Featured Image Courtesy of Jeff Robinson, Hybrid Machining
Located in Holland, MI, Hybrid Machining uses machining skills combined with 3 different 3D printing technologies to manufacture complex projects. Hybrid Machining is a manufacturing company that can take the customer’s design from start to finish, allowing customers to dictate their path. Rather than focusing on a single product, Hybrid has listened to customer needs and presented solutions that, in many cases, customers didn’t know were possible. Jeff Robinson, the owner, took some time out of his day to answer some questions about Hybrid Machining.
How did you get into manufacturing?
I started working in an architectural shop during my high school years. I quickly realized that there was a more advanced part of the industry that I was missing out on. Therefore, I started researching CNC Routing. I fell in love with the technology and have been studying it ever since.
What sort of machines and materials do you use in your shop?
We currently run a Datron Neo, Fanuc Robodrill, and a CR Onsrud 5-axis Router. We work primarily with wood, plastic, and non-ferrous materials. We currently use Autodesk Fusion 360, FeatureCAM, Powermill, Vectric Aspire, and AlphaCAM for CAM. For CAD, we run Fusion 360, Inventor, and Solidworks.
When did you start using 3D printing and how has it benefitted you?
I have been 3D printing for just over a year. It was the first technology that we initiated here at Hybrid Machining, and it has allowed us to provide the best solution to the customer no matter what the requirements are. By expanding into 3D printing, we can help the customer decide which technology will work the best for their part. Many times, we take the “Hybrid” approach and use both additive and subtractive technologies together.
How have you adapted during the Covid-19 outbreak and how has it changed your business?
We started by stopping normal production to form a non-profit called 3DC19 with other local, small business owners with the sole purpose of 3D printing and assembling plastic face shields. Hybrid Machining became the distribution center for the efforts. Collectively, we produced and donated 75K articles of PPE to local hospitals, nursing homes, doctor offices, and first responders. You can learn more about the efforts at www.3DC19.com. We have also been machining a lot of acrylic face guards for customers so that we can help them to get their office staff back to work safely.
What sets Hybrid Machining apart from the rest of the manufacturing community?
We have a serious passion for educating our youth and local businesses on the rapid changes currently happening in the manufacturing industry and preparing them for the impact that Industry 4.0 will have on our lives in the future. We want to produce knowledgeable people just as much as we produce products, and we do this in our unique Learning Lab. We team up with local schools, vocational schools, and community colleges to help them spread the word about manufacturing. We also intend to do ‘Lunch and Learns’ with local businesses to help them understand what other manufacturing methods and advanced materials are available on the market today.
What is the coolest project you have had come through the shop?
Many years ago, at my previous shop, we worked on the presidential handrail that the last three presidents stood behind during the inauguration.
Are you using HEM techniques to improve cycle times?
Yes, we use a couple of the fastest and most nimble machines on the market: the Datron NEO and the Fanuc Robodrill. We leverage the machine’s tools’ high accelerations and deceleration rates, along with HEM, to drastically reduce cycle times for our customers. This allows us to be competitive against over-seas importers.
What do you have to lose other than cycle time? You purchased the entire tool, not just the tip, so use it! You will be surprised how the different the machine will sound and you can get parts done faster with less tool wear.
Why is high quality tool performance important to you?
The tooling is super important to the success of a project because the tool is what is doing the work. I like to tell people, “Why would you buy a high-end sports car with all bells and whistles and then put crappy tires on it? All that power and handling is worthless unless you have good tires.” The same goes for tooling. You can have a half-million-dollar machine that is super-fast and accurate and yet still produce a terrible part with cheap tooling.
When was a time that Harvey Tool, Helical Solutions, or Micro 100 saved the day?
Harvey Tool helped me get through some tough composite projects in the past. Their technical support team was extremely knowledgeable on the subject matter and helped me pick the right tool and parameters to get the job done.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?
NEVER STOP LEARNING. Things may be going great at first and you think you have it all figured out, but then a new technology comes and swipes you off your feet. Spend your spare time studying industry trends, talking to other business leaders, new and old, and preparing for the future.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the “In The Loupe” community?
We are extremely thankful that Harvey Tool spends a lot of time developing ‘material-specific’ tooling. We spend 90% of our time in that section of the catalog. We recently tested out the new wood cutters and are extremely happy. We pushed these tools at speeds and feeds that are unbelievable. We also use the Harvey Tool plastic cutters on a regular basis.
Here at Hybrid Machining, we are blending the lines between routing and milling. For many decades, the line had been fairly clear. There were certain types of jobs you ran on certain types of machines. We are blurring those lines and are using the best tools for the jobs. For instance, we use the 24K RPM spindle on the Robodrill to run it more like a router than a mill. Therefore, we call it the “RoboRouter”. We can produce wood and plastic parts at unbelievable speeds while achieving surface finishes that are off the charts. This is not conventional practice, but the team at Hybrid Machining is willing to blaze the path forward for others to follow.