Yack with Zach: Behind the Scenes with Our New MC80 Machine

By Zach Fothergill

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of posts written by Zach, UCEC’s Operations Support Manager.

Earlier in the month, the UCEC shop revved up into a higher gear than normal to prepare for our new eCAB ModCenter 80 machine. (Read more about this CNC machine in our blog post about the German-made MC80.)

The great news is the machine is up and running and we’ve already drilled several  customer projects with it in considerably less time than before. We’re talking mere minutes to complete a machining project down from hours. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the arrival of the MC80 after the Fourth of July weekend.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
After a long, long journey from Germany, the MC80 arrived at the UCEC shop. We knew it would be big, but we were all pretty much amazed at how large the custom crate actually turned out to be that contained the machine.

Because the new machine showed up two days earlier than expected (a good thing!) we had to really shift into preparing the spot we had selected in the shop where the machine would live. So, on Tuesday, we scrambled to clean. Then we recruited two forklifts from the business next door. That’s right, it took two forklifts to get the machine off of the flatbed truck and into the building.

The very well-built shipping crate, partially opened. 

The very well-built shipping crate, partially opened. 

Once we moved the crate inside, we were faced with the world’s most fastidiously built ocean-going wooden crate. Our German colleagues reinforced the crate so well, it took six hours to open the top. And then we still had the sides to pry open which took another three hours. Lesson learned: if you want something to arrive in one piece from halfway around the world, choose German engineering.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
We spent the day unpacking a lot of internal parts. Several miscellaneous parts had to be bolted onto the MC80. We also checked the inventory paperwork.  

Thursday, July 10, 2014
This day was spent leveling the machine which involved jacking it up and adjusting the feet. The MC80 is built with a slant, so we had to make sure when installing the safety curtains and light barriers that they were all in harmony with the correct angle.

Friday through Sunday, July 11-13, 2014
The weekend brought a slew of tactical requirements for the new MC80. We hooked up electricity and pneumatics. We aligned the lasers. By the end of the weekend, we were pretty psyched that we would learn how to use the MC80 from our German trainer who was scheduled to fly in early in the week.

Monday, July 14, 2014
The day was dedicated to finalizing the electrical and pneumatic set ups. The team took enormous pride in getting the wiring clean. We’re a panel shop! We know how to make a job look first-class and professional.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Stefan Gottschalk, the Steinhauer Elektromaschinen Company trainer, flew in and made his first visit to the shop. He seemed impressed at the set up work we had done. Right away, we tackled the vacuum issue: the machine did not ship with a vacuuming system (to whisk away shavings and other debris) because the German vacuum usually installed runs off of 220 volts. Here in America, of course, we use 110 volts. So, a quick trip to Home Depot resulted in the purchase of a large American vacuum which we MacGyvered into the German-built machine. All in a day’s work.

Fast fact: The machine has a lubrication spray that coats the cutting surface and cutting tool to keep friction heat to a minimum and prolong the life of the tool. 

Fast fact: The machine has a lubrication spray that coats the cutting surface and cutting tool to keep friction heat to a minimum and prolong the life of the tool. 

With Stefan here, we were able to see the machine in operation, doing what it was supposed to do. Everyone gathered around; it was a great morale-boosting moment.

The team split into groups for training. Some team members received advanced software training, using CAD techniques that create “symbols” for each product the shop plans to machine. 

The team split into groups for training. Some team members received advanced software training, using CAD techniques that create “symbols” for each product the shop plans to machine. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
The first day of training began with advanced software lessons for three employees. Between the three of us, we had some CAD experience and loads of professional shop experience. So, we all moved through training, some of us learning CAD color layering basics and some of us going straight to creating “symbols” for each product we plan to machine. These symbols, once we have more and more of them, will become our library. The library—when it’s built out—will become a tremendous time saver.

Thursday, July 17, 2014
Training became even more intense today, taking on advanced software lessons. Our most triumphant moment? Machining our first project. We took an enclosure and cut an opening for AC. Normally, this amount of work would take 3-4 hours to measure, mark and cut.

Stefan went to the manufacturer's website and downloaded some CAD files. Then, we fully programmed the machine in five minutes. We loaded in the enclosure and held our collective breath…

Four minutes, five seconds. That’s how long it took to create the cut we needed.

From 3-4 hours previously to four minutes. We were all pretty excited.

Friday, July 18, 2014
On Friday, Stefan trained about half of the shop on opening a project, loading materials and then operating the machine.

On this day of training, some of the skills the team learned from Stefan Gottschalk (above)  was loading enclosures into the machine and utilizing the pneumatic clamp down to keep the panel from moving around. 

On this day of training, some of the skills the team learned from Stefan Gottschalk (above)  was loading enclosures into the machine and utilizing the pneumatic clamp down to keep the panel from moving around. 

To practice, we loaded in a back panel and drilled it in about five minutes. We also worked on troubleshooting the engraving function. After a few hours of working with it, we were able to make the machine engrave in a high-quality manner.

It was an exhausting two weeks, but the pride and excitement we all had for the new piece of technology was inspiring. Stefan flew back to Germany, satisfied, and we were satisfied, too. We think he enjoyed his visit, especially the chance to sample his favorite American food: barbecue.

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