The Brother Machine Cuts Serious Time Out of Tool Changes and Rapids

Daniel DeMerchant, President of Highpower Security Products, LLC
Owns a Brother SPEEDIO S500X1


Daniel DeMerchant, President of Highpower Security Products, LLC, shares how his company moved from using older BT35 machines to 30-taper without any change in cutting capability.

What were the benefits of the Brother?

The Brother is a much cleaner machine than the older equipment that we have replaced. Our Brother has a completely enclosed working enclosure and a very simplified chip handling excretion path. The enclosed cabinet opens easily for unfettered access during setups. Chip paths are well conceived, and gravity fed with no mechanical augers to clog up and fail. The Brother wisely uses a grease-base lube system on the ways instead of a continuous oil system, which keeps oil contamination out of the coolant. The coolants are in perfect condition at all times, preventing foaming and saving money by dramatically reducing the amount of coolant maintenance and change-outs required every year. When using the enclosed machine with the latest coolant technology, we see much less evaporation of the coolant and dramatically less air contamination in the shop. Overall my employees appreciate the new equipment as it makes their jobs much easier.

Cycle times are dramatically shorter. The Brother machine cuts serious time out of tool changes and rapids. Watching the machine rapid traverse can be daunting when the machine is running at 100 percent feedrate. The rapids and tool changes are faster than any machine that I have seen in this class. A demonstration of the Brother in operation will show any observer how obscenely fast the machine traverses.

Setup times are shorter with this machine over our older equipment as this machine has an active tool probe on the table. The Brother control has automated programs to check the lengths of the tool during setup and can very rapidly check the tool for breakage during cycles.

How difficult/easy was the transition to Brother from your existing machines?

The transition was very simple as the Brother control was compatible with all our existing Fanuc and Yasnac code. We also were able to automate clamping processes and provide air spindle control without buying extra options. Unlike other controls, the Brother control as standard included accessory M code outputs and PLC software automation features embedded in it. The flexibility and automation of the control itself proved to be much more valuable than we anticipated. The Brother control is not limited by legacy software code like other manufacturers controls; it’s a great software implementation with all features done in a modern understandable way yet is compatible with code from older controls. Because it’s industrial PC-based with a secured Linux operating system, there is extensive memory available for our programs and the machine interfaces better with PC networks than other proprietary controls. We have seen no control interface glitches, machine hiccups, or program “workarounds” in order to make the machine operate as anticipated.

Have you seen an increase in productivity?

We were able to replace four old milling machines with one new S500X and still have 65% more free time available on the one Brother S500X. Because the Brother has an Ethernet connection standard and Yamazen provided us with a download utility, we save time by writing and uploading programs to the machine while the machine is running, without operator intervention in the background. As soon as one job is complete, you just call up the next program which was uploaded during the run of the last job, and the operator continues making parts without downtime. I am not sure that this type of seamless background downloading software is available in other controls.

Since you have owned your Brother, how many times has a service call been required?

We have not required any service calls since we have owned the machine. It really has been flawless since the machine was put on the factory floor. The only calls made to Yamazen was for advice on the best way to tackle specific application issues.

Have you seen any change in capability with the move to 30-taper?

We moved from BT35 to 30-taper with no change in cutting capability. Most of our work is in light metals like aluminum alloys, so the 30 taper tools are appropriate for our applications.

Do you have future plans for additional Brother machines?

We have just purchased a second S500X1 to replace the balance of our old equipment. We wish this control was available in a multifunction lathe.

Does this machine make you more efficient and competitive in the market? If so, why?

Yes, we were able to cut our lead time on custom orders. We use the machine for engraving processes and the engraving work requires fast turnarounds with custom messaging in small quantity runs. Our CAM software and Ethernet network allow us to queue jobs on the machine without the operator to stop or even knowing that we are sending new programs to the machine.

What is the overall impression of Brother and what it can do for Machine Shops that are currently running many “typical 40 X 20 – 40 taper” vertical machining centers?

If you can run your work on a 30 taper machine, then do it. The time savings in rapids and tool changing can be dramatic when comparing the same operations on larger machines. Setups are often quicker and easier on the smaller duty machine. Often, smaller faster feed cuts can remove more metal than deeper, slower feed cycles in the same amount of time. The Brother machines are heavier and more rigid than other brands of 30 taper mills, so you are going to get amazing surface finishes.

How was the installation support and assistance by Yamazen when purchasing your first Brother machine?

Once the machine hit the floor and power and electrical was connected, Yamazen was quickly in the shop to go through the machine and provide initial training. We called support three times for advice using the 800 number and got unfettered answers right away. One of the calls was on advice on how to use the PLC features of the control. Often, when you call other machine distributors and ask for detailed information they are reluctant to give it to you. They act like the information is a dark trade secret that should be disclosed in small limited amounts or they just don’t have the details for you without calling the manufacturer only to find out that the manufacturer does not understand your need for the information. This was not our experience with Yamazen. I was pleasantly surprised when Yamazen technical support on the phone willingly told us how to make electrical connections to the PLC features in the control to our external equipment. I am also impressed with Yamazen experts that visited us in the shop giving us pointers and targeted demonstrations on how to use newer features that were not available on our older equipment. These people have the knowledge, and will happily disclose detailed technical information that is needed to get the machine up to maximum productivity.

Visits to our shop with Yamazen technicians have evolved our way of thinking about programming. With the Brother machines, there are several new commands and programming techniques that were not available to us with our older controls. It takes a short amount of time to understand these new capabilities, but these new commands cause the machine to do more simultaneous operations and do operations in more automated ways that save time and aggravation.

Finally, is there anything else that you would like to comment on that you have found has been a difference? Something in the control, on the machine, etc. that has impressed you that others may not see right away?

Energy savings. The machine consumes almost 10% of the electrical power that our old equipment used to consume for a fraction of the work on the same part. This has lowered our electric bills in the shop noticeably as we were running the part on larger, older equipment. The green features in the control including power management modes, automatic shutdown features more efficient spindle motors and LED lighting must all contribute to lower power requirements.

The Brother control is easy to use and to program. The presentation of features in the control is organized and modern. Despite this, the control is compatible with code from both Fanuc and Yasnac. We view the control as a big asset in the machine and not a liability. Although our older programs have run on the machine without issue, we have been optimizing them by replacing blocks of code with specialized Brother codes that do simultaneous operations. From a programming standpoint, the control is not glitchy but predictable and trustworthy. We like the fact that the control is an industrial PC-based control as it integrates well with our existing networking infrastructure. The work offset system in the control is much easier to use than we initially believed. Our previous experience with our older equipment clouded our understanding of how the work offset system should work. Now that a Yamazen technician has given us a demonstration in our facility of how this system should be used, we have evolved our way of thinking in this area saving lines of code in our programs and providing us with a predictable understanding on how the machine will interpret our code.

For additional information and specifications on the Brother SPEEDIO S500X1, click here.