CAD/CAM Helps New Shop Use Material Resources Wisely

Starting a new machine shop can take a lot of time, money and work, and even so, there is no guarantee of success. One new job shop/production shop in Santa Rosa, California, is relying upon high technology as the solution.

Case Study From: 7/1/1996 Modern Machine Shop

Starting a new machine shop can take a lot of time, money and work, and even so, there is no guarantee of success. One new job shop/production shop in Santa Rosa, California, is relying upon high technology as the solution.

Shane Jacobson and Bernard Meisinger started J & M Machine in late February, without any prearranged jobs and few contacts. Within three months, they have managed to net eighteen percent of their initial opening costs. They attribute this encouraging start to their machining experience and the right choice in CAD/CAM software.

Mr. Jacobson and Mr. Meisinger had worked together in different machine shops over the last three years, often discussing how to make orders more profitable or easier. Finally, they realized that if other machine shops could produce work and prove profitable, they should be able to improve the processes and do as well themselves.

After three months of planning and discussion, they began purchasing manual machines, support equipment and tooling. Within another three months they had rented a warehouse, purchased a milling center, and waded through all the required paperwork. They also selected Geopath for Windows CAD/CAM software (from Solutionware, San Jose, California).

Mr. Jacobson and Mr. Meisinger were first introduced to Geopath working at another company. They were impressed with the speed, power and versatility that the CAD/CAM system offered, and Mr. Jacobson purchased his own copy.

Having CAD/CAM software that had all the right tools to get the job done, with good customer support, made a marked difference when it came time to open the doors of their new business.

Their first job came from a race car component manufacturer. The order was for suspension components--as soon as possible, for they had other orders they needed to fill. The catch was that they did not have prints. The parts to be made came from an existing design but needed improvements. J & M were asked if they could work from a finished part.

At first, they were hesitant. "Looking at the part, an angled, radiused and pocketed nightmare, we wondered if we could even do the job. Tooling and cutting it would be difficult..." Mr. Jacobson stated.

By using a combination of test indicators and edge finders on their machining center, they were able to make enough accurate measurements to plot the part on their Geopath CAD/CAM and reverse engineer it. From there they worked closely with the customer's representative to modify the created print. Geopath allowed them to make new redesigned prints, and to produce the new parts out of aluminum 2024 T-4 stock, two at a time.

There was another problem to address. Due to the shape of the suspension component, they found that no matter how they cut the part, there would be a large percentage of wasted material in the center. Looking over it, they realized that a clamp they were going to make could be machined out of otherwise wasted material.

Mr. Jacobson describes how they solved it. "Because of Geopath's versatility, we quickly programmed the second part and spliced the graphics programs together. Now we were simultaneously making a different part in the center of the fixture in the same setup, out of would-be-scraps, flawlessly."

"Not only were we able to reverse engineer and redesign the part using Geopath CAD/CAM graphics, we bid the job perfectly due to the time estimate feature of Geopath. The job that we feared could be a loser was a winner, not to mention the extra income produced by the secondary parts. Even the parts we used for set-up were deemed acceptable. As a start-up shop, the power of Geopath allowed us to out-perform the large established machine shops in the area," Mr. Meisinger stated.

Where do they want to go in the future? They just landed two large production contracts and they are beginning the process of shopping for a lathe to complement their mill. They anticipate a seventy-five percent increase in business with the addition of the second machine. They reached this number by the amount of turning jobs currently being offered to them, and their confidence in the manufacturer's products and the ability of Geopath to interface with this brand of controls, is said to give them a more competitive edge.

What advice would J&M offer to other machinists who want to start their own shop? They find that the key elements are ease and accuracy of programming; reliable, state of the art machinery; and a lot of hard work. And although starting a business requires a lot of skill and dedication, they were glad to have help from Geopath.

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