This week Michael (the German technician who came to install our Kern mill), Josh and Andrew went through hell. After four 12-hour-shift days, the installation hit a wall with great force: the laser adjustment tool required for 'final alignment' is still on its way to Sydney. Obviously, this delay will cost us time and money but we are still conservatively optimistic that by the end of next week Kern will be up and running. The preliminary test runs are all good: the hydraulics, cooling system and electrical/electronic commands and the main spindle 3-hour tests are all OK.
The complexity of the system is mind-blowing and we have learnt that no part of the machinery can be regarded as 'auxiliary'. Each component and each parameter is absolutely critical. For example: the oil in the hydraulic system which is responsible for the movement of the main table has to be chilled to an exact temperature of 21.0 C. For that to happen, the Kern is fitted with not one but two “refrigerators”: one which produces a cooling liquid chilled at 11.3C and the other which 'outputs' 17C. The final temperature is then finely tuned within the 3-tonne iron cast base which itself acts as a large capacitor.
Such a fine tuning can be only achieved when one cooler is located as close to the machine as possible, while the other is located as far away as you can place it. The Australian summer is not helping either, with temperatures soaring to 40C inside the factory unit. The amount of heat generated is close to unbearable and in addition, we are drawing so much current. Right now, the entire system is pushed to the absolute limit which means just one thing: Further reconfiguration, more insulation, better pipelines and a further upgrade to the electrical wiring.
One thing that needs to be recognised, and given credit for, is that these guys below are just Aussie kids setting up one of the world's most precise machines. These are the future makers of your watch so don't forget these faces.