Humanity and Lasting Productivity - YUAN LONG
When we learned that YUAN LONG MACHINERY WORKS has come out with their latest CNC Double Column Router, our team at interwood set out to get a look at the machine in action. But with rampant reverse engineering on the prowl in any shape and form these days, you can't just stroll into a factory and start taking pictures. There are some manufacturers that protect their technology so fiercely that they wouldn't even let us get up close for detailed photographs, let alone fire the thing up and let her rip, so to speak. We had heard that this model YL-15301 could handle 5 x 10 foot sheets of any material non-ferrous, from wood and acrylic to soft metals like aluminum; that its dual column bridge brings super stable travel to X and Y axes; that the Italian high frequency spindle delivers unbeatable accuracy at 24,000 rpm… all the qualities of a high performance CNC router that are standard these days. What we really wanted to see was the application of Teflon, the counter balance system, the incorporation of lasers and pressure micrometer MPG fine tuning system, the things used to achieve fine accuracy not seen on typical setups. After 4 decades of R&D and a broad array of various machine production in its wake, International Sales Manager Mr. Chen agreed to introduce the culmination of the company's amassed expertise. ***Business is on the Rise We've found that it helps to have a chat with the man in charge before asking for what we are really after, which is to get a good look at the machine behind closed doors. Talking with Mr. Chen about business in general, it was refreshing to learn that although orders haven't returned to the level they were at before the economy caved in, business is a whole lot better these days. The company's machines are CE certified; sales to Europe are smooth and orders from the States are on the rise. But the strongest market for YUAN LONG right now is Southeast Asia. A hot topic of late is copycat competition from across the Taiwan Straits. Mr. Chen said that in fact, one reason his machines sell so well is that Chinese manufacturers of similar products sell mostly domestically but that they struggle with sales to their surrounding region. They get a lot of orders from the US as well, because their cheap prices provide a quick fix to a weak economy. Regarding how they compare in quality, well, the machines are "usable", is how it was put. ***Cultivating the Human Side Mr. Chen also acts as one of the directors in TWMA. He helps run the Research and Innovation department. They've been incorporating 3D in their attendance at international trade shows and producing extensive videos of member companies' hottest machines in action. Soon, Mr. Chen says it will be possible for buyers sourcing woodworking machinery to view the videos with the simple click of a mouse, similar to Youtube. Further, extended education for association members is one focus in TWMA, where professors from various universities and industry experts are invited several evenings a week to help better equip industrialists with the tools they need to polish their international business skills. One famous Buddhist monk has even been invited. We asked Mr. Chen what religion has to do with woodworking machinery. He said, "It's not about religion, and it's not about doing big business. It's about the heart. We are working to grow more in touch with both our internal selves and awareness of external social issues. If your whole world is focused on business, the other aspects of you will be empty. Business is pragmatic. Why not cultivate our humanity more so that we can be better business partners, employers and service providers to those who interact with us?" When we look at the trend evolving in Taiwan's slip to fourth in the world for woodworking machine exports and what they are doing to regain the rank of third, many look to the example set by members of EUMABOIS. Europe is renowned for the quality of relationship they maintain with their clients. TWMA sees this as a vital area to develop. ***Nothing Beats Hands-on Experience In fact, Mr. Chen is the man who developed the YL-15301. He grew up in the YUAN LONG factory, and returned after university at the entry level. Years of hands on experience has landed him at the top of the company today but he prefers the humble title that he uses. We asked him to point out some of the guts of his latest CNC router. The main thing is that all three axes travel via high precision ball screws. Other CNC Routers incorporate rack and pinion systems. The problem with this is the unavoidable discrepancy between the teeth. Over time the constant wear increases the gaps and accuracy continues to degrade. With ball screws, there are multitudes of ball bearings fixed in housing, or "nut", which is fixed to the thing that is moving, be it a table, column or spindle head. The housing surrounds a precision ground shaft with helical slots that match the ball circumference. The full surround contact between the slots and bearings provide unwavering stability, and balls are deflected, lubricated and returned to the beginning of the enclosed circuit within the nut. It is a system invented in England and widely used in Europe. Mr. Chen expressed that it is important to build machines that will last. “Granted, some machines have axes that travel faster than our 40 M/min. But they have a lot of down time. While they are having their components swapped out and ours are continuing along at a less furious rate, you add up the output numbers and it pretty much evens out. The difference here is that with ours, your upkeep costs are minimal. YUAN LONG happens to be the first company to incorporate USB connections in their machines. ***Eliminating Headaches He pointed out that he is happy to share his knowledge from extensive R&D experience with others in his industry. "It takes a lot of trial and error to ascertain which combination of guides, servos, spindles and controls work together the best. If one of my competitors asks me what I know or recommend, I tell them. In Europe they work together as a group. For the betterment of our industry on the whole, we need to do that more as well. I am not saying I'll just expose my underbelly to anyone, but I am happy to give my advice if I know it will save them a headache." An example of this is the controls. One way YUAN LONG passes savings on to the consumer is by avoiding the super pricey ones from Japan or Europe that have functions not applicable to routers. He's been through several Taiwanese producers to determine the most reliable system. The one he finally decided on operates on Windows which is very easy to use, ports for internet and USB, auto cycle and single block execution, and most importantly high speed, accuracy and reliability. "If you use a temperamental system, repairs can be a nightmare. You want reliability, because once it's dialed into the machine you never want to need to doubt it." ***Nothing Superfluous With a top quality 9 kilowatt spindle by HSD, ballscrews and linear guides from the infamous HIWIN, and TAI DA servos which are equivalent to top brands in Japan and an auto lube system to keep everything healthy, the YL-15301is built to perform to tolerances after years of service the same as the day it was first put to work. He took us to the factory floor where an engineer was setting one unit up. What a set up. The table made of high pressure laminate on aluminum has vacuum ports every 10cm to both suck the workpiece firmly in place and eradicate dust. The machine does not have an ATC. "Why charge the client for an additional component when you don't need it? Watch this." He pressed a button and the dual columns zipped the spindle right above a row of ER-32 cutters. The tool in the spindle knocked out and dropped into its holder, the spindle shifted over and swooped down to grab the cutter at the far end of the row, and the machine was back cutting within 8 seconds. Lots of force is revolving at 24,000 rpm. So directly above the spindle housing that travels on the bridge between two columns is an air cylinder which counter-balances the flurry pneumatically. ***Put to Action The piece being worked that day was a composite case for a video arcade game. We got to see how they calibrate the cutter height. There is an HDG handwheel which gives minute control of traverse on all 3 axes. He placed something that looked like a spring loaded micrometer under the cutter and gently turned the dial until the needle pointed exactly to zero. "This is how we dial in the exact depth that this particular tool will cut to." He fired up the machine and pointed out the laser safety system. "If it senses anything cross its perimeter, the machine automatically stops." As the spindle zipped around the first task was to machine slots in the material which would accommodate joining parts during assembly. Then it swapped in various other cutters to drill, bore and groove other necessary shapes and last, a very thin cutter was used to cut out the profile shape, thus freeing the complete product up for packaging within 120 seconds. With the remainder of the material still in place, the router set about to maximize its use to make smaller parts of the arcade game. On our way out we asked if there was anything else about the machine that he would like to point out. He pointed to the guideways and asked if we could spot where the countersunk adjustment bolts were. It turns out that the whole guides are coated with a layer of Teflon. Just another example of how YUAN LONG goes the extra mile to bring practical performance and more profitability to the end user.
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