oner Machining Technologies of Morganton, North Carolina specializes in complex workholding fixtures and tooling for high-volume production manufacturing. Customers include OEMs and second tier suppliers to the automotive, defense, aerospace, and heavy truck industries. These are designed and tested to ensure that machine cycles are reduced significantly. Over the past several years, Toner’s scope of work has involved increasingly complex design and build projects, and its programmer/machinists have become more reliant on the CAD/CAM system to keep up with more low-volume production schedules that demand very strict dimensional tolerance requirements.
According to Vice President and General Manager Trent Toner, the shortage of skilled workers has helped drive his company’s growth. His programmer/machinists are trained to perform all aspects of the job – from programming to finished part. Additionally, Toner writes its own CNC programs for all the precision parts they will need using the Mastercam for the build/machine operations.
“In the past, we would give our guys paper prints and say ‘Hey, we have 10 hours to do this. Just make it.’ Today, when our engineers are done designing a system, they put their SOLIDWORKS® onto the server so that our programmer/machinists can bring them into Mastercam for manufacturing process analysis and CNC programming,” Toner said.
Toner currently has three seats of Mastercam. “While their CNC equipment is cutting one part, the programmer/machinists are busy designing workholding solutions and writing programs for the next ones coming up. If a guy programs a part in an hour and it takes eight to make it, this allows us to keep pace with our demanding design and build schedules.”
Toner works very closely with its Mastercam Reseller, Barefoot CNC, also in Morganton, to standardize tool libraries and toolpaths to ensure the manufacturing strategy chosen for the job is efficient, accurate, and eliminates the possibility of human error. It has made it easy for the company to transition almost all of its roughing programs from conventional toolpaths to those incorporating Mastercam’s Dynamic Motion™ technology. By adjusting feeds, speeds, and tool motions in accordance with material conditions ahead of the tool, these programs allow the CNC equipment to operate at the highest possible material removal rates without the programmer/machinist having to worry about the damage that occurs when cutters get buried in the corners.
In one instance, Toner used Dynamic Motion to reduce machining time for a complex airfoil. The workpieces consisted of 100 pound blocks of aluminum measuring 3 x 20 x 36 inches. In half the time it took to manufacture the same type of part using a conventional process, this part was whittled down to 15 pounds, leaving a 35-gallon barrel of chips beside the machine. After the first part was completed, five more followed, making these standardized dynamic toolpaths an important productivity enhancer.
For both its automated workholding solutions projects and high precision aerospace and defense parts manufacturing, Toner has often been called upon to achieve extreme dimensional accuracy. For thin walled parts, Dynamic Motion technology allows them to machine parts rapidly at material removal rates with slight stepovers that barely deflect delicate walls. Using the software’s CAD for CAM capabilities, programmer/machinists are able to visualize unique dimension-chasing strategies that result in intermediate dimensions that do not match those on the print so that final dimensions, after the part has gone through stress relief, are right on target.
Many of Toner’s customers prefer the work to be done as an integrated project rather than having to contract multiple suppliers which can also take extra time. The company has offered such services as designing robotic grippers, programming PLCs, and integrating automatic gaging systems with workholding hardware. And in order to accomplish all of this, Toner has prioritized finding and training skilled workers who perform multiple tasks.
Through investments in worker development and training as well as a CAD/CAM software package that adapts to their manufacturing needs, Toner has filled a niche market, expanded its scope of work and workforce, and served as an example of stellar customer service