Baker Machining and Mold Technologies, Inc. (Clinton Township, Michigan) began in 1992 as Baker Duplicating. Kevin Baker started the company in order to fill the need for high quality mold components made from models delivered in the shortest amount of time possible. For Mr. Baker, high quality meant that his molds had to have an excellent surface finish—one that was smoother than the already-established competition. As a result Baker's customers saved time, as they needed to perform less polishing of the mold inserts.
However, soon it became apparent that the industry was changing, and Baker would have to change with it. Fewer duplicating services were needed because more commonly the models were being produced digitally using one form of Computer Aided Design (CAD) software or another. Mr. Baker was aware of the changing tide within the industry and decided to embrace it head on in order to grow his business.
After investigating several different possibilities for growth, Mr. Baker decided to start milling the digital CAD models also. This meant that Baker Machining would need to purchase a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) milling center as well as a CAM software package to run on it. Again, to differentiate his business, Mr. Baker decided the company's CNC mills should be large enough to handle most automotive mold inserts and accurate enough to provide the surface finish that his customers had come to expect.
The decision was made to purchase several new vertical milling machines. This choice struck a good balance among size, rigidity, accuracy and price. With these mills, Mr. Baker believed the company would get fast turn around time on parts, as well as maintain a high degree of accuracy and surface finish. This left the task of picking out and purchasing a CAM package to program the digital CAD models on his mills.
Mr. Baker wanted a CAM system that could mill complicated parts, but he also wanted one that would work with all of Baker's data sources and be capable of working on larger data sets. "Our customers all had different CAD systems, depending on which supplier they got the majority of their work from," says Mr. Baker, "and in many cases they were using separate software for their mold design and different software yet for their CAM needs."
After some investigation, including demonstrations from several different CAM software vendors, Mr. Baker decided to evaluate WorkNC, available from Sescoi USA (Southfield, Michigan). "WorkNC was the only software that came in, worked on our largest and most difficult data and actually milled the part in front of our own eyes," he says. It was shortly into the evaluation process and training that Baker Machining was in for a couple of pleasant surprises.
Originally, the criteria for the new CNC department was to work with different CAD sources, on larger-than-average sized parts, all the while providing high surface finish quality and fast throughput. What Baker didn't expect was that WorkNC would be so easy to use and reliable. The company decided then that it did not need a separate CAM department.
Because the software was so easy to use, Baker Machining placed the WorkNC software right next to the mills on the shop floor. The mill operators who have the machining experience actually run the CAM software and get instantaneous feedback on the actual part. This strategy allows the mill operators to mill and the CAD designers to design without constant interruptions between the two departments.
Over time, the mold components that were being cut became more difficult; part consolidation meant they contained more pockets with greater complexity in the contoured shapes. Correspondingly, this often meant more run machining time on the mills. At the same time, the confidence that Mr. Baker placed in the milling machines and CAM software was growing. "Every day we were getting harder parts, and every time we threw a complex part at it, WorkNC would create a tool path. It is absolutely bullet proof." Because Baker had built up so much confidence in the process of mills, tools and software, the company began running its machines unattended. As Mr. Baker explains, "the payment to the bank for the mill is the same whether you run it 8 hours a day or 20 hours a day, so you might as well run it 20."
Baker Machining estimates that its per-job efficiency has dramatically increased for the following three reasons: shopfloor programming, unattended milling and reliability that has dramatically reduced costly mistakes that require re-work. Mr. Baker adds, "I run the machines at night and am able to get a good night rest at the same time."
Where Baker Machining started with three employees, it has now grown to employ 12. Baker has ten CNC mills and four licenses of WorkNC for creating tool paths for the CNC mills. Baker had one last problem: The company had changed with the industry, but its name had not, so Baker Duplicating became Baker Machining and Mold Technologies, Inc. Now with a new name, an eleventh mill on the way and a CAD department all within a 10,000-square-foot facility, Baker will be looking for some more room to grow not only its ideas, but its facility as well.