Every contract machine shop has its slow times now and then. Fran DeCoste of Cotuit Machine and Manufacturing decided to make the most of his slow time. He combined a love of golf, a little creativity, and a Bridgeport EZTRAK automated mill to produce the Microline golf putter—a product designed to bring new precision to the world of golf.
Mr. DeCoste started Cotuit Machine in 1983 specifically to do precision machining. The Hyannis, Massachusetts company machines stainless steel, steel, plastics, brass and titanium into parts for scientific instruments, particularly for the oceanographic research and pharmaceutical industries. The company operates out of a 2,000-square foot facility in the hub of Cape Cod. Most jobs are prototypes developed from a drawing, modified blueprint or rough sketch, or small production runs of up to 200 pieces. Many jobs require tight tolerances.
Mr. DeCoste purchased the EZTRAK mill from Bridgeport Machines, Inc., of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1995. The automated mill consists of a Bridgeport Series I iron factory-fit with Bridgeport's own two-axis PC-based control. It can be used manually, or part information can be input into the control for automatic operation. A user-friendly interface guides the operator through the entire process. Data is input at the appropriate screen prompts eliminating potential errors. The control then calculates the cutting path and displays it on the monitor for verification prior to cutting. This helps avoid wasted time and scrap metal from operator error.
"Our productivity increased by 50 to 70 percent with the EZTRAK," Mr. DeCoste says. "It's much faster on hole locations, drilled holes and tapped holes, because you don't have to crank handles anymore." EZTRAK's 2D contouring capabilities enable the operator to machine angles and radii without a rotary table. It is also a tremendous time-saver on repetitive work, such as bolt hole patterns, and reduces set-up on multiple parts. "The repeatability is excellent," Mr. DeCoste adds.
The EZTRAK turned out to be the ideal machine for milling the Microline putter. "I love golf," Mr. DeCoste explains. "A couple years ago, we came up with a design for a putter and tried it out on a CNC mill. When we bought the EZTRAK, we found we could make it just as well on the EZTRAK, with less programming time." So, when the company experienced the occasional slow period, Mr. DeCoste spent his time perfecting his design for a precision putter, which is now on the market.
The Microline putter head is machined from 360 brass. The radius along the bottom was the tricky part. "I couldn't make them manually," Mr. DeCostesays. "It would be too time intensive. On EZTRAK, they come out nice and clean—no fall away lines like you'd get from a casting." The heads are then sent out for a proprietary black coating. On return to the shop, the heads are assembled onto True Temper graphite or steel shafts with Golf Pride Tour Wrap grips. The end result is a precision putter that "feels great" and has a "clean crisp design," according to Mr. DeCoste—a sentiment that is echoed by other golfers who have tried the product. Mr. DeCoste has set up a special area at his shop where people can try out the putters.
Microline currently offers eight models—five hard face models and three soft face models. Soft face models are manufactured by milling a pocket out of the brass and filling it with a resin. Putters are available in various weights, in straight and offset models, and with or without hosels. Left hand models are also available. The versatility and repeatability of the EZTRAK made it easy to develop a variety of putters to meet the needs of all types of golfers. The company, which has recently been recognized by the US Golf Association, guarantees that the putter surface is flat to 0.001 inch—not a bad tolerance for "the game of inches."
Mr. DeCoste is very happy with the EZTRAK's performance. He says, "It fits right in with a shop like mine. It's perfect for us." And thanks to the EZTRAK, Mr. DeCoste hopes golfers everywhere will soon be using his Microline putters and saying "it's perfect" for them.