Q&A with James Richards

Founder, President
James Engineering Corporation

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Could you tell our readers a little about your MAX-System ‘One-Time-Setup’ deburring solution?

We’re probably the first people to build a purpose-built CNC-type of deburring machine. It has got five servo axes to it. We have developed the software to run it. It is extremely intuitive. It takes only a few minutes. If you were in front of the machine, I could have you run programs on it. Basically, what it’ll have you do is you take a part, put it on there, and it’ll take you five or 10 minutes to write a program to deburr a part, and you’ll never have to write that program again. We can store hundreds of programs in the machine, and it’s a simple three-button process — select-cycle-start, scroll, select-cycle-start.

How is it being received by the industry thus far?

We have taken it to a couple IMTS shows. That means it’s been out there for about seven years now. We’ve taken it to one gear show, the last Gear Expo. We actually had it running multiple parts, and that’s really the first show that people realized what we had. We’ve sold the machines to many of the people who came by the booth. When they actually understand how rapid it is and how easy it is to learn to operate, they’re amazed.

What were some of the challenges facing the industry that you were looking to solve with this machine?

I knew the biggest problem I had from Day 1 was that I got really good at operating my machine, but no one’s going to be able to afford to have me come in and run a machine like that in the shop. So, when you have entry-level people in there, they don’t have the aptitude or skill to be quite that good at it, and a lot of what you get is working out of memory. They don’t see the setup; they memorize the setup, and there’s a big distinction between that. If you can actually see the setup in your mind, much like the way a painter looks at a blank canvas and see their painting, you’ll be better off. That being said, it’s always been very hard to get operators to make the correct setup, and that’s why they have to tweak and tweak. That’s been the Achilles Heel in the deburring industry forever — how do we eliminate that? The solution was to build CNC-type machines and make it to where the tool comes back to the same place in a three-dimensional world, exactly to the same place, every single time. Some of the manual setups, they can be sensitive to .005 or .010 wheel positions—either tilt or position. If you’re doing a 16-pitch gear tooth and you’re off .010, that’s 30% of the tooth. So all of a sudden, you get a heavy chamfer on one side and a light chamfer on the other side, and either you put up with it as a manufacturer or you spend all of your time tweaking the setups. With the MAX, you push the button, and the tool comes down within a couple of thousandths every time in a three-dimensional world. That was the solution.

Could you explain some of the benefits of the machine? Is it mostly a time savings?

It benefits the medium-sized companies, the ones who aren’t going to be making thousands of the same part every day. Instead, they may be making 400 of one part and 1,000 of another part. Throughout the day, the deburring machine gets re-setup and re-setup and re-setup, and what we find is that these companies, every time they go make a gear change, it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to make the initial setup, and then it takes 10 minutes to tweak it. Sometimes, they do that three times to get it where they’re happy with the chamfer.  After they’ve processed two or three parts, usually they throw them in a basket and go on about their business. Usually, they don’t scrap anything, but occasionally, an operator will scrap a part. You lose 30 minutes when it’s all said and done from when you were doing the part of the previous batch to when you were actually starting to perfect and run the new parts for the new batch. Do that three or four times throughout the day, and that’s two hours. If you’re running 24-hour days, you’re only getting 22 hours of real production, and that’s not counting changing wheels out and stuff. It’s just the setup, whereas the MAX gains back those two hours because you have zero change time. It’s just drag-click-cycle-start. It’s very quick.
The ROI on this machine is paying for itself extremely quickly because of those two hours per day that you’re saving, and in some cases, it’s three and four hours because they might be making five, six, or seven setups. And there is a certain percentage of scrap over the year. If you lose a part every third time you set up or every fourth time. At the end of the year you’ve lost hundreds of parts.

MORE INFORMATION: Demonstration videos of the MAX-System, as well as James Engineering’s other prodocut offerings can be found on their website at www.james-engineering.com. For more information, call (303) 444-6787 or e-mail info@james-engineering.com.