B.C. Instruments, headquartered north of Toronto in Schomberg, Ontario has been serving customers in the aerospace, plastic injection molding, medical, nuclear, defense and electronic industries since 1971. The company has grown organically, adding locations and expanding its workforce, now boasting a current size of 57,000 square feet with 145 employees. Five years ago, its Orillia, Ontario division was located half-an-hour southwest on Highway 11 in a tiny leased space in Barrie. After realizing a market need, B.C. Instruments decided to move to the Orillia facility. This 10,000 square foot shop provides precision machining capabilities to a variety of industries.
Rob Prentice, the team leader of the engineered materials machining section, has been at the Orillia facility since it opened in July 2011. He came to B.C. Instruments when they were still located in Barrie. Today, the Orillia location operates with around 12 to 15 employees, with two people working on a night shift.
“We are still hiring though,” says Prentice, who notes that they are feeling the challenge of finding skilled workers that seems to be resonating across the province.
The Orillia shop does approximately 80 per cent of its work in the medical industry with 10 per cent in aerospace and another 10 per cent for other work. However, Prentice notes that some of their most complex work is in aerospace.
Based on the type of jobs, there was a need to explore workholding solutions that were designed for five-axis machining and decreasing time for changeovers. For the past three years, B.C. Instruments has realized great improvements using Jergens quick change workholding devices.
Primarily working with stainless steel 303 and 304, and Aluminum 6061 and 7075, initially, Prentice was concerned with the strength of the workholding system, seeing as they are machining blocks that can reach up to 180lbs. He looked into the Jergens 5-Axis Drop&Lock Pallet Changer & Pull Studs. He was able to basically put the studs in a block and affixed it on its side.
“It was my main concern that the studs might snap. But, I’ve never had any issues,” he explains. Prentice puts the Jergens pattern on the bottom and begins machining without any vibration issues.
“We were really put to a non-typical test when we first came in here,” says Tom Reid, the Canadian sales manager for Jergens Workholding.
Now, B.C. Instruments uses a variety of quick change workholding solutions on the array of machines in their shop. At the moment, the facility includes two 5-axis mills (one that’s a mill/turn), three 3-axis mills, two standard CNC lathes, one CNC lathe with live tooling, one twin turret multi-axis lathe, one ultrasonic machine, one 3D printer, and a manual mill and lathe. On the milling side of the shop, Jergens workholding can be seen on almost every machine.
“One of the big advantages of this system is that I can remove our fixture block, and it repeats when I drop it back on,” says Prentice of the Jergens 5-Axis Fixture Pro Quick Change System on a Deckel Maho DMU 50 milling machine. “I can remove and back screw the part so there is no clamping to get in our way while we are trying to cut.”
The advantages are in repeatability and decreased set up times. For Prentice, it’s all about being able to easily take workpieces on and off. At the shop, they have all their fixturing, vises and chucks set up just to slide right on the machines.
“You just clamp it down with four screws. It’s easy on and off, taking about five minutes instead of spending half an hour trying to figure out how to clamp it and make it all straight,” Prentice explains, adding that offsets always come right off the center of the table, so Prentice doesn’t have to pick anything up for the x- and y-axis, which can save around 20 minutes of time.
If an operator makes even one or two changeovers in a day, by the end of the week you are adding about four or five hours of time saved and machine uptime. If you are running more than one shift, this can spell even greater savings.
For Prentice, this averages to about a cost savings of $500-1,000 per week for a workholding investment of around $1,800. This basically calculates an average return on investment (ROI) of one to two weeks.
“It pays back really fast. It does depend on your changeovers and jobs, but over here we are doing lots of prototyping, so it is on and off. One day it’s on the vise, the other it’s on something else,” explains Prentice. “We can just drop it and go.”
Another major advantage of the system is that it is designed for five-axis machining. Prentice points out that a lot of times when you are machining, the clamp is on and it can hinder your reach. This Jergens system leaves way less in the way and it is able to tilt up and machine without challenges.
When it comes to repeat jobs, the system also makes it very easy to keep up with production.
“I don’t pick up any origins, I just call up the program/origins I’ve set right into the program the first time, and it repeats,” says Prentice. “I basically press go and it goes. I have no worries with that.”
What is more, using this system has allowed B.C. Instruments to implement lights out manufacturing. Prentice explains that he is able to load three blocks onto the Mori Seiki NMV5000 DCG, which has five pallets, three of which have the Jergens system.
“I just load three of these and go home,” he adds. “The machine runs for about three hours a part. That’s nine hours, so when I come back in, they are all done.”
B.C. Instruments currently has two employees working on an evening shift. Prentice explains that one advantage he’s noticed with the systems is that the day shift is able to do set-ups for the night shift. So when they come in for work, they can just hit go and monitor all the machines, without worrying about anything.
Although there are great advantages, it’s also worth noting that each workholding system has its own cost associated with it.
Eugene Kokbas, the section manager for the engineered materials machining section at the Orillia location explains, “with some parts, you are requiring a lot of extra material to screw in the screws. Sometimes we end up adding over an inch of material. So there is a cost in material. When you are working with parts like [we work with], adding another inch really doesn’t make much of a difference—you have to hold the part, right.”
The shop has found great success with the Jergens 5-Axis Drop&Lock Pallet Changers & Pull Studs, and it can be seen on their two 5-axis machines. The design of the system has allowed them to manufacture both aerospace and medical parts that require tight tolerance and precision machining. With four pins affixed underneath the block, the shop is able to machine all sides without putting stress on the block and possibly distorting the material.
“We typically see customers going for those options when it is an awkward size, like 777 landing gears,” says Reid. “They want better repeatability.”
The strength of the system, the repeatability and time savings has allowed for B.C. Instruments to see great process improvements and make jobs seamless for operators. This is why the Jergens 5-Axis Quick Change System is the right fit for B.C. Instruments.