Bearing Up After the Downturn

Don’t let the name fool you. J/E Bearing & Machine, Ltd. (Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada) is much more than a bearing manufacturer. Since 1983, this 12,000-square-foot job shop has been providing parts, components, assemblies, and sub-assemblies to a myriad of industries ranging from food processing to energy and waste to military and defense.

After a tough few years following the 2008 recession, J/E just finished its most successful year in company history, creating the need for more powerful manufacturing equipment and accompanying CAM software to optimize production volume and lead times.

This low- to medium-volume job shop runs many repeat jobs with numerous setups. The short- to medium-run jobs continually turn over. To meet this demand, the company has expanded from two CNC machines to its current 12, including two new vertical machining centers, one being a large 5-axis machine with 141-inches of travel in the X. The large 5-axis machine is dedicated to producing similar parts of differing lengths and configurations for a multi-year defense project. The new 5-axis machines allow J/E to take on more jobs creating the need for strong, reliable CAD/CAM software.

Miguel Ruiz who, for the past four years has served as the company’s full-time programmer said that Mastercam® CAD/CAM software has helped in reducing set-up times and overall workflow, especially when programming for the defense contractor – J/E’s largest customer – who sends its orders for three-dimensional parts in STEP format.

“We need to deal with a lot of stringent documentation for this client,” said Derek Rozon, Plant Manager, noting the beefed up ISO standards the company must meet in order to do work with the military. Although the parts can be very complex, Mastercam allows them to be programmed very efficiently and its simulation feature assures that there will be no interferences that could cause damage.

The ability to cut expensive materials to exacting specifications with reduced cycle times has given the company a distinct advantage. Many of the parts J/E is called upon to manufacture start as mono-material billets from which large amounts of material must be removed. In some applications, a 200-lb. block of steel will be whittled down to 40 lbs. There is one 3,000-part job that starts out as an 85-lb block of high-strength steel and ends up weighing a mere 14 lbs. at the end. Another project starts out as a 10-inch round disc that ends up being a 6- x 7-inch piece that is not quite square.

J/E bearings can rough out these parts efficiently using toolpaths incorporating the software’s Dynamic Motion technology, Ruiz said. “The program keeps the tool continuously engaged with the material so there isn’t a lot of jumping around or air cutting. And, the Dynamic toolpaths can utilize the entire length of the tool to cut, rather than just the tips.”
“Instead of taking an end mill and using a million tips, you take smaller radial cuts with a much larger depth,” said Rozon. By using the entire tool length, tool wear and breakage is reduced, further saving time and manufacturing costs.
Rozon’s team consists of Ruiz and 11 to 12 machine operators spread over two shifts. Future plans include the addition of Vericut software as well as more fixturing, vises, and other accessories in an effort to reduce set-up times even further. The team is continually exploring new ways to do existing jobs.

For more information or to see Dynamic Motion in action please contact your local Reseller.