The only way to economically meet the need for a large gantry CMM with an uncommon measuring envelope was to find an existing one, rebuild it and remanufacture it.
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A new Renishaw PH10 probe head was provided with the remanufacture program and is shown inspecting a large mold for a truck grill, typical of the types of molds designed and built by Rapid Die & Engineering. Photos courtesy of Xspect Solutions, Inc.
Rapid Die & Engineering (Grand Rapids, MI) is one of the oldest established plastic injection mold manufacturers in Western Michigan, which specializes in the designing and building of molds for a wide variety of automotive components, including interior show panels, chrome-plated grills, head and tail light assemblies and lenses. Most of the mold designs are very sophisticated, typically incorporating complex slide and lifter mechanisms.
In its most recent 15,000-square foot plant expansion—designed to improve its competitiveness and meet the needs of the changing automotive supplier market—a new capital investment program was undertaken that included purchasing a range of larger CNC machining centers as well as an additional coordinate measuring machine (CMM) to support the added demand for quality, inspection and verification.
John Coombes, quality manager for Rapid Die & Engineering, was given the responsibility by Rapid Die owner Chris Jones to find the most affordable and best CMM capability.
Coombes says, “We had already poured the foundation for the new CMM when I made the recommendation to Chris that I thought there is a good solid case for considering a remanufactured CMM instead of buying a new one. First of all, I had been watching the market for some time and there was a significant cost advantage by purchasing a pre-owned machine. Secondly, our needs really required a larger gantry-type machine with an uncommon measuring envelope. And finally, I had discovered there was a company called Xspect Solutions (Wixom, MI) that specialized in refurbishing, rebuilding and remanufacturing pre-owned CMMs. I was confident by doing some research that they would be able to help us find what we were looking for, and I was right.”
Coombes contacted Keith Mills, president of Xspect Solutions, Inc., who is one of the CMM industry’s leading authorities having been the president of both DEA and International Metrology Systems. He formed Xspect Solutions, Inc. in late 2003 and the company has quickly become the world’s largest supplier of pre-owned CMMs with upgrades of OpenDMIS™ software, new electronics and computer systems.
“This proved to be a very coincidental project,” Mills says. “The CMM machine we located with Rapid Die’s requirements was a DEA 4505 gantry CMM machine located in Scotland. Having been the past president of DEA, I personally knew the history of this machine. For me, it was a dream come true. In my industry, older DEAs are still the Cadillac of CMMs. They are built like tanks. You could easily mill steel with one of these frames. They were originally built intrinsically accurate and stable from the get-go. What we see today, are machines that appear to be slapped together with lesser regard for accuracy because error maps are used to compensate for the lack of real machine accuracy. This was not the case back when this DEA was built.
Mills continues, “I immediately sent Senior Technician Alan Pettman to Scotland to inspect the machine and make a recommendation. The machine was in excellent condition. We purchased it and immediately began dismantling it for shipment to Rapid Die. In the meantime, Chris gave John free reign to invest whatever time and expenses were necessary to improve the cosmetics if needed, and to assure himself that the machine was up to expectations.”
Coombes explains, “I decided to strip and repaint the unit. Quite possibly this may have been unnecessary, but the purchase price was $100,000 less than a similar new machine of far less quality. We felt that the additional effort and expense was returned threefold through the increased value of the asset, something that you can’t do with new equipment.
“It was reassuring to see that Xspect Solutions was willing to work with us on this project,” he continues. They offered to replace all electronic cables at cost. This was not part of the original purchase agreement, but it clearly represented Xspect’s commitment to pleasing the customer. Similarly, when the original probe head appeared to be questionable, Keiths offered to replace it with a new Renishaw PH10—no questions asked. In fact, Alan spent a month at our facility and left with no open issues—only a telephone number to reach him instantly for any questions or advice.
“But it was the DEA machine that was so incredible,” Coombes emphasizes. “When the CMM was installed, Alan proved its accuracy with a laser interferometer. When he checked it for pitch and yaw on the main rail over 2.5 meters, it showed errors of only one and three microns. This was incredible. Alan told me I didn’t know what I had here. He said he might have to lie on the calibration report because nobody would ever believe it, and I really needed some error to put my mind at ease. Ultimately, it appeared in the remaining x and z axes, but the error was minimal for a machine of this size and age.”
Coombes summarizes, “At the end of the day, my experience with Keith and his team at Xspect Solutions was everything I hoped for. Particularly with respect to their knowledge, attention to detail and understanding of the customer’s needs and expectations.”
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