Deep Hole Drilling Control

By Sean Hayes, Controls Engineer, UNISIG
Originally posted in Advanced Manufacturing

Like their peers in the manufacturing sector, many deep hole drilling machine OEMs rely on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) controls or reuse systems from other machine tool platforms they produce. This approach is efficient but often fails to provide a user interface designed specifically for deep hole drilling machines. So some deep hole drilling machine OEMs have opted for custom controls that not only enable greater levels of accuracy but also allow for the optimization of the deep hole drilling process itself.

The process requires careful operator supervision, but a well-constructed control can easily display all pertinent data necessary to facilitate the real-time management of drilling performance. To truly optimize the process, controls must allow for fast and easy on-the-fly manipulation of the most important factors in deep hole drilling: thrust load and feedrates of the drill; the tool and work spindle torque; and the coolant pressure and flow.

For machines with COTS technology or a repurposed CNC platform, such changes to or manipulation of the program after starting a drill cycle is all but impossible. With controls designed for deep hole drilling, though, overriding the program is possible during operation and encouraged.

Deep hole drilling professionals are thrilled to be able to make on-the-fly changes to the speed and torque of the spindle, as well as the feedrate and thrust load of the drill. With this fine-grained control, operators can adjust the feedrate and spindle speed to address issues like chip management and the straightness of a hole. Coolant flow can then be changed to optimize chip evacuation for that application.

Additionally, today’s deep hole drilling control systems aid users in finding the balance between job speed and tool life. As they encounter various materials, shops can make carefully graduated changes that either reduce wear on the equipment and/or tool or that shorten cycle times. Alongside spindle torque and thrust load, the coolant type, flow and pressure can all significantly affect tool life.

While controls designed for deep hole drilling allow experienced operators to make on-the-fly parameter changes, the controls also reduce the learning curve for inexperienced operators: Modern controls let users generate programs by simply inputting part and tool parameters. If some of the data is unavailable, the controls feature tools that will calculate such factors as recommended spindle speeds for tool rotation and workpiece counter rotation based on the known data.

Likewise, operators can easily configure a new tool and its offset, import programs over an Ethernet connection and handle other functions through the innovative human machine interfaces (HMI) of today’s controls. Unlike previous generations of drilling machines, current HMI-based solutions present users with all of the data necessary to set up a deep hole drilling operation.

That same simplicity and ease of use makes these systems far more modular. Today’s deep hole drilling machines can easily be upgraded to become fully automated with the help of robots that can transfer materials to other stations. These systems can then easily integrate into cellular manufacturing settings.

Advanced deep hole drilling controls can now even assist manufacturers in protecting their investment with a suite of safety features and fail-safes. Software in the controls can alert operators when problems like dirty filters or metal chips clogging the tool threaten to cause significant damage if not corrected. The software can also keep track of how often tools are used, or when a machine is due for scheduled maintenance, so that shops can make any necessary repairs or replacements with the least amount of production downtime.

Fully integrating the control system with the drilling machine requires building them in tandem. An advanced control’s ability to monitor mechanical processes and provide precise feedback, for example, requires a high-efficiency, low-friction system designed around the control’s motion control objectives. Likewise, coolant pumping systems must have the intelligence to vary the process as operators override parameters, yet be low maintenance and robust for long life. Only machines built around such intelligent control systems, and vice versa, can offer operators the highest level of on-the-fly process visibility and management.



Time to Rethink Resharpening Gundrills

By Eric Krueger and Ryan Funk, Engineering Team, UNISIG
Originally posted in Manufacturing News

The modern gundrill is an engineering marvel, a well-designed piece of equipment that does one thing exceptionally well. A new gundrill will produce round, straight holes with enhanced cylindricity even at its deepest points. And it does all this while simultaneously providing a fine I.D. finish and excellent tool life.

Like all tools, gundrills wear out, typically after drilling around 1,000″. While a talented operator can still drill a hole with a worn gundrill, it will more often result in a loss of hole tolerance and finish at best. As gundrills wear, they require more thrust and torque while producing more run-out and experiencing greater drift. A dull cutting edge will produce irregular chips, which in turn cause spikes in coolant pressure – sure signs that failure is imminent. Continue reading“Time to Rethink Resharpening Gundrills”



Bottle Boring for Deep Profiles | Video

Components such as helicopter rotors and landing gear actuators require internal profiles within deep holes, a challenging process that is further complicated as it is deep within a bore.

Watch the video to follow the bottle boring process become a reality.

Continue reading“Bottle Boring for Deep Profiles | Video”



Deep Hole Drilling Continues to Evolve

By Anthony Fettig, CEO, UNISIG
Originally posted in Manufacturing Engineering

Mention deep-hole drilling, and most people think only gundrilling machines for processing gun barrels. But the fact is that deep-hole drilling applies to a much wider array of workpieces that are typically impossible to drill with common CNC machining centers. Continue reading“Deep Hole Drilling Continues to Evolve”



Building A Mold In Fewer Setups

Originally posted in Moldmaking Technology, March 2014

Mold shops that recognize the potential of technology and equipment, and prioritize both accuracy and productivity will increase their competitiveness in the marketplace. The key is utilizing machines that are engineered to reduce the time-consuming elements of mold manufacturing, increase mold quality, enhance accuracy and eliminate opportunities for human error.

The mold-building process addresses a challenging combination of machining tolerances, further complicated by tedious workpiece setups that enable the machine to interact with the workpiece more precisely across machining and drilling steps.

Machines designed to handle specific moldmaking challenges—such as increasing throughput by eliminating many of the major time-intensive elements involved in creating a mold—are an optimal solution for mold manufacturers looking to gain an advantage. These machines have features that reduce the need for costly fixtures and extended changeovers, and enable a single setup for several machining processes while allowing operations to be performed on all four sides of a workpiece.

A mold on such a machine can be produced using a roughed-out workpiece that is clamped to the table with modular locating components. The part is milled on four sides and drilled at very high feed rates using high-performance gun drills and BTA tools. With the same setup and fixturing, compound angle machining, intersecting bores, pocketing and complex surface milling can be completed accurately and efficiently. Probing for critical features can then be performed. The mold manufacturer saves days in production time.

A capable machine also will meet the high tolerance demands of complex mold profiles. Features contributing to this include a rigid B-axis table that can handle heavy workpieces as well as high moment capacity. Another essential feature is a headstock carrying milling and drilling spindles that can tilt on an A axis without a loss in rigidity, and allows B-axis rotation at extreme angles and larger than typical travels. All of this leads to the elimination of tedious changeover work, which can save valuable time and effort that can then be applied to using advanced technology and creating better molds.

Machines that combine a range of machining and drilling operations, including high-performance milling and deep-hole drilling, can further increase efficiency. These feature multi-axis positioning and are equipped with capable headstocks with geared transmissions, and 50-taper spindles. A deep-hole drilling headstock capable of conventional gundrilling as well as BTA high-performance drilling will be five-to-seven-times faster than gundrilling alone to further increase productivity and maintain accuracy.

Highly productive machines take advantage of opportunities for automating the machining process as well, and they are extremely accurate in dynamic situations regardless of axis orientation. These machines typically are outfitted with several beneficial options, such as glass scales and direct-feedback angular encoders. They also are able to take advantage of volumetric compensation with a standard contouring control. Furthermore, workpiece probing, laser presetting and large-capacity automatic toolchangers allow unattended operation with greater versatility than previously possible. In addition, process feedback further improves a machine’s capabilities by allowing tooling to be pushed to the limit with the assurance of automatic cycle interruption before something catastrophic occurs.


The seamless integration of multiple technologies and operations in a single machine can be advantageous. Parametric 3D programming, sophisticated post processing, tool management and on-machine verification are common in more and more shops as the technology becomes affordable. Capable machines are engineered to optimize this technology, and this in turn drastically improves the process that competitive mold manufacturers use to succeed.

mold machining

The UNISIG USC-M50 is a capable, durable machining center that combines accurate deep-hole drilling with machining capabilities, enabling moldmakers to perform many necessary machining processes with one setup while maintaining the accuracy required for mold manufacturing.

The USC-M50 machine performs high-speed face milling on a large mold at Concours Mold’s plant in Ontario.

mold manufacturing

Deep hole drilling is performed on a mold at Concours Mold.