Back in 2008, when the Great Recession was eliminating jobs and closing businesses’ doors at rates unseen for generations, Tim Treacy was doubling down on his shop, Custom Engraving. In the face of strong headwinds, he established the solid footing it needed to grow into the leader it is today in its space.
Ten years earlier, the shop he worked at was approached about the possibility of engraving custom parts for a major motorcycle manufacturer’s special edition models. While the contract never materialized, Treacy was inspired. With the blessing of his bosses, he started digging into the world of engraving in his off time. He researched software and tooling and practiced the craft in his garage or at another equipped shop in town during the slow shift.
After a couple years Treacy incorporated and gradually began building his customer base, delivering both production orders for a major motorcycle OEMs and one-off customized emblems and badges for individuals in the tens of thousands annually. Even more impressive, Treacy accomplished it all working only nights and weekends. It wasn’t until 2008 that Treacy made the bold move to dedicate all his professional time to Custom Engraving, moving out of his garage into a dedicated facility and starting lights-out work.
Along the way, the shop graduated from a trusty old Hurco mill in the early days that maxed out at about 3,500 RPM to the CNC lathe for shaping the parts and three Haas vertical machines he runs today. As a smaller shop performing such high-precision work, and lights out to boot, there’s a premium on having just the right equipment.
For some perspective, Treacy shared a jaw-dropping fact that illustrates just how delicate the work he does is. “My roughing tool is 20 thousandths in size,” he said. “People are usually shocked to hear that because that’s smaller than most people will use to finish their finest details, and that’s where we start.”
Treacy explained that he typically uses three more cutters from there, stepping down to a finishing cutter that measures four thousandths in size. The only way to spin the carbide cutters fast enough to achieve the high surface footage required for precision cutting aluminum is with the help of spindle speeders.
It wasn’t until a chance visit by BIG KAISER engineers that he saw a demonstration of the Air Power Spindle, produced by BIG Daishowa. The speeder could multiply his machines that max out at about 10,000 RPM to 120,000 RPM, enabling the use of smaller micro engraving tools and other major improvements to his operation.
“Carbide is a hard tool and it’s going to wear much slower,” Treacy explained. “The spindle speed isn’t just a matter of moving faster, it also extends the life of my tools because you’re getting a much higher surface footage to the tool. It’s going to work better with extreme speeds because if it’s too slow, you’re dragging across the edge instead of cutting.”
“I burn up a lot of carbide—and I know what I’m doing. Working with small tools there are so many little factors that come into play that you can’t make mistakes. You may be able to get away with misjudging a drill’s feeder angle, but you can’t really do that with carbide engraving tools.”
The stakes get even higher in unmonitored operations. If a tool breaks 15 minutes into a four-hour cycle, a lot of machine time is lost. Smooth tool changeovers are also key and the Air Power Spindle has fit into the Custom Engraving tooling carousels seamlessly, an option Treacy said isn’t available on competitive electric speeders.
“If I can’t change tools, it really limits my flexibility as far as what I can do to get parts out the door,” Treacy said.
But perhaps the most impactful savings has been in raw time, literally halving cycle times compared to what they were with slower speeders—on average, from four hours down to two.
“I’m able to get more parts out the door faster and cut the cycle time in half, meaning I don’t have to go out and get another machine,” Treacy said. “I’d much rather pay for a premium tool than buy another machine. The longevity of the tools is another main reason that makes me really appreciate the BIG KAISER tool. They have a really strong background in tool manufacturing and the tools are definitely made better.”
In addition to savings, the accelerated speeds have even helped Custom Engraving develop a new product that customers are loving and demanding more and more. They use a fine detail tool to create textures on the surfaces of the part. The conical shape of the engraving tools he uses creates tiny angles in the part that make sunlight refract and bend when it hits for an eye-catching glow pattern. It’s a result Treacy believes would be next to impossible without the Air Power Spindle.
“Since aluminum is pretty abrasive for the casting process, trying to texture really fine detail with a die tool doesn’t work too well,” Treacy said. “It’s not as if you can put a lot of fine detail in and run the tool for 1,000 shots and be done with it.”
While growing in popularity, the one-of-a-kind textured product is part of a standard product lineup that includes 400 different designs for 70 different bike parts. Custom Engraving also welcomes custom designs based on everything from portraits to tattoos. Thanks to a relatively simple tooling upgrade, the shop is fulfilling higher volume with more speed than ever before.
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In case you missed How Its Made, Season 24, episode 9, featured a show on 5TH Axis Metalworking Vises!
Check it out over lunch!
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2018 is looking good!! Techniks new catalog is at the press and is available on the Techniks website for digital download.
You can click the link above or the picture below to get your copy or give a call and we'll drop on off to your shop!
We are very excited to announce that David Edge has joined the Next Generation Tooling team. David has a wealth of experience from his 45+ years in the metalcutting industry. He not only knows the technical aspects of cutting tool applications but also the procedural functions that are important to manufacturers, Industrial distributors and machinery dealers.
David began his career in 1972 as a manufacturing engineer in turning applications, with Pneumatic Auto Turret lathes, Tracer lathes and manual Turret lathes. He cut his teeth in sales for 11 years as a cutting tool specialist for Valenite in the Bay area.
He moved north to work for RTW and Iscar where he managed Washington, Oregon and Western Canada for the many aerospace applciations in that area. In 2012 he moved back to the Bay area to manage Northern California for Tungaloy.
David also brings first hand experience as a distributor from his time at J&L Industrial Supply and Aronson-Campbell Industrial Supply as a carbide application engineer. He has a deep understanding of what the expectations are of a industrial distributor from a manufacturer.
David also has an inside knowledge of the expectations of a machine tool dealer from his time back in the late 1980's working at Selway Machine Tools.
We are very excited to announce that effective October 1, 2017 we will be representing Precision Cutting Tools Inc. in the California and Nevada market areas.
Precision Cutting Tools Inc. was founded in 1963 and ever since has specialized in the production of high-quality cutting tools. Today, with over fifty years of experience, PCT is a leading cutting tool manufacturer that distributes its products all across the United States and Mexico.
They have based their company’s success on their long-standing commitment to satisfy our customers’ needs, by utilizing the finest raw materials, introducing innovative cutting tools and providing excellent customer service.
We look froward to working with them to develop new Carbide, Cobalt & Powdered Metal end mill and drill substrates and geometries that will meet the material cutting needs we find uniquely on the West Coast.
We think you are in for a a real treat once we see what we're working on with PCT!!!
After 22 years, Next Generation Tooling has ended our relationship as an independent sales agent for MA Ford in the Northern California and Northern Nevada territories. Our last effective day will be September 30, 2017.
We truly appreciate and greatly value our long, successful relationship fostered by both MA Ford and NextGen since the inception of our company. We realize, with no reservation, that the wonderful people at MA Ford were a huge part of our success by working with us to develop technical solutions and will always value our memories and our personal friendships.
At the outset of our relationship in the late 1990's, we worked hand-in-hand with MA Ford to introduce their products to the unique applications and high speed machining that takes place in our markets.
In conjunction with the MA Ford engineering team we developed the 138 series end mills for use in aluminum and non-ferrous milling. As a result, many other end mill manufacturer's followed in the footsteps of that tool and began developing material specific tooling.
Because of the unique needs of our market, we suggested the expansion of LOC and OAL from what was commonly offered in "Stub, Standard, Long & Extra Long" lengths. The 138 series end mills where the first nationally recognized brand to offer 7 different lengths of cuts as stock standard.
We are very grateful to everyone at the MA Ford team who has worked with us hand-in-hand for so many years, and wish only the best for MA Ford in the future.
Our blog section is written by several different people. Sometimes, it from our team here at Next Generation Tooling at other times it's by one of the wonderful manufacturer's we represent in California and Nevada