Looking For Solutions In New Places

When this shop needed a new turning center to produce small parts quickly, it looked to the Haas Mini Lathe for the solution.


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In these difficult economic times, many machine tool distributors, and even some machine tool builders, are closing their doors, often leaving long-time customers without the support they require. This forces companies to look to other machine tool manufacturers for new relationships. But how does a company choose a new machine tool manufacturer and affordably try out one of their CNC machines? For Hydro Fitting Manufacturing (Covina, California), the solution came in a small package—the Mini Lathe from Haas Automation, Inc. (Oxnard, California).

Hydro Fitting manufactures high-precision components for aerospace and other industries. Its customers include such companies as Boeing, Rockwell, Cessna, Airbus and General Dynamics. Its mainstay products are pressure-charging valves and tank valves for hydraulic and pneumatic systems. The company is known for its charging valves, available from zero psi all the way up to 20,000 psi.

Hydro Fitting’s machine shop currently has 10 turning centers from a Japanese manufacturer, all equipped with hydrostatic bar feeders. The company usually replaces its CNC turning centers every 7 years, so when its local distributor closed down recently, it was forced to look elsewhere for new machines.

“We don’t switch over to a machine, we switch over to a company,” explains Seth Schwartz, president of Hydro Fitting. “We’ve discovered over the years that if we stick with one particular company, we can get the service we want. They get to know us, and it winds up being a long-term relationship.”

When Hydro Fitting needed a new turning center to produce small parts quickly, it looked to the Haas Mini Lathe for the solution. The compact machine is designed for just that type of job, with its gang-style tooling and high speed cross-slide, which are said to provide quick tool changes and short cycle times. To boost production further, the company equipped the lathe with an automatic bar feeder, which it loads with round and hex bar up to 1-inch diameter.

The machine’s design features quickly became apparent. “The new lathe is well thought out,” says Mr. Schwartz. “The placement of the control is where it should be. You don’t have to take three steps to the right to be able to work the machine, as you have to do on our other machines.”

The machine’s compact 5- by 4.5-foot footprint also made it easy to fit into Hydro Fitting’s crowded shop, which was important. “We’ve been at this location since 1977, and we don’t want to move to another facility to fit in the new machines,” Mr. Schwartz adds.

Reducing setup times is one way Hydro Fitting is increasing its efficiency, and the design of the new lathe’s 10-position tool platen has helped in this area. “We’ve been able to pick up a 12 to 15 percent productivity gain with the new machine,” notes shop supervisor Angel Rodriguez. “The way the tools are held in a V configuration has saved us time. Because we’re a short- to medium-run facility, if we can get something up and running on the machine quickly, we’re much better off.”

Hydro Fitting also gets reductions in cycle times with its new lathe. One example is a valve stem made out of 303 stainless steel. The new machine is faster than the company’s other equipment in five of the part’s seven operations. The bar feed takes only 4 seconds, versus 8 seconds on other equipment. The first turning operation saves 3 seconds, and then the second operation, threading with a 32-pitch insert, shaves another 3 seconds off the cycle time. The biggest reduction comes with drilling a 0.0785-inch hole in the valve stem, which takes only 12 seconds, compared with 20 seconds on the company’s other turning centers. All told, the entire operation now takes 54 seconds, compared with 80 seconds previously—a 32 percent cycle time reduction. “We run 5,000 valve stems at a time, so that adds up to savings of 36 hours over the entire job,” says Mr. Schwartz.

The new machine has also paid off in part accuracy. Mr. Schwartz notes that there have been a half dozen jobs where the machine had to hold 0.0005 inch. It has consistently held that with no problem.

Haas Automation’s reputation for total service is another reason Hydro Fitting chose its machine. “When we have a problem with our other machines, we have to contact one supplier for problems with the machine and another for problems with the control,” Mr. Schwartz notes. “With Haas, we only need to make one phone call to get the help we need.”

Hydro Fitting’s plans for its new lathe include unattended machining and Ethernet connectivity. “We want to go to lights-out production and be able to monitor off-premises,” says Mr. Schwartz. “That’s something other manufacturers couldn’t offer, or could only offer through a second party. But with Haas, we know we’ll have full support for everything we want to do.”

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