Machining More Than Meets The Eye

Manufacturing parts that may be smaller than the chips generated during machining requires more than just the right cutting tool and machine. It requires a micro-mindset that focuses on all aspects of tiny parts processing--handling, inspection, finishing and assembly.

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This micro-mindset is essential to successfully serving medical customers, in particular, because these companies continue to ask more of their small parts suppliers than just delivering individual components on time and on spec. Increasing numbers of medical companies want to take delivery of subassemblies, not just parts, because assemblies are much easier to manage.

Miltronics & Skye knows the drill. The Mentor, Ohio contract shop has specialized in manufacturing medical parts for over 10 years. A significant small-parts machining knowledge base allows the company to help customers in the early design stages by suggesting changes that will simplify manufacturing. Customers also reap the benefits of the shop's small-parts manufacturing competitive advantages, which lowers production costs and allows faster time to market for new medical devices.

Split Shop

M&S shares a 90-employee facility with Trust Technologies, a sister company that serves the aerospace and industrial gas turbine industries. The Trust Technologies side of the shop has a variety of vertical machining centers (VMCs), lathes, five-axis machining centers and turn/mill machines to process more standard-sized parts, many made from high-temperature alloys. The M&S half of the facility is dominated by Swiss-style lathes (11 in all), but also has a handful of VMCs producing small, complex medical components in stainless and titanium.

The small-parts machining capabilities that M&S offers its medical customers have been tapped by Trust Technologies to win new aerospace work. One example is a turbine engine nozzle with a triangular base, in which each base length measures approximately 0.25-inch. This part is machined complete on an L-25 Swiss-style lathe from Marubeni Citizen-Cincom(Allendale, New Jersey) and features a central through-hole that has a diameter of 0.008 inch and three slots that measure 0.009 inch wide.

It's no small task to machine small parts with small tools. And the actual machining is only one piece of the micro-parts manufacturing puzzle. A number of other processing issues loom large when manufacturing on a miniature scale. Machine shops that have carved a niche in this segment tend to possess a different mindset from that of "traditional" shops in terms of their approach to part and tool handling, inspection, and secondary operations, as well as assembly of parts that can be smaller than the chips generated during machining.


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