Two Different Productivity Mindsets in One Shop
Sixty percent of business for Toner Machining Technologies consists of designing and building hydraulic workholding fixtures for high volume production manufacturing. Customers for these tools include OEMs as well as second tier suppliers to the automotive, defense, aerospace, and heavy truck industries. According to Toner, they write CNC programs for all the precision parts they will need using Mastercam for the build/machine operations.
These workholding solutions are meticulously designed and tested to make it possible to eliminate every extra second from machine cycles so that mass production takes place as efficiently as possible.
Over the past several years, the company has managed to grow into an expanding number of increasingly complex design and build projects while staying on top of high precision job shop work for the aerospace, defense, and nuclear power industries.
Programmer/machinists rely heavily on the CAM system to keep up with numerous low volume production schedules while continuing to meet very strict dimensional tolerance requirements.
“One project involved us designing a custom bar feeder that fed the material into a vertical machining center. The machine was shipped to our facility where we designed and manufactured the fixtures, tooling, and wrote the programs for it. We are doing all of the macro probing integrated with fail safes. We upgraded the machine with additional safety features, trained operators, and shipped the system to Georgia where we installed it,” One of the biggest drivers of Toner’s workholding business has been the shortage of skilled manufacturing labor. Vice President and General Manager, Trent Toner, said.
“In the past, we would give our guys paper prints and say, ‘Hey, we have 10 hours to do this. Just make it.’ Today, when our engineers are done designing a system, they put their SOLIDWORKS onto the server so that our programmer/machinists can bring them into Mastercam for manufacturing process analysis and CNC programming,” Toner said.
“We currently have three seats of Mastercam. While their CNC equipment is cutting one part, the programmer/machinists are busy designing workholding solutions and writing programs for the next ones coming up. If a guy programs a part in an hour and it takes eight to make it, this allows him to keep pace with our demanding design and build schedules.”
Toner works very closely with its Mastercam Reseller, Barefoot CNC in Morganton, North Carolina, to standardize tool libraries and toolpaths to ensure the manufacturing strategy chosen for the job is efficient, accurate, and eliminates the possibility of human error. Based on this work, Toner has transitioned almost all of its roughing programs from conventional toolpaths to those incorporating Mastercam’s Dynamic Motion technology. By adjusting feeds, speeds, and tool motions in accordance with material conditions ahead of the tool, these programs allow the CNC equipment to operate at the highest possible material removal rates without the programmer/machinist having to worry about the damage that occurs when cutters get buried in the corners.
In one instance, Toner used Dynamic Motion to reduce machining time for a complex airfoil. The workpieces consisted of 100-pound blocks of aluminum measuring 3 x 20 x 36 inches. In half the time it took to manufacture the same type of part using a conventional process, this part was whittled down to 15 pounds, leaving a 35-gallon barrel of chips beside the machine. After the first part was completed, five more followed, making these standardized dynamic toolpaths an important productivity enhancer.
For both its automated workholding solutions projects and high precision aerospace and defense parts manufacturing, Toner has often been called upon to achieve extreme dimensional accuracy. For thin walled parts, Dynamic Motion technology allows the company to machine parts rapidly at material removal rates with slight stepovers that barely deflect delicate walls. Using the software’s CAD for CAM capabilities, programmers/machinists are able to visualize unique dimension-chasing strategies that result in intermediate dimensions that do not match those on the print so that final dimensions, after the part has gone through stress relief, are right on target.
Trent Toner noted that all of his customers are looking for more help, and they want the work to be done as an integrated project rather than having to contract multiple suppliers.
“Mastercam’s Dynamic Motion technology has improved our material removal rates by 25 to 50 percent. Our programmer/machinists are handling a much larger volume of work on a base of CNC equipment that has grown from seven to twelve CNC machines in just two years,” Trent Toner, Vice President and General Manager at Toner Machining Technologies, Morganton, North Carolina.
“Our Reseller, Barefoot CNC, is available to answer our questions and help us resolve problems whenever we need them. They are more than just responsive; they are genuinely interested in learning what they can do to help us be more successful. Without our asking, they will drop in to see us, just to see how we are doing. They are part of our team.” Trent Toner, Vice President and General Manager at Toner Machining Technologies, Morganton, North Carolina.