At RS Precision, our approach to creating value always includes “going beyond the blueprint.” Here’s one example which shows just how valuable this process can be.
I met with an OEM who was looking to have a part produced domestically. They had been purchasing this proprietary cutting tool overseas from the German manufacturer of the highly sophisticated Fromag machine. As part of its manufacturing process, the OEM was using two Fromags to produce blind, internal slots in power steering units for the truck industry. And in order to keep up with demand, the OEM had placed an order for a third Fromag.
However, they were experiencing ongoing problems with the German cutters—specifically, the cutter heads kept breaking off unpredictably. Not only did this result in downtime, but considerable—and expensive—collateral damage, since they needed to replace a number of damaged components along with the broken cutters. What’s more, the price of the imported cutters was high. So basically the OEM was looking for a domestic source that could produce a part that was not only cheaper, but more durable.
RS Precision went “beyond the blueprint” by first inquiring about the grade of tool steel that was being used in the imported cutters, since different tool steels have different tradeoffs between wear resistance and toughness. It turns out the tool steel being used was T15 High Speed Steel, which has poor shock resistance—and was suspected to be the key reason for the frequent failures.
We then made samples from three alternative tool steels that had better shock resistance. This exercise gave us experience in manufacturing the part. The OEM then tested the various tool steels in the application, and selected CPM M4 tool steel, a very high-quality tool steel with the best balance between wear resistance, shock resistance and manufacturing cost.
In addition, the original design consisted of tool steel segments silver brazed into mild steel bodies. RS Precision went “beyond the blueprint” again, and recommended a redesign in which the bodies were made from more durable alloy steel and the tool steel cutter heads became interchangeable inserts held in place with two screws rather than brazing. This substantially reduced the replacement cost per tool, while maintaining the benefits of the superior tool steel alloy cutter.
After satisfactory test results, the OEM placed an initial order for 1,500 pieces, which represented a year of production for the three Fromag machines. However, the cutters produced by RS Precision performed significantly better than the German-sourced cutters. There were no catastrophic failures, and the teardowns and repairs that were common with the German cutters were eliminated.
The customer was now able to produce 50 units before pulling the cutter for resharpening, which now only took a few minutes, and what’s more, the cutters could be re-sharpened 10 times before they were no longer useable. So, the initial 1,500 cutters ended up lasting them three years—not one.
By “going beyond the blueprint” and working together as partners, we were able to provide a solution that eliminated catastrophic cutter failures, increased throughput and reduced cost. The total savings to our customer was tremendous—as was the increase in throughput, so much so that they cancelled the third machine they had on order.
Challenge RS Precision with your most demanding precision part requirements and see how by going “Beyond the Blueprint” we can improve performance and increase your profits!