Green Bay, Wisconsin, was built on paper and paperboard manufacturing and is known as “the toilet paper capital of the world.” Wisconsin’s paper industry accounted for 30,000 jobs and $18.2 billion in economic output in 2018, according to a report from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Green Bay Packaging, based in the city, is a producer of corrugated shipping containers, folding cartons, and coated label products, producing annual revenues of $897 million. And one of the biggest suppliers of precision machined components for the region’s papermakers and other industries is Titletown Manufacturing LLC, based, of course, in Green Bay.
“A lot of our parts go into OEMs that do things such as paper converting, banking equipment, frames, rolls, brackets—really anything that fits in our wheelhouse,” explained Operations Manager Tim Sanders. “We’re not of afraid of much around here.” The company produces parts for paper converting, packaging equipment “and any component that would go into bagging equipment from a roll to a bushing to a bearing block. We even do assembly here.”
Titletown Manufacturing has been in business for more than 60 years, providing metalworking, machining and fabrication solutions for customers throughout the upper Midwest. (Green Bay is called Titletown to honor the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, who won five NFL titles in the 1960s and hold 13 NFL titles in all, the most of any team in the NFL.)
Titletown Manufacturing’s 30 or so employees operate in an environment that is unique in precision-driven industrial companies, where perfectionism is high and the tolerance for shortcuts is low. Like the football team its name references, the company realizes the intrinsic value of each teammate.
“We want to keep good employees,” said Sanders. “Our culture is one of listening to the employees—and actually following through on it. Making them feel like they have been heard, that their issues are addressed or at least acknowledged, is really important.”
Sanders recalled three employees who left Titletown for “greener pastures” but returned to the company because of the worker-friendly atmosphere. “When they left, we said, ‘We understand. If you decide to come back, let us know and we’ll talk about it.’ ” Good employees provide intrinsic value to this company and are not considered replaceable.
Titletown operates a shop with a range of metalworking and fabrication machinery: seven Mazak vertical milling machines including the Variaxis 630-5X five-axis; Mazak and Kuraki horizontal milling and boring machines; Mazak, Clausing and Southbend turning lathes; Churchill, Norton and Sunnen grinding machines; and a Blanchard and Kent surface grinder. Titletown also does steel, stainless and aluminum welding with Miller, Linde and Lincoln units.
Complex geometries and increased production of a variety of components are made possible with Mastercam CAD/CAM from CNC Software Inc., Tolland, Conn. For Tim Sanders and Titletown Manufacturing, precision and flexibility are the most robust attributes.
“We have Mastercam Mill Multiaxis for one of our Mazak Variaxis machines. We do mostly 3+2 machining on there,” Sanders said. “We also have a Kuraki boring bar, some manual equipment, and some other equipment. Mastercam is so flexible that we can run it on the Kuraki, we can run it on the five-axis, we can run it on the horizontal or on the vertical and get the same results. I have used some other software, but nothing as powerful as this.”
This flexibility has enabled Sanders to accept jobs he previously would not have considered taking on. For instance, a customer challenged Sanders and his team to make a part on the A-axis of an older VMC with a fourth-axis indexer. On this machine, the A-axis had a backlash issue that made it impossible to keep tolerances. “We made it into a straight up vertical machine part but 3D milled four surfaces. That way, we didn’t have to worry about an index on a machine tool or the setup,” recalled Sanders. “We combined what would have been done on the fourth axis by rotating the part into a different operation and 3D milled it. There’s a caveat to that, right? This type of milling does take longer unless you start getting into barrel cutters and we’re not there yet. But we are confident that this is the most successful way for us to make that part.”
The ability to mill using a 3D model has allowed Sanders’ team to multi-task, moving from task to task quickly and easily. “Any time I have to add another operation to a setup I’ll do it, but the plan is to free people up to go do something else,” he said. “If you’re 3D milling something, you want to get a better part, you intend to make a better more accurate part and, at the same time, eliminate extra operations.”
Sanders said the ability to produce non-standard jobs without having to invest in expensive, single-use tools is an additional benefit of using Mastercam. The shop uses Mastercam’s 3D programming capabilities to set up a machine to run unattended—even achieving complex geometries. This concept was proven in a recent demanding job that pushed Titletown Manufacturing’s machines with feeds and speeds that made its machinists sweat. Simultaneous five-axis machining enables Titletown to complete more operations in a single cycle, avoiding the need to reposition parts and holding tolerances to ±0.0001" (0.00254 mm). One such part was a skid plate for an outrigger.
“It was made from an abrasive material, and this particular part had a weird angle,” Sanders said. “It had a 60° bevel, but the hypotenuse might have been three inches. Instead of stepping down a 60˚ tool, we 3D milled it. The part also had a 1¼" (31.75 mm) radius. Instead of buying a gigantic ball-end mill, we 3D milled the part with a seven-flute bull-nose end mill from MA Ford. We were pushing that at 300 ipm and had the spindle maxed out.”
The Mastercam software allowed the shop to use the bull-nose end mill to machine both the 60° bevel and the 1¼" radius. “And there was another chamfer and radius on that tool that we could use to complete everything with Mastercam because of their 3D toolpaths, and all at a super high rate of speed. It works well,” Sanders said.
Incorporating new processes like this one means getting buy-in from machinists, and that typically requires education. Machinists must learn the capabilities of the hardware and software and develop trust in both. That’s where Titletown’s Mastercam Reseller, ShopWare Inc., based in Elgin, Illinois, comes in.
“The entire team at ShopWare is fantastic,” Sanders said. “They have helped me immensely, and there’s usually somebody available that can take care of whatever you need.”
To win in machining, it is essential to meet customer deadlines and confidently accept challenging work orders. It’s a matter of speed and precision. The combination of machinery and Mastercam enables Titletown to be creative—especially when negotiating complex geometries.
“I like to think we can compete with anybody, and certainly the software allows us to do that,” Sanders said. “Also, it’s a pretty good recruiting tool when you can show some young people what they can do with the software.”
The versatility of Mastercam enables Sanders and his machinists to push capabilities and manipulate toolpaths. The key is Mastercam’s 2D Dynamic Milling, which provides constant chip loading. Proprietary algorithms programmed into the software detect changes in the material, allowing the end mill to be constantly engaged with the material and automatically adjusted as needed. Lead-in cuts are kept to a minimum, resulting in fewer tool and material breakage. Because the entire length of the flute can be used, machines can plow through material at higher rates of speed.
“We are just starting to get into their five-axis stuff like the five-axis Morph toolpath. That’s on a whole other level,” Sanders said. “There are a lot more options on there, but I’ve used the Morph toolpath on a few things.”
Sanders noted that with Dynamic Milling, he was able to mill a part on the fourth axis in a pocket cut on the whole perimeter of a part. “We programmed a two-axis Dynamic Mill toolpath and then we rotated it about an axis,” Sanders said. “That’s what they call ‘poor man’s 3D milling.’ They have some decent poor man’s 3D milling applications out there as well. You just need to learn and ask [Mastercam’s technical experts] about them. Mastercam’s 3D toolpaths, the Dynamic Milling, the dynamic work offsets—as far as I’ve seen they’re as good as anything out there.”
Titletown Manufacturing’s approach to manufacturing, from its people to the technology they use, has helped to put it on a winning path for a successful future.