A detailed step by step tour by Titan, that takes you through the production process.
All jobs are quoted first to a potential customer using a PDF or solid model as reference. When the customer chooses to award Titan America with a particular job, it produces a purchase order which serves as the contract for manufacturing. After receipt of the purchase order, all relevant information is downloaded into an on site database. A shop production router is generated which documents each production step in the process. This includes purchasing of all material and tools, programming and all machining operations, inspections, cleaning, outside processes and shipping information. The router is strictly followed and all time is calculated and accounted for. Time and info is put into the shop’s over-all production schedule.
Before the production router heads out onto the manufacturing floor to get in line for production, all material, tooling and fixtures are ordered. Titan America prides itself in developing great and long lasting relationships with all key vendors. We work hard to buy domestic and american made items when possible and work on a volume incentive system. Basically, we make deals and build relationships that promise a huge volume of work over an entire year or season of time so that we can get a discounted price across the board on tooling and materials. For instance, I will ask vendors not to worry about making a 30% profit on $1000.00 but rather they should look at the bigger picture. By getting $100,000.00 worth of business over a period of time, they can instead make a 15% profit across the board which in the end will create a much higher overall profit. By making deals on large volumes we are able to drastically cut our cost which is then passed on to our customer at a price cheaper than other manufacturing companies can offer.
When material is received in our shipping and receiving department, it must go through a few steps before it is ready to be cut. First, the production router is pulled and all documentation concerning the particular material is gone through thoroughly. Second, the Inspector / Receiving Clerk must then pull all shipping information including material certification. This information travels with the material during shipping. Third, the part print is pulled from the router folder and all called out specifications are matched up to the material certification. It is very important that all spec call outs are verified and documented. If we miss a spec call out or fail in this operation, the risk of complete production failure would be extremely high. Only documentation allows us to trace material back to it’s origins. Fourth, Inspection equipment is used to verify the materials specific size and shape. Fifth, when all is verified, the material is tagged with a signature and documented with a in-house certification. The two part tag is separated with one part going with the router and the other staying with the material. Sixth, material is then placed in a staging – holding area. When the cutting operation takes place, the material is either hand loaded onto a saw or a forklift is used. A single piece of material could weigh anywhere from 1 pound to 5000 pounds.
When ordering material for a particular job, there are a few things to consider. A big one is to determine how much the material actually costs and to make sure that you are getting the cheapest price for quality domestic material. Most shops will buy bars or rods of material and have it cut to specific sizes. These sizes represent the stock needed for the particular part to be machined. If a part finishes at 5 x 5 x 10, then we will use a slightly over sized piece of material which will allow us to cut all surfaces and to hold the part while cutting these surfaces. So, I would probably cut my material to 5.25 X 5.25 bar cut 10.125 for this particular piece. Material vendors will cut your material to any size you want for an additional charge. If you need 2 feet of stock out of a 12 foot bar, then this is a good way to go because you won’t have to pay for the excess material being wasted. At Titan America, we use our own in-house automatic saws like this one that can cut up to 12″ square or rod stock. This saw cuts precise pieces within +- .005 and automatically feeds the material through, so you can set a bar or bars in the saw and turn it on while walking away to do other things. Minutes or hours later, you come back to see all material cut perfectly. By using our own saws, we not only get material for a cheaper price which is then passed onto our customers, we also cut standard 7 – 10 day lead-times for deliveries down to over-night deliveries which helps us deliver finished products faster to our end user. This all adds to our overall efficiency that we are so proud of.
During the material cutting operation, the saw operator must make sure that he or she follows strict cutting procedures. Titan America has become a leader in machining difficult jobs, you could say it has become our niche! Although this puts us in a great place as far as competition with other shops goes, it can also be disastrous if mistakes happen. Material prices often out weigh labor cost so we have to make sure that all procedures are followed to the tee. If material is cut wrong, we will have to absorb the entire financial loss that is cause by a specific mistake. Material pricing for our shop ranges from pennies to over $5000.00 per piece. Material needs to be set up perfectly on the saw. The cut size found on the shop router needs to make sense when comparing it to the finished part. The 1st piece off the saw has to be checked for size, length & squareness. All tolerances must be exact. After the operator checks the piece themselves, they must then take it to our inspection department to get signed off by a second party. When all this takes place, the green light gets turned on. The inspector will make the decision on whether the saw can run unattended or if the operator has to stay and 100% all parts off.
After the saw operation is complete the material is transferred to a staging area until the job is called up to its intended machine. The raw material is put onto carts or racks for storage and easy moving. Sometimes they are put onto pallets in this particular case when the material is too heavy to be racked. Material is tagged with proper job information which matches the job router. This particular batch of material has been placed on the left side of the machine opening for easy access. The operator will place the material into the machine and then pull it out after the operation is complete, placing it on a different pallet located to the right of the machine opening.
A CNC machine has to be completely set up before it is ready for material. First, a programmer has to examine the blueprint located in the shop router. Second, he needs to devise and execute a plan to manufacture the specific part. This means he needs to consider the best and most efficient ways to machine the specific part. He will ask himself questions like; What kind of material are we dealing with?, How hard?, Will it move during the process?, What kind of tools should be used?, Should they be coated?, What is the best way to hold the material during machining?, How much pressure or force will the machining tools be putting into the material?, How are we going to inspect the parts during the process?, What are the critical tolerances?. When these questions have been thoroughly answered, the programmer will write a program using a drawing that he created or by using customer supplied DWG, DXF or Solid Models. A Cad/Cam system will be used to generate the program. A CNC (computer numerical controlled) machine runs off numerical code. This code is generated by the Cad/Cam system or can be written manually by the programmer, If you’re good and efficient. -)
When finished, the programmer will give strict instructions to a set-up machinist. The machinist will receive the program, shop router, tool list and list of instructions to lead the machinist through the set up. Think of it like this, the programmer is the architect and the machinist is the contractor.
As you can see here, many different tools have been put into the above round tool carousel, each one is intended for a specific purpose. Vises have been attached to the table in perfect position to hold the material in place as each cutter performs its specific task. This particular machine is a HAAS VF11 with 4 axis of movement. The spindle rotates at 15000 RPMs and moves up and down in Z axis. The 10 foot long table moves left to right in X axis and front to back in Y axis. When an indexer is locked down to the table, A axis is added which is a 360 degree rotation. When all axis move simultaneously, we have 3D milling. Note#1, I could take a small 1/8 ball endmill rotating at 15000 RPMs and 3D mill your hand perfectly out of aluminum. Every line and wrinkle would be caught… Solid modeling is awesome and we can make our machines contour most solid models. Note#2, we have machined 25 foot long wing parts for Boeing in this particular machine. Parts were hanging out both ends of the machine.
This project is HOT as it is often called in our industry. Meaning, “The Customer needed them all yesterday but gave us the order today”. Believe it or not, this happens all the time. We have customers all the time calling with huge problems like; They are trying to ship 100 expensive assemblies but just found out that they have all parts except 1 pc. You could have a $10.00 custom part holding up a $20,000.00 assembly from shipping. That means, do what ever you have to but get us that part right now. Impossible but hey, that’s what we do, the impossible. We make things happen and we solve our clients problems. That’s how we stand out in this trade, we take on impossible jobs and do them in impossible time frames. That’s why my hair is turning grey, along with most of my employees. 😉 This particular part is for Verizon, It is an aluminum microwave housing that will be placed on top of a mountain so you can use your cell phone. They needed parts right now and wanted a partial as soon as possible, so we set up all operations on one huge table. 1st OP / Far left side = Cuts top and profiles part while putting in various holes. 2nd OP / On the right side of the 1st OP = Cuts off bottom and mills cavities while putting in various holes. Moving down the table, we have the 3rd, 4th & 5th operations that put in side holes on 3 different sides. Doing all operations at once allowed us to have complete parts coming off the machine within days instead of weeks.
We see the first and second operations clearly here. A few things to think about, the material is solid on the left side because we only surfaced the top and side, while the material on the right is hollow because we have machined huge pockets into the parts. We need to really understand what is going on here with pressure. The part on the left is clamped tightly while the part on the right is clamped loosely. It is an art to truly get the feel for this and that is why we often set torque wrenches to specific pressure settings. This ensures that we don’t over clamp on a part. Think about it, If you clamp a hollow part tightly and put in precision holes that have to have exact locations with in +-.0002, don’t you think the part will expand when released from it’s pressure? Yes, it will. Oh ya, and if you clamp it to loose, the tools will yank the part right out of the vise causing tools to break, material can be damaged and machinist nearby to hit the floor because it will sound like a truck hit the building. 😉
When the finished parts come out of the machine, they are stacked neatly on a pallet or rack. Foam is used as a spacer between parts to ensure that they do not touch. Keeping parts scratch free is a top priority. A finished part is considered money and great care is taken to make sure that each part is handled with care. Our company name is built on quality and our reputation for producing beautiful parts at great prices is everything. In this business, to be successful you must take huge pride in your workmanship! We have a huge banner on the wall, “If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will”. Now that is truth!
All parts are checked by the machinist before they are signed off by quality control. The machinist has a set of measuring tools in his work area specifically designed for checking the current job operation being run. All dimensions need to be checked such as hole diameters and threads. All surfaces need to be measured for surface call outs. The machinist needs to check the part print completely, making sure that all notes are followed and understood. After running the first piece, the machinist will make any necessary adjustments and then proceed to run a second piece if needed. A perfect piece must then be taken to the Inspection department to be thoroughly inspected. The machine will sit until the operation has been signed off and only then will the machinist be permitted to continue making parts.
All operations for all parts done at Titan America have to pass through our Quality Control Department for approval. My name is on the front door but our quality manager dictates whether a job will pass or fail. Quality control is the most important part of this business. A customer has to be 100% sure that all procedures have been followed and that all tolerances have been met. Titan America has a full line of manual and automatic inspection tools including CMM, calipers, micrometers, height stands, depth mics, precision granite plates, precision pins and joe blocks. All necessary documentation is in place and we have an outside vendor that comes in to inspect & calibrate all inspection tools.
Here we see our Inspector using the Brown & Sharpe Global Advantage 7107 Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) featuring a fully articulating motorized head, PC-DMIS CAD++ (DCC) Software and a 27 x 27 x 40″ workspace. This is one of the most advanced CMMs on the market. We are able to upload a solid model into the system and the CMM will actually write it’s own program. This machine goes for about $125,000.00 new but is literally the difference between getting Aerospace work or not… Either you can measure the extremely tight tolerance parts or not… Having a CMM like this gives our customers the confidence that we have the right machine to measure all tight tolerances perfectly. Measuring absolute positioning on critical parts manually is a nightmare and rarely can be done consistently without error.
When parts are complete and all deburring and polishing operations are done, they go through one more final inspection process. Aerospace & critical parts get 100% inspected to ensure perfection. Parts then go for outside processing like anodizing, passivation, magnaplating, powdercoating, etc. If we can’t do the final processing in-house, we make sure that a pre-qualified vendor is selected, many of whom we have very long lasting relationships with. When the parts come back, they go through another inspection operation to test the outside processing. Some parts go out but most actually stay in since we do so many extreme metal jobs that don’t require post operations. Either way, once the parts are signed off, they get washed and sent to our shipping department. All documents are sent with parts including material certifications, certificates of conformance and all inspection reports. Parts are packaged for safe shipment. We don’t take any chances with the shipping because you could have a $15000.00 dollar part in $3.00 worth of wrapping and then it gets thrown to the ground by a UPS or FedEx driver. We plan for the worse and wrap every part knowing that it could take some tremendous abuse. Parts are then shipped or delivered personally by a Titan America employee. We use UPS, FedEx and common carriers to ship parts all around the world. Once the parts have shipped out safely, an invoice for the contracted price is sent to the customer.