Cutting Tool Engineering
April 2012 / Volume 64 / Issue 4

New machine tool 'erodes' cycle time

By CTE Staff

Early adopters of manufacturing equipment run the risk of being exposed to problems and buggy annoyances, but Royce//Ayr Cutting Tools Inc. encountered only satisfaction after it installed the first QXD200 in Canada, according to Josh Puklicz, manufacturing manager for the Cambridge, Ontario-based toolmaker. The machine tool from Vollmer of America Corp., Carnegie, Pa., has six programmable axes and combines rotary erosion and grinding to process helical cutting tools, such as routers and drills, in one setup.

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Courtesy of Vollmer

Royce//Ayr Cutting Tools uses the Vollmer QXD200 machine to produce and service PCD tools.

Royce//Ayr primarily produces HSS, carbide and PCD cutting tools for woodworking, including saw blades that it makes from scratch by initially laser cutting metal plate, but has started selling more PCD cutters for manufacturing nonferrous automotive parts and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic components. “This machine was purchased with the intent of continually going in that direction, and it allows us more flexibility to do that,” Puklicz said. He noted that Royce//Ayr uses the machine to produce tools from 2mm to 250mm in diameter.

In addition to flexibility, the QXD200 enables the company to impart finer surface finishes, achieve a higher level of concentricity and reduce cycle times, Puklicz noted. Regarding the latter improvement, he explained that eroding metal with a copper-tungsten wheel instead of a wire, an operation the toolmaker also performs, enables running at a higher voltage to achieve a higher metal-removal rate and faster cycle times. “The wire sometimes breaks if you run too much current through it,” Puklicz said.

An electrode wheel also doesn’t move as much during the erosion process as a wire, according to Puklicz, enabling higher accuracy and imparting finer surface finishes.

The reduction in cycle time is especially pronounced when servicing PCD tools, which require relapping to create new cutting edges. The cycle time is about half of what it previously was, Puklicz noted.

The machine also significantly reduces setup time. The QXD200’s six-position automatic toolchanger enables Royce//Ayr to put multiple electrodes with run-specific shapes on them in the ATC and quickly changeover from one job to the next, Puklicz explained. Previously when the toolmaker applied an electrode, it took about an hour or two to switch an electrode and redress it. “Now, that electrode is already in there and it’s just a quick tool change to pull it up and dress it in a matter of 2 to 3 minutes.”

For Royce//Ayr, that reduction in setup time adds up quickly because it doesn’t perform many high-volume runs. “Our main strength is custom tooling,” Puklicz said.

Although Royce//Ayr runs unattended for at least 12 hours at a time, Puklicz noted that the company didn’t purchase the QXD200 with any automation options, such as a loader. The machine’s modular design does enable adding them if needed.

He added the toolmaker, which has other Vollmer machines at its Canadian plant and two at its Royce//Pacific Precision Cutting Tools Inc. facility in San Bernardino, Calif., benefits from Vollmer’s “simplified programming” for ease of operator training. In addition, programming similarities among the machines enable operators to efficiently move from machine to machine.

Royce//Ayr considered adding another Vollmer QWD wire-erosion machine but determined the QXD200 better complemented its existing equipment. “The Vollmer name here has been trusted for a long time,” Puklicz said.

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