Engineers love new ideas and new ways of doing things. But they love old ones, too: those uncelebrated, under-appreciated manufacturing techniques, for example, on which the modern world depends. Italian company, Termomacchine Srl, uses the latest Haas CNC machine tools to make turnkey heat induction systems for clients around the world. Heat induction is a technique almost as old as the industrial revolution itself. And yet, it’s used in manufacturing everything from silicon chips to airframes for fighter jets.
Some of the most commonly employed manufacturing techniques have been used in industry for decades, sometimes centuries. Take, for example, induction heating. The phenomenon was discovered by French physicist Leon Foucault in the mid-nineteenth century – “induce” an alternating current in a conductive object, such as a ferrous metal component, and it heats up! The applications, especially in modern manufacturing, are myriad.
Based in Piedmont, northern Italy, Termomacchine Srl, has been perfecting induction-heating systems for industrial use for more than 40 years. The company is still run by its founder, Bruno Gili, who, despite being camera shy, is never reluctant to take the spotlight for the sake of his business and its 80 employees.
“We try to do as much manufacturing in-house as possible,” he says. “Quality is everything for us – and for our customers, most of whom are very well-known companies, in Italy and overseas. We have departments for engineering electrical and electronic systems, mechanics, metallurgy, and quality assurance, of course. Our products are shipped to around 95 countries.”
Most of the company’s orders are for one-off, bespoke, turnkey machines and systems. So, there’s little call for large batches of parts or, therefore, three-shift machining. “We need versatile, simple, reliable machine tools,” says Mr. Gili. “Speed is not particularly important. And, we’re not competing with China or low-cost countries; we have a great deal of expertise, which we apply at all stages of a project, from sales to design, through to service and support.”
Bruno Gili has worked with machine tools his entire professional life. In that time, he, like many of his peers, has seen the technology change beyond all recognition – from the advent of tape-based control, to primitive NC, to full multi-axis CNC. When he sings the praises of a particular piece of equipment, he doesn’t do so lightly or without good reason. “We bought a Haas DT-1 Drill/Tap machine,” he says. “It runs 10 to 12 hours a day cutting aluminium, copper, stainless steel, and even plastic. It’s a truly excellent machine: always reliable, always accurate. It’s a real jewel!” The company also has a Haas TL-2 Toolroom Lathe – which it bought for one particular order. Its latest acquisition is a Haas ST-30Y.
“That machine has very useful capacity,” he states. “Although I said we try to make everything in-house, there are some parts we still subcontract. With the ST, we can, hopefully, bring them back so we have more control over quality and delivery.” The ST-30Y is designed to provide heavy cutting ability, extreme rigidity, and high thermal stability. It has a maximum cutting capacity of 457 x 584 mm, with maximum swings of 806 mm over the front apron and 527 mm over the cross slide.
The ST-30Y also has high-torque live tooling and a servo-driven C-axis for 4-axis cutting. Mr. Gili repeats that versatility is key at Termomacchine, where each new order is different to the last: “And, we don’t make spare parts for stock,” he adds. “We’ll make a new part when the need arises. It’s about speed and the part being right the first time. We have 2000 machines already in the field, so keeping a stock of spares would be impossible, very expensive.”
Thankfully, Italy is a country with many companies just like Termomacchine: specialist, quality-obsessed, with an eye on the future but, just as importantly, with a trust in “old,” reliable techniques that may be uncelebrated, but never cease to be vital in modern manufacturing.