Snow Engineering Cuts Lead Time, Increases Profit

(See Related Article in Manufacturing News, February 2016 Issue)

Snow Engineering, Inc., a large EDM shop in Iowa, had trouble keeping up with customer demand. Lead times were continually growing shorter and Snow’s existing equipment was just not up to the challenge. This meant longer hours and smaller profit margins. “We frequently worked late at night and on Sundays to meet customer delivery times,” said Robert Hearn, Owner of Snow Engineering. The company needed to find a way to increase lights-out machining and decrease cycle times.

To save on expenses, the Snow team initially considered purchasing one additional machine. Ultimately, however, they found that trading in one machine and purchasing two new machines was the best economical choice. They selected two new Sodick wire EDMs, an AG600L and a VZ300L.

“While it may have been less money to rebuild an old machine, we felt the new Sodicks are much more reliable, saving maintenance costs in the long run,” said Hearn. “Moreover, the increased speed and accuracy of the Sodicks have given us the capacity for growth rather than simply keeping up with demand. We chose Sodick machines because we have been happy with our previous Sodick machine purchases, and because Sodick has been great to work with throughout our relationship, from purchasing to service and support.”

Hearn said that the new wire EDMs are definitely an upgrade in the shop’s equipment and have allowed them to stay competitive. “The efficiency of these machines has been the most impressive part.”

“We recently ran a job where there were 1,984 openings where 0.030 inch diameter start holes needed to be threaded with 0.006 inch wire. The AG600L ran for almost 140 hours without missing a single thread. The only time we stopped the machine was when we changed the wire spool. The AG600L’s threader does an amazing job.” Hearn has also seen the benefits on a recurring job they have a few times a year. It requires cutting a 1.375” wide key- way through 3.50” of steel, usually in a quantity of 200. The AG600L table configuration gave us the ability to set up five parts at a time. This allows the team to run the machine longer overnight or on weekends. “The machine’s speed was another bonus for this particular job,” said Hearn. “With the Sodick we managed to shave our cycle time from 56 minutes to 45 minutes. Obviously with over 200 parts, that time really adds up.”

According to General Manager Ben Lehs, the greatest advantage of the new Sodick machines is that he can tweak the power settings to improve the optimal conditions for each piece. 

Snow Engineering has the ability to machine all types of material, including steel, aluminum, brass, graphite and more. “We try to be a one-stop-shop for a wide variety of parts and materials,” said Hearn.

The Sodick AG600L has XYZ travels of 23.62” x 15.75” x 13.75” and features all-axis glass scales, Fixed Jet Automatic Wire Threader and three-sided automatic rise/fall work tank. Maximum workpiece weight is 2,204 lbs. 

The VZ300L has XYZ travels of 13.78” x 9.84” x 8.66” and features all-axis glass scales and Super Jet Annealing Automatic Wire Threader. Maximum workpiece weight is 1,102 lbs. 

All Sodick EDMs feature all-axis rigid linear motors. The magnetic linear motor is designed to eliminate mechanical action from the drive. Another Sodick feature is the Motion Controller, which makes over 500 adjustments per second using 1 GB per second data communication speeds, allowing for precise cuts. All machines utilize Sodick’s custom made ceramic components for critical areas, such as arms and worktables. These provide greater thermal stability while resisting chemical corrosion and physical wear.

“There is no comparison to our past levels of production,” said Hearn. “Machining time and accuracy have both significantly improved for the jobs we have completed to date.”

In addition to EDM, Snow Engineering capabilities include waterjet, vertical machining and grinding. Software capabilities include AutoCAD and Camtek Optisolutions.

“At Snow Engineering we value our customers and do everything possible to meet their needs,” said Hearn. “It is in response to customer demand that we expanded into a one- stop shop and shortened lead times. Our biggest advantage is our investment in highly qualified staff and advanced technology.”