MMS Blog

Swiss-Type Lathe Helps Medical Shop Achieve Higher Precision

Landing new projects for a machine shop often calls for capabilities that sometimes it does not have. When this happens, shop management must decide between finding another shop that can do the work or purchasing new equipment to satisfy customer demands. Okay Industries in Alajuela, Costa Rica, won two jobs around the same time that required the shop to make that decision. Looking into the future, management chose to invest in a new Swiss-type lathe. Not only were management’s expectations exceeded by the machine’s performance and efficiency, but the lathe is now included in plans for future applications.

Okay Industries launched in 2012 as a medical precision components manufacturer that uses multi-axis CNC machine tools, Swiss-type turning, die-sinking, wire EDM and general machining. Materials used include stainless steels, implantable titanium and nitinol. The company, which employs 65 people, also specializes in automotive, defense/firearms and industrial applications. The company headquarters is in New Berlin, Connecticut. 

Manufacturing Blockchain Adoption Accelerates

Do you wish it were easier to fill open machining capacity with profitable work? How about being among the first to leverage an emerging technology that could shape the future of manufacturing?

These are the kinds of questions that the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) has been asking members, most of which are small- or mid-sized machine shops, in recent polling. The intent is to gage interest in quoting jobs online through a free-to-join network developed by NTMA partner SyncFab. What makes this platform different is its reliance on blockchain, the technology underlying Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Early this month, I attended Fritz Studer AG’s annual Motion Meeting at its headquarters in Thun, Switzerland. (Studer is a member of the United Grinding Group.) This year’s event theme was “art of grinding,” and I learned a good bit about the state of the company, recent advances in its cylindrical grinding technology and its automation offerings ranging from basic to highly customized.

Studer’s sales in 2019 was third-best in the company’s history. Although it faced challenges in the automotive industry, it sales grew in the aerospace sector. It continues to ramp up production of new universal cylindrical grinding models such as the S31, S33 and Favorit. In fact, the company sold more than 100 of these machines last year.

The Manifold Benefits of Standardization

Everything at Tomenson Machine Works is intentional. Every choice — from the work it takes on, to the flow of raw material to finished product around its 100,000-square-foot U-shaped facility, to the specific makes and models of its machining centers — is aimed at standardization. By standardizing its entire production process, Tomenson has found a way to not only run efficiently and predictably, but also train new employees with ease.

The path to simplicity has been long and has required dedication. Getting to this degree of standardization took time and effort on the part of three generations of family members, starting with Thomas Roake, who founded the shop in 1977. Thomas ran the shop until 1993 with his son Scott Roake (hence the riff on “Tom and son” for the company name Tomenson).  In 1997, the company moved to its current location in West Chicago, Illinois. Scott is now the company’s president, and the third generation has taken leadership roles, with 24-year-old brothers Alex Roake as operations manager and Zach Roake as post-production/quality manager. Through the years, the family members have zeroed-in on a process that enables the company to ship more than half a million precision hydraulic manifolds per year, along with at least 20,000 other parts per year, using a staff of just 70, many of whom came to the shop with no machining experience.

A Shop Where a Machine Loads Itself

Every day, test engineers at Krefeld, Germany-based Deutsche Edelstahlwerke Specialty Steel (DEW) determine the quality of the steel it produces by way of tensile and notched-bar impact tests. With a length of 55 mm and a square cross section of 10 by 10 mm, the standardized test specimens are rather unspectacular from a machining perspective. And yet their production requires one operator to manually load about 2,500 individual samples each month.

"It takes around 15 minutes to produce a set of three specimens on our Doosan DNM 400 VMC once the job is set up," explains Christian Richter, team coordinator material testing at DEW. "Two machining operations (op. 10 and op. 20) in two setups are necessary to machine each part. Although it takes little more than one minute to manually re-clamp the parts from op. 10 work to op. 20, the operator has little time to tend more than just the one machine.”