Two-Axis Control Increases Batch Sizes

'People are willing to pay a little more in cost to get our kind of quality,' says this shop owner. 'They know their products will be precise and shipped out of our warehouse by noon that same day. If a more custom job comes up, we deliver within four to five days. To get Sinclair International to this level of responsiveness, Mr. Sinclair found the need to introduce CNC machining

Case Study From: 2/15/1999 Modern Machine Shop

Sinclair International (Fort Wayne, Indiana) manufactures products for the precision shooter. Owned and managed by Fred Sinclair, the company makes custom products and small production runs. Currently, 95 percent of Sinclair's business originates from mail order through its catalog.

The company started out because Mr. Sinclair, who was a precision shooter, saw a market for producing custom stainless steel and aluminum accessories for the shooter. "People are willing to pay a little more in cost to get our kind of quality," he said. "They know their products will be precise and shipped out of our warehouse by noon that same day. If a more custom job comes up, we deliver within four to five days."

To get Sinclair International to this level of responsiveness, Mr. Sinclair found the need to introduce CNC machining. "I thought about this decision for over a year: what to buy, who to buy from. Cost was a concern." Mr. Sinclair figured he needed this machine to be competitive, though.

He retrofitted a Lagun knee mill purchased 15 years ago with an Anilam (Miramar, Florida) two-axis control. "When I first started using the control, I would do batches of 20, maybe 50 parts. Now because of the control and the easy-to-use canned cycles we can whip out batches of 100 at a time." The major competitive advantage Mr. Sinclair has is that the control lets him take a canned cycle and vary it just a little to meet the needs of custom jobs. "I would say that about 50 percent of our orders require custom work. It can just be a minor change, which used to be a production problem. Now with the Anilam control, a change here and there is very easy and does not interrupt the flow of job completion."

Mr. Sinclair and his machinists learned how to use the control, which has conversational language, in two four-hour training sessions.

"Another feature we like about the control is the draw graphics," he said. "We do reverse engineering here, from part to art. Most of the time when a customer calls and wants a custom product, we don't have a drawing. With the draw graphics, calculators and canned cycles we can do that product in one-third of the time it used to take before purchasing the CNC."

He continued, "I had a custom request for a ventilation box for a motor. In the past I would have machined the aluminum and cut a square with tin snips and used a screen for ventilation. But the control let me use the bolt hole pattern canned cycle to produce a neater, quicker job that looked a lot more professional."

Mr. Sinclair has been pleased with the support of Anilam. "It's not only a cost savings issue, it's a quality control issue," he said. With the CNC, a machinist can set up a job and walk away to attend to other work knowing the job will be done right.

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