We will probably not buy any 3-axis machines in the future. Building off the success of our first 5-axis CNC, the Hurco VMX42SRTi, our next four to five machines will be 5-axis CNCs because we do not want to take parts in and out of the machine as we had to do on our 3-axis CNCs. We want to keep both our parts and machines running.
Rick Williams – Qualitex Inc.
Qualitex, Inc., located in Columbia City, IN, is a full-service gauge and fixture manufacturer that specializes in inspection services, gauges, fixtures and tooling. Founded in 1993 by Rick Williams, Qualitex has grown from a small shop to a company with over 20 employees and 30 machines housed in a 16,000 sq. ft. facility. The company is ISO 9001:2015 certified and holds ISO/ IEC 17025 accreditation.
Qualitex customers are some of the largest companies in the world and include Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 OEMs that serve primarily the automotive industry and orthopedic sector in the medical industry. These industries largely deal with tool steel and tight tolerances. Qualitex currently has nine Hurco CNC machines, with the latest purchase being a Hurco 5-axis VMX42SRTi that has taken Qualitex to “a whole new level,” according to owner Rick Williams.
Williams began his career path in high school at an automotive metal stamping facility running punch presses. After graduation, he transferred into the quality department where he learned customized programming and how to run CMMs. While attending college, Williams continued working and was promoted to quality engineer and eventually quality manager, overseeing a tool and die facility of over 80 employees. He worked directly with OEMs, such as Chrysler, GM, Toyota and Ford, on die runoffs and gauge programs. This led to Williams being responsible for all gauge quoting and design/build activities for the company.
Williams then ventured out and started his own CMM inspection/gauge and fixture company in 1993. When asked why he chose Hurco CNC machines when he started his new business, he identified three primary reasons:
- The fast return on investment (ROI) of Hurco CNC machines
- The ability to close the skills gap due to Hurco’s conversational programming control feature
- The experience he had with Hurco CNC machines when he worked for the aforementioned tool and die facility.
While dealing with production demands and today’s shortage of expertise, Williams has noticed firsthand the difficulties many shops are having when it comes to hiring employees. For Qualitex, the Hurco WinMax control has been a key asset to closing the skills gap. “My operators and the people I have trained on Hurco CNC machines take to it right away,” he said. “Our onboarding time, as far as bringing in a new employee and getting them trained, is usually about a week to a week and a half. If they have any experience in programming whatsoever, they take to Hurco CNCs faster than any other piece of equipment I have ever bought. We have about 30 pieces of equipment and the Hurco machines seem to be the easiest for employees to learn.”
Williams attributes this quick learning curve to conversational programming, which Hurco invented in 1976. “Hurco makes it easy with conversational programming,” he said.
“You do not have to program everything in NC or need a CAD/CAM system to do it. Our biggest thing with Hurco is we can take things from engineering and go straight to the machine and in a few minutes we are up and running. We are not having to run it through a CAD/CAM system, we are not having to do the NC code and we can be up and running quickly.”
Ben Thompson, a CNC machinist at Qualitex, agrees that conversational programming on the Hurco control is a key advantage. He said, “I used to utilize a lot of CAD/CAM software where you have to edit G-code and M-code. With the conversational control on the Hurco CNC machines, you can go straight to a line and change what you are doing, such as the depth, speeds and feeds. It is all right there. You are not having to go back and get a programmer to fix what you are doing.”
Thompson further elaborated that the mirror image/rotate feature on the Hurco control has been most helpful: “We do a lot of rotating where the DXF comes out and we have to rotate the views; it is just a lot easier to do it right at the machine,” he said.
From a business perspective, Williams said Hurco provides the best ROI: “The greatest advantage I find in buying Hurco CNCs is the return on investment. They are an affordable machine and that is why I keep buying them. I can get them up and running and make money with them fast. With this competitive market, I can buy more Hurco CNCs for the money to fill the volume and the capacity that we need.”
While the fleet of Hurco CNC machines at Qualitex is comprised mostly of VM10i and VM20i 3-axis mills, Williams recently graduated to 5-axis machining with Hurco and said it has taken his shop to an entirely new level. Not only has the 5-axis CNC eliminated set-ups with the ability to complete 5-sided machining on parts they typically would run on a 3- axis machine, but it has also allowed Qualitex to provide simultaneous 5-axis machining capabilities for complex parts.
Williams said, “We will probably not buy any 3-axis machines in the future. Building off the success of our first 5-axis CNC, the Hurco VMX42SRTi, our next four to five machines will be 5-axis CNCs because we do not want to take parts in and out of the machine as we had to do on our 3-axis CNCs. We want to keep both our parts and machines running.”
The Hurco product line of 5-axis CNC machining centers can produce a vast amount of intricate shapes and parts, which is one of the reasons Williams decided to purchase his machine. “We were doing a lot of set-ups on our 3-axis machines—compound holes, a lot of different shapes and axes that we could not get to—so we decided to purchase a 5-axis CNC. Our Hurco 5-axis CNC has taken us to a whole new level that at least in northeast Indiana is not there. We are going to fill that gap for our customers.”