All posts by Excello Tool

What Services Can I Find in a CNC Shop?

It’s easy to look at the theory of CNC and to talk about the advances that the technology has made possible. But, in the end, the question always boils down to one key fundamental: What can a CNC shop do for me?

Just like the machines that make the work possible, the services available from a CNC shop are vast. Obviously, here at Excello, we take great pride not only in our technicians and our machines, but also in our facility. 25,000 square feet of floor space allows for an incredible level of output. So, what exactly can you get out of it?

CNC machining is at the heart of any CNC shop and ours is no different. 11 CNC milling machines stand ready to carve out parts, tools, and other pieces ranging from the fairly simple to the most complex imaginable. At the same time, our 10 CNC turning lathes, all with a wide variety of tools on them, are also available.

CNC drilling is also a part of a CNC shop. Once pieces are formed and shaped, some must then be drilled in order to attach or receive another part of the final product. To that end, our 8 drill presses, ranging in size from 8 to 30 inches, are available for just about any project.

Services don’t stop with CNC turning and milling, however. Any shop is going to need to be prepared for other miscellaneous needs that come up. For example, here at Excello we have 4 engine lathes as well as a variety of grinders. Add to that our manual milling machines, saws, blasting machines, and our 10 ton press and you have a shop that is well suited for just about any manufacturing need you might have.

All the manufacturing capacity in the world isn’t going to help you, however, unless you hold yourself and your work to the highest standards. And, for that, you can’t beat a good quality control department. Ours happens to be second to none. Our coordinate measuring machinery as well as our team of inspectors ensure that nothing leaves our facility that does not meet specifications.

You see, when it comes down to it, a CNC shop really should offer just 2 things: parts that have been machined to absolute perfection and customers that are nothing less than 100% satisfied with the outcome. Without these two things, it doesn’t matter if your shop is 5000 square feet or 55,000 square feet – you’ll never reach the level of pride or confidence that we here at Excello have in the product we produce.

Rapid Prototyping Aids Development of Life-Saving Device

Rapid prototyping and CNC go hand-in-hand. The level of precision that CNC provides combined with the ability to rapidly fabricate units before production are changing industries across the board. Earlier, we brought you the story of the low cost bicycle shifter that is changing the relationship that low-income and under-developed areas have with transportation. Today we look at the opposite end of the spectrum.

A heart attack and the subsequent damage of such an event used to mean bypass, possible damage to other organs, months in the hospital, and years of recovery. Treatment was largely reactive – given only after a major cardiac event. But what if the heart could be given an opportunity to rest and heal itself before such an event became inevitable?

That’s the story over at OnlineTMD in their profile of Aortix – a small device, implanted via catheter, made specifically to provide an alternative to the months and years of pain and recovery that heart failure or heart attack can bring. It is incredibly small and takes about ten minutes to implant during an outpatient surgical procedure. Months of time spent laying in a hospital bed after undergoing a serious and lengthy surgery have been reduced to a procedure that takes less time than a trip to the grocery store.

Aortix is also special because of how it was developed. Procyrion, the creators of Aortix, is an extremely agile group. Idea development happens in rapid-fire sessions where one person’s thought might change an entire product’s design. Rapid prototyping allows them to go from the birth of the initial thought to being hands-on with a physical prototype within a week.

Rapid prototyping also allows the team to quickly create multiple test parts for a given project in a cost-effective manner. While cost or time to production may have previously impacted design ideas or changes to a design to make it more effective, the low cost and low turnaround time of rapid prototyping reduces these concerns almost to the point of irrelevance. The group can now focus on getting the best product possible out of their design choices rather than being forced to settle based on budget constraints.

Computers have made access to the world’s information nearly instantaneous. Research that took months can now be completed in hours. And now, through developments in rapid prototyping, these changes are occurring in the physical world as well. Ideas can go from nothing more than a twinkle in someone’s eye to full physical manifestation faster than ever before.

The amount of advancement and change in rapid prototyping is already changing people’s lives. The coming years will be no less exciting.

Using CNC to Craft a $230,000 Watch

Take a walk through a CNC machine shop and you’re likely to see rows and rows of parts that have been machined during the day’s runs. In many cases, these parts and pieces can be quite large. Chess pieces turned from the lathe, tools milled from raw steel, aluminum, and alloy, gears for cars – these are all things that you might encounter. At the same time, however, CNC can be used to create things that are very small.

How small? In the case of the Perpetual Calendar Terraluna created by watchmaker Richard Lange, small enough to bring 787 individual pieces together into a single watch that costs over a quarter of a million dollars. A post by Bloomberg takes a look inside the processes that make the creation of the watch possible.

Most have probably never heard the name of the watchmaker or the watch. Connoisseurs, however, share stories of the handcrafted timepieces as if they were legend being passed down from generation to generation.

It is easy to see why, once you become aware of what goes into creating one of these machines. 787 pieces, most of which are precision-crafted using CNC techniques, are brought together over the course of several months and thousands of working hours.

Each individually machined part is hand-inspected and verified to be to the exact specifications necessary to function in the watch. The parts are cleaned and smoothed in order to remove even the smallest imperfections, again, all by hand.

After the machined parts have passed inspection, cleaning, and finishing, each watch is assembled, disassembled, and then assembled again. Why? To ensure that no damage was done to any component during the initial assembly. This damage includes physical damage to the watch parts themselves but also can include even the smallest scratch. Each individual part (all 787 of them) is also re-cleaned during this process.

The end result is a watch that the wearer knows is both physically and mechanically flawless, inside and out. Dozens of the world’s best watchmakers had a hand in creating it as they worked to bring over 700 pieces, most which were precision crafted on CNC machines, together into a watch that can cost more than a house.

 

4 Keys to a Safe CNC Shop

There are really no two ways about it – working in a CNC machine shop can be dangerous. It is an enclosed area full of machines designed to cut, burn, and otherwise impose their will on materials far tougher than a human body. Lathes spin while cutters slice material away piece by piece. Water jets shoot water, mixed with abrasives, through metal and alloys like scissors cutting through paper.

The dangers are the same regardless of whether you’re in a 25,000 square foot machining facility like ours or working on your hobby project in your garage. The principles that will keep you safe, however, are also largely the same.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

The shop is no place for distractions and it is imperative that you’re aware of what’s going on around you at all times. This is not the place to be checking your phone or listening to headphones. Be aware of the sounds around you and keep an ear open for sounds that don’t belong. It could very well be that a machine will make an out of the ordinary sound before something goes wrong with it. You don’t want to miss that clue because you were too busy checking Facebook or finding a song to listen to.

At the same time, be aware of your presence in the shop. Know your proximity to machines, other people, and anything else that could pose a problem if bumped, run into, or disturbed.

Know Your Machine

Know the specific safety risks posed by the machine or machines you plan on using that day. While a CNC milling machine is designed to be as safe as possible, the fact that most activity takes place within its enclosed spaces does not make it “safe.” It is still full of sharp implements and metal shavings, not to mention liquids and fluids that can spray all over you and your shop in the event something goes wrong.

Likewise, the spinning action of a CNC turning lathe can grab hair, loose clothing, aprons, or anything else that gets too close to it. Shards of metal and other materials can go flying, posing a significant risk to eyes and other exposed flesh.

Be aware not only of the safe operation of a particular machine but also of the specific safety risks posed by that machine.

Inspect the Shop

Take a look around before you start working. Is everything you need within reach? Are there extra parts laying around or sharp instruments that should be put away? Do you have sufficient safety gear accessible to you to protect eyes, ears, body, and hands? Are there items on the floor that could trip you or cause you to otherwise fall? Is the ground dry? Were there any spills that need to be tended to?

The moments invested in a quick check of your shop can save a lifetime of pain, discomfort, or disability. Don’t miss this crucial step simply because you’ve assumed that things are the way you left them the last time you worked here.

Be Careful on a First Run

Motorcycle owners will tell you that it takes a while to get comfortable with a powerful bike before really seeing what the machine is capable of. While the temptation to open up the throttle on a new bike can be strong, most will tell you it’s a gradual process. You ease into the capabilities of the bike as you learn them.

The same is true of running a CNC program for the first time. Regardless of your confidence with the parameters or the program being used, caution should be used the first time a particular run is set up. Make sure tool movements happen as you expect them to. And, under no circumstances should you leave the machine alone. Be ready to shut a machine down at a moment’s notice. You might even consider leaving your hand on the emergency stop button.

With a little common sense, a lot of attention, and a healthy dose of respect for the machines around you, you can ensure that your time in your machine shop is fun, productive, and, above all else, safe.

The Benefits of Rapid Prototyping

You’ve been working on this idea for weeks – months even. You have drawing after drawing of what it should look like and even have some basic ideas laid out in some CAD files. What’s next? How do you turn these drawings and files into an actual physical product?

The answer is rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping is essentially the “rough draft” of the manufacturing world. Using CAD data and all of your design information, a rough prototype is quickly fabricated in order to create the first physical version of your product.

The process dates back to the 80’s. It was around this time that decision makers started noticing trouble in the American tool manufacturing market. A pivot was going to be needed to keep pace with the advances being made in Europe and Asia. In response, a number of government agencies including NASA, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and others conducted studies to determine a course of action.

After a number of years, a set of processes known as solid freeform fabrication were developed. These processes would later be known as rapid prototyping.

The benefits of prototyping a single piece prior to manufacture are immeasurable. A lot of preparation goes into a manufacturing run. Materials must be procured, equipment must be set up, and work must be done to the most exacting standards. However, in a rapid prototyping situation, the work is done simply to provide a working model. In many cases, this is done through 3D printing or some other method of additive layer manufacturing. The piece is built line by line rather than being cut out of a piece of raw material.

As the technology advances, more and more is being done with rapid prototyping. This includes small manufacturing runs. Once the prototypes have been developed, tested, and approved, the same machines can be used to create small batches of the product. Because the manufacturing process is additive rather than subtractive, there is less waste and less use of raw materials. Under normal circumstances it is not cost effective to manufacture a small batch of parts. However, using rapid prototyping, small batches of product can be produced in an economical way that also provides the highest levels of quality and precision.

This is a fast moving and rapidly growing technology and is opening doors to manufacturing that were once closed to all but the largest shops. The use of computer aided graphics and design combined with the use of low cost, computer aided manufacturing means that a prototype of some products can be created in just hours.

Contact us here at Excello to discuss how our rapid prototyping technology and team can take your product off of the paper and drawings and put it into your hands.

 

What Does Machining Actually Mean?

When working with a CNC milling and machining shop for the pieces you need, you might encounter a lot of terms that you haven’t heard before. Or, you might say one thing but, to the machinist, that word might mean something completely different.

We all know that what happens here at Excello Tool Engineering and Manufacturing is done through machining. And, while that term has come to mean different things throughout the ages, at its base we know that it’s how you get a finished product from a piece of raw steel, aluminium, wood, alloy, or any of the other materials going into a CNC machine.

Turning is a process of machining that rotates, or turns, the raw material on an axis while lathes of various shapes and sizes are pressed against it. Material is removed as the piece rotates, and the action of the lathes shapes and forms the raw material into the finished product as it turns.

Milling is the opposite of turning. When a piece of raw material is milled it is generally held stationary while cutting tools of various shapes and sizes are used to make cuts and begin to shape the final product. Milling generally happens in a fully-enclosed container to prevent pieces from flying away and causing injury.

Drilling can happen on lathes or mills but generally takes place on a drill press. Just as in milling, the raw material is held stationary while bits or other rotating blades are gradually applied to the material. In the case of drilling, however, these bits and blades are used to make a precise series of holes.

We covered various types of CNC machines in a previous post and some of those are paving the way for more advanced machining methods. Remember, machining is the act of making the actual piece. And, with advanced techniques like plasma cutters, water jet cutting, and electric discharge machining available, it is possible to shape parts and components in ways never thought possible. Water jet cutting uses water to cut through steel while plasma and electric discharge machining use the brute force of pure physics to burn, cut, and shock their way through their materials.

The prototyping process is helpful in determining the best machining method or methods necessary to craft a particular piece. Once initial plans are made, various machining techniques can be used in the creation of the first prototypes to determine the most efficient way to create the pieces that will make up the order.

Excello has been machining quality pieces and parts to exact specifications since 1960. We know how to determine the best machining technology for your job because we have watched the industry develop and grow through all of them. Take a look at the machines we have at our disposal or contact us today to put those machines to work for you.

 

Bicycle Shifter From CNC Prototype May Revolutionize Low Income Cycling

CNC milling and machining is an essential aspect of manufacturing. The production of hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces, all milled to the same exact specifications, is critical in mass production. It is only possible with the kind of precision that CNC milling makes possible.

CNC prototyping, however, is an equally important yet somewhat overlooked aspect of the services that a CNC machine shop can provide. At Excello, for example, our facility covers more than 25,000 square feet. Yet, our shop can be used to provide a single prototype piece just as easily as it can provide hundreds of identical parts.

Rapid prototyping is the use of a CNC facility to quickly create a single proof of concept piece that can be used to further expand on an idea. Design drawings and engineering schematics certainly have their place but it is only when a piece is actually created that the designers can truly see the results of their efforts.

An organization called One Street Components used CNC rapid prototyping to create a prototype of a bike shifter they had been working on. Recognizing the importance of the bicycle as a mode of transportation, particularly in low-income and developing areas, they set out to create an easily replicated shifter that could be made from scrap aluminum.

Their goal was a strong yet inexpensive friction shifter that could be used on virtually any bike in almost any application. In particularly hilly areas, geared bicycles are essential. However, broken shifters can often be disastrous. The gears make climbs easier but when a shifter breaks the people often lack the resources to replace it. And, many of these areas are remote. If a lack of financial resources wasn’t an issue, the lack of any surrounding infrastructure would be.

One Street Components created a shift lever made of only six parts, one of which is a bottle cap. It was an exquisitely simple design but it needed to be tested. Reaching out to a CNC milling shop, they created a prototype of the shifter to ensure that it could function as designed. In the end, they created a shifter that could revolutionize bicycle maintenance in areas that need it the most.

For more information on how CNC rapid prototyping can take your project to the next level contact us today.

 

Types of CNC Machines

When people think of CNC milling, many will only think of one type of machine. Maybe they saw some CNC work in an online video or perhaps they’ve had occasion to use one themselves. The truth, however, is that numerous types of CNC machines exist and each serves a particular purpose.

Computer numerical control is simply the means by which something is made. If a machine can be controlled by a computer and given a specific set of sequences to follow, that machine is capable of CNC. High-tech plasma cutters and 3D printers on a factory floor are just as much CNC machines as the embroidery machine in your local alterations shop. Today, we’re going to tell you about some of the main types of CNC machines in use.

The CNC mill might be the first type of machine to come to mind. Capable of cutting all types of materials, the CNC mill’s primary function is to move its cutters and various other tools to specific locations on a piece of material and then cut that material to a desired depth.

The lathe uses a different technique. While the mill uses coordinates on a plane to determine where it will drill or cut, the lathe spins the material at high speeds while a series of drills, cutters, and other tools make small, precise cuts in it. At the same time, water is pumped onto the cutting surfaces to keep them clean and cool.

Those who took shop in high school may remember using the wood lathe. The CNC lathe is the same concept however the work is done by automated tools and the shape of the finished product has been programmed into the computer. Additionally, CNC lathes are used to cut metals and other alloys – something your wood shop lathe could not begin to touch.

Plasma cutters use the power of physics to cut through metals including steel and any number of alloys. Grade school science always taught us that matter generally has three states; solid, liquid, and gas. There is a fourth state of matter, however, and that is plasma. Plasma occurs when a gas is heated or exposed to strong magnetic fields. This causes a release of electrical energy (usually seen as an arc) which heats the gas to the point that it becomes plasma.

The plasma has two effects. First, it is so hot that it simply melts its way through whatever is being cut. But, because the plasma originated as high-pressure gas, the force of the gas is enough to continuously remove the excess material that is being melted away. This leads to the impression that the plasma is cutting through the material when, in fact, is melting the material and the force of the gas is simply pushing it away from the site of the cut.

Electric discharge machining, or EDM, is similar in that it uses electrical arcs in the process of machining a given part, however, it is electricity and not plasma which shapes the piece being made. Electricity is passed through a special fluid between two electrodes located at various points on the piece of material being machined. As the material is exposed to arc after arc, small pieces of it are removed over time and the finished product begins to take shape.

Finally, we arrive at water jet cutting. The process of using a waterjet involves moving water through a nozzle at such high speed and pressure that it is able to cut its way through metal, rock, or anything else that it comes across. Sand or other abrasives can be added to the water depending on the application of the waterjet but the final product is the same – water is being used to cut through a solid material.

As we mentioned, there are many types of CNC machines in use today in a wide variety of industries. These are only a handful of the many options available to someone seeking to use CNC to manufacture tools, parts, or prototypes.

Our experts are ready to talk to you to determine your needs and put our CNC machines to work for you. Contact us to find out how the CNC mills and machines at Excello Tool Engineering and Manufacturing can machine the highest quality parts and prototypes for you no matter the application.

 

55 Years of CNC – A Look Back

As a new year approaches and we look ahead to 2015, we thought we’d use this post to take a look at where we’ve been; not just as a company but as an industry. Many people believe CNC milling, prototyping, and machining is something relatively new. The fact is that we were working on ways to program computers to make physical goods for us before we learned how to program the computers themselves.

CNC, or computer numerical control, comes from its ancestor NC, or just numerical control. Before machines went digital, we used punched tape to program their routines into them. These first machines were developed in the 1950’s and presented a radical new way to look at manufacturing. Industry was slow to adopt the new technology however. So, in an effort to help speed things along, the Army purchased 120 numerical control machines and seeded them throughout key industries.

NC Becomes CNC

Over time, NC grew in popularity as industry began to see how an increase in automation could dramatically boost manufacturing output. More companies began building their own NC machines and each used their own methods and languages for programming them.

As the computer revolution of the 60’s took hold and NC became CNC, the industry began a period of rapid growth and development. CNC programming languages began to standardize and the computers running those languages became less expensive and, simultaneously, more powerful.

While CNC was mostly a US-based industrial effort, it did not take long before other countries began to see the benefits of the technology; both in speeding along their own manufacturing processes and creating CNC machines themselves.

By the 80’s, the US had lost its lead in the CNC marketplace. The Germans led CNC output by the end of the 70’s but Japan took the lead from them just one year later.

Present day, CNC continues to be a cornerstone of international industrial machining. The machines have gotten faster and you only need to look at your desk or in your pocket to see the advances in the computing technology powering them.

These advances have also made CNC milling and machining technology available to the masses. No longer a tool only found in massive industrial operations, CNC machining now even exists for the home user and the hobbyist. CNC software can be found as open source programming projects. And, 3D printing is simply seen as the next step in this technology’s evolution.

Looking Ahead

Just as we shudder to think about the days that computers used to fill entire rooms, we marvel at the rapid acceleration and miniaturization of CNC milling and machining technology. Excello Tool Engineering and Manufacturing has been operating since 1960; we’ve had a front row seat to the history we’ve just described. The past 55 years have shown us things that we never would have imagined.

Here’s to the next 55.

Benefits of Prototyping

Prototypes serve a range of purposes, all of which are aimed at saving the company time and reducing their overall costs. The creation of a product for any purpose begins long before any actual manufacturing takes place. It always starts with an idea; however, for that idea to be able to take shape it must be explainable to those who will provide the funding and expertise to bring it to life. While verbal explanations and even drawings can be open to interpretation, a physical or computer generated prototype allows a concrete explanation to come to life, giving the idea the proper, tangible form.

Most people think of prototypes as an entirely functioning early version of the final product, made with the same materials and to the same standard. While there may be occasions and points in the manufacturing process when this is necessary, it is not the only way to create a prototype. Here are four very different ways you could consider creating a prototype depending on its purpose and audience.

  • Pen and paper drawings and plans

    In a very real sense, your preliminary drawings and plans are your first prototype. A good plan will include thoughts on materials, how to overcome difficulties, measurements and may even identify manufacturing processes. It is the ideal prototype for getting an idea of the ground, finding that initial funding and working out how to go forward.Advances in computer technology often mean that pen and paper plans are a thing of the past. A computer generated plan can have the added advantage of being developed into a 3D image and allows a high level of collaborative working. A graphics program that can simulate the products movements or intended purpose can also provide an opportunity to see the product ‘work.’

  • Cardboard / plywood models

    Where graphic programs are either not available or are deemed not to be suitable, very basic materials can be used to create a prototype. While it will fall short of a fully functioning prototype, it will provide information about the key ideas behind the product. It will bring plans to life and allow manufacturing teams to ask questions, consider materials and processes and to raise concerns. Again this type of prototype can be used to raise investment or to show progress to investors.

  • 3D printers

    3D printers are still quite new on the market, providing you with not fully functioning prototypes that are not made from the final materials. This method boasts of all the advantages of the cardboard or plywood model; however, 3D printer will deliver a more refined version of the plywood model. If you need to present your idea to investors or other businesses in a more formal setting, this refinement is a definite positive.

  • Fully working and scale models

    All of the above versions of prototypes are highly useful and efficient in the early stages of product development. However, at some point in the process, the product will need to undergo a full test of how it works and whether it is fit for its intended purpose. This can only be achieved with a prototype that is made from the finalized materials, even if it is on a smaller scale. This prototype will serve as the standard for which the finished product must adhere to. If there are problems at this stage, they can still be remedied without too much additional cost. However, if earlier prototypes have been used throughout the process, then difficulties at this stage should be very rare.

From computer and scale models, to full-scale models made from a range of simpler or cheaper materials, creating a prototype is a way for manufacturers to ensure that the product will meet and exceed their customers’ expectations. However, the specific type of prototype will depend mostly on its purposes.

Excello Tool Engineering & Manufacturing Company located in Milford, CT