To advance means to move forward or expand. In that case, Advanced Carbide Grinding Inc., Derry, Pa., is certainly true to its name. Since the shop’s start in 1999, continuous growth and a commitment to producing the highest-precision quality parts have driven, and continue to drive its success. By incorporating innovative grinding technology and techniques, as well as achieving ISO certification, the shop continues to propel itself to new levels of productivity.
Just six months after its modest beginning, the growing Advanced Carbide Grinding moved to a 2,400 ft2 (223 m2) building, where it remained until 2004. That facility proved adequate enough until 2011, when growth once again precipitated another advantageous move to a 13,000 ft2 (1,208 m2) manufacturing facility. Then the shop moved to its existing facility in Derry, about 45 miles east of Pittsburgh, increasing its total square footage to an impressive 100,000 ft2 (9,290 m2).
“It was an increase in the volume of work that drove continuous expansion,” said Edward Beck, CFO of Advanced Carbide Grinding. Beck, CEO David Butz, and COO Jim Elliott own the company. The three have worked side-by-side for 20 years and acquired 450 active customers with 102 employees running three shifts.
Equally impressive, Advanced Carbide Grinding, over the years, has acquired nearly $5.5 million worth of new, advanced grinding machines, all of which are Studer internal and external universal cylindrical grinders from United Grinding North America Inc., Miamisburg, Ohio. Advanced Carbide Grinding prefers Studer machines because they help the shop effectively meet varying demand, which includes both high-volume/low-mix and low-volume/high-mix production.
For some product lines, the shop will run 10,000 pieces on one of its Studers then 10 one-piece jobs on that same machine the next day. According to Beck, fast setups and the part-processing flexibility of the Studers make this possible.
After the shop owners used the Studer OD and ID grinders for the first time, they were convinced that those were the only CNC machines they wanted on the shop floor. And after acquiring the first Studer S33 CNC universal cylindrical grinder and learning the machine’s capabilities and accuracy, they decided to purchase five additional S33s.
Advanced Carbide Grinding also consulted with United Grinding about designing an ID grinder geared toward a particular product line the shop was manufacturing at the time. The result was a custom-designed Studer S31 cylindrical grinder that worked so well the shop purchased three additional machines.
The Studer S31 handles small-to-large size workpieces in single, low- and high-volume production, while the Studer S33 is well suited for individual and batch production of medium-sized workpieces. StuderPictogramming software and Studer Quick-Set on both machines speeds set-up time and reduces resetting times. For increased flexibility, integrated software modules and optional StuderWIN programming software allow shops such as Advanced Carbide Grinding to create grinding and dressing programs on an external PC.
“We were impressed with the machines because we were able to reduce our cycle times by almost 60 percent from manual operations,” Beck said, adding that the shop now has a total of 11 Studer machines. According to Beck, having such advanced grinding technology on the shop floor gave Advanced Carbide Grinding the confidence to become certified to the international ISO standard, signifying commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. The shop achieved ISO 9001:2015 certification, which emphasizes continuous improvement and is an important step toward becoming any customer’s best supplier.
“I think our quality is what has driven us to that point,” Beck said. “We are fortunate that we’re located in an area known as The Carbide Valley. Within a 15-mile radius, we probably have nine carbide manufacturers that pick up and deliver orders to us on a daily basis.”
While the Derry area is, in fact, considered the “carbide capital of the world,” Advanced Carbide Grinding doesn’t limit itself to carbide grinding. “Our customers requested that we start making steel and carbide assemblies, so we expanded and added a full machine shop,” Beck said. “We also have a lot of experience with cutting tools, and we provide blanks for the cutting tool industry.”
The majority of the company’s carbide and steel assemblies are used in the oil and gas industry for a variety of applications that include wear parts, downhole parts, seal rings and pumps, as well as finished parts for assemblies. Because of the particular grades of carbides used, Advanced Carbide Grinding must grind them with diamond wheels.
“Carbide outlasts tool steel approximately ten to one in a wear application,” Beck said. “We’re capable of grinding from a 0.062" [1.57-mm] diameter up to and including a 14" [355-mm] diameter and holding tolerances of ±0.0001" [0.003 mm].”
The company’s operators are a key asset. “A lot of people who operate CNC machines are what some refer to as button pushers—load a part, hit a button,” said Beck. “All of our operators do their own programming. Our philosophy is to train our people on machine operation, then teach them the programming. It’s difficult to find the right people with the right multitasking skills, but the Studer machine’s homing capabilities that tell the machine where a part is are simpler and contribute to the ease of setup.”
With the Studer grinders, Advanced Carbide Grinding is also able to perform swiveling operations and radius work and meet special surface finish requirements. The shop uses various wheel manufacturers, and 20 years of trial and error have taught it which wheels have the grit sizes and hardness required to generate the needed finishes.
The Studer machines further increase the shop’s part-processing flexibility. The company is confident it will have the equipment and support it needs from United Grinding to continue growing and expand into the aerospace, automotive and mining industries, or branch out into ceramic lines or other exotic materials.
“Our ISO certification is going to open doors to phenomenal opportunities for us. We are not going to look back. We’re going to keep moving forward and advance,” Beck said.
For information from Advanced Carbide Grinding, visit www.advancedcarbidegrinding.com or phone 724-694-1111. For information from United Grinding North America Inc., visit www.grinding.com or phone 937-859-1975.