Questions with Tim Pottridge

Advertorial - Ask the Expert

INDEX Corp.’s Regional Sales Manager discusses the benefits of using multi-spindle machines for medical parts.

August 4, 2021

Tim Pottridge

1. What is the ideal part for an INDEX multi-spindle machine?

To know what type of parts are best for a multi-spindle, shops really have to ask themselves some very important questions. Can I hold the part in my hand? Can it be machined from bar stock? How complex is the turned part and what tolerances to I have to hold? Do I need to combine multiple operations?

Most importantly, shops need to ask themselves if they want to change and if they’re willing to change. Investing in a multi-spindle is not an easy choice to make, so shops have to be willing to put in the work to maximize their returns.

2. Can INDEX multi-spindles handle the complexity and tight tolerances required in medical manufacturing?

Over the years, customers have commented to me about the supreme accuracy of INDEX multi-spindles. Throughout the work week, and even from shutdown on Friday night to Monday morning startup, we are holding accuracy!

Our machines are able to maintain this accuracy thanks to several key features. Hydrostatically-supported Z-axis tool slides and fluid-cooled spindles provide high thermal stability while Hirth couplings lock the spindle drum and synchronous spindles in place.

INDEX has a proven track record in the medical manufacturing industry with many successful installs. Our medical customers are utilizing all the above to produce complex spinal components at rates never achieved until now, all thank to the INDEX multi-spindle platform.

3. How does a shop justify the cost of an INDEX multi-spindle machine?

This justification starts with vastly improved cycle times over the alternative solutions. We have converted many single-spindle shops to multi-spindle users, saving them overhead expenses and, of course, cost per part.

For example, spinal implants were made on Swiss lathes for years with 11-15 minute cycle times. Now, the medical manufacturing industry is commoditized with high- volume part demands and cost reductions at a premium. Enter the INDEX multi-spindle! Parts are machined in as little as 2 to 4 minutes. The best part…QUALITY HAS IMPROVED!

4. What are the lot size requirements with an INDEX multi-spindle machine?

Lot sizes can start as small as 50 pieces and go up to over a million. It’s about the bar diameter and a family of parts that have similar features. For example, part complexity that allows a 12-second cycle time will produce 300 parts per hour. At 5,000 working hours per year, that’s 1.5 million pieces annually.

I have witnessed INDEX customers running smaller lot sizes before moving to another part number later that day. When it comes to the larger volume projects typical of dedicated transfer-style machines, INDEX has a solution for this as well! Our dual synchron configuration offers options to produce two parts at once, slicing your cycle time in half!

5. What are some of the advantages to an INDEX multi-spindle machine over Swiss-type machines?

There are countless advantages to choosing the INDEX MS platform. Think of the INDEX MS as a package of productivity. Six or eight three-axis lathes in one!

In the heyday of “cellular manufacturing,” companies would push machines together to reduce the workforce it took to run said product. One operator would be responsible for all operations instead of spreading tasks out to people across the shop. One multi-spindle is doing this compared to multiple Swiss machines. I have seen one MS machine replace 4 to 6 Swiss machines.

This conversion is taking on all the issues that shop owners have today… skilled labor, facility costs, quality issues, growing volumes etc…

No industry knows this better than medical…Swiss machines have been the rule here, but as this business gets more competitive…things are changing!

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