During the last 30 years, Injection Mold, Inc. (North Vernon, Indiana) has grown from a small garage shop dedicated to producing lens molds for the automotive industry to a full-service shop that that specializes in Rapid Prototyping (RP) molds for multiple industries, such as medical, electronics, safety, baby products, appliance, and plumbing. A desire to reduce set-up times and increase accuracy led the company to upgrade from three-axis to five-axis machines.
According to General Manager Jason Vawter, Injection Mold has a stellar reputation when it comes to speed. “Customers call us immediately when they need something quick, without even considering their other suppliers, because we are the quickest,” he says.
This need for speed led Injection Mold to consider upgrading from three-axis to five-axis technology. “A lot of our RP work involves multiple setups on three-axis machines, and with the short deliveries we do, we needed to find a way to speed up our times,” Vawter explains. “Using five-axis technology would allow us to eliminate a lot of set-ups.”
Vawter looked at a number of different machines, but all roads led to Hurco. “One of the reasons we went with Hurco is that they are right down the road from us,” he says. “We also owned Hurcos in the past and have been very happy with them. We found that the VMX30U was exactly what we were looking for.”
Hurco decided to make 5-Axis a priority 10 years ago and has dedicated resources to the development of features that make the transition easy for 3-axis shops.Hurco even started a website devoted to five-axis education (www.FiveAxisMachining.com) that includes a dedicated telephone number and email that goes directly to Hurco Applications Engineers with expertise in 5-axis/5-sided. The VMX30U that Injection Mold purchased is one of 11 Hurco 5-Axis machining centers that are the result of Hurco’s focus on 5-axis.
While the transition from 3-axis machining to 5-axis can be intimidating, most machinists grasp the concept fairly quickly and continue to realize additional benefits the more they use the machine. “Five-axis was a brand new area for us,” Vawter recalls. “Since we have always had three-axis, we grew accustomed to working in three planes. Then, all of a sudden, there were five.” While he says it took the employees several months to get completely comfortable with the machine, Hurco was always readily available to field questions.
Injection Mold bought the machine solely for the purpose of eliminating multiple set-ups, but Vawter notes the more they use the VMX30U, the more they find they can do with it. “For example, we had some slides (multicavity tool with multiple slides per cavity) and they have angled holes through them on 20 degrees,” he elaborates. “There’s a 25-degree angle on the back with tapped holes. To machine these in the past, we would have one set-up for each operation on a 3-axis mill and it would have taken probably five set-ups with an hour to an hour-and-a-half on each block. When we do it on the VMX30U, it is one set-up and 20 minutes in each piece.”
Another payoff is higher accuracy. “Each time you have to take the piece out of the machine to put in another setup, you take a chance of everything not blending out,” he explains. “Now we just pick it up one time and we will cut from the top and the machine will rotate and cut the piece from the side—so accuracy is better. We maintain .005 micron accuracy on our work.”
Vawter is very pleased with the VMX30U. “Once we made the leap, we continue to find more benefits—things we didn’t even consider are now possible. We have had it a little over a year and we feel like we are just starting to scratch the surface of what we can utilize it for. We will definitely consider another five-axis purchase by year’s end.”
Injection Mold, Inc. / (812) 346-7002 / firstname.lastname@example.org / injectiomoldinc.com
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