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Machining center speeds prototyping.

For ILM Tool Inc, a contract job shop in Hayward, CA, accuracy and flexibility are necessary for complex machining. ILM Tool serves the medical research and semiconductor industries, machining sophisticated parts of aluminum, stainless steel, plastic, and ceramics. Prototype work and "one-off" jobs are the basis of the company's business.

To handle complicated multiple-tool operations, ILM uses a VMC 45B vertical machining center from Monarch Cortland, a division of The Monarch Machine Tool Co, Sidney, sure vacuum-tight chambers. This allows smooth transitions for better cleaning and particle control," says Ilmberger.

Traditionally, the chambers are welded, but this is not acceptable to ILM's OEM customer because leaks and outgasing can occur at the joints. Contaminants can also leech from welded areas.

Machining the aluminum chambers is somewhat complicated, but ILM has been able to eliminate steps by taking advantage of special features on the VMC 45B. For example, to save time manually indicating parts in setup, ILM uses a Renishaw probe and automatic routine in the controller.

Once the probe has been inserted in the spindle, it's brought into contact with a datum block that has been permanently mounted on the table. The probe touches several points on two sides of the block, and several points inside a hole in the block. The device measures part surface with repeatability of less than 0.0001", saving considerable time over manually setting up each job with an edgefinder.

An automatic tool-length offset feature further speeds setups. Tools are individually brought into contact with a tool-length sensor on the machine table. Any variation from nominal tool length for each tool is automatically incorporated into the machining process.

The Hiperdex[TM] indexer eliminates the time required for four separate machining setups. "We realized this would be a problem," says Ilmberger, "so we ordered the VMC 45B equipped with the indexer." When positioned on the VMC's table, this heavy-duty unit rotates to the degree specified, then positively locks the rotary table into position. It is rigid and capable of withstanding heavy cuts.

This allows all four sides of the aluminum chambers to be machined in a single setup. "We put windows, O-ring grooves, and configurations along the chamber walls," explains Ilmberger. "Before the indexer, we had to machine one side at a time--rotating, reclamping, and reindicating before cutting each side. Now we can access the entire part without refixturing, which saves time. Also, indexing accuracy is high at [+ or -]0.0001"."

ILM has cut chamber machining time by two-thirds. In the past, setup and machining took a week on a conventional mill. Today ILM needs only two days to set up and machine a single chamber.

The finished chamber weighs about 45 lb and measures 22" x 15 1/4" x 8". "I purchased the Monarch specifically for the machining of these chambers," says Ilmberger. "But I quickly found the machine's ease of setup and efficient toolchanging an advantage for other prototyping applications. The VMC 45B is versatile--able to handle a wide range of parts from very small to very large."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:ILM Tool Inc.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:May 1, 1991
Words:505
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