solid CNC machine platform that will support sound processing of parts over many years of service. A common result? One recent customer is just now in the process of replacing several high production twin spindle Okuma 7-axis CNC lathes that ran productively for over 15 years.
Single Source Supplier: Sometimes known as One Source, single source means that Okuma builds our own controls, drives, motors, software and main structure components such as spindles. The benefits are many: a tightly-engineered, high-performance product, greater reliability, unique processing capabilities, and one phone call for service, parts or matched components.
Okuma is one of the last machine tool builders that continues to build machines for the long haul. We’ve touched on just a few of the reasons why this turns out to be a wise investment. Sound expensive? You may be surprised! See our Affordable Excellence products, or contact us to find out how we can put excellence within your reach.
We welcome your additions to the Quality Checklist – feel free to share by commenting below.
Rick Kimmins is Inside Sales Specialist, Okuma America Corporation.
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