This Midwest manufacturer could go on and on about what a loyal Hardinge customer he is, how many Hardinge machines he has (more than 20, and growing), but he’d rather talk about what happens when the tool touches the metal. He'd rather talk about results, and let them speak for themselves.
NILES/ELK GROVE VILLAGE, IL — Paul Prikos, Vice President, X-L Engineering, pulls no punches: When the backbone of your operation is in the medical field, you’ve got to be able to perform, perfectly, repeatably. You have to hit tolerances right on the nose and surface finishes that would make some companies shiver.
“In medical, it’s all about cosmetics,” he says. “The look and feel of the part. This is not to say that in other fields the appearance of the part isn’t important — it is. After all, we do work in aerospace, defense, electrical, hydraulics and pneumatics, and these guys want good-looking parts, too. But medical is something else entirely different. They want an appearance that compares — or exceeds comparison—with finest automotive detail, for example.”
A bit about X-L
Although machining has been going on under the X-L name since 1943, Ralph Prikos, President, bought the business in 1973. There are two plants: one in Niles (Il) and one in Elk Grove (Il). Each occupies about 2000 sq ft. There are some 76 employees of which 60 are directly employed in production.
“The industries we serve primarily are medical, “ says Paul Prikos, “although we do some aerospace work. The materials we process are steel, stainless, heat-treated steel. Actually there isn’t a material that jumps out at me that we wouldn't tackle. And I repeat— all this work is very tight tolerance work with extreme finishes.
“Our growth plans right now are for about 10 percent a year. Our annual revenues are just under $10 million. So, as you can see, we’re relying on continued growth in the medical industry. And from what we can tell, it’s there. None off us is getting any younger, and they’re doing some amazing things in medical.”
He sites a particular job. “We do a medical housing which holds transmission components for orthopedic instruments. There are a lot of very close tolerance bores on the interior of the part, and what’s nice about running it through the Hardinge Quest 8/51SP (8” chuck) is that after you’ve turned, drilled and bored on one side of the part, you can transfer to the sub-spindle, and do all your back-end work on the same part. If you were to attempt this without a sub spindle , you would have to remove the part manually and turn the part 180 degrees and possibly re-fixture it in the machine to finish it there. This part requires milling on two sides, which can also be done in the same process on the Quest 8/51SP. It brings three processes down to one. This is probably one of our larger parts, 3.00” in length with a diameter of 1.125”’
Another medical job X-L produces runs on the Hardinge Quest GT27 SP. These would be drives and shafts for power tools in medical applications and, again, housings. “We’re using this machine as part of a cellular setup. It’s the second lathe in a lathe/lathe/mill cell,” says Prikos. “What we particularly like about the GT is the unique gang - type tooling plate that holds all the tools. We can remove the entire plate, save the job with all the tool settings unmoved, put in a different pre-set tooling plate for the next job, touch off the new plate, and we’re up and running our next job. As far as set-up time reduction goes, when you change the tooling in and out that fast, it dramatically reduces your set-up time.”
Prikos notes that these parts are all stainless steel, while some are heat-treated stainless, which is even tougher on the machine. “Working with these materials requires a very rigid, reliable and precise machine, and that’s what we have in the GTs — it’s why we ordered two in the last year.”
Prikos says that it’s pretty difficult to talk about cycle times for the Quest and the Quest GT. “It really depends,” he says. “On the GT it’s usually three minutes or less. While if you’re running a pretty complex part on the Quest 81/51SP, you might be looking at 10 min to 15 min. Some parts just lend themselves to the 81/51SP where you have a number of features and you want to do the job, start to finish, in one machine. All in all, you couple short cycle times like these with quick changeovers, and you’ve got a combination that’s unbeatable.”
A brief look at the machines
The Hardinge Quest 8/51SP has the power and speed not found in other machines its size. It features rapid traverse rates of 1100 ipm in the X-axis and 1500 ipm in the Z-axis. Turret index time is a fast 0.1 sec with a capacity of 12 tools (with VDI 30 top plate). The machine comes with a standard 20 hp, 4,200 rpm spindle and is also available with an optional 20 hp, 8,000 rpm high-speed wraparound spindle. Choose from a vertical block type (T-Style) or a VDI turret top plate. High functionality/capability options include live tooling, Y-axis, sub-spindle, C-axis on main & sub spindles allowing true milling of prismatic parts complete on the Quest 8/51 machine. Rigid tapping is standard on the main spindle as well as cross- and face-working on machines equipped with live tooling. The optional sub spindle features through-spindle capability of 1.125” with 16C collets and a gripping capacity of 5.500” with 6” jaw chucks. Exact synchronization between the main and the sub at any rpm can be programmed for part transfer for secondary machining operations. Live tooling is available on the VDI top plate and is capable of machining on both the main and sub-spindle. Each station can be equipped with a driven (live) tool for cross- or end-milling/drilling in the toughest materials. One-degree spindle orient is included. Angular drilling or milling is easily accomplished using adjustable VDI live tooling attachments. The Polygon turning option allows square, hexagon or other polygon shapes to be cut on the outside diameter of the workpiece on the main spindle or sub-spindle — in a fraction of the time compared to traditional live tooling cuts.
The Y-axis permits thread-milling and complex off-center milling and drilling operations on the main or sub-spindle. The C-axis on both main spindle and sub-spindle provides positioning in increments of 0.001°. Three dimensional contouring, complex round and prismatic machining, square shoulder and lettering are accomplished by synchronizing the spindle with the X- and Zaxes. Since Quest lathes do not require a spindle adapter for using collets, a larger machine area is available with impressive bar length capacity of 24” on the 8/51SP. Programmable resolution/tool offset capability: 0.000010”. Spindle configuration: A2-6.20C, with a through hole of 2.378” and chuck size of 8”. Nominal work size with collet: 2.00” x 24.00” (OD x L). Travels: X-axis, 7.45” and Z-axis with collet, 24.00”. Traverse rates: X-axis: 1100 ipm and Z-axis, 1500 ipm. Roundness and surface finish on the 8/51SP are 0.000020” on part roundness, and an 8 micro-inch part finish, guaranteed (dependent on speeds, feeds, tooling, machine maintenance, coolant, material, ambient temperature (68 ±3°F) and the type of machine installation).
The Hardinge Quest GT27SP Gang Tooling lathe achieves surface finishes of 8 micro-inches and exacting part roundness of 0.000015”. Plus, a continuous machining accuracy of 0.0002” gives the GT27SP remarkable machining consistency. Accuracy certification is included. (6000 rpm, 3-spindle live tooling is available).
Key features. 5-hp spindle drive motor achieves 3.5 sec. spindle acceleration from 0 to 8000 rpm and 3.5 sec. deceleration from 8000 rpm to 0. Precision collet ready spindle with 1.0625” bar capacity allows quick spindle tooling changeover combined with the interchangeable tooling top plate drastically reduces set up and non-cut time. Pre-tooled top plates can be removed and interchanged within 0.0002” in under a minute. The top plate accommodates up to 12 tools for small diameters, and tools can be added or removed from any location without disturbing any other tools. The optional tool-touch probe provides offset calibration, while low-friction/zero-striction linear guideways deliver improved accuracy and part finishes.
Rapid traverse rates are 708 ipm (X-axis) and 945 ipm (Zaxis). Absolute encoders and preset servo drive positioning eliminate the homing sequence for X- and Z-axis. The 1,800 lb HARCRETE® polymer composite base provides super stability, machine damping and extended tool life.
A great fit
Prikos say that the 8/51SP is just perfect for the parts that they’re running through the machine. “It’s a perfect match,” he says. “Most of our parts are smaller, and the spindle size on the 8/51SP permits us to run 1.625” to 2”. That’s the size of bar stock we’re running through it. They’re very rigid machines, and the accuracy is superior. Using a collet we can chuck parts in the machine, and the spindle runout and concentricity are right on the money.”
Another way to look at the 8/51SP is to ask how many axes the machine has. The answer is, of course two — an X-axis and a Z-axis. But with these machines, it’s not that easy. Prikos: “When you’re talking about axes, you’re usually talking about milling. With the 8/51SP and all it’s various functions, one of which is milling, how many axis do we have? I’m not really sure. With the live tooling, the machine is typically turning a piece and when you go to mill the piece, the machine stops, and then the milling tool will start machining. And the list of things that you can do — milling, cross- or endmilling/drilling, angular drilling, off-center milling/drilling, three-dimensional contouring — is amazing. So you can see that when you begin to talk about axis capability on the 8/51SP, you’re really talking about extreme functionality. You can put anything in the live tooling that you want. But this much is certain: We sure appreciate being able to get pieces complete off the machine.”
Prikos reminds us that X-L has purchased two GTs within the past year. “What we’ve found,” he says, “is that due to the ease of use, we wound up running so many things through the GT, that it was backing things up, and it was clear to us that we needed another.”
Prikos says that the uptime has been ”considerable.” The machines he says are pretty much always running. “Being so easy to set up, the GT is obviously very good, and the up time is great. With the 8/51SP, with all the multifunctions, more goes into programming and there’s just more things going on, and it’s a more complicated machine. But the uptime has been fantastic, and the service, when we need it, is always there right away.”
Building on strength
Prikos says that the idea behind purchasing the new Hardinge Quest 8/51SP and the two Hardinge Quest GT27SPs was not to spread out into different markets. X-L’s position is to invest in such a fashion as to strengthen, solidify and maintain their current place. “These machines have kept us competitive and are allowing us to grow stronger in the medical field. You know, it’s taken 10 to 15 years to really understand what medical wants. They want tolerances in the 10ths and finishes, which are spelled out right on the print, of 16 to 32. And they won’t accept anything less. And why should they?”
Prikos says that Hardinge has been the cornerstone of their business. “Every piece of bar stock that comes into this building — anything that’s going to be turned in any fashion starts off on a Hardinge machine, and it’s been that way since we’ve been in business, and I foresee it continuing just that way.”