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T1 5-Axis Milling Machine Adds Flexibility to Hard-Metal Machining at Dynamic NC
“In today’s aerospace industry, we know we need to use every available advantage to lower our part costs because our customers are counting on us to help them lower their costs,” said Jim Gibbs, president of Dynamic NC. “What we do impacts everything moving up the supply chain—a lower cost per part on an aerospace component reduces aircraft costs, which ultimately helps lower prices at the ticket counter so the airline can be more profitable. That means that to competitively produce aviation equipment in North America today, we need every tool at our disposal to thrive. For us, flexible process optimization through advanced technologies has been the big differentiator.”
“Counter to popular belief, being a low-cost leader has little to do with investment costs, but has everything to do with life-cycle costs.”
Dynamic NC in Rose Hill, Kan., has a true handle on how to control costs. The builder of structural components for the aerospace industry knows its operating expenses and what kind of impact its equipment can have on an engineer’s ability to perfect the production process. It also understands how this ultimately provides the competitive costs necessary to help the company win the next job.
“Counter to popular belief, being a low-cost leader has little to do with investment costs, but has everything to do with life-cycle costs,” said Gibbs. “We employ high-performance technology to lower our unit price. With investments in new technologies from Makino, such as our T1 5-axis milling machines, we’ve been able to cut our cycle times in half, extend tool life and reduce labor hours, providing our customers with the lowest achievable part costs in challenging part applications.”
Weighing Long-Term Performance
Gibbs started Dynamic NC in 2007 to specialize in the production of complex structural aircraft components and engine-mount components. He knew there was a niche for working with hard metals on jobs others didn’t want to tackle. Gibbs was optimistic, building the facility to accommodate future growth. And thanks to its mission of providing its customers with the best quality part at the absolute lowest cost, Dynamic NC has doubled its sales each year since it began.
Dynamic NC recently won a bid to machine hard-metal (13-8 stainless steel) 5-axis structural components and needed to purchase equipment to handle this work. Because of the pressures inherent in the aerospace industry, it needed a machine that could help it lower costs for that order. The company went in search of the equipment that would best fit the package.
“With investments in new technologies from Makino, such as our T1 5-axis milling machines, we’ve been able to cut our cycle times in half, extend tool life and reduce labor hours”
“We do a lot of research to determine how to lower costs,” said Kyle Gakeler, director of operations at Dynamic NC. “While we wanted technology to achieve greater flexibility in hard metal machining applications, we also wanted equipment that would keep costs low through improved cycle times, greater perishable tool life, equipment reliability and reduced labor.”
The high-mix, low-volume production requirements of the aerospace market require manufacturers to maintain a process-oriented mindset at all times. This means continuous process research and development is a necessity, driving demand for flexible technology solutions.
“When researching machine technologies, we have little interest in comparing equipment based purely on price and specifications. We want to know about the actual long-term performance, associated costs and process flexibility. It doesn’t matter what the machine can do, but what we can do with the machine.”
“In our industry they used to have a saying, ‘Good, cheap and fast—pick two.’ But you can’t do that anymore,” said Gibbs. “To be cost-effective, you have to provide all three. Good refers to the quality, which has to be there. And fast and cheap go together because the faster you can make a part, the cheaper it is. We needed a machine that could accomplish all of this, and a high-performance machining center typically has a design and construction that improve key aspects of operation, including cycle time, tool life, part quality and reliability.”
Mike Jones, director of engineering at Dynamic NC, agrees. “We believe you get what you pay for. Sure, we could spend less money on another machine, but that equipment would be more labor intensive, have longer run times and the efficient process would not be there. All of that translates to higher costs, which leads to fewer contracts and a smaller bottom line. It makes more sense for us to spend money on a high-performance machine that delivers quality parts in a shorter cycle time. All worries are eliminated concerning waste, labor, repair, downtime, tooling and maintenance—these are the hidden costs of ownership that factor into the overall purchase price. Many companies don’t even consider these up front like we do.”
New Technology Drives Down Costs
In 2013, Dynamic NC purchased a Makino a92 horizontal machining center and F9 vertical machining center to begin introducing hard-metal applications into its production environment while expanding on current capabilities as well. That experience, along with Makino’s reputable presence in the Wichita area, factored into the company’s decision about new equipment for its hard-metal machining applications.
“The [T1]’s range of motion can help reduce the number of setups. Not only does that reduce labor, but we also know that parts are much more accurate the less they are moved.”
“Makino is highly regarded with our customers,” said Gibbs. “We believe them to be in the upper echelon of machine tool builders in the U.S. We were already familiar with Makino from our own machining experience, and a few of us had worked with the Makino MAG-Series and T2 horizontal machining centers at previous companies. So we felt that the T1 5-axis milling machine would deliver the quality and reliability we needed for this job. In early 2014, we purchased the first two T1 machines sold in North America to use for our hard-metal machining [13-8 stainless steel] of 5-axis structural components.”
Dynamic NC favored the T1 for the machine’s rigidity, stability and unique kinematic structure, which offered a higher degree of flexibility in its process design and labor requirements. The 155-degree tilting A-axis and deep chest column provide full 5-axis milling capability for parts up to 1,500 mm in diameter. The Z-axis travel and ability to reach way over the table has proven to be very versatile for all of the company’s applications.
“We have found that the T1 is all about process flexibility,” said Jones. “Part accessibility has been really helpful to us. We always consider kinematics when producing our parts because it helps us be more efficient. It opens up more options on how to machine a part and access part features. The machine’s range of motion can help reduce the number of setups. Not only does that reduce labor, but we also know that parts are much more accurate the less they are moved.”
Being a very process-oriented culture, Dynamic NC examines the tools it uses in its applications and how best to use them to optimize processes. Engineers recognize that the cost associated with tooling for hard-metal machining isn’t cheap, thus tool life is critical to its goal for lowest part costs.
“A lot of people measure tool life in minutes, but we measure them in hours or days.”
“A lot of people measure tool life in minutes, but we measure them in hours or days,” said Gakeler. “Due to the T1’s rigidity and active damping system, we have found that even in hard metals and roughing, we can better predict tool life. We are also able to use a wider variety of tooling that we would not have been able to use in a competitive machine. Even when burying a 1-inch endmill into a part for roughing, there is no vibration whatsoever.”
The rigid design, power and accessibility of the T1 machines have enabled Dynamic NC to effectively cut hardened materials without limitation. Gibbs likens their hard-metal machining processes to that of a surgeon, using the exact instruments in the precise manner for efficient and accurate results. “The construction of the T1 provides a solid foundation for fixtures and all other machine components. With this level of stability, we find that cutting titanium is like cutting butter.”
The machine’s high-pressure, high-volume through-spindle coolant has also been essential in delivering coolant precisely to the cutting zone, effectively cooling the tools while evacuating chips to prevent recutting.
“The T1 gets coolant to the deep pockets, no matter the size of the tools,” said Jones. “These features have led to significant improvements in tool life across all applications. The T1 can handle whatever we throw at it. We regularly test the limits of the machine, and the active damping helps the machine adjust itself to the cutting conditions. We get great reliability and virtually no downtime. The capabilities of the machine are beyond comparison to most machine tools out there.
“In fact, recently in a flap-track component, we have achieved a 50 percent reduction in cycle time, five to six times greater tool life and an 80 percent reduction in machining labor with the T1. Similar results have been seen across many of our other applications.”
“The T1 can handle whatever we throw at it. We regularly test the limits of the machine, and the active damping helps the machine adjust itself to the cutting conditions.”
These process capabilities have enabled Dynamic NC to assert itself as the low-cost leader in hard-metal applications.
“For us, it’s not about the tool life or productivity,” said Gakeler. “It’s total cost of the product that’s important. What goes into the cost of the product? Capital expenditures, labor and perishable costs. We strive to minimize those. We need quality first in a product, but then the lowest cost is important. If I buy a premium machine that allows me to make parts in five minutes versus 20 minutes, then that is the most cost-effective. It’s not about the spec sheet’s listing of how much or how fast you remove material. It’s about what it actually costs to remove it.”
Moving Forward with the Entire Package
Seeking a similar level of flexibility as it had achieved in its hard-metal parts, Dynamic NC also wanted to expand its capabilities into the larger structural aluminum aerospace market. In late 2014, the company purchased two MAG3.EX 5-axis horizontal machining centers to meet these needs.
“It’s not about the spec sheet’s listing of how much or how fast you remove material. It’s about what it actually costs to remove it.”
“The MAG3.EX machines have helped us become an exceptional resource for complex monolithic aluminum aerospace parts,” said Gakeler. “We have been able to reduce the total cost of operation, including labor, cycle time and tooling costs. With a competitive machine, the part would have cost more to make. We would have had to perform more setups, and that variation would cause us to produce a lesser-quality part. With the MAG3.EX, we are getting the speed, accuracy, tool variety, chip evacuation and a 33,000-rpm spindle. A lot of machines look like they have the entire package but don’t have the spindle speed this machine does.”
Gibbs agreed. “I liken it to racing cars. The whole car is a system, and it takes the entire package to make the car go fast. If one part of the system goes down, it’s not going fast. The MAG3 has it all—with no limiting factors. I believe that it’s the most capable aluminum machine that Makino has. And though we’ve just put it on our floor, we are looking forward to seeing where it takes us.”
As Dynamic NC steers its course toward future growth, the success that it has seen with these machines has led it to make plans to add an automated pallet-handling system to the T1 and a92 equipment, and to purchase two more T1 machines. The company also expects to install an MMC2 pallet-handling system across the existing MAG3.EX cell, and to add a third MAG-Series machine in the near future.
“This kind of technology has allowed us to not only reduce costs across the board but to also be the kind of resource that our customers can count on,” said Gibbs.
“This kind of technology has allowed us to not only reduce costs across the board but to also be the kind of resource that our customers can count on.”
“What matters most to Dynamic NC is building a reputation for taking care of those around us—whether they be customers, colleagues or the local community. For us, it’s all about making each day valuable and bringing meaning to what we do. We want to impact lives and reduce the stress on the people we work with by completing quality projects that no one else can at the lowest cost per part.”
Rose Hill, KS
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