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July 1, 2004

4 Min Read
Capacity vs. capability


Programming is a big factor in high-speed machining performance. This employee uses Vero-Soft International’s Machining Strategist software for CNC programming on a cavity block.

High-speed machining involves very small cuts at very high speeds and precision. Note the small chips produced using high-speed rough machining on a Makino V55.

Quadra has 27 CNC machines in a modern 55,000-sq-ft facility, with another 20,000-sq-ft expansion due for completion by August 2004.


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Buy a new machining center, or pay your employees? Doing the first can allow you to do the second.

Capacity is often a determining factor in a moldmaker’s decision to invest in new technology—or not invest because of overcapacity. However, when it comes to being competitive, capability should outweigh capacity when deciding to add technology. That’s what Quadra Industrial Mfg. & Engineering in Sturtevant, WI discovered when it comes to meeting the demands for quality, speed, and cost-effectiveness in a global marketplace.

Quadra had plenty of capacity in the form of 27 CNC machining centers, but needed greater capability when it came to doing detailed cavity work. To address that issue, the company invested in four high-speed machining (HSM) vertical CNC units from Makino: a V33, two V55s, and an SNC64. These four machines now do 75% of Quadra’s cavity work. Additionally, the capability allows Quadra to perform jobs it could not have completed with its older equipment.

"Before, we had plenty of capacity, but didn’t have the capability we needed," says Eric Kind, marketing and project manager for Quadra. "With the HSM equipment, we’re not just replacing the older machines, we are adding capabilities that help make us a more competitive company."

Additionally, Quadra’s lead times have been reduced dramatically. For example, it used to take up to 16 weeks to manufacture a large, multicavity tool for the automotive industry. Now, it takes only eight weeks to complete that same job. In fact, Quadra has realized a 75% cycle time reduction on the HSM machines vs. the older equipment. And the equipment can run unattended for several days at a time with no problems, something Quadra would not have considered doing with its older equipment.

Quadra has been in business for 49 years and has 50 employees. The company specializes in rubber injection molding tools for products used in the medical, automotive, electrical, toy, and household markets. Additionally, the company has its own liquid silicone rubber injection molding operation, Limtech Inc., located next door.

An Internal Overhaul

Although being diversified has kept Quadra busy during tough economic times, investing in the HSM equipment gave it an additional boost. Using the Makino V33, Quadra made a tool for a spark plug boot that is found on almost every General Motors truck. It was an eight-cavity tool, hard milled with very little EDM work required.

"There was no way we could have done that job without the V33," says Tony Ellingson, manufacturing manager. "We couldn’t have even approached it, because of the longer cycle times on our conventional machines vs. the high speeds we get with HSM."

Another advantage to the technology of HSM is the reduced bench work. On most jobs, notes Ellingson, bench work has been reduced by 90% to 95%, and the finishes are much better than what could be achieved on the older machines. Quadra went from two polishers to one, allowing the company to reallocate resources. Because there are no quality issues, lead times are more precise.

"We have absolutely changed our internal processes with the new equipment," says Ellingson. "The way we manufacture a tool is completely different because of how the material can be removed and because of the quality finish achieved."

If moldmaking is about making more chips faster, Ellingson says new technological capabilities can increase throughput dramatically. Quadra runs cutting feedrates of more than 400 in/min, whereas the older machines couldn’t get more than 30. "You can directly relate lead time to costs," Kind says. "It’s all about throughput—the amount of time the product stays in the machines. The best thing is that we’ve reduced that time, and can get things in and out and completed with no sacrifice to quality."

Contact information

Quadra Industrial Mfg. & Engineering
Sturtevant, WI
(262) 417-1301
[email protected]
www.quadrainc.com

Makino Inc., Mason, OH
(513) 573-7200
www.makino.com

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