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Understanding Key Qualities in Micro 100’s Offering of Micro-Quik™ Quick Change Tool Holders

Did you know that, along with supplying the machining industry with premier turning tools, Micro 100 also fully stocks tool holders for its proprietary Micro-Quik™ Quick Change Tool Holder System? In fact, Micro 100’s Spring 2021 Product Catalog introduced new “headless” style tool holders, which are revolutionizing the machine setup process for turning operations.

This “In the Loupe” guide is designed to provide you with insight for navigating Micro 100’s offering, and to help you select the optimal holder style for your operation.

Understanding Micro 100’s Micro-Quik™

Micro 100’s Micro-Quik™ is unlike any other tool change system you may have seen from other tool manufacturers because of its incredible axial and radial repeatability and its ease of use. This foolproof system delivers impressive repeatability, tip-to-tip consistency, and part-to-part accuracy, all the while resulting in tool changes that are 90 % faster than conventional methods.

In all, a tool change that would regularly take more than 5 minutes is accomplished in fewer than 30 seconds.

Try Micro 100’s “Headless” Tool Holders for Incredible Flexibility

Micro 100 Quick Change Tool Holder Selection

Straight Style, Headless Tool Holders

When using a straight style tool holder, you will enjoy significantly enhanced versatility during the machine set up process. These holders are engineered specifically for use in any Swiss, standard lathe, or multi-function lathe, and allow for adjustable holder depth in a tooling block. Radial coolant access ports provide easier access to coolant and the ability to utilize coolant through functionality in tooling blocks that share a static and live tool function, and cannot be plumbed through the back of the holder. Further, their headless design allows for installation through the backside of the tooling block in machines where the work envelope is limited, allowing for a simplified installation process.

Created by Harvey Performance Company Application Engineers, the following videos outline the simple process for inserting each style of Micro 100 Straight Tool Holder into a tooling block.

Micro 100 Straight Holder, Plumbed Style (QTS / QTSL)

In the video, you’ll notice that the first step is to place your Micro-Quik™ tool in this quick change holder, and align it with the locating pin. Then, tighten the locating and locking screw into the whistle notch. This forces the tool against the locking pin, and allows for repeatable accuracy, every time. From there, the quick change tool holder can be installed as a unit into a tooling block. When desired tool position is achieved, set screws can be tightened to lock the holder in place.

Micro 100 Straight Holder, Plumbed & Ported Style (QTSP / QTSPL)

This unique Micro 100 quick change tool holder style is plumbed and ported, allowing for enhanced versatility and coolant delivery efficiency. The setup process using this style of holder is also simple. First, place your Micro 100 quick change tool into the holder, and align it with the locating pin. From there, tighten the locating and locking screw into the whistle notch, forcing the tool against the locating pin and allowing for repeatable accuracy, every time. When plumbed coolant is being used, remove the plumbed plug in the back of the holder, and connect the appropriate coolant adapter and line. Then, the holder can be installed as a unit into the tooling block and locked into place with set screws.

When using ported coolant, make sure that the coolant plug in the back of the holder is tightly installed. Then, be sure to only use one of the radial ports. Simply plug the two that aren’t in use. Install the provided porting adapter to allow for coolant access. Porting options allow for coolant capabilities in machine areas where coolant is not easily accessible.

Headed Tool Holders

headed quick change tool holder

Micro 100’s original quick change tool holder for its Micro-Quik™ system, this style of tool holder for lathe applications features a unique “3 point” locking and locating system to ensure repeatability. When conducting a tool change with this tool holder style, you must follow a simple, 3-step process:

  1. Loosen the tool holder’s set screw
  2. Remove the used tool from the holder
  3. Insert the new tool and retighten the set screw

These headed holders are plumbed through the back of the holder for NPT coolant connection and are available in standard length and long length styles.

Double-Ended Modular Tool Holder System

double ended quick change tool holder

For twin spindle and Y-axis tooling block locations, Micro 100 fully stocks a double-ended modular system. Similar to its single-ended counterparts, this modular is headless, meaning it enhances machine access during the tool block installation process, and the holder depth can be adjusted while in the block. Because this system is double-ended, however, there is obviously no plumbed coolant option through the end of the tool. Instead, coolant is delivered via an external coolant port, the adapter for which is included in the purchase of the modular system. Right hand and left hand tool holders are designed so the set screws are facing the operator for easy access. Both right and left hand styles are designed for right hand turning.

Enjoy Quick Change Tool Holding Confidence & Ease of Use

When opting for a quick change system, machinists long for simplicity, versatility, and consistency. Though many manufacturers have a system of their own, Micro 100’s Micro-Quik™ sets itself apart with axial and radial repeatability, and tip-to-tip consistency. Further, Micro 100 fully stocks several quick change tool holder options, allowing a machinist to select the style that best fits their application.

Micro100 also manufactures and stocks a wide variety of boring tools for the Micro-Quik™. Click here to learn more.

For more information on selecting the appropriate quick change tool holder for your job, view our selection chart or call an experienced Micro 100 technical engineer at 800-421-8065.

quick change tool holder selection chart for Micro100

The 3 Critical Factors of Turning Speeds and Feeds

Many factors come into play when determining a proper turning speeds and feeds and depth of cut strategy for turning operations. While three of these factors – the ones we deemed to be among the most critical – are listed below, please note that there are many other considerations that are not listed, but that are also important. For instance, safety should always be the main focus of any machining operation, as improper cutting tool parameters can test a machine’s limits, resulting in an accident that can potentially cause significant bodily harm.

Machine condition, type, capabilities, and set-up are all significantly important to an overall successful turning operation, as is turning tool and holder selection.

Turning Speeds and Feeds Factor 1: Machine Condition

The condition of your machine should always be considered prior to beginning a machining operation on a lathe. Older machines that have been used for production operations where hard or abrasive materials are machined tend to have a large amount of backlash, or wear, on the machine’s mechanical parts. This can cause it to produce less than optimal result and may require that a tooling manufacturer’s recommended speeds and feeds parameters need to be dialed back a bit, as to not run the machine more aggressively than it can handle.

turning speeds and feeds

Factor 2: Machine Type and Capabilities

Before dialing in turning speeds and feeds, one must understand their machine type and its capabilities. Machines are programmed differently, depending on the type of turning center being used: CNC Lathe or Manual Lathe.

CNC Lathe Turning Centers

With this type of machine, the part and tool have the ability to be set in motion.

CNC lathe turning centers can be programmed as a G96 (constant surface footage) or G97 (constant RPM). With this type of machine, the maximum allowable RPM can be programmed using a G50 with an S command. For example, inputting a G50 S3000 into your CNC program would limit the maximum RPM to 3,000. Further, with CNC Lathe Turning Centers, the feed rate is programmable and can be changed at different positions or locations within a part program.

Manual Lathe Turning Centers

With this type of machine, only the part is in motion, while the tool remains immobile.

For manual lathe turning centers, parameters are programmed a bit differently. Here, the spindle speed is set at a constant RPM, and normally remains unchanged throughout the machining operation. Obviously, this puts more onus on a machinist to get speed correct, as an operation can quickly be derailed if RPM parameters are not optimal for a job. Like with CNC lathe turning centers, though, understanding your machine’s horsepower and maximum feed rate is critical.

Factor 3: Machine Set-Up

turning speeds and feeds proper tool setup
Excessive Tool Stickout. Digital Image, Hass Automation. https://www.haascnc.com/service/troubleshooting-and-how-to/troubleshooting/lathe-chatter—troubleshooting.html

Machining Conditions

When factoring in your machine set-up, machining conditions must be considered. Below are some ideal conditions to strive for, as well as some suboptimal machining conditions to avoid for dialing in proper turning speeds and feeds.

Ideal Machining Conditions for Turning Applications

  • The workpiece clamping or fixture is in optimal condition, and the workpiece overhang is minimized to improve rigidity.
  • Coolant delivery systems are in place to aid in the evacuation of chips from a part and help control heat generation.

Suboptimal Machining Conditions for Turning Applications

  • Utilizing turning tools that are extended for reach purposes, when not necessary, causing an increased amount of tool deflection and sacrificing the rigidity of the machining operations.
  • The workpiece clamping or fixturing is aged, ineffective, and in poor condition.
  • Coolant delivery systems are missing, or are ineffective
  • Machine does not feature any guarding or enclosures, resulting in safety concerns.

Cutting Tool & Tool Holder Selection

As is always the case, cutting tool and tool holder selection are pivotal. Not all turning tool manufacturers are the same, either. The best machinists develop longstanding relationships with tooling manufacturers, and are able to depend on their input and recommendations. Micro 100, for example, has manufactured the industry’s highest quality turning tools for more than 50 years. Further, its tool holder offering includes multiple unique styles, allowing machinists to determine the product that’s best for them.

lathe tool holder
Pro Tip: Be sure to take into consideration the machine’s horsepower and maximum feed rate when determining running parameters.

Bonus: Common Turning Speeds and Feeds Application Terminology

Vc= Cutting Speed

n= Spindle Speed

Ap=Depth of Cut

Q= Metal Removal Rate

G94 Feedrate IPM (Inches Per Minute)

G95 Feedrate IPR (Inches Per Revolution)

G96 CSS (Constant Surface Speed)

G97 Constant RPM (Revolutions Per Minute)

Causes & Effects of Built-Up Edge (BUE) in Turning Applications

In turning operations, the tool is stationary while the workpiece is rotating in a clamped chuck or a collet holder. Many operations are performed in a lathe, such as facing, drilling, grooving, threading, and cut-off applications. it is imperative to use the proper tool geometry and cutting parameters for the material type that is being machined. If these parameters are not applied correctly in your turning operations, built-up edge (BUE), or many other failure modes, may occur. These failure modes adversely affect the performance of the cutting tool and may lead to an overall scrapped part.

When inspecting a cutting tool under a microscope or eye loupe, there are several different types of turning tool failure modes that can be apparent. Some of the most common modes are:

  • Normal Flank Wear: The only acceptable form of tool wear, caused by the normal aging of a used cutting tool and found on the cutting edges.
    • This abrasive wear, caused by hard constituents in the workpiece material, is the only preferred method of tool wear, as it’s predictable and will continue to provide stable tool life, allowing for further optimization and increased productivity.
  • Cratering: Deformations found on the cutting face of a tool.
    • This tool mode is a chemical and heat failure, localized on the rake face area of the turning tool, or insert. This failure results from the chemical reaction between the workpiece material and the cutting tool and is amplified by cutting speed. Excessive Crater Wear weakens a turning tool’s cutting edge and may lead to cutting edge failure.
  • Chipping: Breaking of the turning tool along its cutting face, resulting in an inaccurate, rough cutting edge.
    • This is a mechanical failure, common in interrupted cutting or non-rigid machining setups. Many culprits can be to blame for chipping, including machine mishaps and tool holder security.
  • Thermal Mechanical Failure (Thermal Cracking): The cracking of a cutting tool due to significant swings in machining temperature.
    • When turning, heat management is key. Too little or too much heat can create issues, as can significant, fast swings in temperature (repeated heating and cooling on the cutting edge). Thermal Mechanical Failure usually shows in the form of evenly spaced cracks, perpendicular to the cutting edge of the turning tool.
  • Built-Up Edge (BUE): When chips adhere to the cutting tool due to high heat, pressure, and friction.

Effects of Built-Up Edge in Turning Application

A built-up edge is perhaps the easiest mode of tool wear to identify, as it may be visible without the need for a microscope or an eye loupe. The term built-up edge means that the material that you’re machining is being pressure welded to the cutting tool. When inspecting your tool, evidence of a BUE problem is material on the rake face or flank face of the cutting tool.

built up cutting edge on turning tools
Image Source: Carbide inserts Wear Failure modes. | machining4.eu, 2020

This condition can create a lot of problems with your machining operations, such as poor tool life, subpar surface finish, size variations, and many other quality issues. The reason for these issues is that the centerline distance and the tool geometry of the cutting edge are being altered by the material that’s been welded to the rake or flank face of the tool. As the BUE condition worsens, you may experience other types of failures or even catastrophic failure.                     

Causes of Built-Up Edge in Turning Applications

Improper Tooling Choice

Built-Up Edge is oftentimes caused by using a turning tool that does not have the correct geometry for the material being machined. Most notably, when machining a gummy material such as aluminum or titanium, your best bet is to use tooling with extremely sharp cutting edges, free cutting geometry, and a polished flank and rake face. This will not only help you to cut the material swiftly but also to keep it from sticking to the cutting tool.

various turning tools

Using Aged Tooling

Even when using a turning tool with correct geometry, you may still experience BUE. As the tool starts to wear and its edge starts to degrade, the material will start building up on the surface of the tool. For this reason, it is very important to inspect the cutting edge of a tool after you have machined a few parts, and then randomly throughout the set tool life. This will help you identify the root cause of any of the failure modes by identifying them early on.

Insufficient Heat Generation

Built-up edge can be caused from running a tool at incorrect cutting parameters. Usually, when BUE is an issue, it’s due to the speed or feed rates being too low. Heat generation is key during any machining application – while too much heat can impact a part material, too little can cause the tool to be less effective at efficiently removing chips.

4 Simple Ways to Mitigate BUE in Turning Applications

  1. When selecting a tool, opt for free cutting, up sharp geometries with highly polished surfaces. Selecting a tool with chipbreaker geometry will also help to divide chips, which will help to remove it from the part and the cutting surface.
  2. Be confident in your application approach and your running parameters. It’s always important to double-check that your running parameters are appropriate for your turning application.
  3. Make sure the coolant is focused on the cutting edge and increase the coolant concentration amount.
  4. Opt for a coated Insert, as coatings are specifically engineered for a given set of part materials, and are designed to prevent common machining woes.
solid carbide turning tool

Heavy Duty Racing – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of Pete Payne, Heavy Duty Racing

Heavy Duty Racing is a manufacturing company based in Stafford, VA, that specializes in motocross, off-road motorcycle suspension, and 2-stroke engine modification. Its owner, Pete Payne, grew up racing motorcycles. Later in life, he even taught classes on how to race. Simply, Motocross and motorcycles became Pete’s passion.

Pete always looked for ways to enhance his motorcycle’s engine, but quickly realized that no shops in his area could design what he was looking for. To get access to the parts he would need, he would have to rely upon companies from far away, and would oftentimes be forced to wait more than three weeks for them to arrive. Because of this, Pete decided he would need to take part manufacturing into his own hands. He purchased a manual lathe, allowing him to make modifications to his two-stroke engines exactly how he wanted them. Quickly thereafter, Heavy Duty Racing was born.

Pete discussed with us his love of racing, how he first got into machining, the parts his shop has designed, and tips and tricks for new machinists.

Pete Payne Heavy Duty Racing
Photo Courtesy of: Pete Payne, Heavy Duty Racing

How did you get started in machining?

Since I was a kid I have been riding motorcycles and racing motocross. I went to a tech school in the ’80s and learned diesel technologies. When I realized nobody in this area could help design the engines I wanted to make, I decided I needed to learn how to do it myself. I have a friend, George, who is a retired mold and die maker that also worked on motorcycle engines, I asked him for some advice on how to get started. George ended up teaching me all about machining and working on engines. I really learned from failures, by trying new things, and doing it every day. I started Heavy Duty Racing in 1997 and we have been modifying and designing the highest performing engines since then.

turning motorcycle part on lathe
Photo Courtesy of: Pete Payne, Heavy Duty Racing

What machines and softwares are you using in your shop?

We currently have a Thormach PCNC 1100 and a Daluth Puma CNC Lathe (we call it The Beast, it’s angry and grumpy but it gets the job done). We also have a Bridgeport Mill, Manual Lathe, and a Tiggwell. When we were choosing software to use, they had to be easy and quick to learn. We weighed our options and decided to use Autodesk Fusion 360 about 5 years ago. We mostly machine cast iron and steel since most engines are made from those materials.

What sets Heavy Duty Racing apart from competitions?

We have a small hands-on approach and treat every part with care. We don’t have a cookie-cutter process so we are very flexible when it comes to customer needs. Since each part is different, we don’t have set prices and have custom quoting on each part. We value our customers and tailor every build to the rider, based on the weight, fuel, and skill level of the rider. We make unique components for each rider so they can have the best experience when they hop on their bike. We are just focused on letting people do what they love.

metal racing parts made by Heavy Duty Racing
Photo Courtesy of: Pete Payne, Heavy Duty Racing

What is the coolest project you have worked on?

In 2016, MX Tech Suspension in Illinois gave us the opportunity to build an engine for them to display at their event. We got to go to California to watch them demo the engine in front of thousands of people. It was very nerve-racking to watch it live but the experience was amazing. The engine was later featured on the cover of Motocross Action magazine. It was very cool to see something we dedicated so much hard time toward get that much recognition.

Why is high quality tooling important to you?

We are making really difficult machine parts so we need tools that can last. Micro 100 tooling lasts and does the job. The thread mills we use are 3-4 mm and 14 mm and they last longer than any competition out there. The thread mills do not chip like the competition and the carbide is super strong. Breaking a tool is not cheap, so to keep one tool in the machine for how long we have has really saved me in the long run. We found Micro 100 one day looking through our distributor’s catalog and decided to try some of their boring bars. After about 5 holes, we realized that these tools are the best we have ever used! Micro has had everything I’ve been looking for in stock and ready to ship, so we have yet to need to try out their custom tools.

Most engine tolerances are no more than .0005” taper. You need the tooling to hold tight tolerances, especially in engines. Just like with tooling, minimizing vibration is key to getting the engine to last longer. We need tight tolerances to maintain high quality and keep engines alive.

machined metal racing part
Photo Courtesy of: Pete Payne, Heavy Duty Racing

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist ready to take the #PlungeIntoMachining, what would it be?

The same advice I’ve given to my son: Don’t be ashamed to start from the bottom and learn from the ground, up. Everybody wants to make cool projects, but you need to learn what is going on around you to master the craft. Learn the processes and follow the steps. It’s very easy to break a tool, ruin a part, or even hurt yourself. Don’t be scared of quality tools! Buying the cheap stuff will help you with one job, but the quality tools last and will save you in multiple situations.

Follow Heavy Duty Racing on Instagram, and go check out their website to see more about them!

Save Time With Quick Change Tooling

Making a manual tool change on any CNC machine is never a timely or rewarding process. Typically, a tool change in a standard holder can take up to 5 minutes. Add that up a few times, and suddenly you have added significant minutes to your production time.

As CNC machine tool and cutting tool technology has advanced, there are more multi-functional tools available to help you avoid tool changes. However, sometimes it just isn’t feasible, and multiple tool changes are needed. Luckily, Micro 100 has developed a revolutionary new method to speed up tool changes significantly.

What is the Micro-Quik™ Tooling System?

Developed in Micro 100’s world-class grinding facility in Meridian, Idaho, the Micro 100 Micro-Quik™ tooling system is held to the same standards and tight tolerances as all of the Micro 100 carbide tooling.

quick change system with micro 100 boring bar

The quick change tooling system allows for highly repeatable tool changes that save countless hours without sacrificing performance. This system combines a unique tool holder with a unique tool design to deliver highly repeatable and accurate results.

Each quick change tool holder features a locating/locking set screw to secure the tool and a locating pin which helps align the tool for repeatability. Removing a tool is as simple as loosening the set screw and inserting its replacement.

removing tool from quick change system

During tool changes, the precision ground bevel on the rear of the tool aligns with a locating pin inside the tool holder. The distance from this locational point to the tip of the tool is highly controlled under tight tolerances, meaning that the Micro-Quik™ tooling system ensures a very high degree of tool length and centerline repeatability. The “L4” dimension on all of our quick change tools, as seen in the image above, remains consistent across the entire product line. Check out the video below for a demonstration of the Micro 100 Micro-Quik™ system in action!

Quick Change Tooling Benefits

The most obvious benefit to using Micro 100’s Micro-Quik™ Quick Change Tooling System is the time savings that come with easier tool changes. By using the quick change holders in combination with quick change tooling, it is easy to reduce tool changes from 5 minutes to under 30 seconds, resulting in a 90% decrease in time spent swapping out tools. This is a significant benefit to the system, but there are benefits once the tool is in the machine as well.

As mentioned above, the distance from the locational point on each tool shank to the tip of the tool is highly controlled, meaning that regardless of which type of tool you insert into the holder, your stick out will remain the same. This allows you to have confidence in the tooling and does not require additional touch offs, which is another major time saver.

assortment of boring bars with quick change system

By removing additional touch-offs and tool changes from your workflow, you also reduce the chances for human or machine error. Improper touch-offs or tool change errors can cause costly machine crashes and result in serious repairs and downtime. With the Micro 100 Micro-Quik™ Quick Change Tooling System, initial setups become much easier, allowing you to hit the cycle start button with total confidence for each run.

By making a few simple changes to your tool holding configurations and adopting the Micro-Quik™ system, your shop can save thousands in time saved, with less machine downtime and increased part production. To learn more about the Micro 100 Micro-Quik™ cutting tools and tool holders, please visit (URL here to quick change page).

New Dublin Ship Fittings – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of Lucas Gilbert, New Dublin Ship Fittings

New Dublin Ship Fittings was established in 2017 by Lucas Gilbert, and is located on the scenic south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada.  Lucas began his career with a formal education in machining and mechanical engineering. In the early 2000’s, Lucas got into the traditional shipbuilding industry made famous in the region he grew up in, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia. It is then when Lucas identified the need for quality marine hardware and began making fittings in his free time. After some time, Lucas was able to start New Dublin Ship Fittings and pursue his lifelong dream of opening a machine shop and producing custom yacht hardware.

Lucas was our grand prize winner in the #MadeWithMicro100 Video Contest! He received the $1,000 Amazon gift card, a Micro-Quik™ Quick Change System with some tooling, and a chance to be In the Loupe’s Featured Customer for February. Lucas was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to discuss his shop, how he got started in machining, and the unique products he manufactures.

How did you start New Dublin Ship Fittings?

I went to school for machine shop and then mechanical engineering, only to end up working as a boat builder for 15 years. It was during my time as a boat builder that I started making hardware in my free time for projects we were working on. Eventually, that grew into full-time work. Right now, we manufacture custom silicon bronze and stainless fittings only. Eventually, we will move into a bronze hardware product line.

New Dublin Ship Fittings shop

Photo Courtesy of: New Dublin Ship Fittings

Where did your passion for marine hardware come from?

I’ve always loved metalworking. I grew up playing in my father’s knife shop, so when I got into wooden boats, it was only a matter of time before I started making small bits of hardware. Before hardware, I would play around making woodworking tools such as chisels, hand planes, spokeshaves, etc.

What can be found in your shop?

The shop has a 13”x 30” and 16”x 60” manual lathe, a Bridgeport Milling Machine, Burgmaster Turret Drill Press, Gang Drill, Bandsaw, 30-ton hydraulic press, #2 Hossfeld Bender, GTAW, and GMAW Welding Machines, as well as a full foundry set up with 90 pounds of bronze pour capacity. We generally only work in 655 silicon bronze and 316 stainless steel.

cnc machined boat parts

Photo Courtesy of: New Dublin Ship Fittings

What projects have you worked on at New Dublin Ship Fittings that stand out to you?

I’ve been lucky to work on several amazing projects over the years. Two that stand out are a 48’ Motorsailer Ketch built by Tern Boatworks, as well as the 63’ Fusion Schooner Farfarer, built by Covey Island Boatworks. Both boats we built most of the bronze deck hardware for.

cnc milled boat cleat

Photo Courtesy of: New Dublin Ship Fittings

I’ve made many interesting fittings over the years. I prefer to work with bronze, so I generally have the most fun working on those. I’m generally the most interested when the part is very
challenging to make and custom work parts are often very challenging. I’m asked to build or machine a component that was originally built in a factory and is difficult to reproduce with limited machinery and tooling, but I enjoy figuring out how to make it work.

Why is high-quality tooling important to you?

When I first started I would buy cheaper tooling to “get by” but the longer I did it, the more I realized that cheaper tooling doesn’t pay off. If you want to do quality work in a timely fashion, you need to invest in good tooling.

What Micro 100 Tools are you currently using?

Currently, we just have the Micro 100 brazed on tooling but we have been trying to move more into inserts so we are going to try out Micro’s indexable tooling line. After receiving the Micro-Quik™ Quick Change System, we are looking forward to trying out more of what (Micro 100) has to offer. This new system should help us reduce tool change time, saving us some money in the long run.

cnc machined rigging

Photo Courtesy of: New Dublin Ship Fittings

What makes New Dublin Ship Fittings stand out from the competition?

I think the real value I can offer boat builders and owners over a standard job shop is my experience with building boats. I understand how the fitting will be used and can offer suggestions as to how to improve the design.

If you could give one piece of advice to a new machinist what would it be?

The advice I would give to new machinists is to start slow and learn the machines and techniques before you try to make parts quickly. There is a lot of pressure in shops to make parts as fast as possible, but you’ll never be as fast as you can be if you don’t learn the processes properly first. Also, learn to sharpen drill bits well!

Okluma – Featured Customer

Featured Image Courtesy of Okluma

Okluma is a small manufacturing business located in Oklahoma City focused primarily on creating high-quality flashlights that can stand up to the most extreme conditions. The company was founded in early 2015 out of owner Jeff Sapp’s garage, and has quickly gained a solid reputation as one of the best-built and most reliable flashlights on the market today.

We were able to steal a few moments of Jeff’s time to interview him for this Featured Customer post, where he shared his thoughts on topics like the importance of customer service, the reason to use higher quality tooling, and his transition into the world of CNC machining.

To get started, how did you first get involved in manufacturing?

In high school I actually worked in a machine shop. This is where I got my first exposure to big machines and manufacturing. I worked at the shop until I graduated, doing simple things like sweeping the floor and running errands. The work wasn’t very exciting, but it did give me some really good exposure to the world of machining. Every now and then one of the machinists would let me help out with a part, but that would be rare. I did manage to save up enough money to buy a small mill and lathe, which I took with me when I went off to college.

During college and after graduation, I made a living by writing software, which I did successfully for 15 years. Eventually I got tired of writing software after I had spent more than a decade in that space, and I wanted to try something new. I had picked up small jobs and worked on personal projects over the years, so I decided to enroll in a machine shop school in Oklahoma City to learn more about manufacturing and becoming a machinist, and graduated from there with a renewed sense of what I wanted to do. Technical schools are a great way to pick up new skills and advance your career. The manufacturing technology program at the Francis Tuttle Technology Center here in Oklahoma City was great and the instructors there, Dean and Julia, are talented and very patient people.

okluma

Photo Courtesy of: Okluma

Did your background in writing software help you transition into CNC programming?

Absolutely. It was a tremendous help to understand some very strange programming concepts that came with writing software, and it all translated very well into CNC programming. These days, CNC machinists and programmers need to be as knowledgeable about the software and programs as they do the tools and parts, so having a background in software programming or development certainly translates well to the world of CNC machines.

Where did the idea to start Okluma stem from?

After graduation from the machine shop program, I took a few weeks off and went on a long, off-road motorcycle trip across the country. I had purchased what I thought was a nice flashlight for $50 to carry with me on the trip. However, two days in to the trip the flashlight broke. Of course, it was dark and I was in the middle of nowhere trying to work on my bike. I’m happy to pay for good tools, but that wasn’t what happened. Not only there was no warranty for replacement, there was no way to fix it. It was just made to be thrown away. That whole attitude makes me angry.

When I got home, I decided I was going to put my new skills to work and design and build my own flashlight, with the goal of never running into an issue like I had on my trip ever again. I started by making one for myself, then 4, then 20. That was 4 years ago. Now I have my own business with one employee and two dogs, and we stay very busy.

okluma

Photo Courtesy of: Okluma

What does your current product offering look like?

For our products, I currently have two flashlights models (the DC1 and DC2) and we are working on some cool new projects for 2019. With battery and LED technology advancing like it has, there are some interesting applications, way beyond just flashlights, that haven’t been possible until recently. Stay tuned for more information on those by following us on Instagram.

okluma DC1

The Titanium version of the Okluma DC1 flashlight. Photo Courtesy of: Okluma

What do you think separates an Okluma flashlight from the competition?

The basic values behind Okluma all stem from me simply wanting a nice tool that won’t break easily and will be supported by the manufacturer. I offer a lifetime warranty and stand firmly behind that. I want an Okluma flashlight to last forever so you will never have to buy another flashlight.

The quality and hardiness of a flashlight is important to many outdoors types, homeowners, and collectors, but we also sell lots of our flashlights to the military and police. If their light goes out in a tough situation it could be really bad, so we have to make sure our flashlights can be dependable above all else. Like they always say, you get what you pay for. Our flashlights aren’t going to be the cheapest, but we stand behind them with our warranty and pride ourselves on the quality and reliability.

okluma facility

Photo Courtesy of: Okluma

What sort of machines and software do you have in the shop?

Right now I have the old standards like a Bridgeport mill and an old LeBlond lathe, as well as my CNC machines – a Daewoo Lynx 220LC CNC Lathe and a Doosan DNM 4500 CNC Mill.

For software, I use Autodesk Fusion 360 for the mill, and I write the G-code by hand for the lathe. I was more familiar with the lathe, so I had an easier time writing my own code for it. Getting Fusion 360 for my milling has been a huge help.

okluma cnc mill

Photo Courtesy of: Okluma

Have you been using the Harvey Tool and Helical Solutions tool libraries in Fusion 360?

Yes! The tool library in Fusion 360 was a huge help for me. To be able to get the right tool and not model things incorrectly probably saved me a lot of broken tools. That was a big reason why I came to Harvey Tool and Helical for support in the first place.

It was cool to come from the software community, where we collaborated on a lot of open-source projects, and see companies like Autodesk opening up their software to manufacturers like Harvey Tool and Helical for these great partnerships.

What sort of operations/parts do you create on the lathe versus the mills?

As you can imagine (being a cylindrical shaped part) most of the flashlight manufacturing is done on the lathe. For a while I had been making them all by hand, until we got the CNC lathe. While most of the work is done on the lathe, for the more intense pieces we have to drill and tap and do some different slotting operations. We also drill and tap the clip holes for all of the flashlights, so the CNC mill is huge for those operations.

As Okluma started to grow, we realized that we had a huge bottleneck doing our secondary operations by hand on the manual milling machine. We solved that problem by buying the Doosan mill to help with secondary operations, but you still have to know how to use it to make it worth the purchase!

I was completely in the dark on the CNC milling side of things at that time, as I was much more familiar with the lathe. I actually called Harvey Tool with a few questions, and the Harvey Tech team really held my hand and walked me through all of the things I needed to know, which was huge. I also used the Machining Advisor Pro application to generate speeds and feeds for my Helical end mills. MAP helped save me a lot of broken end mills and increased my production times.

okluma

Photo Courtesy of: Okluma

You are using almost exclusively Harvey Tool and Helical for milling operations on your Doosan VMC. Why is purchasing quality tooling important to you?

I can try to do things on my own and eventually get it, but it costs me money on broken tools and it costs me my time, which is even more valuable. I could go that route with any number of different tooling manufacturers, but the fact that I can call Harvey or Helical and get an answer to my questions the first time, usually in a few minutes, and know it will work is hugely helpful. I don’t really look at the cost of the tools so much, because I just know they work and I know I will get the support I need to make my milling operations a success.

Can you remember a crucial moment when Harvey Tool or Helical technical support helped you to be more productive?

As we try to get more creative with our designs, we plan to rely heavily on Harvey and Helical to explore some of these new applications. We actually build our own tool to work on the flashlights, and we are using Harvey and Helical exclusively to machine that. At first, I was making the tools in two operations; I was doing a radius on top and then flipping the part over to create a radius on the bottom. I was having a hard time lining it up. We moved the second radius on the first operation, and used an undercutting tool and everything matched up perfect. I wasn’t really sure how to do it, but I called you guys and you figured it out with me! We have some cool projects coming up which we are planning to rely on Helical tools for, but people will have to stay tuned for that one!

okluma

Photo Courtesy of: Okluma

What have been some of your keys to success for your growing sales?

Good customer service is key. We are one of the few companies that will offer a lifetime warranty. I know there are a lot of flashlight collectors, and we can make fun stuff for those guys, but I want people to really use our flashlights and scratch them and do ridiculous things with them. We have had people use a flashlights in crazy ways (like as a hammer) but we will still fix them under our lifetime warranty. I don’t really care what people do to our flashlights, I just want them to always work.

We can also overnight replacement flashlights for professionals who rely on them for work, so they never have to be without one. That is huge for our customers in the military or in law enforcement who rely on our flashlights as an essential tool in their day-to-day lives.

Do you have plans to expand into retailers, either online or brick and mortar stores?

We only sell direct to consumers right now through our website so that we can control our lifetime warranty. It has worked really well for us so far, so we have no plans to change that right now. I care more about our customers than any retailer is able to.

I’ve noticed that you have gathered a rather large social media following. How has social media helped shape your business?

A lot of our sales come through Instagram or Facebook, so I would recommend those platforms to anyone who is trying to start a business. We have also had a lot of success collaborating with others in the EDC (Every Day Carry) community where makers are creating knives, wallets, keychains; anything you would carry on you “every day”, hence the name. We have collaborated to make flashlights out of other people’s materials, let other shops refinish our flashlights, and things of that nature. Typically it is something we couldn’t do ourselves, or they couldn’t do themselves, so we share the labor and collaborate on some really cool items.

I think social media is especially great for manufacturing because a lot of younger people don’t even know all this crazy cool stuff that is going on in the industry. I was lucky enough to see it first hand at a young age, but so many others never get the chance. It is awesome to share our work and try to inspire some of the younger generation to make their own products and participate in the world of manufacturing.

okluma

Photo Courtesy of: Okluma


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Milling Machines vs. Lathe Machines

Most modern manufacturing centers have both milling machines and lathe machines. Each machine follows the same machining principle, known as subtractive machining, where you begin with a block of material and then shape that material into the desired specifications. How the part is actually shaped is the key difference between the two machines. Understanding the differences in more depth will help in putting the right part in the right machine to maximize their capabilities.

cnc lathe

An Example of a Lathe Machine

cnc milling machine

An Example of a Milling Machine

Operation

The major difference between a milling machine and a lathe machine is the relationship of the workpiece and the tool.

Lathe Machines

In a lathe, the workpiece that is being machined spins about it’s axis, while the cutting tool does not. This is referred to as “turning”, and is effective for creating cylindrical parts. Common operations done on a lathe include drilling, boring, threading, ID and OD grooving, and parting. When looking to create quick, repeatable, and symmetrical cylindrical parts, the lathe machine is the best choice.

cnc lathe

Milling Machines

The opposite is true for milling machines. The tool in a milling machine rotates about its axis, while the workpiece does not. This allows the tool to approach the workpiece in many different orientations that more intricate and complex parts demand. If you can program it, you can make it in a milling machine as long as you have the proper clearance and choose the proper tooling.

milling machines

Best Practice

The best reason to use a milling machine for an upcoming project is the versatility. The tooling options for a milling machine are endless, with hundreds of available specialty cutting tools and various styles of end mills which make sure you are covered from start to finish on each job. A mill can also cut more complex pieces than a lathe. For example, it would impossible to efficiently machine something like an intake manifold for an engine on a lathe. For intricate parts like that, a milling machine would be required for successful machining.

While lathe machines are more limited in use than a milling machine, they are superior for cylindrical parts. While a mill can make the same cuts that a lathe does, it may need multiple setups to create the same part. When continuous production of cylindrical parts is necessary, a lathe will outperform the mill and increase both performance and efficiency.