Thermoform tooling is all about surface finish. Thin sheets of heated plastic draw immediate attention to any surface imperfections after the molding process. Thermoform tooling made by O’Neill Components starts with a 20” x 30” x 4” block of aluminum and is cut for up to 80 hours into complicated 3D shapes. The molds are then used in factories (to produce plastic trays for packaging) and bakeries (molding confectionary items). Thermoformed plastics are preferred over wood or glass for food packaging as these plastics are lightweight, flexible, bacteria-resistant, and odor-free and moisture resistant.
As O’Neill Components’ orders for thermoform molds began to exceed their capabilities, owner John O’Neill began looking for a new VMC to add to his shop.
“I chose the KAAST VF-Mill for several reasons,” said O’Neill. “We prefer the Fanuc control, which has proven to be very reliable in harsh conditions. Also, most machines in this class have 20” y-axis travel. The VF-Mill 1100 has a y-axis travel more than 21 inches. That 1”+ can make the difference in taking on that extra job. And, it has a compact overall footprint.”
The way a CNC vertical machining center is built affects the way it performs. With premium-quality components, high accuracy, and attractive price points, KAAST is setting the standards for how to build vertical machining centers.
Featuring advanced design with reinforced body structure through FEM analysis, the VF Series offers superb cutting performance and reduced vibration to meet the highest machining demand. Extra wide machine column and base design ensure high rigidity during high-speed machining.
KAAST machining centers offer options for customers to prioritize performance, rigidity, and/or speed, with machines that excel at each of these priorities. This 3-Axis (4th and 5th axis available) machining center features tempered stress relieved cast-iron frame and class C3 ballscrews for accuracy and durability. All models include a fully enclosed splash guard, 24-pocket tool changer, 10,000 rpm spindle (12,000 and 15,000 rpm available), and an automatic lubrication system, as well as many other features.
Running the newest generation of the Fanuc Series 0i control systems, the VF Series machining centers can receive programming manually, or via USB, CF Card, or Ethernet. O’Neill says the VF-Mill 1100 has performed great.
“I even ran it over the (hot) summer in a room with no A/C, with no issues.”
Most of O’Neill’s projects in the VF-Mill run 60-80 hours continuously. The machine hums along with little to no human intervention needed once the program has begun.
The best indicator of a quality machine for thermoform tooling production purposes is surface finish while running at high speed.
“We’re able to push the VF-Mill a little faster and still get better surface finishes,” he said. “Our surface finishes are excellent and have reduced hand polishing, decreasing our overall production time.”
Another thing they noticed? “We don’t break as many small end mills (.012” – .016” diameter) as we have in other machines.”
O’Neill Components also does many hours of engraving at high rpms in the VF-Mill 1100, and the spindle chiller option included on this machine has kept the repeatability accuracy to +/- 0.004 mm (+/- 0.00015″).
“I am very happy overall,” O’Neill said. “Our sales tech worked with me during purchasing and had a chiller control board expedited to me to replace a board that was damaged in shipping/rigging. I’ve had zero down time since then. No air leaks, no fluid leaks. Our plan for the future is to invest in more KAAST equipment as we need it as we grow.”
The VF-Mill 1100 is just one model of the VF family available from KAAST. For training, tool room workshops, R&D, and model making, the VF-Mini offers a 12-position umbrella tool changer to go with the 10,000 rpm BT40 spindle. Offering 19.7/11.8/15.75” of travel for the X/Y/Z axis and a 25.5×12” table which can hold up to 440 lbs., the Mini brings plenty of brawn to go with ±0.0004/12” positioning accuracy and ±0.0002” repeatability accuracy. A footprint of only 65×94” squeezes this machine into the corner in almost shop.
Allied Europe and Wohlhaupter Added to Allied Machine and Engineering’s Digital Platform
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ACE Provides Free Machine Tool Training
NTMA has endorsed America’s Cutting Edge training program to engage the next generation of machinists and revitalize American manufacturing.