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Jet Tool invest in automation to run lights-out without compromising quality

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Jet Tool & Cutter launched in 1968 as a cutter regrind shop in the USA, taking orders on paper and mailing quotes back to the customer. Since then it has grown and can now quickly produce a variety of high-quality carbide cutting tools for aerospace, firearms and general machining applications.

Building on a foundation of personal attention to customers and quality, President Todd Sanzone knew “We had to step up our operation to meet the requirements of aerospace customers. We stay up on the latest available technology in order to meet customer requirements. We are now a third-generation company, and I intend to pass on a healthy, profitable company to the fourth generation.”

A couple years ago, the toolmaker invested in ANCA MX Linear machines. Jet operates robot-loaded MX7 (51-hp peak spindle power) and MX5 (35-hp peak spindle power) Linear CNC tool grinders, where ANCA Motion’s patented cylindrical linear motors are used for X- and Y-axis motion. A six-station changer wheelpack on the larger MX7 permits highly flexible production during the runs at Jet. Each of the MX Linear machines also are equipped with an internal FANUC robot loader and two pallets, supporting long, unattended operation. The MX7 is suitable for high-volume production for tools up to 25 mm (1'') in diameter, and the MX5 handles tools up to 16 mm (5/8'') in diameter.

“These machines allow us to fully automate the toolmaking process and also to move from small-volume specials—which we still do—to larger-volume production,” Sanzone added.

“The MX Linear machines also hold size better and allow us to do finer moves when grinding of smaller tools. This ability works well with the automation we have on each of the MX machines. We were then able to improve the quality of the grinding wheels we use—they may be more costly but they hold tolerance very well. This, in turn, works also very well with the ANCA LaserPlus in-machine tool measuring system."

ANCA’s LaserPlus tool measuring system provides repeatable measurement and automatic machine compensation. It helps Jet hold tight tolerances and maintain grinding process stability. The LaserPlus system can measure and maintain an accuracy to ± 0.002mm (0.0001”) over a large batch of tools, measuring the top and bottom of the tool and checking tool runout. The maximum diameter the LaserPlus can accept for top and bottom measurement is 20mm (3/4”).



The laser is mounted inside the machine and does not interfere with the grinding processes while automatically measuring tools in the machine collet. LaserPlus can also reduce the need for off-line external measurement equipment, saving cost, although at Jet, Sanzone has placed optical comparators next to each grinder for further, detailed tool inspection when necessary.

The laser measurement process is fully automated, including compensation for any out of tolerance conditions, supporting unmanned machine operation at Jet. And this is one of the main benefits to the company of the LaserPlus added to the linear drives and highly stable foundation of the ANCAs. The Linear machines can reliably operate unattended overnight, producing tools without delay, meeting customer demands for high-quality tools.

To measure and control the OD of a cutting tool, a critical dimension, ANCA has interfaced the laser measurement with statistical process control (SPC) software to monitor and control the tool OD. For example, the LaserPlus and SPC can successfully control the size of the diameter on a 6mm tool over a batch of 50. Jet is keeping Cpk tolerances greater than 1.33, thanks to the ANCA Management Suite software, which automatically displays Cpk as soon as it has enough data to do so.

“This has been a big help to us in basic endmill production for customers that have to maintain Cpk requirements and tighter tolerances,” Sanzone said. “We can check tapered ballnose cutters and gauge diameters and modify these features to immediately improve consistency during the run.”

“The stability of the linear motors with the addition of the laser greatly expands the lights-out capability of the machines. Prior to this, it took a skilled machinist to set up the machines to run all night. But with the LaserPlus, we can run through the night or longer runs during the day and still be assured of absolute consistency throughout the run.”

Summing up, the continuous investment in design and production technology by Jet Tool has allowed it to keep up with increasingly demanding customer tool quality and volume requirements. The flexibility of CNC and the reliability of automated load/unload and tool checking make the difference every day.