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How Job Shops Can Stay On The Cutting Edge of Toolmaking

Job shops that serve as an extension of their customers’ tool rooms occupy a unique position in manufacturing. With work coming in from across multiple industry segments and little visibility into what may come in the door on any given day, flexibility must be built into the operation. It is key to survival and prosperity.

In a busy high mix/low volume job shop, a “batch” is sometimes as small as a few pieces, and the high volume of workholding changeovers presents owners with a monumental challenge. If you have to swap out grinding wheels all day, the challenge to be overcome is how to quickly rotate in grinding wheels or to quickly dress new forms, dimensions or angles into the grinding wheel to accommodate workpiece requirements.

That capability arrived when New England Die Co. (NEDCO) owner Joe Almeida upgraded his repertoire of grinding machines to include a STUDER S33 from UNITED GRINDING. This universal grinder lets him change set-ups without slowing down and without a specialized programmer. With the technical database built into the control, the machine is outfitted to keep moving, from ID to OD, from work that should be held by a chuck, to between-centers work holding, as needed. G-codes can be selected to direct a grinding wheel’s movement against a workpiece, from the center and other entry points as needed, without hours of guesswork and costly material waste.

The role of software and operating systems has become critical as the generation of grinding machine operators who learned their trade on manual machines is replaced by newer, and fewer, operators who may have no background at all in precision grinding. State-of-the-art machines now incorporate intuitive, easy-to-learn software that guide the machine’s movements, delivering the repeatability and precision manufacturers have come to expect from modern grinding machines. Precise control of the process is essential for consistent results, and easy-to-use CNC controls help even the most inexperienced operator harness the precision and flexibility of STUDER OD/ID grinding machines.

A well-designed human-machine interface (HMI) and operating system simplifies all aspects of cylindrical grinding, from training to production of the actual workpiece. Software options like StuderWIN and StuderSIM leverage a wide range of modules and functions to shorten machine setup, programming and grinding times, and ensure the highest machine utilization rates.

Becoming Flexible in the Age of the Skills Gap

This is fortunate when you consider that only a few years ago Deloitte Insights and the Manufacturing Institute predicted that by 2028, U.S. manufacturing output could lose $454 billion because of the persistent skills shortage. Fewer trained workers entering manufacturing and many seasoned workers nearing retirement age can put job shops in a real bind when it comes to meeting customer expectations.

For some time, manufacturing has been trending towards the union of man and machine to address the skills gap and radically accelerate throughput. A quality grinding machine with an easy-to-use HMI offers almost immediate returns on investment for job shop owners who don’t have time to become programmers. In that regard, Almeida points to the ability to write a program in under two minutes for a machine he can trust as much as a veteran employee to make a precision tool while he focuses on the parts of the business he entrusts to no other.

“The STUDER is making precision tools, unattended, while I’m running my business. Basically, I added another employee that doesn’t want time off or vacations, that doesn’t require Social Security, and never complains to me,” he said. “It is one of the most transformational machines I’ve ever purchased.”

HMIs are fast becoming a necessary investment for manufacturers of all sizes. Learn all about the value of human-machine interfaces in our white paper.

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