Throughput quantum leap: tool grinding capability changes the name of the game.



KEO Cutters found itself at a crossroads. The demands of the market meant increasingly tighter tolerances and specifications for the toolmaker. To stay competitive, the Warren, MI, company would have to put itself on the forefront of innovation.

"We have a very strong brand name and we have been making excellent tools for many years, but to compete successfully with new tool designs and larger diameter tools, we knew we needed state-of-the-art capability," says Chuck Curtiss, president of KEO Cutters. "We needed the capability to participate in a range of spaces, including medical, aerospace, off-road, even jewelry making, auto racing, Ivy League universities, automotive, and more."

KEO found that, like many users of machine tools, it had to expand its capability in order to stay competitive against global players. With improved capability comes an ability to increase throughput.

The company had been known for its center drills which are double-ended tools, but in recent years has expanded its product range to include carbide end mills, keyseat cutters, and dovetail milling cutters, countersinks and miniature HSS steel end mills, and specials. Most of the production is high speed steel.

"We focus on the kinds of tools that most other tool makers avoid, but which are very important to users," says Phil Samuels, marketing vice president. "As a result, we have greater volume in these tools than probably anyone else. That's been the case from the beginning in 1941."

Meeting the challenge

The investment KEO Cutters made in equipment has given the toolmaker greater capacity and capability to meet the challenging requirements of its most sophisticated customers.

To accomplish that goal, the company invested in three ANCA TX7+ production CNC tool and cutter grinding centers.

"The ANCAs allow us to produce tools we didn't have the capability to even consider prior to their installation about a year ago," says KEO director of manufacturing Danny Zuelch.

KEO ordered the advanced tool and cutter grinders with Fanuc workpiece loading robots. The robots works with a pallet system at the back of each machine, loading stock and removing finished tools. Each pallet can hold up to 175 and 756 tools, depending on tool diameter, which permits the ANCAs to operate unattended overnight and through weekends.

Provided with a special wrist motion, the robots can flip tools end for end so the machine can produce KEO's double-ended tools...

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