One chilly evening early in 1966, a small group of employees from Ingersoll-Rand Corp.’s home office in Manhattan took a short taxi ride to the South Street Heliport and boarded a “preying mantis” type helicopter for a short hop to Newark Airport. Their next ride was a trip to the airport at Elmira, NY in a Mohawk Airlines turbo-prop. That evening they had dinner in a quaint hotel with the plant manager of I-R’s factory in nearby Painted Post.
The next morning, the group toured the factory where jackhammers, compressors and pumps were made. During the tour, they watched the automatic operation of a large machine that did seven operations. It was controlled by a magnetic tape system that changed tool heads on the machine. The group stood in awe, while the head of the tool went through its paces, whirring, spinning and rotating as different tool bits snapped into place, each doing a specific job. They were seeing space age machining advances in action.
This author was in that group and remembers the feeling of amazement we had watching that huge machine do its thing. Well, taxicabs have changed, helicopters look different, Mohawk Airlines is history, turbo props are probably museum pieces and that 7-function whiz-bang is probably sitting in a tooling equipment junkyard in the desert somewhere between Scottsdale and Tucson.
That doesn’t mean you can’t get that same feeling of amazement from a multi-function machine tool. Just visit the Machinery Row section of the annual PRI Show (www.performanceracing.com) in Indianapolis and you’ll see some mind-blowing whirring, spinning and rotating as machines like the Centroid A560 with CAD/CAM control, touch screen operation and a 24-tool automatic tool changer, machine race car engines and parts before your eyes.
PRI ran for three days and with the crowd of attendees peering through the windows on the big mills and lathes and balancers in Machinery Row, it looked like the opening night of a “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” preview. There were actually lines to get up close to the observation windows and watch engine blocks and reciprocating parts being automatically machined with the help of patented, high-tech articulating heads and digitized probes.
Some of the machines being demonstrated were offered with special show pricing. A Bridgeport 3 Axis CNC Mill Package that included FAGOR 8055-1 3-axis Simultaneous Motion control and 3D Conversational Programming with Solid Graphics was offered for $29,999, a savings of $9,107 off the regular price. The $3,398 of savings on a MSC Vectrax single phase 13 x 40-in. engine lathe with DRO brought the special show price to $10,500.
Rottler had several types of machines on display, including its H85AX CNC Automatic Vertical Honing Machine with Hole-to-Hole Automation and its H85AXY CNC Automatic Vertical Honing Machine with Hole-to-Hole Automation and Block Rollover option. With these machines, the operations were more out in the open so that the PRI visitors got quite a show of modern engine building technology. (Engine Builder readers can see a similar You Tube presentation at https://www.youtube.com/user/Rottlermfg).
Machines & Tools, Inc., brought its TS1000 Blueprint System to PRI. It is designed to machine any block, whether it’s a V6, or V8 or in-line engine. It can do both 90-degree or 60-degree designs on the same setup with no extra fixtures or attachments required. It also boasts more than a half dozen other features including the ability to automatically machine engine parts with g-code programs generated by any cad/cam system an operator might have.
The CWI Industries booth showcased the company’s Multi-Bal 5500, which it says “sets new standards for the balancing industry.” It includes such features as total CNC manufacturing, Third Phase analysis, on machine drill corrections, touch-screen controls, a heavy metal stand and a 4,000-lb. base. Also drawing much interest from PRI’s crowd was the Norcross, Ga., company’s Multi-Bal 5000 Turbo-Charger Balancing machine.
Another Georgia company, Serdi Corp., had a variety of valve seat and valve guide machines on display. The company was giving out an informative 40th anniversary catalog that did a good job of describing all the tools and tool holders it manufactures for engine builders.
For a cool $64,995 you can equip your shop with a VF 2SS Super-Speed Vertical Machining Center featuring a 30-hp vector drive, a 12,000 rpm, inline direct-drive, a high-speed 24+1 side-mount tool changer, 1400 ipm (35.6 m/min) rapids, a 1 MB program memory, a 15-in. color LCD monitor, a USB port, a memory lock key switch, rigid tapping and a 55-gallon flood coolant system. But there was no charge to watch an operator running this contraption in the Machinery Row section of the PRI Show.
Just like engines can be rebuilt, machine tools can secure a new lease on life through the efforts of companies such as H & W Machine Repair & Rebuilding of Ft. Wayne, Ind., which had a refurbished Bridgeport Series 1 Acu-Rite Mill for sale at PRI for $29,000. Additional options were also available for that machine from the same company.