December Cover Story: Tapping into united production processes

Ed Hill discovers more about Yamawa’s comprehensive screw thread machining solutions, used for a wide range of industries and applications. Ed Hill discovers more about Yamawa’s comprehensive screw thread machining solutions, used for a wide range of industries and applications. 

Ed Hill discovers more about Yamawa’s comprehensive screw thread machining solutions, used for a wide range of industries and applications.

The skill of tapping and threading may not be the most glamourous operation in metalworking but it’s undoubtedly one of the most important to get right.

It’s easy to imagine the number of complex components, such as a cylinder head or turbine assembly, possibly made from expensive alloys, that might have to be scrapped because a thread has been machined inaccurately or without the required surface finish. This scenario is even more irritating as tapping is often one of the final operations to be carried out on a workpiece.

This is one reason why Yamawa has evolved down the years to become a cutting tool manufacturer solely dedicated to producing threading solutions for industry. The Japanese company is actually one of the biggest manufacturers of taps, dies and centring tools in the world.

Founded in 1923 by Jokichi Watanabe in Tokyo, the company was the first Japanese tap manufacturer to become ISO 9001 accredited. It now produces approximately 1.6 million tools from four manufacturing plants in Japan per month – used in aerospace, telecommunications, automotive, oil and gas, wind generation, ship building, machine tools, electronic appliances, IT and other manufacturing sectors. However, it would be fair to say that in the UK the brand is relatively unknown.

The company has made significant inroads into Europe. Yamawa has around 1,000 regular customers in the region and in 2016 it set up a new division, Yamawa Europe in Italy where it has a 12% slice of the market.

Antonio Policek, marketing manager at Yamawa Europe explains: “We had existing established distribution channels in Europe but were getting to a critical mass of end users, particularly in the automotive and aerospace industries, where we needed closer proximity to leverage our technical expertise.”

This new set up, headquartered in Venice, means Yamawa has kept all its existing European support and logistic channels but can also more easily provide direct technical support from Japan, including visiting experts to help its customer implement new projects and processes.

Both big and small

Yamawa makes taps and dies for a very broad range of industries and applications. It produces products in sizes ranging from tiny micro roll taps starting at 0.5mm used for electronics products such as smartphones, to massive M80 shell taps, designed for large offshore oil and gas applications.

Taps and dies are produced for all different kinds of materials, from advanced alloys to plastics, meaning many different geometries and coatings are available. It offers both thread cutting and roll tapping tools where the thread is formed by deformation of the surface rather than cutting.

Making such a broad range of products means Yamawa’s manufacturing methods need to be highly customised and its quality control second to none. In fact, the company has its own manufacturing plant dedicated to producing grinding machines in-house to support its specialist area of toolmaking.

“When it came to making products such as our micro taps it was impossible to find grinding machines that could work accurately on something so small,” Mr Policek comments. “This meant we had to design and build our own. We now have more than 1,000 grinding machines at our facilities, 90% made by ourselves. We also have more than 1,200 measuring devices and some of these are also designed and manufactured in-house. This is because every tool has to undergo at least three different quality checks before it leaves the factory.”

The company has more than 20,000 products in its catalogue offered in DIN, ANSI and JIS certification standards. In Europe 90% of its orders can be processed for next day delivery.

UK distribution

Recently the company has signed an exclusive distribution deal in the UK with fellow cutting tool manufacturer Kyocera Unimerco to sell its tools: “We always like to create partnerships with other high-level companies,” Mr Policek says. “Our agreement with Kyocera Unimerco is an ideal fit as they have good market penetration in the UK but do not have any threading solutions in their own product portfolio.”

At this year’s EMO Exhibition in Hannover, Yamawa showcased several new tapping and threading tool solutions.

Its MHSP series of taps are purpose-designed to improve productivity when tapping blind holes in medium-hardness steel components. The taps are primarily aimed at those working in automotive engineering as they offer significantly improved throughput levels when tapping workpieces such as hub bearings, connecting rods, crankshafts, tie rod ends, differential ring gears and swing bearings.

The taps also produce exceptionally high thread finish quality, supported by a medium-high cutting speed capability up to 30m/minute, depending on the type of steel to be machined.

“This family of taps is a significant addition to a range that is already gaining popularity at several important automotive manufacturing hubs across Asia and Europe,” says Alessandro Sorgato, CEO of Yamawa Europe. “Customers enjoy the increase in productivity and repeatability enabled by our unique products.”

MHSP taps will be initially available in sizes from M8 to M16, and will enhance Yamawa’s existing portfolio of solutions for automotive manufacturers. These include its MHSL tools for high productivity through-hole tapping of medium hardness steel and its MHRZ series of long-life forming taps for medium-hardness carbon steel.

Other tool series on display at EMO included its AXE-HT range for high-performance tapping of aluminium alloy castings and MC-AD-CT micro-grain carbide taps with internal coolant holes for blind-hole tapping of aluminium and aluminium alloy castings.

Further innovations on display included the ACHSP family of taps, designed to reduce cycle times when threading cored holes in aluminium workpieces by direct tapping.

“These new ultrafine carbide taps with through coolant can give huge savings in cycle time with much greater reduction in breakages and less vibration,” Mr Policek states.

There was also the newly developed HVSP series of taps for threading large forged parts. Specifically designed to meet the requirements of the heavy engineering and power generation sectors, HVSP taps avoid the chipping issues prevalent in large-scale tapping applications through a new special cutting-edge geometry and an innovative flute design for smooth chip ejection.

Finer threading

Yamawa’s thread-milling, advances were also highlighted with the launch of its PRML ultra-fine, micrograin-carbide premium thread mills. These tools are purpose-designed to enable higher productivity in applications where the use of conventional taps may result in reduced efficiency, or when workpiece design means the risk of tap breakage or component damage is unacceptably high.

The novel design of PRML, with only three threads, allows improved internal thread accuracy and longer tool life. Initial availability will be from tool diameter 3.5 to 9mm, enabling the creation of internal threads from M5 to M12.

“These thread mills are left handed so they operate counter-clockwise to reduce cutting torque. They can create the thread in just one pass with outstanding quality. It means you can save cycle time but still maintain a superb surface finish,” Mr Policek states.

So although it may not be a familiar name in the UK, the Yamawa slogan of ‘Greater prosperity, more united’ is definitely aimed not only towards the company itself but also its customers.

Mr Policek concludes: “From customer surveys we are always ranked as one of the top three tool brands. We can’t always promise to offer the cheapest threading tool but we do aim – based on the application and our analysis – to offer the best specification to enable our customers to save cycle time and ensure consistent quality. This is the most comprehensive and effective way we can help them save costs on their threading tools.”




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