CAM plus automation is formula for success

At its 30,000 sq ft facility, Metri-Tech manufactures ultra-precision, high-volume components for the aerospace, medical, defence and commercial industries. Based in Huntington Beach, Metri-Tech Engineering is not a typical job shop – that much is evident from the company’s factory filled with automated production equipment, including a wall-mounted live scheduler, which resembles a 2 m tall iPad. Hans Gratzer Jr, COO/CTO of Metri-Tech and son of company founders Hans and Katharina Gratzer, developed the scheduling program to help his 38 employees better visualise what is happening in the shop at any given time and plan for the next jobs. This strategy is part of the company’s forward-thinking approach to automation.

“Most job scheduling systems are number-driven, but people like pictures,” Gratzer says. “With this system, what you see is what you get — kind of like Esprit.”
Metri-Tech has used Esprit CAM software almost since its inception; Gratzer estimates it was first installed in 1988.
“My dad bought the software, and he was very happy with it because we were mainly in the fitting business at that time; he liked that it could program families of parts,” he says. “It was a huge time saving.”
But just as crucial to Metri-Tech were Esprit’s accurate, full-colour simulations, which were said to be the first in the industry.
“That allowed us to give more visibility to our programming and reduce mistakes in our set-up the first time around,” says Gratzer. “Most of our machinists do both the set-up and the machine operation; they know what they’re doing. Now they do not have to worry during the set-up process and first-off run; they know the program will be right due to the precise nature of Esprit simulation, set-up sheets and posts.”
Some 30 years later, Esprit keeps Metri-Tech at the top of its game, thanks to its ease of use and quick support. The company uses the software for full five-axis contour composite milling, swarf milling and multi-axis multi-spindle turning.
“Esprit is very progressive in the five-axis and multi-axis realms,” Gratzer notes. “The software is just easier, faster, stronger and more accurate than other CAM programs we have tested or demonstrated over the years.”

At its plant, Metri-Tech machines all types of materials, including more exotic types like Inconel, titanium, Nitronic, Invar, Kovar, Ferrium, polyurethane, Teflon, PEEK and Ultem, to list but a few.
“Customers use us as a solution; they have problems and we fix them,” Gratzer says. “We’re experts in most manufacturing processes, and our customers come to us for
the precision and quality of part we produce.”
The company started out making fittings, which provided it with an understanding of how these parts fit into the larger assemblies. This comprehension allowed Metri-Tech to gradually move into more complicated parts.
“Doing fittings evolved into us going in the opposite direction: manufacturing the parts the fittings fit into, which were housings and manifolds,” says Gratzer. “Then obviously, when you get into the more complex and assembly side of medical and aerospace, you get into the critical finishes and close tolerances of the internal workings of the manifolds and housings, like spool and sleeve assemblies, and shaft work. It was a very interesting and methodical transition.”
The company operates 42 machines in total, with a number of three-axis Mori Seiki lathes and Nakamura-Tome lathes featuring up to 13 axes, which allow the company to be more creative with small parts. Metri-Tech also runs three and four-axis vertical mills, and several Matsuura five-axis vertical trunnion machines with up to 42 pallets and 520 tools.
In combination, Metri-Tech’s arsenal of machines provides programmers with hundreds of pallets and thousands of different tool options. Many of the shop’s palletised machines are automated, and the company is working to bring in mobile robots to transfer parts from machine to machine, along with virtual augmentation to help programmers easily view the custom manufacturing software and scheduler on the shop floor.
Metri-Tech, which boasts ISO AS9100D certification, offers polishing and ultra-critical finishes, as well as a high-end quality control facility in-house.
“What sets Metri-Tech apart from the competition is the quality when producing components in larger volumes,” says Gratzer. “Anybody can make a few good parts, but consistency and repeatability over larger volumes is the key to our success. Most customers say that quality is a given nowadays; it’s truly not. We take so many steps in assuring a quality part gets to the customer. We have a group of very dedicated employees, and everybody’s looking out for the quality of the product. The main reason why customers come to us is 100% quality, all the time. If they need a job done fast and they need it done right the first time, they come to us.”

Metri-Tech’s performance has been strong since its inception in 1978, but shortly after Gratzer came to work for the company in 1998, and with his vision for technology, automation and reinvestment, the company has experienced significant growth. Forecasts show that Metri-Tech may double its business within the near future.
“I credit the success to our passion for this industry; striving for automation and all the technology we use, including Esprit,” concludes Gratzer. “I feel our next 40 years are going to be stronger than the last 40.”
For further information

Compact precision machining from Kern

First previewed at MACH 2018 (pictured), the Kern Micro Pro compact five-axis machining centre from Rainford Precision is now officially launched in the UK. The Kern Micro Pro has a novel integrated workpiece and tool-changing facility that means it requires less than 4 sq m of floor space.

Built for 24/7 operation, the machine is characterised by its long-term stability and precision levels; less than 5 µm during five-axis machining. This accuracy is built upon a UHPC (Ultra High Performance Concrete) base that has no disruptive interfaces and is thermo-symmetrically constructed from a single casting.
“Kern has made every effort to creatively integrate all features,” says Rainford’s managing director Arthur Turner. “This includes the tool cabinet for up to 210 HSK40 tools measuring up to 70 mm in diameter. The cabinet also accommodates up to 30 workpieces with a height of 200 mm and a diameter up to 350 mm. Of completely modular design, the cabinet can be easily and safely accessed while the machine is running.”
Giving the modular configuration and space-saving claims further credibility is the integrated chip conveyor, and the options of integrated dust or emulsion mist extraction systems that can be configured into the machine without requiring additional space.
“The Kern Micro Pro also has a 42,000 rpm spindle that increases machining speeds by 60-70% when compared with standard machine tools that have a 15,000 to 20,000 rpm spindle motor,” says Turner.
Inside the work envelope is a rotary/swivel axis with torque motors for simultaneous five-axis
machining. The X, Y and Z axes offer 350, 220 and 250 mm respectively, supported by a 360° rotary axis and 200° swivel axis.
For further information

HMC is powerful and accurate

With experience gained from installing over 6000 NH and NHX series horizontal machining centres, DMG Mori has introduced a further model, the NHX 6300 2nd Generation.

Users achieve short machining times with the new Fanuc control, while the CELOS app-based user interface enables consistent administration, documentation and visualisation of orders, processes and machine data.
Improved rigidity ensures productive cutting performance. In the aerospace sector, for example, up to 462 cm³ of titanium can be converted into chips every minute with an 80 mm diameter porcupine cutter in a PowerMaster series spindle offering up to 1,413 Nm of torque. Even the standard spindle is rated at 12,000 rpm/807 Nm, while a third version with 16,000 rpm is intended for customers needing higher speeds for even better surface finishes.
The 50 taper (optionally HSK-A100) horizontal spindle machining centre achieves a rapid traverse rate of 60 m/min over its 1050 x 900 x 1030 mm axis travels, while the NC rotary table is designed for pallets up to 630 x 630 mm. Workpiece height can be up to 1300 mm and maximum table load is 1500 kg. DMG Mori’s standard wheel magazine has space for 60 tools, with optional magazines accommodating up to 330.
The twin-pallet design enables preparation of the next job while the previous component is being cut and allows the NHX 6300 2nd Generation to be connected to a linear pallet pool. Eight machines can be linked into a flexible manufacturing system with up to five set-up stations and space for a maximum of
99 machine pallets.
For further information

Trio of Haas five-axis machines at Abbey Precision

Milton Keynes based Abbey Precision has been a Haas user for over 22 years.

The company’s 20 Haas machines make up almost the entire workshop, from the two mills purchased in 1996, which are still in use on a daily basis, through the turning section, to its latest collection of three UMC-750SS five-axis universal machining centres.
Managing director Steve Spicer sights a number of reasons for Abbey’s continued return to the Haas brand. “The prices are very competitive,” he explains. “I always get at least one other quote but Haas can’t be matched. Their response to queries is good, machine delivery times are fast, and we’re impressed by the feature sets.
“We prefer the continuity of the Haas control because it’s universal throughout the models,” he adds. “It makes it simple to move a job from one machine to another, while operators can be transferred from mills to lathes, and vice versa when necessary.”
Abbey recently invested in its third five-axis machine, another Haas UMC-750SS, which is equipped with an integrated high-speed two-axis trunnion, 15,000 rpm spindle and 40+1 side-mount tool changer as standard.
“Haas gave us some five-axis training; they were very patient, very knowledgeable,” says Spicer. “We have three UMCs now and two VF-2SS models with five-axis trunnions, so we have plenty of experience behind us. With our most recent machine, we were cutting metal an hour after the engineer had finished the installation.
“We always use Haas WIPS [Wireless Intuitive Probing System], which cuts set-up times and is useful for tool breakage detection,” he adds. “WIPS guides our operators through
the job set-up process with easy-to-use templates.”
For further information

£600,000 Chiron investment at Shawpak

A manufacturer of thermoforming machinery has made its biggest ever capital investment to help it target new business in the food and medical sectors.

Shawpak, which is a division of Derby-based Riverside Medical Packaging, has spent £600,000 with Engineering Technology Group (ETG) on purchasing a five-axis Chiron 1250 vertical milling machine that will help the company almost halve cycle times on the 80-off customer tools it will produce over the next 12 months.
The high-speed spindle, rotating bed and bespoke workholding from Hyfore means Shawpak can machine up to 20 parts at any one time, with production set to take just 40 hours, instead of the previous 80. This time reduction is a major breakthrough for the firm, which will now be able to make more tailored machinery for food customers that could generate in excess of £2m of new business over the next 12 months.
Alan Wade, works and engineering director at Shawpak, says: “Demand for our thermoforming technology is growing rapidly, which means we need to manufacture more parts within the same amount of time to keep up with demand. We initially hired a XT630 and that showed us the type of performance we could get out of a five-axis machine. However, we knew we needed an even better solution and that’s when ETG suggested the Chiron 1250 five-axis machine.
“It’s our largest-ever single purchase, but one that has the potential to really help us drive forward within the food sector,” he continues. “One contract – to build a machine that seals a double burger pack – has already been won and this wouldn’t have been possible
with the previous machinery.”
For further information