Machine tool rebuilders—or those who consider themselves to be machine tool rebuilders—are commonplace nowadays. Rebuilding everything from CNC lathes to machining centers to presses, many of them have no particular specialty or intimate knowledge of any type of machine tool in particular.
When the manufacturing sector was running at full capacity, and general machine tool rebuilders were at capacity as well, generalists had the luxury of picking and choosing the projects they were willing to take on, likely choosing to pursue projects with the types of machines that they had the most experience with. However, the recent recession caused all machine tool companies to reconsider projects that they may have passed on in previous times due to lack of experience or expertise. This includes rebuilding machinery which they had minimal previous experience with, such as what might be the most enigmatic member of the machine tool family: the broaching machine.
More Art than Science
While relatively simple in construction, a broaching machine is a very unique type of machine tool. A quick inspection reveals a frame, a slide, ways, an electrical system, and a hydraulic unit. But it’s the subtle nuances of how these parts, systems, and application-specific tooling work together that make a broach one of the most productive and lowest maintenance machine tools on today’s manufacturing floor.
For example, what is the optimum running clearance that results in the required fit of the slides to achieve precise part tolerances but still allow for sufficient lubrication? Where should hydraulic back pressure be set to assure the proper machine operation without overly taxing the hydraulic system? What is the best way liner material to use for maximum life of ways and slides? What is the optimal broach cutting speed for the particular part material or application? What is the best part locating and clamping method for the particular workpiece? What’s true for a commodity-type machine tool may not be true for a broaching machine. Moreover, what is true for one type or manufacturer of broaching machine may not be true for another type or manufacturer of broaching machine.
Remanufacturing and tooling a broaching machine is often more of an art than a science. To get it right requires experience with broaching machines of all types and makes. Even if a machine tool rebuilder has some experience with broaching machines, they may not have the experience required to differentiate one type of machine from another. For example, the way and slide system of a machine manufactured by Colonial Broach is quite different from one manufactured by Lapointe. The hydraulic system of a machine utilizing an Oilgear hydraulic system is unique and vastly different from machines utilizing other hydraulic systems. Another example of broaching machine subtlety is the worktable construction and operation, which varies significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer.
A Wealth of Experience
When considering a remanufactured broaching machine buyers should consider the level of experience of the proposed vendor, asking question such as: Does the company specialize in broaching machines, and how many have they remanufactured? Do they have expertise in broach tooling design, and will they be able to troubleshoot any tooling related issues that may arise? Can they provide field service for mechanical, hydraulic, and electrical systems? Do the same personnel who build the machines service them as well, and are the service personnel direct employees or contracted? Can they provide spare parts to maintain the machine for the rest of its useful life? (Figure 1)
Broaching Machine Specialties (BMS) is just such a specialist. Incorporated in 1946, we have been specializing in broaching machines since 1965. Since that time BMS has remanufactured or otherwise serviced more than 2,000 broaching machines of all types, and from all manufacturers. Our experience in remanufacturing broaching machines is second to none, and makes itself apparent in many ways that are beneficial to the end user.
BMS differentiates itself from its competitors that also specialize in broaching by not only offering new broaching systems, but by offering remanufactured or reconditioned broaching machines from its inventory of over 450 pre-owned broaching machines and broach sharpeners. Of course, all of our competitors can offer remanufactured options, but they must first acquire the machines on the open market. Our competitive advantage lies not only in the fact that we own the machines we offer as reconditioned or remanufactured, but we also have decades of experience remanufacturing these machines and stocking spare parts for all of them. With this large inventory of pre-owned broaching machines available, BMS can offer expedited rush delivery by replacing a worn-out machine with an identical make and model machine from its inventory.
Because of the wealth of experience we’ve amassed over the last 50 years, our seasoned staff of broaching machine experts is able to diagnose and troubleshoot machine problems on vintage machines that even the OEMs no longer have knowledge of. And, thanks to an extensive inventory of spare parts for all types of broaching equipment, we’re often able to provide replacement parts for nearly any broaching machine, and in days rather than weeks.
Oftentimes BMS has service parts in inventory that are no longer available from the OEM.
Equally important to customers is our ability to service our machines both during and after the warranty period. Buyers considering remanufactured broaching equipment should be sure that the potential rebuilder employs the required fluid power, electrical technicians, and programmers as part of its staff, rather than being at the mercy of the availability of outside contractors to service their machines. Will the technicians they send to service the machine be the same technicians that participated in the initial remanufacturing and tool-up? Do they have any past experience with broaching machines, or will they have to learn the particulars of the various machine systems on the fly?
Degrees of Difference
BMS offers two levels of service and price points for used machines: reconditioned, and remanufactured. When considering reconditioned or remanufactured broaching systems, in order to guarantee trouble-free operation a qualified vendor should include a lengthy and detailed list of services they will perform. Including, but not limited to: regrinding and refitting the ways, slides, and worktable to new machine tolerances; rebuilding hydraulic cylinders, valves, and pumps; provision of new electrical controls cabinet; and operator station including all-new wiring. Solicit a quote from BMS for a remanufactured or reconditioned machine and you will get a detailed description of all the services that are included. (Figure 2)
The importance of these qualifying factors is often underestimated. Along with price competitiveness, a thorough evaluation of a company’s capability must be completed. A company must be able to demonstrate with real-life examples that they can support your broaching program. Do not be afraid to ask your potential broach supplier to show you a similar part application that they have successfully handled in the past, or to ask them to explain and demonstrate in detail the level of service they provide when remanufacturing a machine.
As a case in point, in 2008 BMS was invited to quote on a remanufactured, heavy duty, internal broaching machine for a large agricultural equipment manufacturer. We had the machine in our used machine inventory and had installed two similar machines in the buyer’s plant 15 years previously. The previous two machines had been operating flawlessly since the time of their installation. However, it was the height of the recent recession, and the purchase decision was driven by the initial cost rather than the vendors’ level of technical qualification with broaching machines. As a result the order was placed with a less-qualified general machine tool rebuilder for a lower price. Figure 3
The chosen vendor utilized an inappropriate way liner material that failed. In addition, the hydraulic system was not designed or manufactured correctly as required by the particular tooling application. In less than two years the ways and slide had to be reground and refit, and the hydraulic system serviced. The result is weeks of machine downtime, loss of production, and a reversal of the cost savings they realized at the time of the machine purchase.
Although broaching as it is recognized today has been around since the early 1900s, few machine tool companies possess the level of experience and expertise with the equipment and tooling to support trouble-free broaching operations. It takes years of experience rebuilding and tooling the equipment to gain the subtle knowledge required to properly rebuild, service, and maintain a broaching machine. When considering rebuilders ensure that your potential supplier has experienced personnel on staff, and be sure that they are experienced both in the functionality of the machine and how it and the tooling work together to achieve quality parts. Paying more for expertise up front will undoubtedly save you time and money farther down the road.