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Choosing the Best CNC Controls

When selecting Computer Numerical Control (CNC) controls, it can be easy to get lost in a sea of brand names, options, technology, and bells and whistles. Before getting disoriented among what can seem like an endless array of never-ending decisions and choices, it’s important to take a step back, recognize what you’re trying to achieve with a new CNC machine, and think about what features may benefit you the most.

Once you have this framework established, selecting the best CNC controls may be easier than you think.

Why CNC Machining Is So Valuable

CNC machining has become increasingly popular over the decades because it provides manufacturers a return on their investment in multiple ways.

  • Non-stop production. One of the most valued aspects of CNC machining is that it can be done continuously. Aside from shutdowns when maintenance is required, CNC machining can be done 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
  • Consistency. CNC machining provides the ultimate in consistency. Parts can be replicated time and time again with no variations.
  • Quality. Consistency can help lead to improved quality as relatively small adjustments can be made simply. High-quality equipment and the latest technology can lead to quality previously unmatched.

Once you determine the aspects of CNC machining that appeal to you most, it’s time to review popular features that can deliver value for your specific application, including selecting the right CNC controls.

The Most Sought after Features for CNC Controls

How do you decide what features of CNC controls are the most important? CNCCookbook decided to ask actual CNC users and compiled a survey of most popular features when it comes to CNC controls.

Understandably, the most popular feature of CNC controls in the survey was “Ease of Use” since CNC machines are supposed to make work more efficient. Usability was cited as the most significant factor and was mentioned by almost 30 percent of respondents. The fear of purchasing a piece of equipment that is challenging to operate is what often keeps companies from making decisions about purchasing a new CNC machine.

Following ease of use, “Power” and “Setup and Customizability” tied for second in the survey with 11.3 percent of respondents considering them important factors. Users obviously want CNC machining that has the power to get the job done, but they also want versatility and ease of setup.

Fourth on the list of priorities for CNC owners was “Cost” followed by “Support,” which came in fifth.

It is interesting to note that while price may be a top priority when initially thinking about purchasing a CNC machine, price moves down to fourth on the list during consideration. Once manufacturers begin to think about owning an actual machine, factors such as ease, customizability, and support become more important or nearly as important as cost.

What Can Be Learned from the CNC Controls Survey?

In review, according to the CNCCookbook survey, the top five priorities for owning a CNC machine, in order, are:

  1. Ease of Use
  2. Power
  3. Setup and Customizability
  4. Price
  5. Support

As it turns out, this is a pretty good template for those thinking about purchasing a CNC machine, and it is the type of approach we take here at L.K. Machinery, where we offer powerful CNC machines with a variety of options for CNC controls to maximize ease of use and customizability — all at a value-driven price with an incredible support package.

Putting L.K. Machinery on Your Side

At L.K. Machinery, we are largely control agnostic and take a needs-based approach to the selection and support of CNC machining equipment. But we tend to stick to CNC controls made by industry leading brands Allen-Bradley, Fanuc, Mitsubishi, and Siemens.

We understand that there can be a fear of the unknown in selecting new CNC equipment, and we actively seek to put those fears to rest by offering machines that are easier to use, have the power required, and are customizable to the needs of each particular client. We understand price concerns but also know the critical importance of service and support. We are here to facilitate the selection, set-up, training, and ongoing operation of your CNC machining solution.

L.K. Machinery has been a global leader in the manufacturing of precision die casting and injection molding equipment since 1983. During the past decade, we have expanded internationally, setting up offices worldwide, including our U.S. office in Holland, Mich., and expanding our machine offerings to include CNC machining centers.

Today, our CNC machine offerings include proven CNC drilling and tapping machines, vertical milling machines, horizontal machining centers, multi-pallet machine centers, and bridge mill machines, all of which can be equipped with a variety of CNC controls to fit your needs.

When deciding on how to address your CNC machining and control needs, we invite you to partner with a company that keeps your interests at the forefront. We encourage you to contact us at L.K. Machinery.

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What Types of Supplemental CNC Automation Make Sense?

The direct costs of manufacturing, including processes like welding, assembling, casting, and cutting, account for about 40 percent of the total cost of manufacturing. This is by far the largest piece of the pie and manufacturers have long sought to minimize these costs with CNC automation.

CNC machines conduct a variety of manufacturing processes to make manufacturing more efficient and consistent. There are CNC lathe machines, drilling machines, milling machines, and water jet and laser cutting machines. Each is designed to perform repetitive tasks and produce quality products efficiently.

While early forms of CNC machines have been around for well over a half century, today technology is advancing their level of productivity to new levels. This includes some existing supplemental machinery that can take CNC automation to new levels.

Here’s an overview of the sorts of supplemental CNC automation that are available to help you decide if your company can take advantage of new CNC technologies.

Types of Supplemental CNC Automation

The simple fact is that automation improves productivity. The more a shop can be automated, the more efficient they are likely to become. Now, an increasing number of manufacturers are adding supplemental automation to their CNC machining processes.

This supplemental CNC automation equipment falls into two general categories:

Tool Changing

An automated tool changer minimizes cycles times by automatically changing tools between each cut. The basic differences between tool machines are their speed and the number of tools they can change. Tool changers can be manual or fully automated. They generally are of three types:

  1. Tool change systems with a gripper arm. This system has two elements, a gripper arm and a disk with a magazine. After each action is taken, the tool is replaced into the magazine.
  2. Tool change systems with a chain magazine. This type of machine can hold 32 to 100 tools and holds them in a chain.
  3. Tool change systems with disk magazine. Used with medium-capacity machines, this system can hold 32–64 tools. Tool grippers are provided for each magazine and the grippers not only hold the tools but facilitate the machining operation as well.

Loading & Unloading

There is a variety of supplemental CNC machining automation equipment available to assist with material handling.

Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are electrically powered vehicles that move materials without being manned. These include forklifts, pick-and-pull and custom-designed loaders and unloaders.

Since they are mobile, they don’t get in the way and paths can be easily changed. AGVs are perfect for repetitive loading and unloading tasks where distances exceed over 150 feet. These automated vehicles provide significant cost/benefits.

Conveyors also fall into the category of supplemental automated equipment for loading and unloading.

Not a “One Size Fits All” Solution

There are no “one size fits all” solutions when it comes to supplemental CNC automation. It requires a careful analysis of each manufacturer’s needs and matching those needs with the optimum solutions.

Any combination of CNC machines and supplementary CNC automation needs to “make sense” for the manufacturer and offer sufficient return on investment. It needs to be an appropriate solution that will optimize efficiency and productivity while improving the bottom line.

Because the fact of the matter is, while your current equipment may seem to be operating just fine, it is likely using older technology. Re-evaluating your needs can pay significant productivity benefits, and there may be no better time than the present.

Finding the right answer will require teaming with a knowledgeable partner like L.K. Machinery. Throughout the last decade, L.K. Machinery has expanded internationally, including setting up our U.S. office in Holland, Michigan.

Our CNC machining centers help businesses acquire the degree of CNC automation that fit their requirements. We are then there to assist you through the implementation of your CNC and supplemental automation system.

See why manufacturers are being proactive in upgrading their CNC systems with the help of how you can best deploy the latest CNC automation equipment available to benefit your company, contact us today.



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4 Questions to Ask Yourself When Selecting a CNC Machine

If you are considering purchasing a CNC machine, you’ll of course want to know about the machine’s components and capabilities. The fact is, however, that of the roughly three-dozen companies you can buy a CNC machine from, they all use some variation of the same components. You’ll likely discover they use Fanuc motors, Fanuc or Mitsubishi controls, and similar parts. While it certainly matters how these components are put together, any differences in performance will be incremental.

So, what then should be the deciding factor in your choice when buying a CNC machine? It all comes down to the supplier. When selecting a supplier of CNC machines you should first ask yourself the following four questions.

Questions to Ask Your CNC Machine Supplier

1. Are you simply looking for a transaction or would building a relationship be more valuable?

While it is possible you just want your CNC machine dropped off at your company, wouldn’t you be better off by choosing a company you will feel comfortable building a relationship with? Wouldn’t you rather have a company willing to evaluate your needs and provide long-term support? One who will be there when changes or improvements are needed? When it comes down to it, don’t you want to work with a vendor who will work with you toward your long-term success?

2. What are your goals? What do you want to accomplish?

Is your goal is to spend the least amount possible? Are you concerned about minimizing labor expenses? How many parts per year will you be running? If it is only 10,000 per year, there’s really no point in considering a double-pallet system. If you plan to run 10,000 parts in 30 days or 750,000 or more per year, though, multiple machines will be beneficial. When you fully understand your goals and what you want to accomplish, it will keep you from over- or under-spending.

3. How important is industry experience in a vendor?

There are brokerage companies who simply sell machines without any real CNC experience or application knowledge. Their connection to a manufacturer is purely economic. The purchase of a CNC machine shouldn’t be like buying a TV from a big box store. Your CNC machine supplier should be able to sit down with you and help evaluate your needs. What are you actually going to cut with the machine? You may already have a good idea of what you want but there also may be other, better options available. A supplier should be able to give you choices.

4. What level of service will you need?

A lot of companies deal with service issues after purchasing a CNC machine. This isn’t an issue that “just occurs,” it happens because due diligence wasn’t taken in the machine purchasing process. Some companies have problems because they’ve been sold a CNC machine but can’t get it going and the sales rep is long gone. And that’s just the start — there may be little or no support down the line when the machine needs maintenance or repairs. A lot of these companies don’t invest in backup service or support. Isn’t it better to work with a reliable partner who will be there when needed?

Unfortunately, many machine suppliers take advantage of the fact that companies are so focused on their day-to-day operations that they don’t take the necessary time to ask the right questions when choosing a CNC machine supplier. This can be a costly error not just in the short-term but for months or even years to come.

Discover the L.K. Advantage

L.K. Advantage is the U.S. office of the Chinese manufacturer L.K. Machinery and is located in Holland, Michigan. Since 1983, L.K. Machinery has been a global leader in designing and manufacturing precision die casting and injection molding machines. During the past decade, we expanded our machine offerings to include CNC machining centers.

We quickly discovered that problems facing clients could often be addressed with more than one answer. If they didn’t ask the right questions of a supplier, however, or if a supplier didn’t have experience in CNC applications, bad decisions were often made. One of our goals is to minimize those questionable decisions by better partnering with our clients in their search for an appropriate CNC machine.

You may be searching phrases like, “How to buy a CNC machine,” or “What to look for in a CNC machine.” The answer is to begin a discussion with L.K. Advantage. If you would like more information about how we help our customers identify the right CNC machine solution, please contact us.

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The Most Important Advancements in Die Casting Technology During the Last 50 Years

There are those touting massive die casting technology advances that can defy logic. The fact is, modern die casting machines fundamentally perform the same tasks as those of 50–60 years ago.

In many cases, the technological bells and whistles that are being advertised can simply get in the way and ultimately may cause more issues than they resolve.

Truth be known, faddish advances in die casting technology over recent decades have been just that: a fad. Here’s why.

What Companies Want From a Die Casting Machine

When companies consider a new die casting machine, they mainly are looking for three straightforward things.

  1. They want a machine that is dependable. The machine should run when required.
  2. They want a die cast machine that is not complicated. Operating a die casting machine shouldn’t take an engineering degree.
  3. It must do the same thing over and over. Die casting machines must do repetitive processes reliably.

That’s it. It is neither rocket science nor computer science. Run when needed, be simple to operate, do the same thing over again.

That’s not to say improvements to the fundamentals can’t be made. They can and they are being made.

For example, the die casting process has an optimal fill time of about 50 milliseconds. Die casting technology that is designed to help achieve this optimal fill time as often as possible makes sense and the L.K. Smart Injection System is designed to do just that. It monitors fill times and automatically adjusts velocity until it achieves that 50-millisecond sweet spot.

Our Smart Injection System is a die casting technology that focuses on improving the “essence” of die casting, rather than adding extraneous features that don’t have a measurable impact at the end of the day.

Technology That Produces Value Through Optimization

While many can get dazzled with die casting technology, the key to efficiency and consistency when it comes to die cast machines is optimization. Simply put, optimization is getting the most out of a machine while maintaining product integrity.

Features that contribute to optimizing the following aspects matter since they let operators do more of the same, more often, with less.

  • Cycle time increases – Technological advances, such as greater pumping capacity, that help die casting machines run faster and more efficiently make them more profitable. Some modern die casting machines, for example, can produce parts in just four days that older machines take five days to complete. That’s “technology” that adds to the bottom line.
  • Improved maintenance – Die casting technology that results in less maintenance is valuable because it means less downtime and greater productivity — again contributing to the bottom line.
  • Improved energy efficiency – This is an area where technology can make a significant difference to the operational costs of running a die casting machine. For example, L.K. has developed energy-saving features that cut power to our machines’ motors so they run only when there is a need for hydraulic power. If an existing machine isn’t cycling 100% of the time, the cost reductions can be significant.

Choosing Die Casting Technology That Really Matters

While others focus on bells and whistles, our goal at L.K. Machinery has always been to improve the fundamentals of die casting. We make efforts to increase consistency, reliability, capacity, and energy efficiency while minimizing maintenance. In terms of die casting technology, these are truly the most important advances of the past 50 years.

When you choose die casting machines from L.K. Machinery, you acquire die cast technology from a company that has helped manufacturing clients worldwide transform their businesses for the better since 1983.

With U.S. offices located in Holland, Mich., the advantage provided by L.K. Machinery is now within reach of U.S. manufacturers.

Secure the future of your business by being proactive in your capital equipment acquisitions. Choose equipment that can improve productivity and minimize waste. Step beyond the day-to-day operational needs of your company and choose die casting technology from L.K. Machinery. To learn more about what we have to offer, please contact us today by requesting a quote.

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What Is the ROI of a New Die Casting Machine?

It is easy to spend on capital improvements such as a new die casting machine when there is no choice. When a critical piece of equipment fails and repair costs keep piling up, it can be relatively simple to make a decision to replace it. Being proactive and replacing an old die casting machine before complete failure occurs, however, is a smart decision that can pay big dividends.

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