When I am interested in writing about a new type of machine tool, I like to visit a shop or plant that has a representative model in place. Getting this user’s perspective is more objective and more relevant than just picking up info from other proponents. Writing the article is more fun, too.
So typically, I talk to plant managers or shop owners on-site well after they’ve got the machine installed. Of course, the application has proven a success by then—otherwise I wouldn’t be there.
Late this summer, I had the chance to be with two shop owners BEFORE their new machine was delivered. In fact, I was with them to see the machine under construction. It was a novel experience for me and I got some insight into what shop owners think about during this period. I was reminded that entrepreneurs are risk-takers. As bright as the future might look at that point, there are no guarantees that everything will go as smoothly as planned or that any machine will be a spectacular success. Being obsessive about practical concerns is not a flaw.
Mike Knier and Rich Marx are partners who own Infinity EDM, LLC (www.infinityedm.com), a job shop in Jackson, Wisconsin (north of Milwaukee) that specializes in wire electrical discharge machining (EDM). They bought an FA50 wire machine from Mitsubishi EDM (Wood Dale, Illinois www.mcmachinery.com). The factory in Japan invited them to see the machine, which is exceptionally large, as it was being assembled. A special riser in the Z axis makes it the largest of its kind to be delivered to a U.S. shop. I was asked to go along to see this unusual machine for myself.
One of the urgent topics of discussion that arose during the meetings with the factory engineers was the exact width of the finished machine. The delivery door at Infinity is 12 feet wide. Layout drawings of the machine showed that its dimensions are within inches of this width. The concern was that some attachment or fitting might actually stick out a little further than expected. Mike and Rich wanted to be sure that a possible clearance problem was discovered and resolved before the machine was on their lot.
Inspections and checks with a tape measure in the assembly bay proved reassuring. No doorframes or walls will have to be moved.
Of course, Rich and Mike have a clear idea of how this new machine will advance their business strategy. That will be the focus of my article, but I’m not ready to start writing it yet. I’m waiting to see this machine again once it’s in their shop later this year.