Lower Wire EDM Costs Improve Pharmaceutical Edge


Gemel Precision Tool Company, Inc. has maintained quality performance in the medical products packaging market for over 30 years. Its customers demand consistency and tight, precise tolerances of critical radii in the design and manufacturing of perforation and cutting dies for pharmaceutical blister packaging.

Operating out of a 24,000 square foot facility in Ivyland, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, Gemel began seeking a competitive edge in order to maintain the expected quality, while lowering machine consumables expense. The company needed to find the highest technology EDM solutions possible to achieve both of their desired results.

The problem was, Gemel was not really sure which machine tool company to turn to for these solutions, which they had been unable to find in other machine tool relationships. This led them to the development of an extensive machine tool testing project, which was a blind test based solely on machine performance related to certain key specifications.

"Minimal punch and die clearances are 0.0003-inches in many cases, very tight tolerances to maintain," says Mark Hamilton of Gemel. "We ran our tests, and determined that Makino could provide the high precision and superior finishes, while also substantially dropping our wire EDM consumables cost."

Machine Testing

Mark Hamilton came on board at Gemel Precision as a toolmaker, and evolved into the operator of the company’s wire EDM machines as business volume grew for this type of precision manufacturing. He conducted the testing process to add to and replace its wire EDM technology.

"We decided to do a blind test by sending a part out to various machine tool manufacturers and requesting they conduct the burn," says Hamilton. "We needed to have an unbiased idea of what machine was going to best do the job."

"We provided each of the prospective finalists with an identical sample, so we could examine them and choose which one did the best job for the price. One of the test stipulations was that the manufacturer had to be able to produce, on our floor, the same sample quality that we required once we made the initial decision."

"There were varied results from excellent to not necessarily excellent, regarding required finish, radius, punch and die geometry of 0.0001-inch clearance and overall squareness," says Hamilton.

"Based on superior results, we made the selection on Makino, without knowing which manufacturer actually burned what part. They not only replicated the results on our floor, but helped us improve upon them."

Wire Performance

Gemel now has two Makino SP64s they acquired after the testing process, to replace two machines that were simply not performing satisfactorily. "The SP64 machines have been phenomenal," says Hamilton. "The automatic threading mechanism is second to none, and the cutting technology is faster than anything that we have."

"The tight tolerances and precision radius burning performance is accurate and repeatable. And, our cycle time improvements on the Makino SP64 range from 10 to 15 percent better than with previous machines or processes, with surface finishes that are simply excellent."

The advanced WireWIZARD™ technologies deliver higher speeds and superior accuracy by optimizing servo response and control. Makino’s unique BellyWIZARD™ technology cuts straighter, reducing one-pass bellying in your part by as much as 40 percent, compared to other wire EDM systems.

Because of the PowerWIZARD™ feature, fewer passes are being made to remove metal. This helps operations run leaner and more efficient, as consumable cost and time are reduced, while high speed and superior accuracy are maintained. And, CornerWIZARD™ modifies servo speed automatically during the roughing pass, in order to optimize the amount of material remaining for skim cuts based on programmed offsets and desired accuracy.

Maintenance and Consumables

Hamilton says Gemel’s machine operation and maintenance efficiency has improved with these higher quality Makino machines. "The threading system and the on-board technology on the SP64s work the way they are supposed to work. Routine maintenance is surprisingly simple, and uptime is phenomenal."

"We have also noticed a considerable drop in wire EDM consumables. We use 0.010-inch diameter brass wire, and our use of this consumable has dropped by about 50 percent, due to the quality of the machines in extending wire life."

The quick connect "dual-jet" auto threader has been standard on all Makino wire EDM’s since 1984. This Makino technology provides more reliability and lower maintenance than other systems, and includes a 12,000  hour guarantee on wire guide life, and a standard 10-year limited ballscrew warranty on every machine.

"With the precision and technology Makino provides, we are able to compete globally," says Hamilton. "Because we are in the United States and not in Europe or Asia, we are able to provide much faster delivery times here than can foreign competitors."

"I believe that makes us more reasonable and palatable for most of our OEM customers. Our geography and service prevail. And, with technologically advanced machinery, like the Makino SP64, and support from EDM Sales and Supplies, we can provide quality and precision in a timely fashion. That gives us an edge."