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Specialty Parts Manufacturer Thrives, Supports Youth-Based Training

Jim Lorincz
By Jim Lorincz Contributing Editor, SME Media
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Marten Machining has grown its business over the years with a complement of five-axis Hermle milling machines with Heidenhain CNCs.

Manufacturing specialty parts to spec, as well as supporting youth-based manufacturing programs, has kept Marten Machining Inc. (Stevens Point, WI) strong and growing in the U.S. for more than 30 years. This now-large job shop continues to invest in equipment and area youth, crediting its use of five-axis machining as a key part of its success.

“It’s no secret that manufacturing in the U.S. has its challenges, and Marten Machining has not been an exception,” explained David Marten, son of the founder and vice president of the 30,500 ft2 (2,834 m2) manufacturing facility that started out in a two-car garage in 1984. “But to survive and thrive, we’ve had to continue to look for new ways and projects relevant to the times, keep improving capabilities and invest in area youth to show them the value of manufacturing.”

With eleven five-axis Hermle milling machines that are coupled with Heidenhain’s TNC controls, Marten’s facility produces parts around the clock for many industries, including medical, aerospace and precision tools. Marten also serves as a source for many companies that don’t have the time or resources to design and produce parts for themselves.
“What has driven our growth is our ongoing commitment to invest in resources to produce high-tolerance specialty parts,” explained Marten.

Alan Marten, David’s father, started out with just a manual mill, manual lathe and a band saw in his garage. While making specialty parts for area businesses, he acquired a job to machine stainless steel cases used for printing numbers on checks, but needed a more accurate machine to do so as the holes on those parts needed to be held to 0.0002″ (0.005 mm). So, in 1987, Marten purchased its first CNC machine from Hermle Machine Co. (Franklin, WI) with CNC controls from Heidenhain Corp. (Schaumburg, IL).

“Our first Hermle machine with the Heidenhain CNC could easily handle the job,” remembered David Marten. “At that point, being able to circular interpolate those holes on the CNC machines made the job much more accurate as well as efficient. From there, the business took off.”

With more jobs, the shop bought three more Hermle machines with the latest Heidenhain controls, and in 1989, Marten Machining built the first section of its current facility in Stevens Point, WI, moving in the following year. In 1998, the shop invested in its first five-axis CNC machine, another Hermle mill with a Heidenhain control with even more advanced capabilities. “These machines are just easy to understand and use,” said Marten. “The Heidenhain control has a whole keyboard right on it, and has a lot of ergonomic and visual prompts that our operators like.”

“Beginning five-axis milling was our next milestone,” added Marten. At that time, the shop manufactured some parts that involved full dynamic five-axis milling, but also used the machine for five-sided machining so that parts previously done in two or three operations were now done in one. Then, the shop was machining many assemblies for medical parts, as well as fixtures for assembly, test and laser welding. The transition from three-axis to five-axis had begun.

“All along, our CNC transitions were easy,” explained Marten’s long-time shop supervisor, Shawn Demski. “Heidenhain’s controls utilize conversational programming, and each model upgrade incorporated advances, such as better tool management and various cycles. I think it is the easiest CNC on which someone new can get up to speed, and it’s really a strong control.”

Marten added, “What also drove a lot of our new work at that time was being able to review a set of prints, analyze it and find and resolve any issues utilizing our new capabilities.”

Adding Automation

In 2004, when an opportunity to manufacture tough-to-machine radiation shielding that requires long cycle times presented itself, Marten staff realized that loading material every few hours was tedious, so the shop invested in its first five-axis Hermle/Heidenhain machine with an automated Erowa pallet. “Finally, we were able to program all of this and let it load and run automatically on nights and weekends!” explained Marten.

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Staff at Marten Machining from left to right: Shawn Demski (shop manager), Matt Bauknecht, Jason Petruska, Jason Laska, Tyler Miller, Andy Scheunemann, Ryan Richmond and Colin Reffner.

In 2013, the shop began machining component parts for implantable medical devices. “This forced us to develop special inspection processes and adjust our manufacturing as needed in order to ensure repeatability and accuracy during automation,” said Marten. “We got ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 certified.”

“Another great feature on our five-axis machines is that they are all set up with Heidenhain’s KinematicsOpt cycle, so our operators put in the part and the cycle automatically calibrates the machine,” Demski added. “So, when the machine heats up and cools down, and you’re running different kinds of parts, it can do so automatically and extremely accurately.”

For example, the shop recently had to machine impellers that had to hold the outside to a profile of 0.00025″ (0.0064 mm) using five-axis. With good cutters and the Kinematics feature enabled, operators were able to hold it repeatedly. “We are now using the Heidenhain iTNC 530 models,” added Demski. “We often have to cut hard material such as Inconel and Hastelloy. We recently finished machining some 24″ [609-mm] long aluminum aerospace parts using five-axis, and with all parameters and cycles set up in the control—even our first piece off was good.”

Marten Machining now has many Hermle/Heidenhain machines with pallet automation on-site, as well as some additional finishing/specialty machines, such as CMMs. “We have three more five-axis Hermle machines on order now, and these will all have the newest Heidenhain TNC 640 control on-board with even more capabilities,” added Marten.

Reaching Out for New Workers

In addition to good equipment, successful manufacturing also requires knowledgeable operators. As a result, Marten management has been involved in many area youth-based manufacturing training programs to attract educated employees. “Not only did we have seven apprentices work with us this past year, but we also volunteer at the local high school’s machine shop program, as well as partner with regional tech schools and participate in the local school district’s ‘Heavy Metal Tours’ program,” said Marten.

The fourth annual Heavy Metal Tour was held in central Wisconsin where over 100 sixth and seventh graders were bussed to various manufacturing facilities. At Marten, besides the annual cutting demonstration at a manual lathe given by founder Alan Marten, control stations are set up where CNC instruction and programming experiments can be done.

“In one area, we lay out a coordinate system to make a 2D part profile. Then the students put those coordinates in the control and run the program to make a part,” said Marten. “We also do a sample job using aluminum with a high-feed toolpath on one of our newest machines, the Hermle C22 with a Heidenhain iTNC 530 control.”

Marten Machining’s apprenticeship program began in 1992 and has grown ever since. Many of Marten’s high school student apprentices work full time there over the summer and some have even come back after secondary schooling to pursue careers.

“Young people are the future of manufacturing,” said Marten. “And we’re seeing some real energy and interest here to grow this business. Even now, for example, two of our SPASH (Stevens Point Area Senior High) student apprentices are staying late on Thursday nights to do Mastercam training to create programming, then put it into our Heidenhain controls. This provides great value to them and to our organization.”

For more information from Heidenhain, go to www.heidenhain.us, or phone 800-233-6388; for more information from Hermle Machine Co, go to http://www.hermlemachine.com/en/home_en, or phone 414-421-9770.

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