High-Performance Machining Triggers Evolution of Batesville Tooling & Design
For many North American companies, recent market growth has proven to be an opportune time to reinvest in manufacturing capabilities, transitioning from older or commodity machinery to high-performance machining technologies. While this movement has led many to immediate performance enhancements, there are still some attempting to carry over previous processing standards and practices, overlooking the full capabilities of their new equipment.
“Financial investment is only part of the process in obtaining true high-performance machining capabilities,” said Dan Blair, manufacturing engineer at Batesville Tooling & Design. “In order to realize the full potential of these machines, you have to change your entire mind-set on how processes are designed, programmed and performed.”
Located in Batesville, Miss., Batesville Tooling & Design is a family-owned company that prides itself on the manufacture of complex injection molds for the aerospace, automotive, chemical, defense, medical, oil, power and transportation industries. Its philosophy on capital investments is to use each new piece of equipment as a steppingstone toward future performance enhancements. After several decades of transitioning from manual to commodity CNC machines, the company took its step into high-performance machining in 2012 with a Makino F5 vertical machining center.
Batesville realized that this leap in technology would require a different type of skill set than its operators were accustomed to. As such, the company signed on to attend training courses hosted by Makino at its Auburn Hills, Mich., facility.
“In order to realize the full potential of these machines, you have to change your entire mind-set on how processes are designed, programmed and performed.”
“Our rationale is that you wouldn’t try to drive a sports car the same way as you would a minivan,” said Gary Blair, founder and president of Batesville Tooling & Design. “There’s a reason you bought the sports car—speed and quality. But to truly enjoy these factors requires a different mind-set. The same holds true for high-performance machining centers. Without the training, we wouldn’t have known how to properly use the F5 and all of its technologies.
“The training wasn’t what I had expected,” said Dan. “I walked into the classroom thinking that we would run through machine functions and call it quits, but, in truth, we learned about Makino’s entire approach to machining, beginning with machine tool construction and all the way through tooling decisions. It was an eye-opening experience that I took to heart and immediately applied to our processes after returning home.”
Reflect on High-Performance Quality
One of the first workpieces that Batesville sent through the F5 was a medical mold insert the size of a postage stamp. Prior to the F5, the company was subjected to long hours of EDM processing in order to accomplish the desired feature tolerances and side-wall finishes. Based on the rigidity, accuracy and high spindle speed of the F5, the company decided to give the machine a test run.
The machining of the workpiece was initiated with a 4-mm endmill to perform roughing and semi-finish processes. It was then finished using a 0.4-mm-diameter endmill. Where completion of the workpiece once required eight hours of machining and manual finishing procedures, the company is now able to complete the part in just one hour while meeting tolerances of plus or minus 0.0005-inch and mirror-like surface finishes.
“After completing the machining process, I inspected the cavity and could see clear reflections of various features along the side walls,” said Dan. “I’d never seen finishes like that straight out of a machine before. We pulled the part out of the machine complete—minimal secondary processes, minimal manual finishing. But the most satisfying results came when our customer shared that it was producing the best-looking parts they had seen come out of a mold.”
One of the most valued tips that Batesville picked up from its training was the appropriate use and application of shrink-fit tooling. In reaching out to its local Single Source Technologies (SST) representative, the company was able to narrow its selection down to a Haimer shrink-fit machine and tool holders. Combined with the rigidity and speed of the F5, Batesville witnessed not only improved workpiece quality but also a 25 to 50 percent increase in tool life.
To ensure unattended accuracy, the company also uses a Blum laser tool length measurement system and remote machine monitoring capability.
“I’d never seen finishes like that straight out of a machine before. We pulled the part out of the machine complete—minimal secondary processes, minimal manual finishing.”
“The core-cooled spindle on the F5 does an excellent job of eliminating thermal growth, allowing us to maintain highly precise processing over extended run times,” said Dan. “Whether a process lasts an hour or 10 hours, we meet exacting tolerances every time. As a result, we’re seeing highly repeatable performance and perfect blends and matches. Even in certain rib features, we’re producing better results than what we could achieve through our EDM technologies.”
No More Burning Through Time
With improved workpiece accuracy and quality on the F5, Batesville has been able to greatly reduce EDM processes from many of its applications, performing many of its operations in just a single setup.
“Whether a process lasts an hour or 10 hours, we meet exacting tolerances every time.”
“In our former processes, we would have to design the electrodes, set up the graphite machine, cut the electrodes, rough out the workpiece to near-net form, set up the workpiece on the EDM machine, burn the detail and then polish it,” said Dan. “This was even more arduous in more complex, longer run-time workpieces, where several different electrodes were required to burn one cavity. By running workpieces on the F5, we’re capable of completing jobs in just a single setup, eliminating stack-up errors and substantially reducing cycle times. In many jobs, we’re delivering finished workpieces in just 10 percent of our previous times.”
According to Gary, this single-setup approach has enabled the company to service customers in a more efficient manner, while increasing overall profitability by anywhere from 30 to 50 percent.
“Our ability to turn around orders faster has been paramount to how our customers value the service we provide,” said Gary. “If a customer has a broken insert, we now have the ability to machine a new one and ship it to them in a day or less, and they can then continue their manufacturing process with virtually no interruption. It’s these types of moments that are remembered and help to form stronger bonds.”
“By running workpieces on the F5, we’re capable of completing jobs in just a single setup, eliminating stack-up errors and substantially reducing cycle times. In many jobs, we’re delivering finished workpieces in just 10 percent of our previous times.”
Manufacturing with Principle
Though Batesville has experienced no downtime on the F5, the company appreciates the level of technical training and support that it receives through SST and Makino.
“One of the reasons we went with Makino over competitive machines was because of their service,” said Dan. “We’ve been more than satisfied with the knowledge of the Makino team. Any time we have a question, we can call up our SST representative or the Makino support line and find a solution in minutes. They’ve never led us astray. If they say the F5 can do something, it does it.”
The company attests that its newly acquired access to high-performance machining capabilities and deep technical training have helped support the company in building what matters most—reliable and well-paying jobs.
“When it comes down to it, we’re all here working together to build a better life for ourselves and those we care for,” said Gary. “I’m just a member of the team like anybody else here, but my role carries the heavy burden of ensuring that each and every one of us can succeed in this mission. I believe the only way that we can accomplish this is by working to the best our abilities and taking care of our customers’ needs. This is why we place an emphasis on technology and training. In doing so, we will ensure the success of our company and the aspirations of every team member.”
Gary is pleased that Makino shares similar goals to Batesville: building success by providing the best possible product and customer service.
“Any time we have a question, we can call up our SST representative or the Makino support line and find a solution in minutes.”
“I toured the Makino facilities in Japan and Singapore and learned a lot about Makino and the principles and values that drive their company,” he said. “They strive to produce a product that takes care of their customers. They work to make their customers happy and alleviate any concerns by providing predictable results in a timely fashion. That is also what we try to do each and every day, and through technology and training, Makino supports us in this goal.”
A High-Performance Future
According to Dan, Batesville has applied its training knowledge to all milling processes on the shop floor, realizing varying levels of improvements to accuracy, quality and tool life across all equipment.
“The F5 investment wasn’t merely a new tool. It was a catalyst for change that pulled us out of our traditional practices,” said Gary. “When I approach a challenge today, I see it as an opportunity for growth and understanding. I think about the things that we can do, not what we can’t.”
“We’ve entered the next stage in our company’s evolution,” said Dan. “When it comes to accuracy and delivery, the difference is night and day.
“The F5 investment wasn’t merely a new tool. It was a catalyst for change that pulled us out of our traditional practices.”
Our customers appreciate us more for our sense of urgency. We take them literally when they say they need a part now, and we do all that it takes to make it happen. Between the F5 and our technical training, we’re exceeding customer expectations and bidding on new jobs more competitively than ever.”
Batesville Tooling & Design