Zoller Presetter Saves Offset Errors and Scrap at Husco
A Zoller Venturion 450/6 CNC tool presetting and measuring machine has been installed recently at HUSCO International, one of the largest off-road hydraulic valve manufacturers in the world. The presetter is offering sufficient savings in tool offset errors and scrap to deliver return-on-investment in just 18 months. The machine has replaced an ageing manual system and is providing enhanced accuracy, reliability and speed to this progressive Runcorn-based manufacturing company.
Employing over 200 people in the UK, HUSCO International is one of the globe’s leading players in the development and manufacture of hydraulic and electro-hydraulic controls for off-highway applications. While the company has plants across North America and Asia, the machining facility at Runcorn is testament to class-leading investment and continuous improvement. For example, two large Okuma MA-600HB CNC horizontal machining centres are among recent installations, with a third soon to arrive.
HUSCO’s ethos of continually updating its machinery was extended recently to the company’s presetting operations. A previous manual presetter was not only slow but starting to produce an increasing number of tool offset errors. As a result, HUSCO commenced a project to source a CNC replacement.
“We looked at five different machines and conducted trials all over the UK,” states Ian Moscrop, Production Manager at the Runcorn site. “However, the Zoller Venturion was the only machine that offered the ease-of-use we required. Some of the others were extremely complex to operate, but with the Venturion’s Pilot software we were up and running in a couple of minutes without any prior knowledge of the machine.”
Simple, mistake-free operation is vital for HUSCO, which supplies its hydraulic valves to a number of the world’s leading off-highway vehicle manufacturers. The valves feature complex cast iron bodies that are machined in-house before being assembled and tested on customised, flexible production lines.
Driving down scrap
The valve body is largest and most cost significant part of the entire hydraulic assembly. With this in mind, the company works tirelessly to drive down scrap rates, which is where the Zoller Venturion comes into its own.
“We put a lot of effort into machining these parts,” says Mr Moscrop. “Up to eight at a time are mounted to tombstone fixtures. There is probably around £600 worth of raw material cost on the fixture, which along with an eight-hour machining cycle, means scrap is very expensive. This is why we had to pick the right presetter; one that could drive down tool offset errors and tool failures.”
Installed in September 2013, the Venturion 450/6 features a large (600 mm) Z-axis measuring range, along with 175 mm X-axis and 350 mm diameter capacities. The machine is sited on the shop floor where, thanks to the use of special alloys and a thermally optimised design, it is perfectly at home. In fact, the Venturion forms the centrepiece of a dedicated tool presetting cell. After completing a pre-determined amount of in-cut machining time (typically 100 minutes), worn tools arrive at one end of the cell before being fitted with new inserts. The tools are then preset and inspected automatically on the Zoller Venturion before being labelled and placed in a rack awaiting machine allocation.
“The CNC Venturion is not only much quicker than our previous manual presetter, it is more accurate and repeatable,” explains Mr Moscrop. “Before the installation we were getting tool preset errors along with tool failures in some instances, which in turn lead to scrap. However, since installing the Zoller, the improvement in preset cutting tools across our eight machining centres means we are anticipating payback in approximately 18 months.”
The Venturion series offers considerable benefits to end users. For example, based on three machine tools, the system can save manufacturers up to €15,000 per shift over the course of a year. This is not only due to a 10-20% boost in productivity afforded by the fast Zoller image processing technology, but thanks to the elimination of trial cuts.
Among the tool types accommodated by the Zoller Venturion at HUSCO include face mills, thread mills, drills, reamers, taps, roller burnishers and many more besides. Both indexable insert cutters and solid carbide tools are subject to various routines and checks. Correct cutting tools are vital to a company that cuts 10 different variants of hydraulic valve bodies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to tight tolerances. The margins between success and failure are small.
“In just two months of operation we have seen tool setting errors reduce by around 70%, while in terms of tool failures I don’t think we’ve had any, we expect these statistics to improve even further in the coming months.”