News & Events
Customer Builds on Strengths, Bets on Technology
Unique Tool and Morris South worked together to identify new technology that meets production and business needs.
Sometimes in the life of a metalworking shop, a single machine purchase can make a huge positive difference. If it’s the right machine, that is. Identifying that right machine and integrating it into your business is generally not a simple process. Typically, it requires experience, expertise, and just a touch of boldness. A recent collaboration between Unique Tool and Manufacturing Co., Inc. of Randleman, North Carolina and machine tool distributor Morris South of Charlotte, North Carolina underscores that point.
Founded in 1986 by father and son Jimmy Scott and Vincent Scott, Unique Tool is a 21st century machine shop that specializes in the manufacture of complex parts that are shipped to customers throughout North America and destinations in Europe and Mexico.
Along with milling, turning, grinding, jig grinding, jig boring, EDM, and other equipment, Unique Tool owns several advanced machines including four and five-axis machines with automatic head changers, pallet changers, and tool changers. Additionally, the company is capable of engineering, building, and running-off entire automated systems for their customers.
“We take every opportunity to capitalize on our strengths in precision machining and engineering in order to boost our competitive position,” says Vincent Scott, CEO of Unique Tool. “That includes being alert to ways that new technology can boost our efficiency and profitability,” he adds.
That’s exactly what they did in the case of a family of large diameter milling cutters that Unique Tool was producing for one of its key clients. These milling cutters are part of a high precision toolchange system with a unique design that offers time savings on toolchange in comparison with conventional systems. The milling cutters feature a polygonal interface that permits the transfer of higher cutting forces.
Unique Tool had been machining the milling cutters along with similar large diameter parts, such as large cams and various tooling and fixturing, on a horizontal lathe. The parts met their customer’s stringent requirements for precision, but increasingly Scott and his father Jimmy, co-owner of the company, felt they could do better. Specifically, they were looking for greater productivity and increased automation.
“We were pushing the capacity of the older machine, leaving us very little room to expand our work with large diameter parts,” recalls Vincent Scott. “It came to a point where we felt we had to do something. That’s when we called Morris South.”
Morris South, a division of Morris Group, Inc., is a leading machine tool distributor and serves as the exclusive regional distributor of Okuma, Tsugami, Hardinge, Bridgeport and other prominent brand machine tools. “Besides the machine tools, we provide the in-house applications engineering expertise,” says Morris South president Jerry Rex.
“We don’t just pass on a standard piece of equipment from our builder partner, or rely on them for our engineering services. We take the time to understand the customer’s specific requirements before recommending a solution,” Mr. Rex adds.
It’s an approach that worked for Unique Tool in the past. Three years ago, after working with Jerry Rex and his team to identify and analyze specific needs and possible solutions, Unique Tool purchased an Okuma Multus B300-W turning center with five-axis milling capability from Morris South. The results were dramatic.
“Many of the parts that we switched to the Multus had been taking us 20 to 30 minutes to run,” says Vincent Scott. “With the Multus, we typically machine them in nine to 10 minutes now.”
The Multus is a multitasking machine capable of turning, milling, drilling, tapping and other operations. It requires far less time for set-ups since the parts are “done in one.” The day of this visit, a gear metering hub that traditionally would require four set-ups was being run on the Multus. Using 27 on-board tools, the Multus cut through 2-inch diameter bar stock of heat-treated D2 Tool Steel in 11 minutes, achieving +/- .001 accuracy. The machine can run unattended for three-and-a-half hours before new bar stock is needed.
“The Multus turned out to be the most advanced machine on our floor,” Vincent notes.
“Helping the client get the most effective manufacturing technology for his needs, budget, and time frame is what it’s all about,” says Rex, looking back on the collaborative effort that led to Unique Tool’s selection of the Multus.
Given this history, it was logical for Unique Tool to turn again to Morris South. The Scotts studied a number of CNC lathes and turning centers in the desired capacity range. The Okuma V80R vertical lathe stood out as their first choice. It features open access to speed loading and unloading, quick toolchange, fast turret indexing to minimize non-cutting time, an optional driven tool system, and easy integration with a number of automated systems, thanks, in part, to the machine’s advanced THINC-OSP control.
THINC is Okuma’s innovative control that uses the power of the Microsoft Windows™ operating system to combine Okuma’s OSP control with an open architecture, PC-based operating platform. As a result, THINC can access almost any application or peripheral, including factory management systems. It can interface with bar coders, feeders, robots, probes and tool setters to help streamline production. Okuma’s THINC-OSP control features standard Ethernet capabilities that enable immediate access to online documentation applications or selected internet resources. Communication with established business and production systems is thus immediately available on the factory floor.
Reading about the machine’s impressive capabilities was one thing, seeing it perform was quite another. The Scotts wanted to see the V80R perform, not in a showroom demonstration but on the factory floor. Jerry Rex was able to arrange it, and he and Vincent Scott traveled to a user’s facility to watch the V80R being put through its paces live and unrehearsed, so to speak.
Designed to serve as an efficient means of machining larger diameter workpieces, the V80R boasts a 12-station turret that minimizes adjacent tool interference, offering a variety of options for tool layout. The turret, plus open access, makes tooling changeover easy. The Scotts were impressed by the way the rapid turret indexing minimized non-cutting time, a key concern of theirs. Its 630 ipm rapid traverse rate was another positive.
“The Scott’s are very thorough and well educated buyers,” notes Rex. “They know you can’t always just spreadsheet machines; it’s not that simple. You’ve got to factor in things like support and reliability, and have a clear focus on what features are most important to you.”
Vincent Scott liked what he saw, and subsequently the V80R was up and running at Unique Tool. The results have been dramatic.
“We’ve cut cycle times thanks to the higher torque, greater horsepower and rapid traverse rate of the new machine,” says Vincent Scott. “We’re able to take heavier chip load and much deeper cuts on these parts than we could in the past, all the while maintaining amazing accuracy,” he adds.
For Unique Tool, another prime selling point of the V80R had been its vertical configuration, making it easier to load and unload parts – particularly heavy parts – than the horizontal lathe they had previously used. The new machine cuts down on load / unload times—in some cases by as much as half—and makes life easier for Unique Tool’s machinists, but as Vincent Scott notes, “It also opens up new business for us.”
“With these heavier parts, we’ve decreased cycle times by as much as 50% and boosted productivity by 40-50%. Plus, we’re able to handle new part configurations that couldn’t be accommodated by the old machine.”
“In the fifteen months since we installed it, the V80R has been running as hard and as fast as possible. When we started looking at adding new equipment, we wanted to improve how we handled existing business and open up new work, too. Now that we’ve got it, we’re definitely considering adding more machines like it in the future.”