In a significant investment for the future, Metalex Manufacturing located in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA has selected Starrag to supply a large-capacity, multi-axis Droop+Rein portal-type machining centre for its new Centre for Advanced Large Manufacturing.
The machine – the largest ever installed by the contract manufacturer – will provide it with the ultimate in flexible production capacity to meet all foreseeable demands in terms of producing highly-accurate milled and turned workpieces in a single set-up.
Indeed, the six-axis Droop+Rein T Series machine is projected to not only satisfy existing projects but its extraordinary machining envelope of up to 19 metres table length, 9.5 metres between the columns and 7 metres under the spindle will certainly also attract new work – thus further ensuring Metalex’s success in the market of high-quality manufacturing.
The portal type milling and turning machine – which is being especially configured to meet Metalex’s current and future needs – offers an expansive 19 metres in the X axis and 9 metres in Y. The 7 metres vertical clearance is covered by the 3 metres of ram stroke (Z axis) and a continuously moveable crossrail of 5.5 metres (W axis). The C axis integrated in the ram with infinite rotation and the +/- 95 degrees swiveling B axis of the universal fork-type milling head complete the six axes.
The impressive 100 kW main spindle transfers up to 7,500 Nm to the heavy vertical and horizontal milling head. A heavy-duty fork-type head, a spindle cartridge change fork-type head – both to enable five-axis operation – and a slim spindle extension round up the initial milling head configuration.
All heads will be designed, built and tested by Droop+Rein in Bielefeld. Furthermore, the machine will be prepared for more heads to be fitted in the future as new jobs arrive. The versatile 400-pocket robot tool magazine ensures automatic loading of three different tooling systems into the selected milling and turning heads.
A distinctive feature is the table design. The X bed carries two 6 by 8 metres tables that can be operated separately under the spindle while the other table is unloaded outside the machining area. Coupled ‘in tandem’ the tables can be extended to an enormous length of 18 metres for machining extra-long workpieces. In addition, each table holds an integrated 6 metres rotary table that utilises the two x 111 kW main drives to turn components weighing up to 200 tonnes (using one of the turning tool holders provided in addition to the milling heads) or to position as a C axis for high accuracy milling and drilling operations.
The result will be the ultimate one-stop precision machining source for extra-large components with complex geometry that require precision tolerances.
Established in 1971, Metalex is a performance-driven contract manufacturing company specialising in producing high-quality complex workpieces for a wide range of market leaders in the aerospace, energy, marine and consumer goods industries.
Metalex’s desire to source a machine that would not only satisfy current production needs but also meet all projected demands in the years ahead saw it make contact with a number of machine builders, including Starrag which in the past has supplied it with a number of machines (a Dörries vertical turning lathe and two Starrag STC horizontal five-axis machining centres).
According to Droop+Rein Product Sales Manager, Heiko Quack: “We sat down with Metalex to discuss what was needed – in short, a very flexible, large-capacity and high-accuracy machine with multi-axis capability that would efficiently accommodate a variety of parts in a range of materials and produced to tight tolerances.
“Applying our proven ‘Engineering precisely what you value’ philosophy, our relationship with Metalex evolved into looking at various solutions and machine types available under the Starrag portfolio and together we arrived at the Droop+Rein T Series – a portal milling machine that offers superb rigidity, essential for highly-accurate machining. We added the two rotary tables and the turning tool holders for in-cycle turning operations and expanded the horizontal and vertical clearances to suit.”
Mr Quack confirms: “With no comparative workpieces, from the outset we knew that Metalex wanted a machine that would meet all eventualities and, as always in such cases, Starrag applied the best world-class technology solutions including Balluff tool identification, Renishaw probing, BLUM laser tool measuring, video monitoring of the work area using four cameras, ARTIS tool and process monitoring and Brankamp collision monitoring – all integrated via the machine’s Siemens 840 D SL CNC system.”
The machine is due for delivery in 2020 and production is scheduled to commence in 2021.
Kevin Kummerle, CEO of Metalex, summarises the pre-order project phase: “For Metalex to continuously evolve and be a company of the future, a combination of our capabilities, technology and people must work together to create innovation that sets us apart from others. Our customers need to know that their key suppliers are committed to be at the leading edge of their industry offering the best total value in terms of quality, technology, cost and service for today and for the long run.
“Metalex applied these same considerations in our evaluation process, looking for a partner that could provide a complete technology solution for our application; a highly flexible and accurate machine configuration integrated with the latest in technology supported by a service organisation capable of rapidly solving challenges that arise. All of these factors are why Metalex selected Starrag as our partner on this critical project.”