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Achieving the ‘Impossible’ is All in a Day’s Work for Optical Product Manufacturer

By Precision Tool Technologies

Precision Tool Technologies Inc., Brainerd, Minn., is a manufacturer and distributor of high quality products and services for wholesale optical laboratories and retail optical industries. Its first success came in the precision machining of polishing tools and mold inserts for the optical industry, where accuracy of ±0.0001" (0.00254 mm) and surface finishes of 4 Ra are required.

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Precision Tool installed this Haimer Tool Dynamic TD 2009 Comfort Plus balancing machine, which has improved part surface finish and allowed it to take on high-precision jobs that other machine shops cannot handle.

For successful operations, this level of excellence must be repeatable on a daily (and nightly) basis. During the course of perfecting its techniques, Precision Tool became the “go-to” company for solving difficult machining problems for a variety of industries. Haimer USA LLC, Villa Park, Illinois, has been a key partner in helping Precision Tool maintain this competitive edge.
Haimer entered the picture when Precision Tool began running lights-outs (what the company calls a “virtual shift”) due to growing demand for its services. This posed a challenge since its equipment consistently runs at speeds up to 40,000 rpm. “We didn’t want to take the chance of buying equipment for seven figures and then start blowing out spindles,” said Jim Goerges, president of Precision Tool. “The solution presented itself when I read an article written by Haimer.”

The article, “Unbalanced Perceptions,” detailed the importance of toolmakers and machinists working together to achieve better results with harmonics and balance. According to Goerges, “We call something ‘art’ when we don’t understand what we are doing. In this article, Haimer turned the ‘art’ into science…and that’s what makes it repeatable.” The article is now mandatory reading for all Precision Tool engineers.

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Balanced tool assemblies like these allow Precision Tool to master harmonics when machining, which improves part surface finish.

With the article as a guide, Goerges and his team set about building a better process that would enhance the company’s digital platform, increase productivity and improve product quality. According to Goerges, there were three vital elements required to move Precision Tool ahead of the pack.

Change Management: “We created a positive mindset about the program and made sure everyone understood the vision and became totally committed to it,” he said. “If you don’t have that buy-in, nothing else matters. People needed to get to a place where change was always a welcome component to the operation as a whole.”

Quality Tooling and Equipment: For Precision Tool, this meant Haimer HSK tooling and shrink-fit systems (no collets, side locks or Weldon flats). Shrink fit provides repeatability and helps reduce tool stick out. Precision Tool worked with Andrew Skoog, the local Haimer manufacturer’s representative, to put together the right package.

Balanced Assemblies: To say that Precision Tool is a fan of balancing is an understatement. According to Technical Advisor Gary Goerges, “Haimer raised our awareness of how good things can be if you balance tool assemblies. In our situation, surface finishes on our equipment are now pretty spectacular. With the Haimer Tool Dynamic TD 2009 Comfort Plus balancing machine, we can get very particular on how close we want to balance something.”

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Jim Goerges, president of Precision Tool.

Jim Goerges agreed. “Much of our customer base had the same problems (accuracy, blown spindles and poor surface finishes). Because of the Haimer balancing machine, we now have the means to provide them with a solution. The word has gotten around that we can handle the hard jobs other shops can’t.”

One of Precision Tool’s customers had a part problem that had its in-house engineers stumped. The part was a conical funnel with holes used to fill chemicals or test equipment for genetic decoding. This complex aluminum part has internal finishes with conical shapes, 40-60 times stick out length, and must have a 4-6 Ra finish after coating (which doubles the surface roughness). This combination of requirements made it impossible for other shops to do the job.

The engineering staff at Precision Tool’s customer admitted they couldn’t make the part. As a result, the company was having a hard time making delivery times, so it decided to give Precision Tool a shot.

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The Haimer Tool Dynamic TD 2009 Comfort Plus balancing machine offers optimized touchscreen usage, integrated PC, and storage for balancing accessories, among
other features.

The Haimer balancer made all the difference. Precision Tool manufactured the part and sent it back to its customer, which was impressed with the outstanding accuracy and finish. “Nobody could make the part to the finished specs that they wanted,” remarked Jim Goerges. “We did it and a big part of that was how exact we were able to get in terms of balancing special machine tooling to achieve the surface finish on the internal features. In fact, we would not have been able to perfect the harmonics without the Haimer balancer.”

He credits the balancer for giving Precision Tool a competitive advantage on many different levels. “It’s often the difference between saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a job,” he said.

Another example of how the partnership of Precision Tool and Haimer managed to achieve what no one else could was in the manufacture of an aspirator attachment for a seeding machine. When the part spins in the machine, it reaches speeds of 12,000 rpm. If it is out of balance, the attachment shakes the entire seeding machine—making all the components vibrate and causing premature retirement of the machine due to excess wear.

Precision Tool could make the part work. While its version of the attachment carried a premium price the customer saw the value that the superior part would bring to the overall quality of its seeding machine. This was all due to Precision Tool’s ability to utilize the Haimer balancing machine on not just toolholder assemblies, but on physical parts as well. The TD 2009 machine was able to identify unbalance and accurately designate the exact position where weight correction was needed.

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Precision Tool’s headquarters in Brainerd, Minn.

Precision Tool’s next investment to complement its balancer and its shrink-fit system will be a Haimer automatic presetter. “It will give us a better, faster, more accurate way of bringing a complete tooling solution to the machine instead of stopping the machine during the run,” said Jim Goerges. “Adding presetting to shrink-fit and balance will allow us to create a total throughput solution for all of our operations.”

For more information from Haimer USA LLC, go to haimer-usa.com or phone 630-833-1500. For more information from Precision Tool Technologies Inc., go to precisiontooltech.com or phone 800-450-8665.

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