Cutting Tool Engineering
September 2012 / Volume 64 / Issue 9

Boosting capacity with 'one and done'

By CTE Staff

Sometimes end users quickly decide which machining equipment to purchase when a need arises, and sometimes the process takes a little—or a lot—longer. The latter applies to Ron Gronback Jr., owner of PDQ Corp., after he decided the company needed a new machine tool to fundamentally change the way it manufactures parts. To be confident in his decision, Gronback researched the market for about 5 years before investing in a 6-axis mill/turn machine from Eurotech, Brooksville, Fla.

“We operate in a close-tolerance, complex machining environment,” Gronback said, “and I felt the Eurotech machine would provide us with the repeatability, durability and horsepower required to excel in our markets.”

The Rocky Hill, Conn.-based company machines a variety of materials, including aluminum, stainless steel and titanium, and primarily serves the aerospace industry by producing parts such as specialized washers for engine controls, location pins and small parts for orifice assemblies.

Prior to purchasing the Eurotech Elite 735SLY in November 2010, PDQ was conventionally turning parts on a lathe and then transferring them to a 4-axis vertical machining center for drilling and milling. Moving parts from machine to machine was inefficient and created the possibility of tolerances stacking up with each fixturing, Gronback noted. “I looked at that and thought we have to do better,” he said. “We’re never going to survive if we continue to manufacture like this.”

After purchasing the Eurotech machine, which came with the optional servo bar feeder and produces parts up to 2¾ " in diameter, PDQ realized the machine’s rigid turret enables it to make heavy cuts and run at high speeds, according to PDQ Manufacturing Manager Mark Cote.

“As an example, we went from a 20- minute cycle time to 5½ minutes on one of our more complex, higher-volume parts,” Cote said. (The thin-walled aerospace part has a ±0.0003 " tolerance on the ID and OD.) “Cycle time improvements like that give us the payback on the Eurotech we were looking for. It also helps improve our on-time delivery to customers.”

Based on its success with the Elite 735SLY, PDQ purchased a larger Elite 835SLY machine in December 2011, also with a servo bar feeder, for machining parts up to 3 " in diameter. Gronback said he was “amazed” at the size of the market for parts in that size range.

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Courtesy of Eurotech

A Eurotech Elite 735SLY 6-axis mill/turn machine manufactures an aerospace valve cap.

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Courtesy of Eurotech

PDQ’s Manufacturing Manager Mark Cote (left) and Owner Ron Gronback Jr. inspect parts machined on a Eurotech Elite 835SLY.

Regardless of part size, the machines’ multitask capabilities eliminate part refixturing. “We enjoy the ‘one and done’ method of parts coming off complete from the machines,” Gronback said.

The Eurotech machines also offer better milling capability than the other options researched, according to Cote.

“The Eurotechs are multitask machines,” Gronback said. “Our other lathes are turning centers with live tooling, but these Eurotechs really can function as a milling machine, right up to six axes.”

However, not everyone in the shop was thrilled with that capability. Gronback said: “Once we had both of the machines up and running, the gentleman who handles my milling said, ‘I’m out of work.’ That’s because everything that used to come out of the lathes went into the 4-axis mill. All those parts went away from hitting that machine.”

That allowed PDQ to expand its milling capacity and take on additional prototype work, he added.

Overall, Gronback estimates that the Eurotech machines boosted productivity 30 percent while reducing setup time and labor cost.

In addition to its manufacturing equipment, Gronback credits the company’s 22 full-time associates with helping to make PDQ successful. “I have a great group of people with a great attitude,” he said. “We’re a yes-we-can company.”

The company also has seven machining partners as part of a subtier supply chain that can provide an additional 35 spindles on similar machines to help meet part-delivery requirements. “All materials are purchased from here, and all outside processes and inspection are handled from here,” Gronback said. “I’m not subcontracting—I control machine time at their facilities.”

As a sign of its success, PDQ is adding 10,000 sq. ft. of space this year to its main 5,000-sq.-ft. facility. (The company also has a prototype shop in Chester, Conn.) The additional space will provide room for more machines, classroom training facilities and a new quality lab.

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