Thursday, August 22, 2013

Standard Versus Custom Tooling


By Bob Goulding, Technical Engineering Manager

Essentially thousands of cutting tools saturate the market today. Because of this, manufacturers can optimize most of their operations with standard tooling. Given the rapid and constant change of the industry, however, there will be those special applications that require a custom solution.

And by custom, that can mean something as simple as adding a half-inch to the diameter of a square shoulder mill cutter or as complex as developing a highly specialized form milling cutter. A combination tool is a great example of a custom solution as it can perform multiple operations, such as milling and drilling, with one tool, decreasing indexing time and increasing productivity.

If you’re going to specify a custom tool for a job, there are a few things you should consider. First of all, a custom solution is typically more expensive than standard tooling. But if a custom tool is going to offer you productivity-boosting benefits, including longer tool life and faster machining speeds, the additional cost becomes insignificant.

Secondly, because custom tooling is not an off-the-shelf solution, it's not readily available. So, if you were to have a machining problem and break every custom tool in your shop, you would experience downtime due to the delivery time associated with replacement custom tooling. For this reason alone, we work hard to find a standard solution that can meet the unique needs of our customers. If we can’t, we work equally as hard to provide the fastest turnaround time on a custom solution.

Lastly, you need to make sure your machine tool can handle the intended capabilities of your custom tool. There are cases where existing machining equipment can’t meet the expectations a manufacturer has when switching from standard to custom tooling, namely in increased power or rigidity of the setup. Also, don’t forget to assess the skill level of your machinists when transitioning over to a custom tool.  

At Seco, we can help you iron out all the details and determine if custom tooling is right for you. After all, we provide more than just cutting tools, we provide complete solutions. Our custom tooling team possesses extensive expertise in all major industry segments, including aerospace, automotive, oil and gas, medical and energy.

We work closely with our customers to determine exactly what they need and then create a solution that will optimize their unique operations. Furthermore, our custom tooling division in North America is one of 12 globally networked locations, providing us access to expertise from our colleagues worldwide.

Most recently, we’ve experienced increased demand for custom tooling, especially solutions for the automotive industry. Because automotive manufacturers produce high volumes of components daily, they rely on our combination custom tooling to remove significant cycle times from their operations for improved throughput.

If you’re curious as to how our custom tooling team can benefit your operations, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

About the Author
Bob is the technical engineering manager for Seco Tools in North America. He is responsible for overseeing and driving the organization towards its goals of helping customers overcome their manufacturing challenges so they can remain competitive in their respective industries. The organization includes proposal, quote and design tooling engineers for custom applications who work together with Seco’s process project managers whose focus is on customer component productivity improvements. The group also includes Seco’s machine tool organization and the manufacturing unit for tool production. In his spare time, Bob is an avid soccer enthusiast, both watching and playing and also supporting his kids in their respective teams. 

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