Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Beautiful Day at the Custom Machine Shop

Although it's not something you would imagine being beautiful, you'd be surprised at how well you'd adjust to life on the production floor. No, it's not super dirty like you may picture. And no, it's not stuffy as portrayed either. On beautiful days like today, the doors swing open and let the cool summer breeze sweep through the stations.

Machines run, and operators guide and supervise the custom parts that are being made. It's certainly not a vision you would see on Mike Rowe's 'Dirty Jobs' show. It's a beautiful sight when projects are done, and employees are proud of the parts at hand. The customer smiles as they're presented - what's not beautiful about that?

We're not trying to come off as sappy. No, that's not the intention. We'd like to simply shed light on the lighter side of manufacturing that most people don't get to see. The beautiful side. Much in the same way Michael Hodges put together his "Tour Detroi's Ugly-Beautiful Manufacturing Landmarks", there is always more than one way to see things.

Think it over.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Show Notes for Manufacturing Podcast

Podcast Topic:  Manufacturing Questions Answered
Date:  Thursday, June 10, 2010

Guest:  Brent Erickson

To hear this podcast, click here.

Brent, the first question is; what are the advantages of waterjet versus laser cutting?

One advantage of waterjet cutting over laser cutting is there's no heat affected zones. A lot of times, this can make parts hard to work with, with secondary operations.

What are the advantages of the laser over waterjet cutting?

Lasers cut a lot faster, typically. Usually they're more economical and they hold a tighter tolerance. At the same time, with waterjet you can cut basically any material. With the laser you can be limited to stainless steels, carbon steels and aluminum.

And thin ones at that?

Not necessarily thin, we can do some plate, up to 3/16" thick for aluminum, 1/2" thick for stainless steel, and about 1" thick for carbon steel.

That answers the next question of how thick can laser cut?

Yeah, that's about the limits that we have.

So what's the best tool to cut teflon?

Teflon is typically used for either washers or small gaskets, or wearplates. Something like that is usually a water-only application, we run that on the waterjet with no abrasive mixed in. It's a real fine stream of water, about .006" in diameter, it's a real precise cut.

And why is that a benefit to cut this material without abrasive?

It just gives you a cleaner cut and allows us to hold better tolerances.

Is it possible to bend armor plate?

Yes, we do form armor plate. We do it on our largest press brake, it's a 352 ton brake with a 12 foot bed.

And that will get the job done.


How thick can a waterjet cut?

Usually about 12" is as thick as you want to go with the waterjet.

So, a lot thicker than laser.

Yeah, a lot thicker.

What's the best cutting method to cut bronze?

Here, we would do it on either on the waterjet or one of the milling centers, depending on what the part looks like.

How about perforated sheet metal? How would you form that?

Again, that would go on one of the press brakes. We do have three brakes here, so we do have some options with which equipment we would use.

Now one of the other questions that was brought up, is which is less expensive (because people are always looking for the cost-effective option.) Is it going to be waterjet cutting or laser cutting?

Typically it's going to be laser cutting. Again, the system is just more automated than the waterjet and the cutting speeds are a lot faster. Then again, you are limited to which materials you can use.

Does the abrasive have anything to do with it, is that a larger cost for the waterjet versus the laser, since laser doesn't use abrasive?

That is a big part of the cost of waterjet, there's a lot of consumables in the process that dictates the cost of it.

Another question we had was, if waterjet will warp a steel plate when it cuts.

Yes and no. The waterjet itself is not going to, due to any heat it adds. But at the same time, when you cut materials (especially steel) just the cutting process kinda relieves some of that natural stress within the plate. Sometimes that will have a tendency to warp, you're not going to see it as bad as you would on a flame cut part or a plasma cut part, but it can still warp.

Is it common to warp?

It depends on the type or the thickness of the plate and the type of the material. Typically A36, Grade 50, anything like that; that's under 3 or 4" - it's pretty good. Once you start getting to the thicker materials, or some of the higher tensile strengths is when you're going to start seeing some warpage.

When people say "Rockwell" or refer to a "Rockwell" what are they referring to?

Rockwell refers to a scale commonly used to note the hardness of a given material.

What is the difference between laser and waterjet cutting tolerances?

Laser can hold a tighter tolerance, typically on thinner materials; anything 1/8" or thinner we can hold +/- .003", once you start getting up to 3/8" or 1/2", we want to have a little more, maybe +/-.001".

On the waterjet, we can typically do +/- .005". If it's a real small feature, we can tighten that up some, but it's going to be on a case by case basis. Generally the tolerances on the laser are a little bit tighter and a little easier to  control.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Start of the Parts

What a great day outside, the sun is shining, birds are chirping and the radio dj's were extra cheerful this morning on the drive in. The atmosphere at Fedtech is about the same, we're trucking along with the projects at hand and making the most of each day... yet wishing there was more time in the day to get everything possible done... but there never will be.

Things have been flowing right along, we've had some really cool projects come through that I managed to snap some photos of. (You'll get to see them later on in this post.) Lots of different materials have made their way through and lots of interesting projects are in the works (getting quoted) for potential projects in the future.

In the meantime, Fedtech has acquired a new CNC Lathe...It's true. It's a Doosan Puma 2000 SY CNC Lathe. It has a maximum turning diameter of 13", turning length of 20.1", and a main spindle speed of 45 - 5,000 RPM.
  • Repeatability +/- .006°
  • Maximum spindle torque: 351 feet-pounds
  • CNC Control - Fanuc 18I-TB
  • Sub-Spindle
  • Coolant System
  • Pump Motor: 1.2 HP
  • Voltage: 205 - 235 Volt/3 Phase
With this, we're able to machine more complex parts on a shorter timeline. Our machining requests have been plenty lately, and it was hard to provide quick turnaround times with such a high demand. Now with the new machinery, we're able to turn parts around quicker and provide quality parts at the same time. Win-win!

Sweet Custom Parts of This Week

Now you knew it was coming, and I wouldn't let you down. Here are some neat parts that have crossed the production floor in the past week that you haven't seen elsewhere.

This is an example of a part that could be made on the new CNC lathe. This part was actually machined from 1.5" diameter 17-4 stainless steel bar and threaded for the custom project. These valve nut parts were mass produced quickly and efficiently.

To the right are some custom urethane parts that were waterjet cut here at Fedtech. The parts themselves are used as a clamp arm foot pieces and were cut from 2.0" thick 80A durometer natural urethane (open cast). This type of urethane is a very solid rubber material.

That's all we have for today, stay tuned for more projects and announcements as the time goes on. Watch for our new website in the near future as well!

Seize the moment.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Taking Care of Business

Good afternoon readers!

Well it's only Monday and big things are already happening here at Fedtech. If you've been keeping up with the news, then you may be familiar with some of what's happening.

For starters, the new website is set to launch soon - so be prepared to check it out and make sure to watch our Twitter (@Fedtechinc) for the official update!

Next up, we're expanding our horizons to sporting goods. This doesn't mean basketball balls or hockey sticks or anything of that nature. We're committed to providing quality parts for outdoor sportsman activities. This could include parts for archery items, hunting stands, fishing tackle, boat equipment, and more. We're able to waterjet cut, laser cut, machine, mill, deburr, finish, and assemble parts.Our main thought here is to be able to provide simple to intricate parts to OEM's for cost effective rates. We can do production runs quickly and efficiently with laser and waterjet cutting.

Here's a quick list of our current core industries:

Well that's all for now. Have a great Monday, come back later this week for more!

Please learn more about Fedtech, custom machine shop, at our website.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Recent Projects & Case Studies

News from Fedtech
  • Our new website is set to launch soon! Are you excited? You should be. The new design is going to be incredible, and we're eagerly anticipating our chance to show it off! Watch for the official announcement and then check it out. You'll definitely be pleasantly surprised!!
  • As of today, you have 22 days left to enter our drawing for some freebies! Click here: to enter your email to win this month's prize! We draw a winner on July 1st, so watch your inbox!
  • Did you know that we send you free stuff just for sending people our way? It's true. We appreciate the fact that word of mouth is a great way for customers to find us. We've sent out T-shirts, hats, and mugs to some great people who referred us to their friends. So go ahead and do the same and make sure they let us know you sent them! :)

Now, onto some neat projects and case studies that you may have been missing, due to being down for updates. So, get your fill here instead. See the following case studies and simply enjoy!  

Take one look at these parts featured here and it won't take long for you to notice that this material is incredibly thick. How thick? Well these parts were cut from 7.5" thick carbon steel (A36). The best way to cut this thick of carbon steel is to use abrasive waterjet cutting. We were able to cut through the material using multiple cutting heads (cutting down turnaround times) and waterjet cutting efficiently lacks heat affected zones (HAZ) as well.

These bite-sized parts here fit right in the palm of my hand as you can see in the photo at the right. These 3" in diameter, circular, perforated steel parts were laser cut at Fedtech from 310 stainless steel. Each part featured 241 holes, at .098" in diameter each. The material itself, was .098" (2.5mm) thick.

SIDEBAR: Are you wondering about waterjet cutting or laser cutting and what they are, or which is better for your project? Find more on those processes on our company website, click here for waterjet cutting, and here for laser cutting.

That's all I have for this morning. Stay posted for updates!


Monday, June 7, 2010

Oil Giant, BP, to Fix What They Broke

We try to stay on top of what's happening in the manufacturing industry, and well, I don't think it's any news to you that there's oil floating around in the gulf. But in case you haven't heard all the facts, here's what we've found that's currently up-to-date:
  • It may not seem life-threatening to us (or you may be concerned about the animals) but did you know that 11 people were killed on April 20th in the Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig explosion? (Image shown on right, taken by the U.S. Coast Guard)
  • The daily flow rate is more than 12,000 to 25,000 barrels a day. While "the Discoverer Enterprise drill ship can only handle 15,000 barrels a day" (New York Times, Coast Guard Sees Cleanup of Spill Lasting Until the Fall, June 6, 2010).
  • "BP executives have said that as much as 90 percent of the escaping oil may be contained by the cap if all goes well. The cap is a temporary measure. The well cannot be cemented shut until two relief wells are drilled, by August at the earliest" (NYT, Cap Slows Gulf Oil Leak as Engineers Move Cautiously, June 5, 2010).
  • Over 20,000 people are working to protect the coastlines.
  • To help respond, Obama send 17,500 National Guard troops.
  • The flow is coming from a 18,000-foot-deep well, where the best solution to this problem is to instate relief wells to stop the flow.
  • "BP has sent $46 million in checks so far to some 17,500 Gulf Coast residents for their lost income" (NYT, BP Pays Out Claims, but Satisfaction is Not Included, June 6, 2010).
  • The oil spill as of May 17, 2010 (a little outdated) was 130 miles long and 70 miles wide (The Daily Green, The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill By the Numbers, June 7, 2010).
There is also a site that you can use to put the spill into perspective. At - you can visualize how large the spill is according to your town. You type in your city and it maps the spill in scale to your surroundings. A very cool tool to see exactly what we're dealing with out there on the Gulf Coast. When you look at the map, keep in mind it's continuing to expand as wind and nature take hold. (Image at right credit: Los Angeles Times)

It appears that it may be a long while until we can see major improvements on the disaster. Some project until August, others until Fall. However, there are many places seeking to help the cause. Here are a few:
  1. National Wildlife Refuge
  2. American Red Cross
  3. Mad Mobile Text Campaign
If you find any of our information to be incorrect, or if you'd like to add any details, please leave a comment below. We welcome them!

Stay current.


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Monday, May 24, 2010

Top Four Ways to Minimize Production Costs

Have you taken notice of raw material prices lately? Depending on which industry you're focused in, you may notice increasing prices, or you may see decreasing prices. You'll be glad to find out that you're not the only person out there being conscientious of how much money you're spending.

As seen on TTI Inc's website, "raw material prices have been on the rise and are impacting every company in the electronics supply chain." Now, this doesn't have to focus primarily on the electronics industry, as these materials are used in industries across the board.

Focusing in on Aluminum, Copper, Gold, Lead, Nickel, Oil, Platinum, Silver, Steel, Tin and Zinc - the website gives a nice graph of the impact of these material prices on the cost of connectors.

That being said, you can see there was a surplus back around November '08 through July of '09 and we've been steadily increasing ever since. Many industries are affected by this increase, including defense/military, aerospace, architecture, retail displays and storefronts, automotive, and more.

Now take a look at steel prices. The opposite can be said of this raw material, for the spike it took around April of '08 through December of '08 (around the same time as aluminum's downward spiral) was the highest steel prices had been in rougly three years. As for right now, steel prices are still relatively high according to the mean (excluding the peak stated above).


How about copper? A widely used material in automotive, architectural and more; has prices soaring as of late. Customers in this bracket have become weary of the high prices that started increasing back in January of 2009 and has made it up to $8,000 per metric ton as of late. This
material, though expensive in general, has become even more costly to process.

Rubber, a major resource for numerous industries, has climbed almost 74% this year after rising 92% in 2009 (Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2010). While it's supply is 'tight', says the Wall Street Journal, due to "wet winter weather in the rubber-producing nations in Southeast Asia". Lumber costs (construction costs) also take a hit and are up nearly 59%.

So what can we do?

It's inevitable that if your industry relies on these materials, you will need the materials. There's simply no working around it. But there are some options to how you can keep your processing cost-effective instead of paying high fees to get the job done.

1. Nest your material. As you can see in the image on the right, these parts have been tightly nested into the material to really make the most of the material (minimize drop/scrap). This method of manufacturing saves customers money by cutting down on material costs.
2. Make sure your vendor shops around. Your job shop has loads of contacts where they can get pricing on material. Some of these shops have gotten material at times when material was cheaper and thus can save you money on your material. Other shops may have just gotten a new shipment in and paid a higher price for it. Make sure your job shop does their homework and gets you the lowest price possible. As a general rule at Fedtech, this is the way we make our projects work.

3. Combine your projects for higher quantities. If you think you'll need more of the parts that you are producing, let your supplier know. Usually when you produce higher quantities, prices will drop. Low quantities will provide you a higher price, so see if you can't combine this month's order with next month's order and save yourself the time and capital.

4. Produce your own files. Do you have a CAD/CAM whiz in the office, or some way to create a print of your project? If so, do it. You will save yourself the cost of a programmer engineer or estimator. Not only this, but your project will be easier to quote, and can likely obtain a shorter turn around time on your project(s).

In an economy where budgets are tight and every penny counts, make the most of your resources by following these four rules. It may not get you free manufacturing, but it can save you significant amounts of money in the long-run.

Have a great Monday!


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