DMTC machining experiment boosts productivity at Millatec

Precision machining specialist Millatec has increased productivity across its operations thanks to a collaborative research project set up by the Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC).

The ongoing project brought together Millatec, Seco Tools and researchers from the CAST Cooperative Research Centre to develop critical processes for refinement of stainless steel manufacturing. The first milestone of the project has tripled throughput by reducing machining time of components.

Queensland-based SME Millatec specialises in advanced precision machining services while Seco Tools is internationally known for its wide and innovative range of cutters and inserts for milling applications, such as those in aerospace component fabrication that are of particular interest to DMTC and its partner organisations.

In its first year of a seven-year project, the team has already made in-roads to increasing productivity at tool manufacturing plants. From a manufacturer’s perspective, decreased process cycle times directly improve productivity, which expands production capacity, which in turn enables the manufacturer to secure additional contracts.

“This is a prime example of how industry as a sector, and SMEs in particular, can benefit from involvement in the DMTC,” said DMTC CEO Dr Mark Hodge.

“This phase of the project was over and done within a matter of weeks. DMTC is focused on delivering practical results in practical timeframes.”


How the test was conducted

The project team compared current machining practices in place at Millatec with newly developed tooling technology supplied by Seco Tools Australia. A suitable 316 stainless steel component was chosen for comparison and testing of the modified machining process.

Seco’s tooling technology utilises a different tool holding mechanism to decrease vibration encountered during machining and allow higher feed rates and cutting speeds.

The 316 stainless component was selected due to the various milling operations involved in its manufacture, which span face milling, hole boring, peripheral profile milling, thread cutting, chamfering, spot drilling and conventional drilling.

“By comparing these cycle times with the cycle times of the machining process previously employed at Millatec, we can develop an idea of the overall performance of the new tooling technology and the benefits of employing it in industry,” said Millatec MD James Johnson.


Solid results yield practical benefits

Millatec constantly updates its hardware and tooling to accommodate the increasing demand of high precision components in stainless steel, explained Dr Suresh Palanisamy, DMTC project leader.

“As a result of the new tooling technology and modification of machining parameters, the cycle time for the component was reduced to 33% of its original total machining time. A time efficiency of 200% is a notable achievement and provides a solid foundation for the DMTC and Millatec to conduct further research in the area,” Dr Palanisamy said.

“By adapting the modified machining processes to other stainless steel components being produced, Millatec stands to reduce their cycle times and increase productivity across a range of components.”


Rewards of collaboration

DMTC develops and delivers new materials technologies and manufacturing processes to enhance Australia’s defence capability by adopting a collaborative partnership approach between Defence, defence industries and research agencies.

Seco Tools’ Technical Manager Dean Townsend said Seco’s role in the current project was to cast a holistic eye on the process and suggest machining techniques and strategies that will make the process more cost effective for the manufacturer and give them a competitive edge.
“By collaborating with other parties we are bringing many years experience to the project, both academically and also industrially. Many ideas will be brought to the table, culminating in aspects of each being employed which ultimately help us reach our goal of achieving ‘best practice’ techniques,” said Townsend.

“Component manufacturers will benefit from the assurance that the latest in cutting tool technologies and strategies are applied to their process.”
The next phase of the project will investigate how cryogenic coolant technology can be incorporated into Millatec’s current machining centres and the optimal conditions for its use, further increasing productivity and profitability for its technology-minded partners.



Posted by DMTC on August 11th, 2009