UNISIG Deep Hole Drilling Systems: Perfection is Never an Accident

Location: Menomonee Falls, WI
Equipment: 3 Okuma machines

Perfection is Never an Accident

UNISIG produces deep hole drilling machines that are used around the world by nearly every industry imaginable – and at UNISIG, striving for perfection has never been an accident. To secure long-term success, the company decided to further invest in machining its own precision parts rather than subcontracting components, as some of the most critical parts they produced have tolerances and complexity that cannot be made by most machine shops.

To machine their own parts while continuing to grow and develop new products, UNISIG embarked on a new approach to machining which would allow for industry-leading CNC machine tool accuracy and performance to be coupled with new technology that would ultimately eliminate manual intervention in machining that prevails in many shops.

“The deliberate connection between engineering, design, and machining improves our product. Our ability to rely on very high accuracy and productivity from our internal machining capacity allows UNISIG to provide more advanced solutions and value to its customers,” quoted Anthony Fettig, CEO of UNISIG.

Automated machining was the goal, which required a change in thinking by the team’s engineers, programmers, and machinists. To harness this new direction, UNISIG put in the time and energy to secure the best manufacturing resources available, including several Okuma machine tools.

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Exploiting the Full Potential of Automated CNC Machining

To begin, UNISIG devised a plan to combine modular fixturing, offline tool setup, and full simulation of the machine, workpiece, and tools to provide a platform of innovation within their machine shop. The team’s intent was to radically improve spindle uptime and exploit the full potential of automated CNC machining, even when the batch size would be only one part.

The first step of the UNISIG strategy was to move away from classic CNC boring mills and adopt the higher productivity potential of CNC horizontal machining centers with twin pallets. After consulting with credible industry sources and leveraging their internal team’s knowledge, the MB-10000H horizontal machining center from Okuma was selected for medium-sized, high-accuracy part machining.

“The rigidity and performance of the Okuma machine stood out among the competition,” explained Mr. Fettig. “When we evaluated the structure of the machine we were impressed by the box-in-box concept with dual ball screws in X, Y, and Z-axes.”

The MB-10000H’s 1000 mm pallet size worked well for many of the components that were being machined on the company’s older equipment. Absolute scales and thermal management in the machine assured they would meet the very close geometry requirements of the machined parts.

One of the most important factors in this capital investment was the need to trust the machine accuracy enough to program from its center of rotation and let the machine run without stopping and manually verifying the machining process many times during the cycle. The Okuma MB-10000H installation was a success and reinforced UNISIG’s wisdom to focus on automated machining – and the benefits were so extraordinary that UNISIG continued to look to additional Okuma solutions to bring its strategic vision to life.

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Advancing Machine Productivity and Precision

UNISIG’s next target was large-part machining. Some of the company’s B-Series machines are over 100 ft long, made from machine base castings between 20 and 25 ft in length connected by precision-machined faces. Previously, to hold the finished machine tolerances, extensive hand scraping was necessary which added a lot of time and expense to produce these machines. UNISIG established a set of machining accuracy parameters that would eliminate much of this handwork to achieve tolerances.

“Accuracy was not our only objective,” stated Cory Funk, VP of Manufacturing and Engineering. “We wanted the same machining center-like productivity on parts 25 ft long with hundreds of machined features that we had become accustomed to with our MB-10000H for our much smaller parts.”

Working directly with the local distributor, Morris, UNISIG was able to engage with Okuma America and Okuma Corporation’s technical leadership to tailor the specification of an Okuma MCR-A5CII 35x10 double column machine for the exacting geometry and overall volumetric accuracy needed.

“We would have never approached Okuma if we wouldn’t have believed it was possible with their exceptional product line and engineering excellence,” confided Mr. Fettig.

UNISIG’S MCR-A5CII Double Column Machining Center

The collective Okuma team ensured the MCR-A5CII machine tool specifications were defined and perfect for UNISIG’s application. Absolute scales and advanced thermal compensation in the machine were purchased to compliment the extensive investment UNISIG made in its facility. The full project included a 50-ton crane over the machine, an engineered foundation, and precise environmental controls to support a machine of this caliber.

Productivity options included a moveable cross rail, servo-driven 180-position tool changer, and a 4-station automatic head changer for 5-sided machining. The travels of the machine in X and Y are 10,200 mm x 4100 mm (402 in. x 161 in.) and the spindle nose has a maximum distance from the table surface of 2100 mm (83 in.) making it one of the largest Okuma double column machines of this type installed in North America.

An interesting design aspect of this machine noted by UNISIG during evaluation is that two of the machining heads are stowed on the cross rail, which allows a head change without repositioning the machine and losing accuracy. The tool changer also will change tools in the vertical or horizontal spindle regardless of position without moving the cross rail which saves time and improves accuracy when machining the most important features on UNISIG’s machine bases and columns.

A quick-change fixture system was developed by UNISIG to allow two parts up to 3 m (10 ft) long to be machined simultaneously and removed for setup offline. The machine table without these fixtures in place is used for machining large components up to 10 m (32 ft) long. The results after installation were very impressive, allowing lights-out automatic machining of parts previously not possible for UNISIG to manufacture.

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The Trend Continues with an Okuma MA-12500

With two machines from Okuma running and performing to expectations, one more opportunity was identified for upgrade – and one more boring mill was removed – its foundation demolished to make room for a very fast, 1250 mm horizontal twin-pallet MA-12500 machine from Okuma.

The new MA-12500 machine was equipped with a 130 mm diameter quill-type spindle to reach deep into castings for accurate boring without the use of extended length tool holders. UNISIG engineers identified the significant performance features in this HMC – large travels, very high rapid rates up to 42 m/min (1653 in./min), thermal stability with active cooling, and machining-center productivity. This machine was optioned with a 177-position tool changer, laser tool verification, high-pressure coolant, and advanced filtration for the cast iron components that are most often machined by UNISIG on this machine.

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The Seamless Overlay of Machine Tools and Technology

Powerful yet simple to use by the machinists, the OSP Control common to these three Okuma machines was a big value to the programming and simulation group at UNISIG. The Partners in THINC complimentary technologies that were overlayed really brought to life the reality of UNISIG’s ultimate goal: automated machining capability.

“Adding layered technologies is only possible if you have an accurate machine tool that allows for the marriage of technology to happen,” says Mr. Fettig, “This baseline trust in Okuma is what allows UNISIG to excel at advanced manufacturing.”

In addition to offline tool presetting and modular workholding on all machines, UNISIG uses a variety of Okuma’s Partners in THINC suppliers including:

Mastercam: UNISIG starts with a direct import of workpiece models into Mastercam from their engineering database. Stock allowances are added and then workholding fixtures are assembled in 3D, which creates the environment for full machining cycle planning and tool path generation.

VERICUT®: A full 3D model of each machine was set up in Vericut to simulate the full machining cycle before committing to machining. This process virtually eliminates the possibility of a crash and gives operators the confidence to push the performance envelope – even on the first part.

Renishaw: On-machine probing from Renishaw extends automated machine operation and confirms the quality of the workpieces.

“Our confidence in the Okuma product has grown as we continue to use our machines,” stated Mr. Funk. “They run every day and aside from normal maintenance and our scheduled alignment service to keep these large machines in specification, the Okuma machines have been always on when we need them.”

Eliminating Gaps Between Engineering and Manufacturing

Using a layered approach to technology and understanding the benefits of eliminating the gaps between engineering, design, and manufacturing, UNISIG has differentiated itself as a machine tool builder. The company’s long history of achievement is one Okuma and Morris Midwest are proud to be a part of – especially in helping UNISIG achieve their goal of capitalizing on the full potential of automated machining.

Does your shop have a unique challenge that you’d like to share with us? We now have On-Demand with Okuma that allows our teams to interact with yours! The goal of this program is to pull from our experience derived from thousands of projects to help your shop tackle any issue or challenge.

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