Whether decision-makers currently have several 5-axis CNC machines at their facilities or are thinking of purchasing them for the first time, cost-cutting measures for 5-axis CNC machining often become part of their discussions and thought processes. Here are some of the most effective ways to keep costs down.
Prioritize Operator Training
Proper training for all operators is essential because it helps them work productively with fewer time-consuming errors. For example, using a cutting tool at the incorrect speed or in the wrong position could cause scratches and burn marks on the workpiece or make it have distorted edges.
In addition to traditional hands-on training often available at local or regional educational facilities, some companies have digital twin tools that teach people how to correctly set up CNC machines. Those give students realistic environments for learning, including providing simulations that help them resolve issues quickly.
Some workers allow setting up several CNC controllers on one digital twin console. That’s convenient if a machine shop has numerous brands of equipment to meet its 5-axis CNC machining needs.
Giving workers that foundational knowledge will keep costs down. Purchasing a 5-axis CNC machine does not guarantee great results. This equipment needs highly trained operators to run it. However, it’s also important to have ongoing sessions that teach operators new skills and ensure they don’t develop bad habits. While training is important for beginners, such sessions can also give more experienced operators time to share tips and tricks they’ve picked up over the years.
When a company invests in a new machine, that’s also a fantastic time to provide a training session. Offering the people the things they’ll need to know to get the best results from the equipment benefits everyone involved.
Maintain the Equipment Appropriately
Maintaining the CNC machines by adhering to the appropriate schedules based on working hours is also essential, particularly for avoiding unplanned downtime. People should consider relying on a cloud-based, digital system that allows them to easily enter or retrieve the necessary information.
It’s also helpful for them to track 5-axis CNC machining trends, such as that specific maintenance measures or repairs must be done sooner than normal. Such issues could indicate problems with the equipment or the operators running it.
Establishing a checklist for operators to refer to before and after operating a 5-axis CNC machine is another helpful strategy. It allows people to develop good habits and understand what constitutes normal operation. Then, they’ll be more likely to immediately recognize when something’s wrong and the machine needs a closer look.
One company enhanced its maintenance strategy by using a remote monitoring system for CNC machines. It shortened issue resolution time frames and gave technicians information about the machines before they came for in-person assessments. That’s a viable solution when machine owners want to reduce downtime and increase the chances of technicians having the details they need to resolve the problem.
Enhance Processes Where Possible
Shop managers should evaluate process improvement opportunities, from changing the workspace’s layout to automating specific steps. The first step to making a process better is understanding where room for improvement exists.
Decision-makers primarily wanted to identify the causes of errors that resulted in inaccuracies for rotors. However, they were also interested in reducing manual processes and making production more efficient.
A 5-axis CNC machine is useful for high-precision applications, including products used in the medical and military industries. However, some people pursue automation strategies to further optimize the results. That was the case with a Scottish manufacturer interested in enhancing 5-axis CNC machining outcomes.
The company invested in several specialized products that allowed checking the machine parameters before running the equipment. Before changing their processes, about a quarter of the company’s parts did not meet specifications. Now the non-conformance rate is close to zero.
Automation can increase machine running time and increase output. Additionally, error-reduction strategies can drastically cut material waste. Businesses then cut costs by making the most of available resources.
Know When New Investments Make Sense
Purchasing new equipment to improve 5-axis CNC machining outcomes may not seem like a cost-saving venture, but it can pay off in specific instances. Perhaps a company is spending prohibitively high amounts to maintain an aging CNC machine. Then, they might save money by retiring that equipment and purchasing a newer model that’s less likely to have problems.
Alternatively, investing in a new machine may be a good decision if it would allow a company to gain a competitive advantage in the market. Sarah Stephens, managing director of ASG TGM, experienced that when her UK company bought a £1.3 million 5-axis CNC machine and received it only two weeks before COVID-19 lockdowns began. That decision ended up being an excellent one because the new machine became a significant growth driver for the business.
More specifically, having that advanced machine helped the company secure a lucrative defense contract with a helicopter company. That new, capable equipment also enabled the business to accept jobs that other peers in the industry could not.
Ultimately, the new machine doubled the firm’s revenue. When equipment no longer aligns with the needs of most current or potential clients, it could be a sign that it’s time for upgrades. That’s particularly true if the company frequently relies on third parties who do have the equipment, requiring them to handle certain parts of jobs.
Manage 5-Axis CNC Machining Costs With Purposeful Changes
Implementing new cost-saving measures requires extensive time and effort. However, such efforts typically pay off over the long term. All leaders considering them should begin with clear definitions of goals and the time frames for achieving those milestones. Progressing with any changes in stages should keep everyone more motivated and reduce the chances of overwhelm or confusion.
It’s also important to get feedback from all machine operators. Asking them about the challenges they face that slow their workflows or result in quality reductions could get to the heart of how to make meaningful improvements. Then, after asking them to change their processes or make other adjustments to cut costs without sacrificing quality, follow up with them to learn how they feel about what’s new.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine, an online publication that explores innovations in science and technology.