Makino’s, Mason, Ohio, address (on Innovation Way) is a tip-off of the firm’s driving ambition to satisfy its customers’ need for speed through imaginative, sometimes revolutionary design breakthroughs.
In the 1980s, when Makino engineers developed the high-speed spindle, the science of metalworking was completely changed. They followed up with under-race coolant and core-cooled ballscrews that prevent thermal growth, even at “Makino-fast” revolutions per minute. Now, Makino literature advises, “We’re changing everything again because, instead of tinkering with one or two aspects of our machines each year like other manufacturers, we’re completely redesigning our equipment and incorporating all we’ve learned about high-performance machining.”
Customer-winning advances like these led to a record year for Makino in 2000. The company logged a 14 percent increase in sales in spite of the relatively flat performance by the metalworking machine industry as a whole.
Makino’s roots reach back to 1887, when the R.K. LeBlond Company was founded in Cincinnati and entered the machine tool business with its lathe designs. By 1900, LeBlond was recognized as an industry leader and won the Bronze Medal for Design at a Paris exposition. In 1950, LeBlond, working with General Electric, produced the first continuous-path, numerically controlled (NC) lathe, a major step in the development of flexible manufacturing. The company continued to promulgate NC technology in the following two decades, and became international with a new plant and foundry in Singapore.
The Makino Milling Machine Company Ltd. of Tokyo purchased a major interest in the business in 1981 to form LeBlond Makino Machine Tool Company. In 1989, LeBlond Makino moved into its present facility in Mason, just north of Cincinnati. In the 1990s, the firm organized into strategic divisions including a new Aerospace Group, and changed its name to Makino with responsibilities for North and South America.
An impressive growth in business allowed Makino to expand its headquarters facilities in Mason in 1998. The $27 million expansion nearly tripled the area of the administrative and production space, bringing it from 130,000 to 316,000 square feet. About 60,000 square feet is now dedicated to offices for Makino’s employees and for on-site customer representatives. The new facility includes a state-of-the-art technology transfer center that allows easy access to a wide variety of multimedia formats to aid and enhance the technology transfer process. Video conferencing, network accessibility, satellite feeds, Internet access and electronic presentations are available throughout the center. A distribution system feeds live video from cameras mounted inside the showroom machines (SpindleCam) and inside the auditorium to classrooms and marketing rooms that serve as overflow areas during large customer seminars.
The facility’s 44,000 square-foot showroom area is used by each of Makino’s groups — Die/Mold, Production Machinery and Aerospace — to exhibit their products including horizontal and vertical machining centers and RAM and wire versions of electrodischarge machining (EDM) units. Its 64,000 square-foot integration bay area, with precision environmental controls and overhead cranes, houses large system cells that combine Makino systems with third- party ancillary equipment.
The Makino group is truly global. It has manufacturing and service centers in the United States, Japan, Singapore and Germany, and technical centers in Italy, Brazil, Mexico, China, Korea and Taiwan — all supported by a worldwide distributor network. Makino also has sales and service facilities in Canada, Mexico and Brazil, and contract service and parts locations in Detroit, Wichita, Kan., Seattle, Buffalo, N.Y., Mexico City and Sao Paulo. The firm is establishing a network of distributor technical centers across the Midwest. The seventh center opened in 2000 in Sterling Heights, Mich. The 11,750 square-foot facility operates in partnership with Single Source Technologies “The goal of Makino’s technical centers is to enhance customer relationships and deliver more value by extending our resources directly into the field,” says Tom Slager, Makino’s Die/Mold Group vice president. “These centers allow us to bring global resources to die and mold shops on a local basis, meeting their needs more effectively and helping them maintain a competitive edge.”
Four Makino machines are showcased at the newest center to demonstrate the range of applications and address each customer’s specific needs. In addition to sales, each center is certified by Makino to handle all aspects of the die/mold machining process, and has a full-time support team in residence for sales, application engineering and customer support. Other technical centers are located in Chicago, Cleveland, Grand Rapids, Mich., Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
Makino’s technology has succeeded in reducing the number of hours required to manufacture plastic injection molds, forging dies, stamping dies and die-cast dies. This comes at a fortuitous time because the industry reports that a shortage of skilled toolmakers is reaching crisis proportions, and more has to be done with fewer craftsmen.
The firm’s complete line of graphite, vertical and horizontal machining centers and wire and RAM EDM machines is streamlining die/mold production from design, toolpath and machining through finishing and tryout. Their dramatically improved machining accuracy is virtually eliminating benchwork and mold tryout, and is substantially increasing the list of unattended operations. This can lead to as much as a 40 percent reduction in cycle time.
One benefactor of these technology advances was the Nypro Technology Center (NTC) in Puerto Rico, an injection molder who needed a complete shop-floor upgrade in order to grow and compete for business in South America and the Dominican Republic. As quoted in Moldmaker magazine, NTC manager Mike Cacio said, “We knew we could not reach our goals by merely adding mold builders or conventional machinery. We needed new machine tools and a new approach to mold building. The combination allows us to decrease cycle times, increase mold quality and change the rules.”
The combination referred to was a battery of four Makino units: an SNC64 high-performance graphite-milling machine; a V55 high-performance vertical machining center; a U53K wire EDM and an EDNC43S RAM sinker EDM. “Working with one manufacturer on this project influenced our decision,” Cacio said. “While each machine meets specific application requirements, they each also have similar controllers. That makes operator training much simpler.” The improved product quality with the new equipment has led to increased business and plans for a facility expansion, Cacio said.
Quick and Ready
With the auto industry rolling out new models faster than ever, auto makers need to be quick and agile to keep up with their competition, adapt to trends and stay in compliance with ever-changing environmental regulations. Makino’s flexible machining processes provide this quick reaction time with machining center lines that are economically competitive in volumes as high as 200,000 units a year. The agility of the design also reduces the amount of equipment needed.
Dedicated processes are being completed by a single Makino machine: line boring; deep-hole gun drilling; valve seat and guide; and combustion deck. When a new application is needed, the same machine can be quickly redeployed.
GM Powertrain’s Livonia, Mich., plant decided on 57 Makino J88 machining centers when it planned a radically new production approach for its V6 premium engine. Instead of the standard transfer lines used for high-volume units, the major components of the 100,000-a-year V6 engines would be produced on the cells of horizontal machining centers. The J88s were installed side by side facing a common aisle and fed by an overhead gantry robot. Blocks and heads run across as many as eight machining centers before completion. With finished aluminum blocks coming off the line in less than two minutes and heads in less than one minute, the Makino machining centers fit the balance that GM aimed for between machining efficiency across a broad range of operations and dependability.
Some aerospace industry companies are achieving faster time to market by simplifying their designs and using fewer parts. This is a new option that has been made possible by the versatility and flexibility of Makino machining centers. Solutions such as machining complex components as one part, rather than multiple subassemblies, are improving manufacturing lead times by 30 percent.
Makino’s process solutions are also making important advances in superabrasive machining, which increases productivity by reducing the number of dedicated tools to produce a part. This is done by milling and grinding on machining centers that reduce cycle times by as much as 80 percent while achieving a superior level of accuracy.
Other innovations include the Makino modular machining cells, which maximize spindle use by shuttling pallets and managing work flow so work can be performed ahead of the machining center to neutralize setup time.
Tell Tool, of Westfield, Mass., a supplier for the aircraft and space industries (where accuracy and precision are life and death matters), encountered a new challenge to increase the speed of its manufacturing processes. Tell Tool responded by upgrading its machining technology with three Makino A77 horizontal machining centers and a modular machining complex. During the upgrade, Tell Tool’s manufacturing team realized the benefits that materials-handling technology and automation would bring. The new approach was soon justified as the solution for the complex problems of a new order: a fuel-control housing for Cessna that resembled an uneven block of Swiss cheese with multiple surfaces, compound angles and an array of holes throughout.
Makino’s three five-axis A77 machining centers are used for a large share of Tell Tool’s fuel-control housing work. Compared to other machines Tell Tool uses for housing work, the A77s are fast. Not only are spindle speed and feed rate higher, but the machines have control systems equipped with features for maintaining precision through high-feed-rate moves. “Increased throughput with less lead time reduces our inventory and increases our cash flow,” says Bob Morin, Tell Tool’s vice president of manufacturing and operations.
Such a comment underscores Makino’s mission for all of its customers. Makino’s products are the answer to customers seeking to improve the speed, efficiency and quality of their manufacturing. The end result in all of these cases, as it was for Tell Tool, is improved performance and profitability.