Benefits of Preventative Maintenance for CNC Machinery


It’s commonly understood that preventative maintenance is important for industrial machinery, but it’s more than just “important” it’s critical.  When you see it in terms of money saved and customers retained it might just change how you prioritize getting it done.

The machinery on your shop floor required a massive amount of capital investment and each purchase was made with a purpose.  Your business had a need big enough to justify the expense.  That same need will make itself abundantly clear if, or when, that piece of machinery goes down.  In short order, that customer that’s been happy for years will be breathing down your neck if a critical machine goes down.  Many times it can be as simple as keeping up with routine maintenance to avoid these situations.

You may feel like you can’t afford the downtime of taking a machine out for maintenance but did you know an unexpected shut down often results in 2-3X as much downtime?  Unplanned problems mean waiting for parts to be ordered and delivered and technicians to be scheduled and arrive.  A planned preventative maintenance can get parts ordered ahead of time and minimize lost time spent waiting.  Not to mention it avoids losing customers due to unplanned downtime.  Customers don’t want to hear that you’re going to miss delivery because your machine went down unexpectedly.  The cost of just one lost customer could more than cover your preventative maintenance.

A complete and catastrophic breakdown is your worst nightmare.  The cost of adding man power to replace a machine or sending all of that work elsewhere is enormous.  Most major failures have warning signs which can be detected during preventative maintenance. If you find even just one problem early and prevent complete shut-down it’ll pay for your preventative maintenance costs for years.

Running at maximum efficiency is always the goal.  In order to do that it’s important to utilize the latest software upgrades from the OEM, the latest design for consumable parts, and the most current materials for internal components. During routine maintenance is the perfect time to make these changes.  While you may lose some money during the downtime, in the end you’ll gain that back and then some with increased efficiencies.  In addition, inefficient machines, those not operating at optimum capacity, will consume more electricity and further eat into profits.  Regular maintenance can eliminate energy inefficiencies.

Finally, many insurance companies offer premium reductions for companies that keep well maintained machinery.  Contact your provider to see what discounts you might qualify for and apply that to the bottom line cost of preventative maintenance to see even further benefits.


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Hurco Modernizes Old Press Brakes


When you think of Hurco you likely think of machining and turning centers, but did you know they offer a top-of-the-line series of press brake backgauges and controls as well?  The Autobend series has something for everyone with the capability to handle 8’ gauge bar all of the way up to 14’ gauge bar.  These systems are available in both 2-axis and 3-axis.  All of the Autobend backgauge systems have been specifically designed to reduce run time and minimize material handling time, while simultaneously increasing production capacity.

Of course everything from Hurco includes their control system designed to be both user-friendly and incredibly powerful.  The Autobend 7 or Autobend 6 control comes standard with the various backgauge set-ups, to operate your press brake at the highest efficiency.  The Autobend control is so popular that Hurco offers it independently as a retrofit option for customers looking to improve productivity on their existing press brake system.  This is definitely the most economical way to modernize your older unit and give it new life.

Looking to go even further?  The 3-axis system can reduce set-up time by more than 40% over the 2-axis system.  Whether your application requires an up-acting or a down-acting press brake, Hurco has the unit for you.

The S Series Autobend Backgauge (S6, S7, and S8) utilizes a heavy duty cross-ribbed cast aluminum frame providing customers both strength and durability.  In addition, the S Series provides rigid automatic press brake rear gauges to ensure speed, accuracy and repeatability.  This line is designed to adapt to press brakes ranging from 3’ to 16’, offers easy horizontal and vertical adjustments, and includes gauge speeds up to 800 ipm and gauge travel up to 24”.

The Autobend R-Axis Backgauge comes standard with automatic gauge bar height adjustment to different die heights, with no manual adjustments necessary, further reducing set-up time.  The R-Axis is programmable for large radius bends which leads to better accuracy compared with gauging against a radius.

Finally the LP11 and LP22 are industry best low profile, automatic press brake rear gauges designed to deliver speed, accuracy and reliability.  They use an aluminum extrusion design for the dual linear rails which provides strength and controls accuracy.  These units are also adaptable to existing press brakes ranging from 3’ to 16’ (depending on the model). Just like the S Series, the LP11 and LP22 have gauge speeds up to 800 ipm and gauge travel up to 24” as well as simple horizontal and vertical adjustments.

Give Brooks Associates a call to learn more about all that Hurco has to offer.  It’s so much more than just what you’ve heard, Hurco is leading the way in many areas of the machine tool industry.  As customer’s have needs, Hurco has engineering solutions.

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The Power of Yama Seiki’s GA2800

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Like all of the GA series horizontal turning centers, the GA2800 is designed to handle heavy-duty turning applications, such as the one pictured here, while maintaining the highest accuracy.  This part is 10” in diameter and made of 4150 steel – not a problem for the GA2800. While every shop needs a machine that can deliver on accuracy and reliability, those with a Yama Seiki machine also get the fastest cycle times possible.  This system is known world-wide for its incredible ability to hold tolerance at maximum speeds.

Some key features of the GA Series include:

  • Extra-large Z-axis servo motors which provide the additional thrust necessary to drill big diameter holes with maximum efficiency.
  • Powerful high-torque spindles capable of supplying up to 4x the torque output of standard spindles
  • Heavy-duty roller bearings that are used to support the spindles. Axes guide ways are made of super-rigid one-piece box ways.  These ensure the long lasting durability of the GA-2800.

There are many customer benefits of the GA-2000 series systems.  The GA-2000C is incredibly compact allowing for multiple machines to fit into a tight space and allow for more efficient use of operator time.  Many New England shops are tight on space so this can be critical for the ability to increase revenue without relocating.

The GA-2000 machines also include a 30° slant wedge bed, which has been designed to provide smoother chip disposal and increased operator comfort without losing system rigidity.  In addition, the GA series systems feature a standard programmable base and quill tailstock.  The base and quill can be operated using the quill-jog function to allow the operator to make slow, small movements forward while inserting the center into the center hole.  The base and quill can also be operated in auto mode which is completely controlled by M-codes with manually adjustable thrust pressure.

The engineers at Yama Seiki understand that there are countless applications for these systems and thus offer 26 models in the GA series to ensure machine capacity both big and small, as well as live tooling features to provide the maximum in flexibility.  There’s truly a machine for every shop’s needs.  Contact Brooks Associates today to schedule a demo or learn more about how the addition of Yama Seiki’s powerful horizontal turning center could take your business in a new direction.

Posted in Advanced Manufacturing, Machine Tools, Machining Applications, Manufacturing, robotic, Turning Center, Yama Seiki | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Preventative Maintenance Tips for Abrasive Waterjets


Many customers purchase an abrasive waterjet without really considering the maintenance that will be required, and the best ways to reduce downtime.  It’s important to keep in mind that with a waterjet you have a machine that’s combining 60,000psi of pressure with abrasive and water and essentially slowly eroding itself.  Virtually every component will need replaced at some point, but this doesn’t mean waterjet owners can’t be incredibly profitable.  With a little bit of preventative maintenance, many waterjet owners are purchasing 3rd and 4th machines because of their high profitability.

Water Quality – probably the single biggest factor that can affect the life of waterjet components is the quality of the water being put through the system.  It’s important to both test water prior to installing a waterjet, and then at other times during the first year of operation as water quality can change seasonally.  Hard water can reduce consumable life by up to 50% while a water softener is an easy and relatively inexpensive solution.  Check the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines for specifics but generally low TDS levels and soft water are best.

Check for Leaks – regularly inspect the high pressure pump as well as the cutting head for any water leaks.  If leaks are found they should be addressed immediately.  A leak at high pressure can quickly cause more serious damage to that component and others around it.  A repair of a failed seal is just a few dollars however if left untreated it could easily turn into a repair costing hundreds.

Replace Wear Items – take a look at the table slats and the mixing tube on a regular basis.  These items are going to wear and as they do they will affect the machine’s ability to hold tolerances.  It’s generally not worth trying to get a few more hours of run time from a worn component when the result could be scrapping a thousand-dollar part.

Use the Software – most abrasive waterjet manufacturers offer preventative maintenance software.  Given the number of components on the system that need to be replaced at various times it can get confusing in a hurry.  The software will make sure every machine operator is on the same page with when maintenance has been completed and when it’s due.  Most of the time this is a free piece of the software that gets under-utilized.

Complete Maintenance in a Clean Space – this is especially true when taking a part the high pressure pump or cutting head.  Move these items to a clean room before starting the rebuild.  The worst scenario is the dirt and dust particles from another machine tool getting into these items during a rebuild and completely voiding the whole process.  It’s worth the time and effort to make sure these items stay clean.

Buy quality waterjet cutting parts & abrasive – poor quality abrasive can have paper and other particulates in it which will travel through the system and end up clogging the cutting head or causing other damage.  In addition, higher quality abrasive tends to cut faster making it worth the few extra cents.  Replacement parts are just as important.  Buying cheaper parts that aren’t guaranteed to meet manufacturer’s guidelines could void your machine warranty and cause irreparable damage to your system.  Be sure you’re getting high quality parts.

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Sales of Sodick Sinker EDM Support Capability Claims From 2014

Sodick Sinker EDM AD55L

Sodick’s AD Series Sinker EDM machines, the AD35L and the AD55L, have been on the market now for several years and the customer feedback firmly places these units in the position of the best sinker EDM machines available. Sales of these machines to both new and repeat customers have stayed strong even through some ups and downs in the economic environment.

There were several key features introduced with this product that served to change the face of the market.  Items such as the user friendly control, the increased machining speed, the no-flush EDM technology and zero-electrode wear were highly impactful to customers in a variety of industries.  The market response to these features proved that the engineers at Sodick had designed a high-quality piece of equipment while keeping it cost-friendly.

Both of these models utilize Sodick’s rigid linear motor system which guarantees the highest in machine efficiency, resulting in substantial cost reductions and faster delivery times.  One feature that customers have commented on frequently has been the change in the ability to maintain accuracy.  The accuracy of the parts during the initial machining is being maintained for a much longer period of time.  As a result of these improved accuracy and reliability features Sodick has been able to provide customers with their 10-year positioning accuracy guarantee.  As a long time distributor for Sodick, Brooks Associates has seen the truth in this guarantee with many customers running machines well beyond the 10 year mark and still continuing to produce high quality, extremely accurate parts. The construction of these units creates the rigidity required for long-term accuracy.  Both the AD35L and the AD55L use a full-frame, floor-standing bed design with high-strength, and heavily ribbed castings for the bed, table and column.

The AD35L Sinker EDM machine has an X, Y, Z travel of 13.78″ x 9.84″ x 10.63″ and can accommodate a workpiece weight of up to 1,212 lb.  The AD55L has an X, Y, Z travel of 23.62″ x 15.75″ x 15.75″ and can accommodate a workpiece weight of up to 2,204 lb.

Sodick’s unique zero electrode wear technology is standard on all Sodick Sinker EDM machines.  This technology allows for the EDM of steel materials with virtually zero electrode wear when using graphite or copper electrodes.  Less electrode wear results in fewer electrodes, saving on production costs.  In some cases, only one electrode is necessary.  The ability to minimize wear is made possible by Sodick’s advanced control technology, which stabilizes the use of extremely high discharge ON times; this reduces the amount of times the discharge is started and extinguished.  In the past, control technology was not as advanced, and the use of high discharge ON time resulted in an unstable EDM environment, which caused poor productivity.  Today, however, thanks to SGF technology, the application of high discharge ON time can be stabilized, producing virtually zero electrode wear.

Machine shops that have not yet taken a look at these sinker EDM machines might be surprised at the immediate benefits they can bring to the machining process.  With units all over New England Brooks Associates is ready and able to provide a full demonstration of these system’s capabilities.

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How Will the New Tax Cuts Affect Manufacturing?

Tax Cuts for Machine Companies

At the end of 2017 Congress pushed through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which went into effect at the beginning of 2018.  While these changes won’t alter the tax filings done in April 2018 they will affect 2018 filings.  Many small business owners are watching these changes closely to see how they will impact them both personally and with regards to their corporate filings.  Interestingly the manufacturing sector will be one of the least impacted businesses as a result of these changes.  This is largely because manufacturing companies already pay one of the lowest corporate tax rates, and simply there’s not much further down they can go.  While most industries, banking and real estate leading the way, will see substantial reductions in their tax bill, manufacturers will see a more modest change.

According to the findings from economists at the Penn Warton Budget Model at the University of Pennsylvania, the average effective tax rate for manufacturers in 2017 was 17.5%.  The expectation for 2018 is that this will fall to 10.9%.  The effective tax rate being the amount actually paid on profits after deductions and other tax breaks are taken into account.  This could potentially increase as the years go by.  The current version of the law would allow for tax breaks for capital equipment purchases and money spent on research and development to be reduced in 2022 and expire in 2027.  This would significantly impact manufacturing businesses and raise their effective tax rate close to previous levels.

A recent study conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers found that nearly 95% of their respondents were optimistic about their company’s future.  More than three-fifths stated that the approval of the tax bill would likely increase their capital spending.  These stats are a 20 year high for this survey.  Clearly this reflects that the members of the large manufacturing groups are in support of this new tax law.  One major reason for this support may be the changes in the expensing of capital equipment.  The new law allows for 100% expensing for capital equipment.  While this is set to reduce starting in 2022 it does provide some stability for the next 5 years.  For the past several years this has been a regular source of anxiety at the end of each year while businesses wait to see if Congress will again approve these tax breaks or not.  Thus it’s easy to see why the predictability of this new law is a benefit to business owners.  Another interesting addition is the change allowing for used manufacturing equipment to also be part of the capital expenditure depreciation.  Previously this had only been available on new equipment purchases but the recent changes state that the equipment simply has to be new to your company but can be a used piece of equipment.

One other interesting change that could affect manufacturing businesses is the addition of the new tax credit for family leave.  This currently applies only for 2018 and 2019, but it allows for businesses to get a tax credit for some of the wages paid to employees when they’re out on family leave or sick time.  This would apply to C Corporations or pass-through businesses who offer a family leave program or sick leave program and pay their employees at least 50% of their regular wage during that time.

Likely there will be other changes resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that will impact your business and of course your tax expert will provide full guidance in navigating these new rules.  While things could continue to evolve it initially appears that the manufacturing industry is responding with enthusiasm to these changes, and the expectation is that these funds staying within corporations will result in the addition of new jobs and strengthening of the economy.

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Markforged Printers Revolutionize Operations at Humanetics

Humanetics, a crash test dummy manufacturer, is currently using Markforged machines to print their molds for thermoset plastics.  These molds need to withstand clamping forces and temperatures of up to 220° F for extended periods of time.

Previously these molds were manufactured from silicone at an outside vendor which was both expensive and time consuming.  Markforged’s Onyx and High Strength High Temperature (HSHT) fiber allowed Humanetics to replace their molds for a fraction of the cost and time.  Markforged has the unique ability to incorporate HSHT Fiberglass into parts which gives Humanetics the ability to achieve heat deflection temperatures suitable for post cured thermoset molding.  Unlike other 3D printers whose materials would fail or warp if exposed to extreme levels of heat the Markforged mold can stand up to the job.  HSHT is the ideal material for customers needing strong parts in high temperature environments. The quick turn around time, low production cost, and long lifetime of the printed molds make this an excellent fit for replacing traditional thermoset molding methods.

Printed thermoset molds can withstand temperatures up to 302°F for extended periods of time with minimal distortion.  Molds like this are a simple way to replace existing methods that are expensive and time consuming.  The benefits of printing molds, jigs, and fixtures are innumerable.  The use of materials such as onyx are ideal for manufacturing environments by ensuring tools that will last and streamlining production.

Using Markforged system with Onyx and HSHT has a design cost of $625, a fabrication time of 60 hours and a part cost of $240 compared with the standard process using silicone which results in a design cost of $1,000, a fabrication time of 144 hours, and a part cost of $1,000.  An overall savings of 76% in part cost and 58% in fabrication time.  Markforged understands that 3D printing is an important addition to your business but your CNC equipment is vital as well.  By fully utilizing the Markforged tools many customers are reducing the load on their CNC machinery, creating more available run time for the most critical of parts while reducing part cost.

Markforged is the leader in developing new 3D printing methods.  Their unique ability to print with composites and metals gives them an edge over all the other printing options on the market today.  It is because of this cutting edge technology that companies such as Microsoft have chosen to partner with Markforged.  Companies large and small are seeing the value of partnering with Markforged both for their 3D printing needs as well as prioritizing their CNC time.

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