Here at TCI, we tell ourselves this on a regular basis in an effort to stay in touch and keep current. What are customers looking for? What best practices are out there that we have not discovered yet? We are driven by constant improvement and if you are not, you should be. There are always better, more efficient ways to do things; sometimes we come up with them ourselves, but more often we learn from someone else.
Taking our own advice, we recently completed an International Tech Tour sponsored by the NTMA. Over the course of one week, we visited four outstanding manufacturing companies in Germany and Switzerland to see how they get things done. Why so far you might ask? Because according to Forbes, the label ‘Made in Germany’ evokes perceptions of quality, efficiency, and trust, more than any other country in the world. Based on surveys, consumers across many nations have more respect for Germany’s prowess at building and producing products than they do most others. The term ‘Swiss Made’ invokes the same feeling.
Our gracious hosts were: Heidenhain, Mori/DMG, Huele and BIG Kaiser.
The time and travel were well worth the effort, and we came away with a fresh perspective in several areas:
Lean Manufacturing – It was immediately apparent as we walked the shop floors that lean was a top priority. Everything was moving, people, machines, and parts; there were lots of green lights on. The floors were clean and organized with everything highly visible. There were no long fetches from one machine or process to the next, and if something was not relevant to the production at hand, it wasn’t there.
Robots – Where feasible, robots were actively loading and unloading parts from machines. In most cases, the materials being handled by humans and robots/cobots were pre-machined for uniformity and precision placement into fixtures. Headcounts seemed noticeably light compared to the number of machines being run.
Apprenticeship – All facilities took part in apprenticeship programs. Students from local high schools spend 2-3 days each week working and honing their craft. This leads to long-term employment, low turnover, and engaged and skilled workers. Apprentice programs play a crucial role in German and Swiss manufacturing and are widely regarded as a key component of the country's vocational education and training (VET) system. These programs, known as "Ausbildung," have a long-standing tradition in Germany and are highly valued for their contributions to workforce development and the economy.
More Digital, Less Paper – In general, German, and Swiss manufacturing companies have been actively embracing digitalization and striving to eliminate paper-based processes to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance sustainability. This was evident in the shops we toured, the use of paper was scarce or non-existent on the shop floor. I consider the following as strong contributors to the paperless shop:
Shop Layouts – I was impressed with the general state of the shops we visited. They were meticulously laid out to improve workflow, present a good working environment, and projected a sense of quality that is associated with Made in Germany or Swiss Made. I came away with the perception of clean, polished, high precision manufacturing, not a bad message.
Our goal is to use what we have learned for continued improvement in our own shop because, at the end of the day, the promise of increased efficiency and throughput is why our customers buy from us.
Thanks for reading –
New Amada THV460 Precision Duplex Mill Supports Continuing Customer Demand for Machine-Ready Blanks™
TCI Precision Metals today announced the installation of a new Amada THV460, its latest addition to a growing line of precision duplex milling machines. The new THV460 joins an existing THV430 and THV800 used by TCI Precision Metals in the production of Machine-Ready Blanks. The ongoing addition of Amada mills to TCI’s shop floor improves efficiency and shortens customer lead time as demand for Custom Made-to-Order and Ready-to-Ship Machine-Ready Blanks continues to rise.
TCI Machine-Ready Blanks are milled in width and length, using Amada’s specially designed twin spindle, in one set up instead of two. This reduces setup time and increases efficiency. One or more Machine-Ready Blanks can be produced together, up to the machines' overall dimensional capacity, which in the case of the THV460 is 18.4″W x 18.4″L x 5.9″H. The value is passed to TCI customers through shorter lead times and competitive pricing.
“We are committed to providing our customers with value in the form of precision high-quality blanks, delivered on time and at a price that is less than they can produce the same materials in their shop,” said Ben Belzer, President, and CEO of TCI Precision Metals.
Precision Machine-Ready blanks eliminate the need for in-house sawing, grinding, flattening, squaring operations, and outside processing. Each blank arrives deburred, clean, and individually packaged to avoid damage during shipping. Blanks are available in two ways: Ready-to-Ship blanks can be ordered online for same-day or next-day shipping, and arrive square, flat, and parallel within ± .002” of specified dimensions all around; custom Made-to-Order blanks are made to customer specifications and are guaranteed as close as +/- .0005” dimensionally and as close as .002” flatness, squareness, and parallelism.
TCI Precision Metals has installed a 42-inch CNC double-disc grinding center at its Gardena, Calif., facility. Technology advancements built into the new machine improve overall efficiency by more than 50 percent compared to traditional double-disc grinders, which will help TCI Precision Metals shorten customer lead times while maintaining close dimensional and flatness tolerances customers have come to expect from the company’s Machine-Ready Blanks.
TCI Precision Metals' ready-to-ship, machine-ready blanks are now available to order directly through OnlineMetals.com, the world’s leading e-commerce metal and plastics supplier. The move provides OnlineMetals’ customers the option to go beyond saw-cut materials and order pre-machined blanks made to close tolerance specifications.
“Ready-to-ship blanks help shops shorten setup time, reduce scrap and increase overall throughput by up to 25 percent by eliminating material prep. Blanks arrive machine-ready for production and are ideal for short-run production machining, tooling and prototype applications,” said Ben Belzer, president and CEO of TCI Precision Metals, Gardena, Calif.
TCI Precision Metals has announced that its ready-to-ship, machine-ready blanks are now available to order directly through OnlineMetals.com. The premachined blanks are suitable for short-run production machining, tooling, and prototype applications. They eliminate the need for in-house sawing, grinding, flattening, and squaring operations and outside processing.
TCI Precision Metals has announced the installation of a new 42" CNC double-disc grinding center. "Technology advancements built into the new machine improve overall efficiency by more than 50% compared to traditional double-disc grinders, which will help TCI Precision Metals shorten customer lead times while maintaining close dimensional and flatness tolerances customers have come to expect from the company's Machine-Ready Blanks," said a company spokesperson.
As a machinist, having the right gear and technology on hand is essential for success. The tools you use can greatly impact the quality and precision of the parts you produce, but which ones are the best? Read on to discover five must-have machinist tools for your workshop.
Small parts can be difficult to measure—until you bring in a micrometer. Micrometers come in many sizes, whether you need to measure interiors, exteriors, or depths of pieces. Precise measurements are always a crucial aspect of machining, so you won’t want to be caught without a micrometer.
One of the toughest things about measuring tiny distances is seeingthose tiny distances. A dial indicator amplifies these measurements to make them clearer to the naked eye. Dial indicators and micrometers are both vital tools to keep on hand when you’re after perfection.
In machining, alignment is everything. An edge finder offers a quick and easy way to make sure your workpiece is properly aligned with your tool before firing anything up. No drill press or milling machine is complete without a good edge finder.
Starter holes are crucial when working with certain tools, and center drills create those starter holes. If you work with either a lathe or a drill press, a center drill can ensure a properly centered starter hole.
No, these aren’t uninteresting bars—boring bars are used to make existing holes larger or more refined. You can use them with lathes or milling machines, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you can choose the right one for your workpiece.
While metal plate cut to size are not a tool, per se, they are fantastic items to have on hand. These plates are pre-cut to the specific dimensions required for a given project, which eliminates the need for time-consuming cutting and squaring operations. You’ll save time by eliminating material prep, reduce waste, and ensure precision work by starting your machining jobs with these plates.
Now that you know more about five must-have machinist tools for your workshop, invest in high-quality tools to produce high-quality results.
Stainless steel is one of the most popular materials in the manufacturing industry, but there are many different types of stainless steel you might not know about. One of the most frequently used grades of steel is 304 stainless steel. Read on to learn four benefits of using 304 stainless steel blanks in your manufacturing processes.
One of the features that makes 304 stainless steel suitable for a variety of environments is its high durability. Harsh environments have little effect on 304 stainless steel, and it is more than prepared to weather any storm—literally and figuratively. With corrosion and oxidation resistance, 304 stainless steel is a low-maintenance material that will last for years.
Another key property of 304 stainless steel is its strength. This attribute allows 304 steel to withstand a significant amount of stress and strain without deforming or cracking. This stainless steel also boats a strong resistance to high temperatures, meaning there are several extreme mechanical conditions in which 304 steel functions better than other materials.
You can count on 304 stainless steel to hold up well against chemicals, whether they’re acids or alkaline solutions. If you’re planning to submerge a metal material in a chemical substance, 304 stainless steel is an option that will resist the effects of the solution.
Finally, 304 stainless steel is easy to work with—a benefit that cannot be overstated. When you need to work with custom-cut metal plates, you’ll want them to machine, cut, weld, and form into various shapes with ease, and 304 stainless steel fits the bill.
When it comes to sourcing 304 stainless steel, TCI Precision Metals can provide materials that are precision sized to close tolerance, deburred, cleaned, and individually packaged for shipping. Custom-cut metal plates arrive ready to go directly from receiving to machining or fabrication, depending on your application. Custom-cut metal plates eliminate material prep, reduce scrap, improve quality, and increase overall machining throughput by 25% or more!
Now that you know four benefits of using 304 stainless steel blanks, we hope you have a better understanding of why this grade of steel is a good choice for your applications. When you need help choosing the right stainless steel option for your project, don’t hesitate to reach out to TCI Precision Metals—we’re here for you!
Aluminum plate is a product you can find in several places, but you should also be careful of its origin. There are plenty of suppliers out there who may not have the experience and customer service needed to provide you with the level of care you deserve. Read on to find out what to look for in an aluminum plate supplier.
When you get on the phone with a potential supplier, you want them to sound like they know what they’re talking about. You’d be surprised how many suppliers you can call up and talk with someone who doesn’t know the difference between an aluminum sheet and an aluminum plate. It’s those details that separate the experts from the rest of the pack, and it’s those details that you should look out for.
Expertise and perfection aren’t the same thing. We live in a world with a lot of surprises, but the best suppliers can deal with those surprises gracefully. When something comes up unexpectedly with one of your orders, you want to feel like you’re in the hands of someone who cares about what happens next.
We believe that transparency and quick communication are of the utmost importance, so you can count on us to provide those services to you, in addition to first-rate aluminum.
Finally, none of the above benefits mean much if your supplier can’t get the aluminum where you need it to be. You should be sure to find an aluminum plate supplierlike TCI Precision Metals, as we have a presence all across the country. We can help whether you need aluminum in Washington, Florida, or anywhere in between.
TCI Precision Metals is stocked with precision-sized ready-to-ship aluminum plate for your company’s specific applications. Ready-to-ship materials are pre-machined to close tolerance dimensions and flatness, then they are deburred, cleaned, and individually packaged for shipping. Ready-to-ship materials arrive ready to go directly from receiving to machining, eliminating material prep, reducing scrap, improving quality, and increasing overall machining throughput by 25% or more!
Now that you know what to look for in an aluminum plate supplier, find one you can trust. The best supplier will treat you like their only customer, regardless of the amount of aluminum plate you need to buy—and that’s our pledge to you.
Aluminum is a versatile and lightweight material used in various industries, from aerospace to manufacturing. Different grades of aluminum are available to suit various applications, and each grade has unique properties and characteristics. Read on for a comprehensive guide to different grades of aluminum blanks.
1100 aluminum is a pure aluminum alloy that is soft, ductile, and has excellent formability. This grade is the most chemically pure form of aluminum on the market with a minimum of 99.00 percent aluminum. This structurally superior option is typically used for chemical storage, processing equipment, kitchen utensils, and general sheet metal work.
1100 aluminum is highly malleable, making it easy to form and shape. It also has excellent corrosion resistance, especially when it is anodized. However, 1100 aluminum is soft compared to other alloys, which means that it has a low strength-to-weight ratio. Additionally, 1100 aluminum has a low melting point, limiting its use in high-temperature applications.
This grade of aluminum is a high-strength alloy often used in the aerospace industry. It boasts excellent fatigue resistance and is commonly found in applications where high strength and toughness are essential. The primary element in 2024 aluminum—other than, of course, aluminum—is copper. This alloy also contains small amounts of magnesium, manganese, and chromium.
2024 aluminum’s strength-to-weight ratio is excellent, which is why it is ideal for aerospace applications. It’s important to note that while 2024 aluminum is not without corrosion resistance, it is not as resistant as other aluminum alloys.
3003 aluminum is a medium-strength alloy that is widely used in several industries, including construction and automotive. It contains manganese as its primary alloying element, which serves to increase the material’s natural strength and corrosion resistance. You’ll also find this aluminum grade in food and chemical handling equipment, tanks, and containers.
One of the main benefits of 3003 aluminum is that it’s easy to work with. However, its corrosion resistance does not make it as strong as other alloys, and problems with cracking could arise under certain conditions.
The 5052 grade of aluminum is a medium-strength alloy you can find in marine and automotive applications. With magnesium as its primary alloying element, 5052 aluminum is highly resistant to corrosion. In addition to marine and vehicle use, you may notice 5052 aluminum in electronic and computer components.
Not only does this grade offer excellent corrosion and saltwater resistance, but 5052 aluminum is well-suited for welding and forming applications. That said, since it is a medium-strength alloy, you can easily find options that are stronger.
6061 aluminum is a versatile alloy that contains magnesium and silicon as its primary alloying elements. This grade is best known for its excellent machinability, weldability, and formability—if you’re looking for an all-around winner, 6061 aluminum may be it.
It’s easy to shape this grade into a variety of forms, making it a go-to option across industries. One drawback to be mindful of, however, is that 6061 aluminum has a low melting point. If your applications require placing the aluminum in a high-temperature environment, you may want to find another option.
6063 aluminum contains higher amounts of silicon and magnesium, making it a perfect choice for extrusions and architectural applications. These could include window frames, door frames, and other building components.
With moderate strength, workability, and corrosion resistance, 6063 aluminum is another tried-and-true grade. Although, one thing to look out for is its limited weldability. And you may want to refrain from using this grade in high-stress applications as it could crack.
7075 aluminum is a high-strength alloy often used in aircraft and aerospace applications. You may have encountered this alloy in bike frames and other sports equipment, as it allows for durability without sacrificing weight. 7075 aluminum is also used in firearm parts since it is uniquely suited to withstand the stresses of firing and recoil.
While there are several benefits of this grade, like an ideal strength-to-weight ratio and good heat treatability, you need to factor in that it can be difficult to weld. If you have the right equipment, however, 7075 aluminum can work wonders for you.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that will influence your choice when finding the right grade for the job.
Workability refers to how easily a material can be formed or shaped without cracking or breaking. High workability is ideal for applications that call for extensive forming, such as the automotive and aerospace industries. On the other hand, low workability can be beneficial for applications that require increased strength, such as structural components and support beams.
If you’re looking for grades with high workability, consider 1100, 3003, and 5052. These options are often used for products like cooking utensils, roofing materials, and chemical equipment. 6061 and 7075 aluminum are less workable, but are often used in applications where strength and durability are of the utmost importance.
Weldability is all about how easily a material can be welded without creating defects or weakening the material. While aluminum is known for good weldability, some grades are better than others. 1100, 3003, and 5052 are highly weldable, making them ideal for applications that require welding, such as piping, tanks, and other similar structures.
As you may have guessed based on the connections between workability and weldability, 6061 and 7075 are considered less weldable. However, these grades canbe welded—it just takes extra care and skill.
Strength is an important consideration in many aluminum applications, especially in aerospace, automotive, and industrial components. 6061 and 7075 aluminum are among the strongest aluminum grades available and are commonly used in high-stress applications.
Aluminum grades with lower strength, such as 1100, 3003, and 5052, are often used in applications that don’t require high strength. Regardless of the grade you need, TCI Precision Metals is stocked with ready-to-ship metal blanks for your company’s specific applications. Ready-to-ship blanks are pre-machined to close tolerance, deburred, cleaned, and individually packaged for shipping. Ready-to-ship blanks arrive ready to go directly from receiving to machining, eliminating material prep, reducing scrap, improving quality, and increasing overall machining throughput by 25% or more!
After reading this guide to different grades of aluminum blanks, we hope you have a better understanding of the benefits of each different grade. Here at TCI Precision Metals, we are proud to provide the very best in a wide range of aluminum grades. No matter which one you need for your applications, we can assist you!