Smart machining choices start with assessing needs: reaching for the most expensive tool isn't always the right path to choose--any more than reaching for the least expensive is. Often, selecting tools based on specific needs can result in some surprisingly smart choices.

Position:Production strategies - Cover story

"My programmer came up to me and told me he's holding true position of 0.001" and that he programmed the first part, and it came out perfect. He had had to make no adjustments whatsoever, and he had never been able to do that in all his years of programming experience," says Ken Hedeen, owner of KBK Tool & Manufacturing, referring to the newest addition to his operation, a Bridgeport 760 [XP.sup.3] vertical machining center.

"We specialize mainly in CNC milling and turning in basically any type of material stainless steel, carbon steel, plastic, aluminum, heat-resistant alloys--just about anything that's machinable," he continues. "Right now, our business is about 75 percent medical, 15 percent aerospace, 5 percent office equipment, and another 5 percent in miscellaneous work."

KBK currently produces about 70 percent of the machined parts that go into medical diagnostic equipment and surgical instruments. Hedeen explains:

"These kinds of customers expect and require very close tolerance, ultra-precision parts, and are pretty uncompromising. The way we're keeping them happy is with the new Bridgeport 760 [XP.sup.3] machine."

Defining need

For some time Hedeen had wanted to get into short-run, close-tolerance work for medical or aerospace. The work was there to be had, and he quoted some jobs, but with his conventional equipment he couldn't hold the tolerances --0.0005" total tolerance on bores that he wasn't able to ream or even tackle with a boring bar because the bores were very shallow, about 0.125" deep and 0.375" in diameter.

"I really wanted to do these bores with an end mill and interpolate," he recalls, "but we couldn't do it with our present equipment. So, I began to consider new equipment to tackle this type of work, and I very nearly invested in a high-end, high-priced mill."

Along comes choice

One of the truly interesting aspects to this business, Hedeen says, is that as new applications come along, the really inventive machinery builders never sit on their laurels.

"At the beginning of my search for a machining center," he says, "I was unaware that Bridgeport offered such high-end solutions with its [XP.sup.3] line. But once I read over the product brochure, I was impressed at the specifications for the complete line of high-end machines, and that's what really got me interested. I figured no one but no one would put those capabilities in writing if the machines couldn't actually do it."

KBK bought a Bridgeport 760 [XP.sup.3]...

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