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PNC Boosts Cutoff Machine Performance

With control system upgrade, Modern Machine Tool Company achieves multifunctional performance – without full-blown CNC system

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  • Incorporate additional functionality more cost effectively



  • Achieves turning, boring and simple threading applications within the Rockwell Automation platform
  • Allows the use of the same control platform for all Modern Machine equipment in a plant
  • Improves machine flexibility
  • Simplifies integration, training and operation

Transforming metal into usable components is an age-old challenge. But creating metal parts with the speed, accuracy and flexibility required by modern manufacturing ramps up technological demands for an already exacting process.

Round solid metal bar or tubing is the base material for a vast array of components for products ranging from automotive drive shafts and exhaust systems to home appliances and firearms. Through multiple steps, long pieces of the raw stock are machined to meet specified lengths and other parameters.

“Our cutoff machines are at the front of the line and that’s where the drive for optimal production rates and precision begins,” said Darin Drennan, president, Modern Machine Tool Company. “Our equipment must consistently deliver product to specification or else the entire line could be compromised.” 

Founded in 1916, Modern Machine Tool Company quickly established a reputation for its initial product offering – a hand-operated lathe cutoff machine. Today, the company’s portfolio includes lathe-style, high production cutoff machines for round stock and complementary equipment featuring sophisticated automation technology. The Jackson, Michigan, company serves a global customer base.

Delivering Multifunctional Performance

“Modern Machine prides itself on continually updating and improving our products,” Drennan said. “Years ago, it may have taken three or four machines to do what one machine can do today.”

For cost-conscious manufacturers, multifunctional equipment conserves valuable floor space – and helps improve production efficiency since material does not need to be transferred as frequently.

In a cutoff machine, tool slides and the spindle do the bulk of the work. While the spindle rotates the metal bar or tube, programmable tool slides perform the operations. In a typical application, a single Modern Machine can automatically load, position and cut stock to length. It can also chamfer the outer diameter (OD), turn it on the OD, bore the inner diameter (ID) – and thread the OD or ID depending on specifications.

A Cost-Effective Choice: Programmable Numeric Control (PNC)

For years, Modern Machine relied on dedicated computer numerical control (CNC) systems for its multi-axis, multifunctional machines.

“With our latest control system upgrade, we aimed to meet customer demand for precision and additional functionality more cost effectively,” Drennan explained. “Specifically, our goal was to incorporate simple threading without a full-blown CNC system.”

To achieve this performance, the company standardized on a Rockwell Automation® control platform, featuring programmable numeric control (PNC), which is capable of supporting RS274D part programs. The system is based on an Allen-Bradley® CompactLogix™ controller, Allen-Bradley Kinetix® 5700 servo drives and Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® 525 AC drives. The system is integrated on an EtherNet/IP™ network and monitored on an Allen-Bradley PanelView™ Plus 7 graphic interface.

“We worked with a Rockwell Automation consultant over a four-day period to program the capabilities we needed,” Drennan said. “We now have the ability to perform linear and circular interpolation of our slides – plus turning, boring and simple threading applications on the Rockwell Automation platform.”  

Flexible Performance. Intuitive Operation.

For the vast majority of applications, the PNC solution delivers the machining required – and allows the company’s customers to use the same control platform for all Modern Machine equipment in their plants. 

The robust capabilities of the control platform – combined with easy tooling changeover – also improves machine agility. 

“The ability to run a wide range of parts on one machine is very much in demand,” Drennan said. “Our machines are built for quick, cost-effective changeovers.”

Typically, changing from one stock diameter to another can be completed in less than 15 minutes with minimal tooling. Operators can activate the correct product parameters in seconds from the part program library on the easy-to-use HMI. 

“One of the biggest challenges our customers face is attracting skilled workers,” said Drennan. “The more complex a system is, the harder it is to find and train people who can operate it.”

Drennan added: “By standardizing on a single control platform – and intuitive HMI – we enable easier integration with other equipment in the plant and help our customers address workforce challenges.”

Allen-Bradley, CompactLogix, Kinetix, Listen.Think.Solve., PanelView, PowerFlex, Rockwell Automation and Rockwell Software are trademarks of Rockwell Automation, Inc. EtherNet/IP is a trademark of ODVA, Inc. Trademarks not belonging to Rockwell Automation are the property of their respective companies.


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