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Demanding Machine Tool Applications Require Modular Solutions

Huron, a French manufacturer of machine tools, has a 130-year history of innovation. Huron's MU Series universal head milling machines have evolved into high-precision 5-axis machines, and its engineering and design departments focus on rigidity of the frames.

"Our frames, which have long been optimized by structural calculations, have proven their quality in field conditions," said Jean-François Killian, head of Huron's R&D and engineering and design departments.

These field conditions are particularly demanding since Huron supplies machines to high-tech industries such as aerospace, defense and precision molding.

The tools used and the forces to which they are subjected during machining are factored into the overall design of each machine. "Companies in these sectors really appreciate the surface finishes and machining precision possible with our machines, particularly when they are used for working hard metals such as Inconel and titanium," said Killian.

Scale is no factor: Huron's 5-axis machines handle small precision instruments and medical prostheses as well as large molds and aircraft structural components.

When it came time to expand Huron's offer by adding new drive solutions to replace, or provide alternatives to, the usual technologies, a meeting with REDEX occurred naturally. "We already knew that REDEX is a French manufacturer known around the world for making high-tech products with outstanding precision," said Killian. "But, when you take a closer look at their machines, you see that they are beautifully designed. The first discussions between Huron and REDEX confirmed REDEX's ability to provide ready-to-use modular solutions that are perfectly suited to the most demanding machine tool applications. Quite simply, our experience with REDEX is that the company reduces risk down to its simplest form."

Once the first project was initiated, Philippe Le Floc'h, REDEX's key account expert for France and Benelux, established close working relationships with his contacts at HURON's engineering and design departments. As usual with applications of this type, the initial goal was to clearly identify the strategic parameters.

"We were quickly able to fully settle all of the specification details together," said Floc'h. "After that, it was the responsibility of REDEX to come in and recommend sizes, options, placement and adjustment methods." An experienced REDEX technician was even posted to Huron to actively participate in the initial set-up and testing.

"The level of technical discussions we have with REDEX is exactly the same as those we have long had with our suppliers of motors, drives and linear measuring systems," said Killian. "As with REDEX, we always choose companies that are world leaders in their fields. In any case, we have direct access to their top business specialists."

For the sake of technical safety, the company chose to fit the very first machines with mechanical preload drive systems. Doing so facilitated mechanical integration very easily and, more importantly, avoided having to change the number of axes managed by the numerical control. Other criteria included substantial savings on the cost of the drive.

One of the advantages of this modular solution was that it could subsequently be fitted with an electrical preload system if necessary. This electrical preload solution was quickly used when required by other machine configurations.

The results were better than expected, and REDEX's solution was immediately implemented on subsequent machines.

The most recent project is for a machine intended for use in aeronautic applications and has a travel length of 18 meters.

"With REDEX's rack and pinion solution, it is only the first meter that really costs," said Le Floc'h. "After that, just add rack segments to increase the length as needed."

Invented and manufactured by REDEX, CubiConcept is a rigid planetary reduction gearbox with a low angular backlash. Entirely built into its own square frame, CubiConcept fits on the main frame of a machine as if it were part of the frame itself.

"By design, rack and pinion drive systems offer a better moment of inertia (lower), higher natural frequency, increased efficiency and overall precision that is independent of the travel length," said a REDEX spokesperson. "One of their greatest advantages is versatility, especially in terms of flexibility over the installed length. Setting up is faster and simpler, resulting in greater reliability, easier maintenance and, at the end of the day, increased TCO.

"Its exclusive design eliminates the usual need for ultra-rigid and precise frame extensions, which are usually required by the use of standard gearboxes. These frame extensions, typically used to support the drive systems, are no longer necessary because they are built into the drive system itself."

As a result, machine design is simplified. Long and costly structural calculations on sophisticated 3-D CAD software are performed, not by users of drive systems, but by REDEX, the supplier of the drive system. The same applies to development campaigns and field tests. In addition, the machining of machine frames involves much simpler shapes that are only related to connection interfaces, resulting in cost savings.

Huron Graffenstaden employs more than 170 people and has three subsidiaries that export as well as a broad network of specialized agents in many countries.

REDEX specializes in high-precision mechanical systems. REDEX manufactures and assembles machines and machine components for industry. Its core business is the building of equipment with micron precision and often weighing several tonnes.

For more information contact:

Andantex USA Inc.

1705 Valley Rd.

Ocean Township, NJ 07712

888-829-5624 / 732-493-2812

Huron Canada Inc.

408 Rue Isabey

Saint-Laurent, Quebec, H4T 1V3


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