Cutting Tool Manufacturer Grows on Diversification, Automation
A new, heavily automated facility helps Tool-Flo supply new customers with grooving, threading and other indexable cutting tools.
In addition to consolidating operations from four facilities to one, Tool-Flo’s new 88,000-square-foot indexable cutting tool manufacturing plant in Houston, Texas offers room to grow. More specifically, it offers room to automate.
As seen in the photo gallery above, many investments have already been made. Lines of new insert grinders incorporate robot-arm tending so that one person can supervise multiple machines. Processes previously performed manually have also been automated, and new machining resources are available to cut tool bodies.
Much of the company’s recent growth has been driven by diversification into new markets, says Charlie Mendez, advertising director. He credits membership in the IMC Group, a 13-member conglomerate of carbide cutting tool manufacturers, for helping the company expand its focus beyond energy and its customer base beyond Houston, and for helping facilitate investments in facilities and equipment.
Consolidating the operation brings benefits as well. Productivity, lead time, quality and service are expected to improve, as are internal communications between sales, engineering and manufacturing. Scroll through the photo gallery above for a look inside the new plant.
Programming a robot with the same CAM software used for a multi-axis machine tool makes it unnecessary to “teach” the robot by jogging it manually from point to point and recording these point-to-point moves as the robot’s motion commands. Robotmaster is a software package that provides this CAD/CAM-based, off-line programming for robots. It runs fully integrated inside Mastercam CAM software for CNC machine tools.
Finding a way to fixture contoured marine propellors proved to be this shop’s biggest challenge in developing an effective automated machining cell.
As the novel coronavirus presents challenges for manufacturers and new opportunities for suppliers, manufacturers should not miss the chance to strengthen their supply chains.