7 Ways to Boost Your Grinding Machines’ Production

7 Ways to Boost Your Grinding Machines’ Production

When you’re ready to boost your manufacturing line’s productivity, your grinding machines should be the first area to consider.

Grinding is typically the bottleneck operation in any factory, and downtime on any one of your grinders can quickly affect your production schedule. Moreover, since parts pass through grinding machines generally toward the tail end of the production sequence, it’s costly to scrap parts after grinding.

For all these reasons, improving your grinder production directly affects your company’s bottom line. Improved grinder operation also will enhance the form, fit and function of your parts, resulting in happier customers and managers.

There are seven ways to improve production on your grinding machines:

#1 Repair

The first function of grinder repair is to fix broken components and get the machine up and running again.  A second and often neglected function is to prevent unexpected downtime. For instance, repairing spindles before they break will save time and money over the long haul. When vibration begins to occur on a grinding machine, many operators will turn to dressing more often or slowing the cycle down. While this helps reduce vibration, it also decreases productivity and adds time to the overall manufacturing process. But proactively repairing the spindle keeps your grinder operation performing more efficiently without the lost production time.

Slides are another grinder component that benefit from proactive repairs. Since slides compensate for wheel wear and control the size of the finished part, variation in a slide will directly affect part size and quality. Repairing slides before damage occurs is a great way to lower scrap rates and boost production.

Repairing broken parts obviously gets your productivity back to normal, while looking for and implementing less obvious repairs will yield an even bigger ROI.  

#2 Upgrade

Grinding machines are usually built with the best technology available at the time. But as the years pass, the technology on older machines becomes outdated and drags down productivity.

One upgrade example is installing a servo drive transmission for the regulating wheel. These transmissions have 98% fewer moving parts, decreasing vibration and improving surface finish. In addition, the servo drive allows for infinite adjustments to the RPM, improving the roundness of the finished part.

The dressing system is another grinder part that can be upgraded successfully for quick productivity improvements. As an example, a two-axis servo system that replaces the manual dresser on a centerless grinder will provide more precise control, resulting in better part quality.

Other possible upgrades include:

The cost of an upgrade may exceed the cost of a repair, but the additional investment quickly produces benefits that outweigh the extra cost.

#3 Control System Upgrade

This is a very powerful way to improve the productivity of your grinding machines. Outdated basic controls create limitations that cost real money: machines must be set up to handle the worst piece in the batch, leading to a large percentage of the cycle time given over to grinding air. Worse, basic controls offer no way to store information about set-up and operation. This leads to critical details about costly machines being stored in paper notebooks that are easily lost or damaged.

Older control systems can also be hard to repair if the builder has gone out of business, making replacement parts difficult to find.

An upgraded control system entails new, off-the-shelf parts from a major controls builder such as Fanuc, Siemens or Allen-Bradley. It also will have its own diagnostic system, which a good integrator can program with features and messages, making it easier to detect and clear minor issues like a mis-load.

A new control package also will allow for integration of new technologies like gap elimination, which reduces non-production during the grind cycle. Integrating post-process gauging is also much easier when modern controls are in place.

Lastly, new control systems have more memory, allowing process parameters to be stored for small repeat batches of parts rather than be manually input for each run.

#4 Process Improvements

We’ve come a long way since grinding with hand-shaped natural stone and even from aluminum oxide- or silicon carbide-treated wheels. Now there is a vastly wider range of abrasives available. All cost more per wheel than the older abrasives. But the new options can greatly increase productivity through improved part quality, shorter cycle times and less frequent wheel dressing and changes.

But these gains can’t be realized on old machines with outdated control systems. This is where investments in mechanical and control systems show the greatest payoff.

#5 Remanufacture

An older machine has value in many different areas. The bases are usually made of cast iron, which has good stiffness and vibration damping and which is still considered the best material for many grinders today. The major sub-assemblies also can retain machining and design value. With new components, these sub-assemblies can function better than new.

Using the value in an older grinder as a starting point can reduce a project’s cost or allow the addition of features like automated gauging to be added while maintaining the project’s budget.

A quality remanufacturer will tear your grinding machines down to basic components, throwing away commodity parts like switches, hoses and wiring. Assemblies that will be reused are sandblasted to bare metal and inspected. Critical surfaces are re-machined or re-ground.

A good remanufacture will restore hand-scraped surfaces. Hand scraping parts is becoming a lost art, but it is the best way to lubricate many moving parts.

After the valuable assemblies are preserved, the machine is remanufactured from the ground up, incorporating the full range of upgrades as needed.

Enclosures are normally a key consideration in a remanufacturing project. The standards for noise, mist and safety have expanded greatly since your old grinding machines were first built. A quality remanufacturer will design the enclosure to allow for easy service and set-up while containing mist and noise. Most importantly, your people will be kept safe.

A remanufactured grinder will be much less expensive than a new machine, and the timeline to installation is shorter.

#6 Buy New

Despite the cost and timelines, sometimes buying a new machine is the best choice, say when more capacity is required and remanufacturing simply isn’t a choice.

#7 Find a Partner You Can Trust

In industry today, no one has enough staff to properly address every issue that creates bottlenecks in production, especially with a complex process like grinding. Take chatter for instance. It can be caused by tooling and set-up variables or by vibration from a bad spindle or motor. But what do you do if the machine, the parts and the process all work as designed, and you still have chatter?

That’s where a highly qualified partner comes into play. A parts provider that has the necessary breadth and depth of experience can provide insights and recommendations beyond the expertise of your in-house staff.

GCH Tool has that level of experience. Contact us today for the parts you need for your grinding machines.

About Ellen Kominars

Ellen joined GCH Tool in 2013 as director of marketing. She is responsible for digital marketing, media relations, website development, event planning, advertising, communications and graphic design. A long-time resident of Mexico City, Ellen speaks Spanish fluently, and often assists with the many GCH customers located in Latin America. Ellen has worked in industrial marketing for over 20 years. She’s now added grinding components and grinders to the list of products she’s marketed, which includes induction furnaces, hand tools, magnetic separators and diesel-truck axles.