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Hurco machines play vital role at Merco

May 14, 2007 Written by 
by Jerry CookIntegrity, honesty, and trust aren’t just empty words to Sergio Bortolussi, president of Woodbridge, ON-based Merco Industries Ltd. Instead, they are the bedrock that the company has built its success upon.
“I’m an open book,” Bortolussi bluntly states. “You have to have the honesty and integrity to say exactly what the job will take. If you want to keep your (name in the marketplace) you have to be able to either say, ‘I am capable of doing this job or say, ‘This job is a gamble for us’. Why should I gamble with my reputation in the market just to take work away from a competitor?’ We have created our niche in the manufacture of small components  and we are very good at it.”
Obviously, given the fact that Merco has increased its sales approximately 40% in the last two years alone, the company is indeed very good at what it does.
However, integrity and honesty are only part of the solid foundation of Merco’s business. Another vital aspect of Merco’s success is the firm’s wide array of Hurco CNC milling machines that it employs.
Since 1986, when Merco installed its first two Hurco table mills, the firm has grown and so has the company’s use of Hurco equipment. At present, the firm has installed a total of 14 Hurco CNC milling machines. Bortolussi estimates that over the years the company has invested a total of $4.5 million in Hurco equipment.
Merco, which began operations in 1972, is a manufacturer of complex, high precision components for the aerospace industry.
In fact, Merco’s slate of customers reads like a who’s who list of the major players in the sector including companies such as Bombardier, Messier-Dowty, Menasco Aerospace, Sargent Controls, Air Ontario, Field Aviation, and many others.
The firm, which is co-owned by Bortolussi and Domenico D’Argento, has 48 employees at its 15,000 sq. ft. facility. Merco works with a wide variety of materials including stainless steel, Inconel, high tensile strength steels, aluminum, brass, copper, superalloys, and others.
At present, Merco is working on some 2,500 different part numbers on a continuing basis.
In addition to its extensive capabilities in CNC milling, Merco offers a variety of other services including CNC turning, grinding, bandsawing, and more. In general, Merco’s production is low-volume with part runs ranging from one-offs and prototypes up to two or three dozen pieces at a time.
Merco’s array of Hurco machines includes six four-axis VMX30 H/T machines, four three-axis VM1 machines, one three-axis BMC 3017 unit, one four-axis BMC 2416 machine, one four-axis VMX 42 unit, and one three-axis VMX24 machine.
In fact, because of Merco’s impressive line-up of Hurco equipment, the machine tool manufacturer uses Merco as a showcase for its equipment in Canada, often bringing potential customers into the facility to demonstrate the machines. ‘We have been a showroom for Hurco for 20 years now,” points out Bortolussi.
From the beginning, Bortolussi was impressed with the Hurco equipment, particularly with the power, simplicity, and flexibility of the UltiMax control package. “The control is the strength of the Hurco machines. Hurco’s control gives us (a level of) flexibility that no other control can give to us. For example, we can program four-axis parts conversationally directly into the machine right on the floor.
“Instead of hiring someone to write programs and then passing it on to the machines on the shop floor, my operators can use the technology and power of the Hurco control to develop any component right on the machine,” he explains.
To illustrate the simplicity and power of Hurco’s conversational programming versus NC programming using G-codes, Bortolussi says that programming one component using G-codes resulted in 1,700 lines of code compared to 70 lines of code using Hurco’s conversational programming.
The Hurco control  offers a number of advantages and benefits, says John Zandona, lead hand at Merco.
“If you are doing the first-off of a very complicated part you have to go through certain segments and make changes and modifications and it is very easy to make these changes on the Hurco machines,” Zandona says.
The flexibility and simplicity of the Hurco control is particularly important given the larger number of parts and components that Merco is dealing with, adds Bortolussi. “Because of the large number of programs that we are already dealing with, if you had to start programming all of these parts offline and then try to make the first-offs and changes (it would be very difficult).”
In addition, Zandona points out that the Hurco control also makes it a simple process to update older existing programs. “It is a simple process to take an older program and change such parameters as feeds and speeds and then edit it again.”
Bortolussi knows how important it is to stay up-to-date with technology. “I want to stay current with the latest software and know that I have machines that guarantee me 100% performance.” As a result,  the company replaces specific Hurco machines periodically with the newest Hurco equipment.
The VMX30 machining centers feature travels of 30 in. x 20 in. x 24 in. The unit’s 24-station automatic tool changer goes from tool to tool in three seconds. The VMX30 features a 10,000 rpm spindle and a powerful 17.7 hp, dual-winding, high-torque spindle motor.
Other features include heavy duty linear rails in all three axes; coolant through the spindle up to 1,000 psi; and linear glass scales in X, Y, and Z. Merco’s VMX30 machines include a high torque package.
The VM1 machine features a large work envelope of 26 in. x 14 in. x 18 in. and a 16-station, automatic swing-arm tool changer. The machine includes an 8,000 rpm spindle and 15 hp spindle motor. Other features include an automatic central lubrication system; heavy duty linear rails in all three axes; and oversized, double nut ball screws.
Because of Merco’s extensive experience with Hurco equipment, training on any new Hurco machines that are installed is a simple and straightforward process, says Bortolussi. “Within two or three hours of installing a machine we can start working on it.”
According to Bortolussi, Merco’s reliance on Hurco equipment isn’t likely to change anytime soon. “I know that our success is based on staying with the Hurco machines. Hurco has always been behind us and supported us.”
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