Questions with Dale Hedberg
Methods Machine Tools

Questions with Dale Hedberg

Advertorial - Ask the Expert

Methods Machine Tools’ Vice President of Operations discusses production challenges for manufacturing complex parts.

September 3, 2020

1. What are the biggest challenges facing medical device manufacturers today?

The medical manufacturing industry requires precise, complex, lower volume parts. Some parts don’t require ultra-high tolerances, but many do. Ventilator parts, surgical tools, and mold inserts for plastic injection manufacturing must maintain high precision and superior surface finish. Many medical manufacturers have set up their shops with the proper environment and machines to achieve the necessary results.

2. How do medical device manufacturers handle increased demand?
With precise or complex parts, the challenge is time and these typically take longer to machine. Required specialty tooling, machines, and operations also demand attention to detail from operators. Additional operations require more tooling, thus additional ATC capacity is necessary. The additional time for extra operations makes lights-out, unattended run time attractive and that is where automation comes into play. While there are multiple ways to incorporate automation, the best way is to build on existing infrastructure. Space limitations may make it difficult to simply add automation, so a self-contained multi-pallet system becomes a major advantage. The more you can automate your production, the more productivity you can expect through spindle up-time. The Yasda PX30i has all of the features to solve these challenges.

3. Why is tooling choice and process so important for harder to cut materials?
Hard to cut materials often use cutting strategies and techniques that require many hours in the machine. One customer moved production of a stainless steel part from a conventional 12,000rpm, 4-axis horizontal machine using conventional tooling to a high-speed 20,000rpm machine using the latest high-speed tooling. With the conventional machining, the customer used long end mills to cut deep, thin walls with 3+1 axis approach. Over-extended, extremely long end mill created chatter giving the thin-walled part a bad finish. On a high speed, 5-axis vertical machining center, the Yasda PX30i, the operator used a ball end mill with a short tool extension with a tapered shrink-fit holder that could fit inside the thin walled part. A 5-axis spiral cutting technique cut the part successfully without vibration, and in a shorter cycle time. Additionally, the operator could finish the outside profile of the part with the same ball nose and 5-axis spiral technique. The conventional part took over 40 hours versus 14 hours using the right tooling, cutting techniques, and machine tool. Improvements included eliminating vibration marks.

4. How are medical device manufacturers facing the COVID-19 pandemic?
While facing the challenges of continuing production as a critical manufacturer, keeping employees safe with regulations and social distancing, automation has become a major advantage. Unattended run times and machine solutions that can handle low volume/high mix has become critical, especially for medical parts. Automation allows companies to stagger their workforce and run into or through the next shift with limited labor.

5. What is the future of the medical industry?
As technology continues to evolve, more shops will need machines that can handle greater precision in complex parts. Manufacturers will adjust their operations, processes, and possibly their facility and equipment. Increased cycle times due to the higher precision will drive more automation and multi-pallet machines for unattended run times on low volume, complex parts that make the medical industry unique.