Die-Tech & Engineering built and delivered this die for emergency manufacturing of ventilator pistons to Twin City Die Castings within five days of receiving the die caster’s order. Photo: Die-Tech & Engineering.
A recent episode of the NPR podcast “Planet Money” reported on emergency manufacturing efforts to make ventilator components in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The report described how Michigan die maker Die-Tech & Engineering confronted a die cast part that would typically entail a 12-week lead time, and instead delivered the die fast enough to allow part production to begin within days of receiving the order.
General Motors (GM) facilitated this. The auto maker partnered with Ventec to multiply ventilator production. Making ventilators needed to remain with Ventec (we explain why here), but GM was able to aid the company through its power in supply chain management. Ventec ventilators use 700 component from 80 suppliers. The “Planet Money” report describes how GM’s 80-member supply chain team met to extend and accelerate the sourcing of all 700 parts. Twin City Die Castings, whose typical work is largely automotive, is an example of a supplier the auto maker brought in.
Ventec CEO Chris Kiple is quoted regarding a delay with a supplier in India. “GM had people on the ground in India that night” to fix the problem, he said.
Die-Tech & Engineering is the die maker Twin City enlisted for help with the work. The completed die, with cavities for six pistons per shot, was delivered in five days. Twin City is now producing Ventec pistons at the rate of 20,000 per month.
How complicated industrial manufacturing and component sourcing really is. 700 components go into a Ventec ventilator. But this exploded view shows how many components go into the die for making just one of those 700 components. Photo: Die-Tech & Engineering.
While aluminum molds are commonly used to create prototypes or to serve as stopgap bridge tooling, they are starting to receive greater attention for production work. This shop’s approach to creating aluminum molds in one day to three weeks is the same for each of these situations.
Hard milling allows mold components to be machined in the hardened state, thus skipping several expensive and time-consuming processes such as electrical discharge machining and hand polishing.
Liquid coolant offers advantages unrelated to temperature. Forced air is the fluid of choice in this shop...but even so, conventional coolant can't be eliminated entirely.