Two Shifts A Day For Over 20 Years
M. S. Willett, Inc., a Cockeysville, Maryland-based metal-former serving the tool, die, and automotive industries, has several Makino machines in operation. M.S. Willett is involved in all phases of the manufacturing process, from part design through product development, including tooling, transfer systems, metal stampings, CNC metal fabrication, and assembly and packaging.
The company’s production group is a full-service manufacturer of contract metal stampings, CNC metal fabrication, and assemblies, including in-die tapping, robotic MIG welding, spot welding, and secondary operations. Its tool and die group provides engineered tools and dies, tooling integration, in-press and press-to-press mechanical and programmable servo part transfers, custom automation machines, and complete turnkey production systems.
While Willett recently purchased an S56 vertical machining center for hardmilling operations, it’s the company’s two Makino FNC106 vertical machining centers that would catch your eye on a plant tour. The company purchased its first FNC106 in 1984; the second, a year later. Both machines are still in front-line production today. Even though the spindle speeds are slow by today’s standards, the machines are still accurate within 0.001 of an inch. One of the machines has a Fanuc 11M CNC control, and the other a Fanuc 6M, both still supported by Makino.
“Nearly all of our work goes through the Makinos,” says Larry Lindsay of M.S. Willett. “These machines have run two shifts a day, five to six days a week, for the past 20 years. We’ve run thousands of die components through them.”
While Lindsay explains the machines have undergone routine maintenance, the company has had little trouble with them. Regardless of the age of the product, Makino provides lifetime support on all their machines.
“They are the best machines we’ve purchased,” says Lindsay. “I can confidently say that we’ve gotten the value out of the machines several times over.”
Exceeding Age Expectations
Rapid Mold Solutions (RMS), a full-service tooling company offering design and manufacturing capabilities in Erie, Pennsylvania, provides plastic injection molders both mold design and manufacturing services. The company, which was founded in 1999, is dedicated to the complete satisfaction of its customers, which it ensures through excellent workmanship, quality products, and service.
RMS has eight Makino machines in operation. The oldest Makino on the floor is an FNC1710. The 25-horsepower machine, which was purchased in 1999, is routinely used to run cores and cavities on tooling weighing 10 tons fully assembled.
“The FNC is a workhorse for its size,” says Damian Kuzmin, president of RMS. “All the Makino machines are meeting or exceeding their age expectations. As far as I am concerned, it is not worth buying a â€˜throwaway’ machine that is only going to last for four to five years.”
If there is one word to describe RMS, it’s “quality.” Each component RMS manufactures is examined with the same scrutiny at each stage in the production process. Each machine operator is involved in the quality process, verifying every part they produce meets exacting specifications. Even with his high-quality standards, Kuzmin has nothing but faith in the vintage Makino machines.
“Nearly all of our molds touch the Makinos,” says Kuzmin. “Even the oldest Makino is still reliable and extremely accurate. In fact, we have a newer non-Makino vertical machining center on the floor that has serious issues, and no one will get close to it. They prefer to run parts on the older Makino because they know it’s going to be accurate.”
The sustained accuracy and performance have warranted addition-al Makino purchases for RMS. RMS also uses two KE55s, V55, FNC74, EDNC43, SP43, and an EDNC65. While not as old as the FNC 1710, these machines are hardly fresh from the factory. RMS purchased the two KE55s in 2000; the V55 in 2001; and the remainder of the lot in 2003. All of the machines produce components that meet the strict quality standards RMS has in place. When it comes to older machines, Kumin has a philosophy.
“Why get rid of something that is working well,” he says.
Vintage Makino EDMs Out-Perform Newer Competitor Models
Pittsfield, Massachusetts-based Starbase Technologies also stands behind its vintage Makino machines. Starbase specializes in custom manufactured molds, tool-ing, and mold bases for high-volume disposables, cups, pour-back spouts for detergent closures, caps, jars, vials, pen parts, aerosol actuators, medical parts, and long-running, solid-block molds.
The company has 12 Makinos in use today. One of its oldest machines, a Makino MCB1210 horizontal milling machine, was purchased in 1989. Their EDNC85, purchased in 1989, is as accurate as their newer machines purchased in the 1990s, including an EDNC32 and EDNC43.
“The Makino EDMs, as old as they are, are much more reliable and easier to maintain than some of the other machines we have on the floor, which require constant attention,” says Francis Burton of Starbase Technologies.
“The older Makinos routinely run two shifts a day and are worth every penny,” says Burton. “The EDMs are regularly laser-calibrated and still maintain accuracies between 0.0003 and 0.0005 inches. They are rugged pieces of equipment. I don’t think we could have asked more from them.”
Starbase is forging new ground in state-of-the-art technology with its 45,000-square-foot facility. Burton explains that every detail has been carefully evaluated to create the most efficient, accurate mold-making environment possible. It is a testament to their quality and accuracy that the vintage Makino machines still have a place there.
K&S Tool & Die Corp. of Ixonia, Wisconsin, is a job shop specializing in progressive draw and form dies, as well as stamping and fabrication. Founded in 1974, they offer production machining, metal stamping, laser fabrication, and provide a range of manufacturing processes in one location for value-added services for their customers.
When K&S decided it was time to invest in two new wire EDMs, they gave Makino a call because they were so pleased with the value their current EDMs were providing.
“We have certainly gotten our investment out of our Makino wire EDMs,” says Craig Sievert, EDM Manager for K&S. Purchased in 1990, their first Makino wire EDM is still running on their shop floor, holding the accuracies they require. In addition, they’ve purchased several other Makinos throughout the 1990s, including a U53K and an EC32.
“We just sold the EC32 when we bought two new Makino SP64s,” says Sievert. “We hated to let it go, but it was still worth quite a bit and we wanted some of the features and the speed the SP64 offered.”
Over the years, K&S has had Makino service in several times for maintenance and machine upgrades, and has always found that everything was handled promptly and professionally.
“When it was time to get a few new machines in the shop, our experience with Makino made the choice easy,” comments Sievert.
“Whether a machine tool will stay accurate is all about repeatability,” says Bernie Stimmel, Single Source Technology’s calibration service technician. Stimmel says that most machines can be tweaked in to become accurate, as long as they are still repeatable.
“We perform laser checks and volumetric accuracy testing on 10 or more different brands of machine tools, and we find that quality components, such as good ball screws and bearings, and a well-engineered design, make for a machine that is repeatable and therefore can be adjusted to spec,” comments Stimmel. He’s been calibrating machines for SST since 1997, and knows what makes Makino hold up over time.
“All the angles in the work envelope in even older Makino machines are machined to a low one-digit arc-second range,” says Stimmel. “The quality components, superior squareness and geometry, and the effort Makino puts into making sure the axes are straight, causes Makino’s milling and EDM machines to last longer and stay repeatable.”
Precise Tooling, Not Age, Is Key
Ask any manufacturer and they’ll tell you that quality and precision is the name of the game. M.S. Willett, Rapid Mold Solutions, Starbase Technologies, and K&S Tool & Die have all relied on Makino machines to get the job done and they’ve grown successful in the process.
“Your equipment is a statement about your capabilities,” explains Kuzmin. “We wouldn’t use the older Makino machines if they weren’t as accurate as newer machines on the market.”
Burton agrees. “Whether you are manufacturing functional plastic assemblies or aesthetic molded components, high-quality end products begin with precise tooling.”
Age is just a number. These and many other manufacturers see no reason to trade in their vintage machines for newer models if they continue to maintain the dynamic accuracies they had when they made their first cut.