Cutting Tool Engineering
April 2011 / Volume 63 / Issue 4


By CTE Staff

Founded in the Netherlands, Holmatro is a global company with three manufacturing operations, one in the U.S. and two in Europe. Holmatro supplies hydraulic tools and systems for rescue, industrial and marine applications. The tools range from spreading and cutting equipment used in vehicle rescues to massive leveling cylinders employed when constructing offshore wind power projects to sophisticated winches for racing yachts.

At the company’s Glen Burnie, Md., facility, manufacturing engineer Chuck Cain said products are manufactured from start to finish, excluding injection molding, welding, painting and plating operations. Typical parts include check valves, valve bodies and cylinders. Materials machined include nickel-chromoly steel, low-carbon steels and aluminum alloys. “We are about 60/40 in ferrous and nonferrous,” Cain said.

Holmatro_found spare part.tif
Courtesy of Chuck Cain

Hydraulic equipment maker Holmatro employs Iscar Tool Advisor (ITA) Web-based tool selection software to handle tool ordering and other tasks. The user enters a tool description, finds a part number and then orders parts through Iscar’s electronic catalog directly from an iPhone or other Web-enabled device.

Hydraulic components demand tight tolerances. “We are required to hold 1µm for true position,” Cain said about some parts.

Cain estimates the facility machines about 5,400 different part numbers, with typical production runs of only 50 or so units. Inventory of completed parts is kept to a minimum. “Every tool and pump being produced in our facility has a customer attached to it,” he said.

One key to maximizing efficiency is having most of the shop’s 12 machine tools in production 21 hours a day, with the remaining 3 hours used for setup, Cain noted. Seven machine tools can run unattended.

As part of a continual effort to improve productivity, Cain visits Iscar Metals Inc., Arlington, Texas, yearly to attend turning and milling seminars and learn about new products. At an event he attended last summer, Iscar introduced the Iscar Tool Advisor (ITA), a Web-based tool selection software program. The software enables users to search the toolmaker’s electronic catalog for inserts and tooling components by entering a variety of criteria. By analyzing user-entered data, software algorithms recommend cutting parameters and provide other application information. The ITA can be accessed online or via an application uploaded to an Apple iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.

When Cain heard about ITA, “I went right to the Apple app store, and before I got on the plane to come home I already had it on my iPhone. I also use the ITA on my desktop PC, but when I’m on the shop floor I can use it at any piece of equipment, mill or lathe.”

Jeff Giambalvo, Iscar sales and applications representative, said Cain’s immediate adoption of mobile ITA is no surprise. “Chuck is always out there searching for a better mousetrap,” Giambalvo said. “He’s always looking for ways to work smarter.”

Cain handles a variety of tasks via ITA, including, for example, ordering a missing screw for a toolholder. “I can hop on the ITA, put in an insert description and start going backwards,” he said. “I point to the picture of what I have, pick the toolholder and get the part number for the screw.” The ITA enables Cain to order parts directly from the iPhone after finding them in the catalog. “I can e-mail the distributor for a quote,” he added. If more research is required, Cain prints the appropriate screen for further review.

The ITA also recommends cutting parameters. “A lot of things you know, but when Iscar comes up with a new grade or a new chipformer, you don’t necessarily know what it’s capable of,” Cain said. He enters criteria, such as the feature being machined, workpiece material, tool in use and machine power, and receives recommended starting speeds and feeds.

To solve metalcutting problems, Cain said he has used both sides of the ITA application. When an insert was chipping, for example, he identified the tool through the catalog, switched to the software’s speed and feed section, plugged in the tool and indicated the workpiece material. By changing the feed rate, Cain solved the chipping problem and also reduced cycle time.

The ITA also expedites direct Iscar customer support. “If Chuck goes into ITA and finds something that he hasn’t tried before, he and I might have a conversation about testing those tools,” Giambalvo said.

“We are in business to solve problems,” added Steve Bauers, Iscar regional technical specialist. “ITA is a nice service for those who use our e-catalog.”

Cain said adoption of advanced technology such as the ITA can also produce opportunities for new work. Previously, Holmatro USA made parts exclusively for the U.S. market. Last year, Holmatro’s manufacturing operation in the Netherlands asked the U.S. operation to bid on work that was being subcontracted to European job shops. Holmatro USA’s high productivity enabled it to win contracts for the work. As a result, the shop has produced about 35 new products, “with probably another 70 plus to go,” Cain said.

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