"We're working toward a different definition of what part families can be," says Jeff Ervay, lathe product manager at Hardinge (www.hardinge.com), Elmira, N.Y. "We're seeing a series of part families that all work together within the same size range, or cube, and similar tooling, all fitting in one machine."
This kind of flexibility allows manufacturers to "not think in part numbers or part families, but how many part families they can group together," Ervay
says, so in the end, a "part family" could consist of widely diverse parts.
For example, the traditional part family might include parts that are X long and Y wide.The dimensions might be scalable by about 20 percent or so and include a variety of operations, but the flexibility usually stops there.Using flexible, modular machining, "we might have a part that's 2 inches long with 30 cross-working holes, but tomorrow, another part within the same family, using the same or similar tools, could be 6 inches long and have all end-working holes," Ervay
Since the introduction of the prototype last year, a faucet manufacturer has become one of the technology's early adopters.The company was looking to "eliminate a bank of machines," Ervay
"It's a brass part, so there's a lot of expense in the material alone," Ervay
says, along with material handling.Today, more material and manufacturing costs are centralized in one machine-instead of many.