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Grinding precision.

Grinding Precision

The grinding machine industry finds itself under extreme pressure. The drive for ever more efficient machines is pushing customer demands to formerly undreamed of levels of precision. As a result, Michael J Wicken, president and CEO of Toyoda Machinery USA, whose corporate parent is a leading manufacturer of cylindrical grinding machines, points out that with under $250 million in total annual OD grinding machine industry sales, it will be spending an increasing percentage of sales dollars to meet these demands.

Leading the push on the grinding machine industry are engine and engine component makers, themselves pushed by a host of quality, performance, governmental, and cost considerations. "They are not only tightening their specified tolerances," says Mr Wicken, "they also tend to shoot for the mean, permitting less variation. Customers will no longer take a machine that wanders around within the acceptable tolerance band; they want a steeper, narrower curve, so that five years from launch, the curve is not beyond capability limits."

By way of illustrating just how demanding customers are becoming, Mr Wicken points out that Toyoda's Grinders For Industry remanufacturing subsidiary is rebuilding machines capable of a 6 microinch finish upon arrival and before rebuilding begins. "There just aren't that many shops in the US that can repeatably measure a 6 micro finish," he says, "and our customers are rebuilding machines that currently deliver it."

If adding precision to what are already the most precise metalcutting machines weren't enough of a challenge, customers are requesting that the grinding machine manufacturers simultaneously direct their research and development efforts to the examination of processing alternatives and often exotic materials such as ceramics, Inconel, powdered metal, and titanium. But beyond base machine design, says Mr Wicken, "customers are frequently requesting that we get involved in all processing problems, especially on thermal variables like coolant, wheel specifications, and grinding force." "Then," says Mr Wicken, "there are cost factors. Customers are demanding machines that are faster, that have much higher mean time between failures, and provide reliable, long-term quality."

Finally, he adds, grinding machine users are demanding full process capability from vendors, everything from programming and tooling to training. This, says Mr Wicken, is reflective of the generally shrinking pool of manufacturing engineering resources within manufacturing firms, and, since grinding is often the least-visible area of metalcutting, the knowhow shortage is exacerbated.

Even so, new levels of precision are being reached in a number of ways, such as improved coolant flow, thermal compensation to adjust for any distortion, and computer designed bases to increase rigidity and vibration-dampening capability. The new 32-bit processors, while overkill on many other types of machines, are being taken fullest advantage of by the grinding machine manufacturers. They enable grinders to instantaneously react to feedback data.

Grinding machine manufacturers have also responded to the new-material requirements with advancements such as cubic boron nitride (CBN) wheels, for which all-new machine designs have been required. Mr Wicken points to his company's new GV70 crankpin grinder to be introduced at IMTS. "The servo-driven synchronized crankheads add more flexibility, less movable parts, and a very reliable workholding fixture."

Mr Wicken adds that the industry has firmly addressed the shrinking pool of talent on the shop floor. While CNC has been mandated by smaller and more diverse product lines and the need for flexibility, it has presented certain educational requirements of operators. Newer controls, he says, are easier to learn and incorporate graphics for part-print programming; and some are to offer Auto Decision, helping an operator choose the correct sequencing and operational modes for the most effective metal-removal cycles.

Michael J Wicken President and CEO Toyoda Machinery USA Inc Arlington Heights, IL
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Metalworking Product Guide
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:Interview
Date:Aug 1, 1990
Previous Article:Turning machines.
Next Article:Grinding & abrasive-process machines.

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