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19 January 2017

Makino EDM marque returns

EDAF3 filled with dielectric oil; automatic toolchanger at left
There is a new marque of wire and die-sink EDM machine in the UK: top-tier Japanese machine tool supplier Makino. Although UK dealer NCMT has previously sold them sporadically, its new sales initiative is a self-consciously long-term effort. Will Dalrymple reports

This attempt to break into the EDM market started with a board-level decision last year. Sales director Laurence Ireland recalls: “If we want to try to expand our business in the UK, the thinking was, why take on another agency to build a new product line – which is not really our style – when actually we have got a product line from one of the best machine tool companies in the world sitting there that we’re not using.” He adds that NCMT (0208 398 4277) felt that the timing was right; not only is there is a lot of emphasis from Makino on EDM machines for the aerospace market, NCMT’s premier segment, but also “we felt that the customer base for various reasons were ready to welcome another high quality machine”.

And it has worked; business has been good, better than expected, in fact; around 10 sales are expected by the end of the financial year in February 2017, two-thirds the way to the initial ‘base station’ level -- as Ireland calls it – of the amount that would be 10% of its estimate of the size of the high-end UK EDM market: 150 per year.

This success is partly down to aerospace market growth in the UK, says the sales director, pointing out that it has been particularly good to this UK dealer of Makino milling machines and the Rolls Royce-Makino-NCMT-developed VIPER grinding process. Mould and die business is also growing rapidly from EDM sales.

So no surprise that one of the three machines on display at NCMT’s Coventry showroom was sold the week prior to Machinery’s early December visit. There are four principal Makino EDM models to be held in UK stock: two die-sinkers, EDAF2 and 3, and two wire-cut EDM models, U3 and U6, two versions. They form part of a larger range of EDM machines from Makino (see www.makino.com/wire-edm or www.makino.com/ram-edmwww.makino.com/ram-edm). EDAF2 axis travels are 350 by 250 by 250 mm in X, Y and Z in a tank measuring 700 by 500 by 300 mm. EDAF3 travels are 100 mm more in each axis, in a tank measuring 850 by 650 by 400 mm in X, Y and Z. For the wire EDM machines, the U3’s travels are similar to those of EDAF2,
on parts measuring up to 770 by 590 by 220 mm. Its larger sibling offers travels of 650 by 450 by 420 mm in X, Y and Z for parts measuring up to 1,000 by 800 by 400 mm. One recent U3 customer is aerospace grinding specialist FT Gearing Systems of Aldershot.

NCMT’s EDM team: (left to right) Andrew Garratt, Makino engineering product manager, Stephen Harrison and Giles Walker, in front of the Makino U6

While NCMT has a regional structure for sales and support of machine tools, based from offices in Bury, Coventry and Thames Ditton, the 115-employee company has employed specialist staff for its EDM activities. Giles Walker is the nationwide EDM sales executive. Fielding requests for quotations and cutting sample parts on the new machines is Stephen Harrison, a similarly dedicated applications engineer, based in Coventry. In preparation for their roles, they, and three NCMT service engineers, trained at Makino factories in Japan and Singapore last year. Plans call for another applications engineer later this year; also planned is a supply service for wear parts such as wire and guides.

Generally speaking, Makino EDM machines keep the part static and manoeuvre the machining head. X and Y axis movements are carried out on hand-scraped slideways in all axes, driven by direct-drive ballscrews. Compared to machines that move the submerged part, this design provides accuracy, capacity, and longevity, as a submerged guideway would have to displace fluid to move, would have to carry the load frame, and run the risk of water penetration that could lead to part failure, argues Walker. The upper Y and Z structure of both machines incorporates cooling to improve thermal stability (air on the U series; dielectric oil in the EDAF series), and there’s an option for a core cooled Z-axis ballscrew, too.

A recent upgrade to the Makino range is its proprietary Hyper i control on a 22-in touchscreen monitor, now standard across both die-sink and wire-cut machines. In addition to offering tablet-style gesture controls (for example, pinch to enlarge), there is also a graphical programming process – including a simplified function for quick job set-ups called the ASAP function – and an EZ-cut slider bar to easily adjust machining speed and power settings up to 25%, in real time. In addition, helper software on the control guides novice operators through periodic maintenance tasks, even showing how-to videos on the screen. A handheld (cabled) remote control is standard.

TURNING UP THE HEAT

The wire EDM cutting process works fastest when wire guides are as close as possible to the surfaces to be cut. Makino’s proprietary HEAT (High Energy Applied Temperature) function is designed to improve cutting speeds when they are not. It requires adding a second flushing system underneath the part, supplementing the one on the top, as well as generator improvements. Doing so requires double as many filters, plus other upgrades.

Whatever the details, the Makino EDM offering is finding favour in the market. Laurence Ireland says that NCMT is increasing its order volumes to keep up with demand; the company aims to always have a minimum of two machines in stock in Coventry.


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Other Makino technologies

The cast of supporting Makino technologies also includes:

  • ‘E-Tech Doctor’ intelligent help function adjusts cutting conditions
  • Scheduling function simplifies programming of multiple parts or cavities
  • EDcam (optional) for EDAF (die-sinker) imports machining position data generated offline and inserts this information into the program; a further option is EDM Mail that provides automated alerts
  • HyperCut generator technology (die-sinker) improves roughing speeds by 30% over conventional machining
  • SuperSpark IV technology (die-sinker) provides adaptive control over discharge power, reducing time by 50% when combined with HyperCut
  • A surface finish example: in a three-hour process using a copper electrode, an EDAF machine produced a 0.05 micron Ra surface finish

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New EDM machines & applications

  • A new range of wire EDM machines is available from Warwick Machine Tools. Following on from ONA’s premium QX die sink CNC EDM range, six models of the modular AV series are available. They range from the ONA AV25 model, travels of 400 by 300 by 250 mm in X, Y and Z, up to the AV130 model that offers X-axis travel of 2,000 mm and up to 1,300 mm in Y and 800 mm in Z. All come with a new CNC with CADCAM functionality that is said to offer a simple, user-friendly interface on 23-in touchscreen monitor. A new digital generator increases cutting speed up to 40% and precision by 20%, compared with older machines; a new superfine finishing module achieves surface roughness of the order of 0.1 micron Ra in hard metals and 0.12 micron Ra in carbon steel. There is also a new design of wire threading system with enhanced functions, such as rethreading while submerged in a cut gap on a 150 mm-thick workpiece. https://is.gd/lucoji
  • Pickering-based Ryetools, a designer and manufacturer of high performance plastic injection mould tools for the packaging and medical and pharmaceutical industries, has invested in two Sodick SL series wire erosion machines from Sodi-Tech EDM (02476 511677), a move that has led to an increase in output of 20% for multi-cut work. In addition, the investment means the company can now accommodate taller workpieces and larger spools of wire, while programming is a lot faster and more intuitive. Along with investing in new SLC400G and SLC600G wire EDMs, the company also decided to retain one of its older Sodick machines. “We have been so busy lately that all three of our Sodick machines have been running at capacity to meet the demand for inserts – we produce moulds with up to 96 impressions,” says managing director Darren Hugill.

This article was first published in the January 2017 issue of Machinery magazine.

Will Dalrymple

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