MMS Blog

Shop Starts Work on Custom Drill for Ventilators Before Purchase Order Came

It’s not every day that the shopfloor workers decide to run a job before the owner has gotten the purchase order, but the coronavirus pandemic makes for interesting times. “My guys had started putting the job together before I finished filling out the quote,” says Mark Delaney, operations manager at Nicholas Precision Works (NPW), an Indiana toolmaking shop. “I just said, ‘Okay, I guess we’re making the parts whether we get paid or not.’”

Mr. Delaney has been a toolmaker since 1984, working for numerous companies for years before coming to NPW. In the past, he’s made cutting tools or stealth bombers and nuclear submarines. An old hat in the toolmaking world, Mr. Delaney feels his experience complements the programming skills of his younger employees. “We butt heads a lot,” he says. “Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re just making more work for themselves.” The give-and-take between the different approaches helps the shop perform at its best, he says. However, in early April, he let his younger workers take the lead for a job.

Die Maker Describes Five-Day Build for Tool Urgently Needed for Coronavirus Ventilator Production

William Berry, president of Die-Tech & Engineering, says the process for rapid die building as described in an article about Die-Tech by Modern Machine Shop proved essential for building and delivering a die within five days that was urgently needed for making ventilator components in response to the coronavirus crisis. Indeed, showing that article to the customer as a way to explain his shop’s distinctive process helped Die-Tech win the job, Mr. Berry says.

The customer now using the die is Minnesota die caster Twin City Die Castings. The die makes ventilator pistons. Twin City’s request for quotation demanded a delivery lead time for die tooling of five weeks — much tighter than typical tooling lead times. Mr. Berry phoned the company and reports that he said, “You don’t have five weeks. You need the die basically now.”

Aerospace Supplier Shifts to Tight-Tolerance Ventilator Parts:

“We’re not doing this to make money, we’re doing this to save lives,” says Dodd Russell, CEO at Skilled Manufacturing Inc., a Tier 1 aerospace and automotive supplier located in Traverse City, Michigan.

Mr. Russell got the call from one of his major automotive customers on a Saturday morning asking if his company could help churn out 6061T aluminum parts destined for ventilators. Within an hour, he had 12 of his aerospace employees at the plant, ready to make it happen. After looking at the 2D blueprints of four parts, they went to work on the easiest one first, producing a prototype by Saturday night for submission. By Sunday, they had made a prototype of the second part, and by Monday, they had prototyped the third and fourth parts.

One Auto Parts Supplier's Shift to Ventilators: Now Making 1000s of Parts per Week on Die Delivered in Days

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.

The die went to Twin City Die Castings of Minnesota. The die was for pistons to be used in ventilators by Seattle-area medical device maker Ventec Life Systems.

World Machine Tool Report Shows Manufacturing Shift to North America

In 2017 and 2018, the World Machine Tool Survey from Gardner Intelligence, the research arm of Modern Machine Shop publisher Gardner Business Media, showed that 12 out of the top 15 machine tool consuming countries increased their consumption. It is relatively rare for this to happen in a single year, and this was the only time it had ever happened in back-to-back years. This worldwide upturn and the extremely cyclical nature of the machine tool market should have been a clue to the fate of machine tool consumption in 2019, which was a worldwide downturn.

According to the latest survey, the results of which have recently been published, global machine tool consumption decreased by $13.1 billion, or 13.8%, to $82.1 billion in 2019. Therefore, 2019 had the lowest level of machine tool consumption since 2010, when much of the global economy was just starting to recover from the Great Recession. And, in an about face of 2018, 12 out of the top 15 consuming countries decreased their machine tool consumption in 2019.