Friday, March 02, 2001

Cincinnati Machine machining a breakthrough

New age of making parts nears

By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Someday, whole sections of airplane and automobile frames might be cut from single large pieces of aluminium, says Richard A. Curless, a vice president at Cincinnati Machine.

        “They could become like one of these plastic airplane models, where all the parts are snapped off a single piece of plastic,” says Mr. Curless, vice president of production and technology development for the Oakley machine tool builder.

        But to do that, today's metal cutting machines have to make a quantum leap in speed, acceleration and accuracy. That's the vision behind Cincinnati Machine's six-year, $2 million effort to develop a high-performance machine for aerospace structures.

[photo] Cincinnati Machine technicians set up the company's HyperMach ultra high-speed metal profiler, which was unveiled at September's International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.
(Oscar & Associates Inc. photo)
| ZOOM |
        Dubbed HyperMach, the project last week won an $895,000 Ohio Technology Action Grant to further refine Cincinnati Machine's ultra-high-speed machining capability and demonstrate its commercial viability.

        Cincinnati Machine and TechSolve expect to seek another $5 million in federal research money to help bring the technology to market.

        “It takes so long and so much money to get all this done, a machine tool company on its own can't really afford that kind of time and money without some assistance,” Mr. Curless said.

        Cincinnati Machine isn't alone in pursuit of ultra-high-speed machining capability. Mr. Curless said Japanese and European tool builders are also working on the technology.

        The five-year project with TechSolve, the Bond Hill manufacturing resource organization, and a consortium of industry and academic experts aims to demonstrate that Cincinnati Machine's horizontal profiler can produce parts eight times faster than today's machines.

        “To do that, we literally need to construct that machine, work with real parts and demonstrate to users not only that it can be done, but how you do it,” said Mr. Curless.

        John Kohls, director of machining excellence at TechSolve, formerly the Institute of Advanced Manufacturing Sciences, said the HyperMach research will act as a magnet for companies interested in high-speed machining.

        “There will be tremendous spinoff opportunities here,” he said.

        Cincinnati Machine, which unveiled an early version of HyperMach at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in September in Chicago, already has milled aluminium structures from aluminium billets in less than 30 minutes. The same process would have taken three hours on state-of-the art high-speed machining centers and up to eight hours on conventional computer-controlled milling machines.

        For metal-cutting, the jump from today's state of the art to hyper-speed “has been equated to the difference between solid-state electronics and vacuum tubes,” said Randal S. Von Moll, Cincinnati Machine's HyperMach product manager.


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