Sinumerik CNC ensures high-quality guitar craftsmanship

Fryer Machine Systems supplies an American guitar builder with milling machines for the production of high-quality guitars. Right-angle head compensation is essential to the accurate, repeatable milling of guitar necks — an easy task for the Sinumerik 840D CNC on board Fryer machines.

The challenge of repeatable product performance is not new to C.F. Martin & Company. Six generations ago, company founder C. F. Martin Sr. was confronted with managing a guitar-making enterprise that was producing totally handcrafted guitars, one by one, with little means for standardization. Since those days, guitar legends such as Gene Autry, Eric Clapton, John Mayer and new-comers Ed Sheeran and Hunter Hayes have relied on ­the consistently distinctive tone, treble and bass specific to Martin acoustic guitars. When Martin learned that its previous machine tool builder had exited the market, the company turned to Fryer Machine Systems for new machines to cover a production increase and seized the opportunity to upgrade the control technology with Sinumerik CNCs.

Larry Fryer (left) and Mark Bickert from Martin Guitar are satisfied with Siemens CNC technology, service and part quality.

Larry Fryer (left) and Mark Bickert from Martin Guitar are satisfied with Siemens CNC technology, service and part quality.

Hands-on support in customizing the CNC

“We use right-angle head aggregates in our CNCs,” explains Mark Bickert, engineering project manager at Martin. “We needed to find a machine builder that could give us right-angle head aggregate capability in conjunction with right-angle head compensation and a high-rpm spindle.” Fryer Machine Systems has earned a reputation for building reliable production machines that come with unexpectedly advanced features and functionality. The company happens to be the largest purchaser of Siemens controls in the United States, and the customizable aspects of a Fryer machine can often be attributed to the versatility of the Siemens controls on board. This time, however, Martin needed to be certain that the new Fryer machines would perform as expected.

“Anyone can sell you a machine with a controller on it and say, ‘Here you go,’” Bickert says. “But that’s not what happened this time. We were buying a machine through a Fryer dealership, and the machine had a Siemens control. Siemens invested their time in us during our transition and set-up. They really excelled.”

Bickert says a potential constraint to the transition was that all-new milling programs might need to be written for the Fryer machines, including the right-angle head cutter compensation programs, which were essential. “Siemens not only gave us the right-angle head cutter compensation we wanted and the ability to do it properly, they also helped write the programs,” Bickert says. “They took the programs that we already had for cutting parts on our existing machines and reconfigured them to work in the Fryer machine with the Siemens controller.”

Guitar body castings now also machined in-house

Having made a smooth transition to the company’s new Fryer-built machines last year, Martin has not skipped a beat in its ability to perform right-angle compensation milling. Martin now has eight Fryer/Siemens machines, utilizing one for the guitar maker’s tooling and machinery operations and seven for various other guitar production operations. It is here, behind the scenes, that the company’s machinists reside and modern CNC technology and Old World craftsmanship come together to create the fixtures, tools and wherewithal that contribute to the mastery of Martin guitar making. It is also here that ­Martin found a way to bring previously outsourced operations in-house, a step that has improved repeatable production quality while reducing production costs. “The machining of our castings had been another hurdle for us,” says Terry Kline, Martin’s manager of tooling and machinery. Until the company invested in the Fryer machines with the Siemens controls, Martin had outsourced the machining of its guitar body castings, with inconsistent results. “Now we’re holding close tolerances on our guitar body castings,” Kline says. “The quality of the castings is consistently accurate.”

CNC technology meets craftsmanship

On a daily basis at Martin, Kline sees what is possible when CNC technology and craftsmanship work together. “Without CNC technology, we’d be still carving out all our necks by hand, and that’s just not efficient enough to compete in today’s world,” he says. The intersection of technology and craftsmanship has come naturally for this 180-year-old guitar company, without one side compromising the other. “I think every manufacturing company needs to ­embrace technology,” says Kline. “Technology and craftsmanship go hand-in-hand. People are amazed by how much handwork still goes into our guitars. We’ll build a neck and a body and then assemble the two elements together, which makes that guitar come to life.”

Right-angle head compensation is essential to the accurate milling of guitar neck components. The function requires the sophisticated Sinumerik 840D sl CNC and ShopMill software from Siemens. Guitar image courtesy of C.F. Martin & Company.

For more information on this story, please contact:

SIEMENS INDUSTRY, INC.
DRIVE TECHNOLOGIES –  MOTION CONTROL (MACHINE TOOL BUSINESS)
390 Kent Avenue
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Phone: 847-640-1595
Fax: 847-437-0784
Web:  www.usa.siemens.com/cnc
Email:  SiemensMTBUMarCom.sea@siemens.com
Attention:  John Meyer, Manager, Marketing Communication

Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SiemensCNC or Twitter:  www.twitter.com/siemens_cnc_us.

Siemens Industry Sector is the world’s leading supplier of innovative and environmentally friendly products, solutions and services for industrial customers. With end-to-end automation technology and industrial software, solid vertical-market expertise, and technology-based services, the sector enhances its customers’ productivity, efficiency and flexibility. With a global workforce of more than 100,000 employees, the Industry Sector comprises the Industry Automation, Drive Technologies and Customer Services Divisions as well as the Metals Technologies Business Unit. For more information, visit http://www.usa.siemens.com/industry.

The Siemens Drive Technologies Division is the world’s leading supplier of products, systems, applications, solutions and services for the entire drive train, with electrical and mechanical components. Drive Technologies serves all vertical markets in the production and process industries as well as the infrastructure/energy segment. With its products and solutions, the division enables its customers to achieve productivity, energy efficiency and reliability. For more information, visit http://www.usa.siemens.com/drivetechnologies.

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