Finding Better Ways



Machine Tool Builder and Cutting Tool Manufacturer Collaborate

In this era of partnerships and collaborations, relationships between a machine tool builder and a cutting tool manufacturer have been rare. Granted, many organizations champion newly formed relationships, but few really go beyond a superficial press release that looks good to prospective customers.

In contrast, Makino and Kennametal have developed a working relationship that far exceeds the legal language of a written contract. In fact, this relationship ventures into the realm of a gentleman’s agreement dependent upon a firm understanding of each others’ goals and philosophies.

As a machine tool builder, Makino provides advanced machining technology and application support for the metalcutting and die/mold industries. Kennametal, as a cutting tool manufacturer, provides metalworking products and services for turning, milling, boring, drilling, threading, grooving and cutoff applications.

"We have an ongoing confidentiality agreement that allows us to jointly develop tools and processes," says Jim Hunt, Kennametal’s global machine tool director. "But a relationship that involves collaborative R&D can’t function at its best within the confines of a written document. Therefore, much of the work we do is done through a common trust between the two organizations."

This trust allows both organizations to test joint projects from both sides of the fence. Kennametal has a Makino A55 Delta in its technology lab. As a result, Kennametal can test new processes from a tooling perspective on a Makino high-speed machine. Similarly, Makino uses Kennametal tooling to perform its own R&D. Both organizations can share programs and test data while bouncing new ideas off each other to continually drive new technologies to the forefront.

Turnkeys and Custom Tooling Packages

Makino is highly involved in the development of turnkey operations that reduce cycle time and increase process reliability through the creation of innovative methods that eliminate process steps and dedicated machines. By combining high-speed spindle technology, sophisticated software control and advanced cutting tools, Makino and Kennametal strive to deliver a comprehensive integrated manufacturing solution for metalcutting applications.

Horizontal machining centers are designed to be highly flexible and easily adaptable to changing needs and environments. But often customers have special requirements. It is these special requirements that provided the foundation for this unique relationship to develop.

"Custom tooling packages are an inherent reality when it comes to developing flexible turnkey processes," says Stan Weidmer, Makino process development engineer. "Especially when the goal is to reduce cycle time by eliminating steps and dedicated machinery."

To help fulfill this goal, Makino and Kennametal have created an environment that generates new ideas and solutions in both tool and process development. The organizations work closely together to continuously explore machine tool technology, seeking new ways to improve tooling, speeds and feeds.

Parallel Philosophies Fuel Positive Working Environment

The Makino/Kennametal partnership began approximately three years ago, when a representative from each organization attended a common event and started informally discussing the mutual benefits of such a symbiotic relationship. Since then, innovative techniques, methods and cutting tools, some patented some not, have been developed. All these techniques optimize the capabilities of high-speed horizontal machining centers by developing tools that perform multiple operations, or in some cases, by taking conventional dedicated transfer line techniques and applying them to horizontal machining centers when conventional wisdom would not deem this possible.

"What makes this relationship so harmonious are the parallels that run throughout the philosophies of both organizations," states Hunt. "Both address many of the same markets, including automotive, aerospace and die/mold. Both also have global manufacturing capabilities, and both have a marketing approach that creates a high-performance, high-end, solution driven environment. An environment that encourages the development of manufacturing solutions rather than the sale of products alone. As a result, both organizations put a tremendous amount of energy, time and resources into the process side of manufacturing—a commitment both organizations have shared, prior to this relationship, as part of their working philosophies."

Coincidentally, both Makino and Kennametal recently expanded and opened new technology centers. Kennametal, located in Latrobe, PA, added to its campus environment a 150,000 square-foot Technology Center. But the Technology Center was only one aspect of a $20 million expansion that also included a Corporate Center and an Administrative Center. Meanwhile, Makino, located in Mason, OH, recently increased its floor space from 130,000 square feet to 316,000 square feet. This $27 million expansion will allow Makino to more than double the number of engineering personnel devoted to process development, customer solutions and integration.

The results of this relationship are being brought to light through creative tooling innovations, most of which are finding application within the automotive industry. However, some are also finding application in the aerospace and die/mold industries.

Creative Tooling Innovations

Some of the creative tooling innovations jointly developed by Makino and Kennametal include squirt reaming, hydraulic line boring, closed loop cylinder boring, head deck grinding and hydraulic feedout heads. Other innovative tools, which will be launched at IMTS ’98, include the Typhoon and its counterpart the Tornado.

Squirt reaming is not unique to the automotive industry. Traditionally it has been done on dedicated transfer line machines. However, utilizing this technique effectively on a horizontal machining center is quite unique to the industry. Makino’s squirt reamers simultaneously finish valve guides and seats in cylinder heads for automotive engines. Since this method requires no repositioning, it maintains the highest level of concentricity between the valve guide and seat.

A diesel engine block traditionally machined on a multi-station transfer line can now be completed on a single horizontal machining center. The line boring of the crank and cam bores is accomplished with a special hydrostatic bearing for outboard support of the line boring bars. The patented hydrostatic design achieves line boring results by providing the rigidity and dampening required to maintain dimensional and locational accuracy through a bore-index-bore process.

The closed loop boring system provides the capability for in-process checks of cylinder bores and automatic adjustments of the boring bar to compensate for tool wear. The hydrostatically piloted, coolant pressure actuated feedout head can machine the main bearing/crank shaft thrust face of an engine block. By finish-grinding the head deck on a machining center, surface finish and flatness are greatly improved, and material handling is substantially reduced.


One of the beneficiaries of this relationship is TRW (formerly Lucas Varity). The TRW plant, located in Fowlerville, MI, manufactures and assembles millions of Anti-lock Brake Systems (ABS) each year for automotive manufacturers, including General Motors, Chrysler and Isuzu.

The plant has 66 Makino A55 horizontal machining centers, equipped with Kennametal custom tooling packages, arranged into 11 cells. "This was a turnkey package and it’s worked out well," says Tom Sliwa, Fowlerville plant manager. "We saved so much time by having the tooling and the process developed up front. By working together, Makino and Kennametal effectively optimized each others’ technology."

Agile manufacturing has given TRW the ability to deliver a variety of ABS systems to several customers in high volumes. The initial decision to utilize machining centers with elaborate tooling packages in a cell configuration, rather than using dedicated transfer lines, was made to support increased demand. This configuration provides the shop floor with more uptime and flexibility.

The cells make it easier to manufacture different parts. "We can change over a cell to make a different part in about four hours," says manufacturing associate John Hibbard. "We just change the tools and the program and it’s back up. We would never have that flexibility with a transfer line."

"To the untrained eye, an ABS valve body resembles a block of Swiss cheese," says George Fredrickson, manufacturing manager. "It has holes on all six sides of the body, with a variety of depths throughout. Utilizing the horizontal machining center with specialized tooling, however, this process only requires two setups to machine the three front sides and three back sides."

"Our approach to holemaking focuses on speed and accuracy," says Shannon Eberly, manufacturing associate. "We machine all the holes in two passes with extensive ridges and precision. No semi-rough is needed. The tooling creates holes up to seven inches within tolerances of 32 microns and under. We’re getting excellent tool life and top notch micro finishes."

Each valve body is machined from aluminum at speeds reaching 10,000 rpm and metal removal as high as 100 ipm. Several different tools are used to machine the valve body. Carbide drill tools are used for roughing, and proprietary insert tooling is used during finishing. This variety of tooling does not impact cycle time because all operations are being performed within a machining cell, where tool changes require only 0.9 second.

A custom fixturing package has also played a beneficial role in the success of this turnkey process. The integral pallet tombstone being utilized by TRW is a high precision, hydraulically actuated fixture that replaces the standard pallet with one-piece construction, providing better rigidity. "Two setups for the entire part is very helpful," adds Hibbard. "And, depending on the part family, we can get as many as eight parts on each tombstone. This makes a big difference overall in cycle time and throughput."

A Marriage Between Machine and Cutting Tool

"To take full advantage of high-speed horizontal machining centers, a cutting tool must work in concert with the machine tool," states Weidmer. For example, Jeff Gordon will not win the pole at Daytona come July 4 if his crew chief affixed street tires rather than racing tires to his finely tuned NASCAR machine.

Just as tires are an important factor in the performance of a Winston Cup race car, cutting tools are equally important when taking advantage of high-speed metalcutting techniques. If we were to take this analogy to another level, you could say that the Makino/Kennametal team is the pit crew, fine-tuning turnkey operations that will ultimately end up on the customer’s shop floor.

By sharing programs and test data with Kennametal, Makino horizontal machines are able to take advantage of new cutting tools and techniques. Likewise, Kennametal is able to develop cutting tools that take advantage of new high-speed machining techniques.

The key to Makino and Kennametal’s success is the harmonious collaboration between product development, process development and tooling techniques. "A Makino/Kennametal manufacturing process is much more than a machine or group of machines," adds Weidmer. "It’s a complete package combining high-speed spindle technology, creative engineering, specialized programming techniques and advanced cutting tools." By reducing tool count and the number of operations, the need for transfer lines and secondary operations is eliminated.

Thanks to creative tooling solutions, such as squirt reaming, hydraulic line boring, closed loop cylinder boring, head deck grinding and hydraulic feedout heads, manufacturers are realizing great success in their machining applications. Taking work that has traditionally been done by dedicated machines and applying innovative tooling techniques to horizontal machining centers saves money, increases flexibility, improves accuracy, produces higher part quality and reduces cycle time.