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Accede Mold Sets Path for Improvement with Precision Vertical Milling Machines
Accede Mold & Tool has a long history of producing complex, custom-designed plastic injection molds, from small single-cavity prototypes to 30,000-pound multi-shot molds. Key to the success of this full-service shop is the employees it considers as family; and unlocking the company’s competitiveness requires providing the team with the tools it needs to get the job done efficiently, whether it’s for the medical, consumer goods, packaging or automotive markets.
In 2007, shop-floor leaders decided that the company should expand capabilities to provide additional value to its customers. The opportunity was ripe for reliability and uptime improvements that would help the company grow. To increase its competitiveness, Accede needed to invest in new equipment.
[Accede] quickly saw cycle times that were 30 percent faster, increasing the company’s total volume each month, and putting Accede on a path to continuous improvement.
The company looked for a machine-tool manufacturer that was as serious about complex mold-making as it was. And Accede found it in Makino. In 2008, Accede purchased an F5 vertical milling machine to replace two of its commodity machines. It quickly saw cycle times that were 30 percent faster, increasing the company’s total volume each month, and putting Accede on a path to continuous improvement.
“The first F5 gave us confidence in the equipment,” said Brett Lindenmuth, vice president of operations at Accede. “Since then, each additional machine purchase has brought improvements in efficiency, reliability, cost and capability.”
Accede is a family-owned company founded in 1981 by Al Fox in Webster, N.Y. Today it is run by Al’s son, Roger Fox, in nearby Rochester. A third generation of family has recently joined the company and includes Roger’s daughter, son and nephew. It’s evident that family is important here. The familial atmosphere extends not only to the company’s 68 employees but also to its customers, whose needs are met through the company’s wide range of in-house services that include engineering, design, fabrication, sampling and testing. Accede wants to provide strong support for its customers, so the company is actively training a new generation of employees through a six-year apprenticeship program.
“While many suppliers could rattle off machine techs and specs, few could convey what that meant to our mold-building operation. It was quickly apparent that Makino’s focus on hard milling was different than other manufacturers.”
When it came to researching new equipment, the company invested the same time and care into searching for a partner as it does in nurturing its employees. It wanted to find a partner experienced in producing highly complex molds. Representatives from Accede traveled to Japan to visit the Makino factory. They quickly found that the level of detail and care put into the design and construction of their machines was very different than most other machine builders on the market. Makino’s engineers demonstrated pride in their jobs and enthusiastically shared the intricate design considerations that went into each machine.
“While many suppliers could rattle off machine techs and specs, few could convey what that meant to our mold-building operation,” said Tom Flaherty, CNC manager at Accede. “It was quickly apparent that Makino’s focus on hard milling was different than other manufacturers. It wasn’t just about having a fast machine but also about having dedicated engineering support. We were very comfortable with their commitment to their customers. We knew that if we needed someone on the phone to help us problem-solve, they would be there.”
“When your job is to produce quality, it’s easy to recognize quality in other products.”
It also didn’t hurt that the company already had two LeBlond Makino machines on its shop floor that were still running without issues even after more than 25 years. Accede knew that it had a supplier capable of providing the reliability it was seeking.
“When your job is to produce quality, it’s easy to recognize quality in other products,” said Flaherty. “Makino puts the same level of care and pride into their work as we do our own.”
ACHIEVING FLEXIBLE EFFICIENCIES
The F5 proved to be a highly efficient solution for precision hard-milling applications, as well as complex electrode production, thanks to Accede’s investment in the optional graphite package.
“With the F5 machine’s hard-milling capabilities, we were able to reduce 75 percent of our previous EDM processes, while simultaneously improving the speed, quality and efficiency of all remaining EDM processes through enhanced graphite processing,” said Flaherty.
“What used to be a 20-week build now takes 12 to14 weeks. This has opened up the capability for us to take on jobs that we may have previously passed on.”
“One customer couldn’t believe that we could mill their exotic materials, such as cindered carbide, instead of using EDM. We were hard milling with better results, especially on extremely tight tolerances,” Flaherty added.
With the F5, Accede is cutting 48-58 HRc steels with tolerances of plus 0.000 inch and minus 0.0003 inch. The machine consistently produces tight blends and matches on 3-D contours, allowing for perfect part interchangeability.
“We have eliminated jig grinding with the F5, and in some cases handwork has been reduced from six hours to two hours or less,” said Flaherty.
Operators are able to easily navigate the Makino Professional 5 control, which has a Microsoft Windows CE operating system graphical user interface and touch-screen selection. In addition to being comfortable with the laser, spindle and probe, Accede personnel were able to leave the machine unattended for start-to-finish machining, something they weren’t able to do with the company’s older equipment.
“Our lead-time delivery is now four times faster with the F5, enabling us to better predict workflow and prepare our next jobs—something we couldn’t do before,” said Flaherty.
Success with the F5 led to Accede purchasing a V33 vertical milling machine to replace two older machines and focus on high-speed precision machining. The company also purchased a PS95 vertical milling machine for production machining. The 40-taper spindle can handle a wide range of its tough machining operations.
“The PS95 quickly became our workhorse to hog material and to do some of our finishing,” said Flaherty. “It truly expanded our general-purpose machining.”
“Our lead-time delivery is now four times faster with the F5, enabling us to better predict workflow and prepare our next jobs—something we couldn’t do before.”
Accede followed up those purchases with a second F5 and a V56i vertical milling machine. On the milling machines, Accede uses magnetic pallet tables as its form of automation, allowing standardized work holding with no engineering needed.
“We just find the real estate we need on the table, and turn on the magnet,” said Flaherty. “We don’t need to add holes or worry about the techniques of different operators.”
CUTTING OUT COSTS AND LEAD-TIMES
With its new equipment, Accede achieved the improved uptime that it originally sought and is now producing more parts than ever before, all while giving its customers more lead-time. It has seen improvement in not only speed and efficiency but also in quality and tool life.
“With the first F5, our tool life was extended four times that of our previous machines. When we added the V33, tool life doubled again. The V56i improved tool life even more.”
With these high-performance machines, Accede is using brand-new, sophisticated tooling technologies that it couldn’t use before.
“With the first F5, our tool life was extended four times that of our previous machines,” said Flaherty. “When we added the V33, tool life doubled again. The V56i improved tool life even more.”
Accede is so confident in the quality and performance of the Makino machines that jobs are frequently run fully unattended, and only one cavity is verified before assembly. In fact, first-trial shots are frequently performed with the customer present.
“Doing first runs in the presence of the customer can be intimidating,” said Flaherty, “but we are now more confident than ever in the consistency of what we’re producing. We know we will hit all requirements on the first try, and every time after.”
While the growth spurt at Accede started well before it purchased its precision vertical milling machines, these machines certainly helped the company control its higher volumes of work while enjoying shorter lead-times.
“What used to be a 20-week build now takes 12 to 14 weeks,” said Flaherty. “This has opened up the capability for us to take on jobs that we may have previously passed on.”
Lindenmuth agreed. “We believe that you get what you pay for in terms of machine quality, sales and service. We are a small company, and what Makino can offer above and beyond the machine in terms of technical support has proven to be very valuable. We see them as an extension of our resources. We’ve had great experience with them in all aspects of performance; if we ever do have a problem, we know they will be there when we need them.”
When it comes to what matters most to Accede, in addition to supporting its employees and customers for generations to come, a stable business environment is important.
“We want to grow and support our customers,” said Flaherty. “In the last eight years, we’ve made significant investments to increase our capacities. As the company grows, we will continue to invest in new equipment. Makino will be at the top of our list during the machine selection process.”
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Accede Mold & Tool
Rochester, New York