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July 1, 2001

3 Min Read
High-speed machining: New attitude required

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Figure 1. The new high-speed CNC milling machine installed by M.R. Mold & Engineering has allowed the company to greatly reduce the need for EDM and polishing.

High-speed machining technology has created the need for a new attitude among moldmakers and machinists, say shop owners. Buying the equipment is the easy part, they say. The tough part is getting moldmakers who are used to traditional machining methods to move into the high-speed mode. 

"It's difficult to take traditional moldmakers and bring them into the 21st century," says Bill Kushmaul, president of Tech Mold Inc. (Tempe, AZ). 

To combat this problem, Tech Mold puts a new person on a new piece of equipment in order to get the open-mindedness needed to run high-speed machines at optimum levels. "We have to get the mindset right," notes Kushmaul. For example, instead of putting an EDM operator on a new, high-speed EDM, Tech Mold will assign someone who is used to running milling machines. 

Kushmaul believes that today's mold shops should have employees who embrace technology and love the challenge of the new equipment. "Every shop has to have a technology champion to explore the technology and take advantage of all that the machine will do," says Kushmaul. "There aren't just two ways to do something—there are 100 ways. We surround people who don't want to do [things differently] with those who do." 

Rick Finnie, president of M.R. Mold & Engineering (Brea, CA), agrees. "This retraining thing is a huge issue for a mold shop," he says. "With high-speed machining, machinists have to forget everything they ever learned about machining and learn a whole new way of doing things." Finnie recently invested approximately $300,000 in a new Röders TEC RFM 760 high-speed CNC milling machine (see Figure 1). It is one of the first of its kind on the West Coast. 

Advantages of Speed 
Finnie adds that the advent of high-speed machine technology has "changed the whole method of how we build tools." The machine's technology has allowed the company to substantially reduce or in some cases eliminate the need for EDM operations required in the mold build, he explains. With the new equipment, the steel can be rough milled and then cavities and cores can be heat treated. Then, instead of going to EDM, the components go back to the mill for finishing, leaving just a few EDM operations to complete. 

The new high-speed milling machine has also substantially cut down on the amount of polishing required. "The mill finishes we're getting are easier to polish than the EDM finishes we were getting," remarks Finnie. 

Todd Jones, engineering manager for Methods West Machine Tools, a distributor of high-performance CNC machine tools (Phoenix, AZ), notes that when purchasing high-speed machinery, planning is critical to the shop's success. "Many shops don't realize the expected return on investment [on high-speed machinery] because they don't plan for it," he says. 

A big part of that planning is training. "You don't just drop high-speed machining into the shop and run with it," he says. "You have to be prepared for it. Today's hardware and software technology is beyond what many shops are capable of handling." 

Finnie agrees. "We're really having to ramp up our knowledge. There are a lot of learning curves with this technology." 

Contact information
Tech Mold Inc.
Tempe, AZ
Bill Kushmaul
Phone: (480) 968-5010
www.techmold.com

M.R. Mold & Engineering Corp.
Brea, CA
Rick Finnie
Phone: (714) 996-5511
www.mrmold.com

Methods West Machine Tools
Phoenix, AZ
Todd Jones
Phone: (602) 437-2220
www.methodswest.com

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