A Healthy Switch

A Healthy Switch

By Charles Bates
Senior Editor

Tornos Swiss-style machines play a key role in Mendell Machine and Manufacturing’s switch to medical work that can involve extremely tiny parts.

The decision was made and business plans were put into action – Mendell Machine and Manufacturing Inc. (www.mendell.com) in Lakeville, Minn., was switching from servicing technology industries to the more stable medical market. But as the shop, whose forte was mostly milling, migrated into medical work, it realized that to be anybody of value in that market required Swiss turning capabilities.

Today, Mendell builds custom endiovascular, cardiovascular and orthopedic components as well as instrumentation for all those areas. And, component chips are oftentimes bigger than the finished components themselves. Materials the shop works with include titanium, stainless steel, cobalt chrome and polyetheretherketone (PEEK) resins.

Each year for its medical device OEMs, Mendell produces hundreds of thousands of complex minimally invasive custom components, including implantable components, surgical instrumentation and components for delivery devices. All of these jobs are run on Swiss-style turning machines made by Tornos Technologies US Corp. (www. tornos.us). The Swissstyle turning machines allow the shop to produce complex parts complete in single setups. The shop also produces micro cutters, micro housings, various micro surgical components and trans catheter components.

According to Bryan Bartz, president of Mendell Machine and Manufacturing, nothing slows down the Tornos machines.

“We’ve got some cycle times that are seconds and others that are minutes. It varies on the part complexity. Since medical parts can’t have any burrs, attention to detail is critical,” he said. And, the Tornos machines give the shop problem-free operation.

In addition, machinists at Mendell are big fans of the Tornos TB-Deco ADV software that lets them optimize programs in real time. And they rely on the cycle times generated by the software as well as its simulation capabilities for crash testing and generating speeds and feeds.

“Once we are all programmed, we know that the cycle time the program gives us is what our actual time will be. So we can program a part in a quoting application and know exactly how long it is going to take,” Bartz said.

Mendell found this ability to be especially important in the past when a penny on a part made a difference. Today, it helps the shop when it is in competitive situations estimating large projects.

Prescription for the medical market
If a shop truly has a drive for excellence, it can successfully switch from low-margin industries to the profitable medical market, according to Mendell Machine and Manufacturing.

Here’s the “Mendell” plan for such a switch.

Step one: Hire a highly motivated, knowledgable team of programmers, machinists, engineers and operations, sales and support personell.

Step two: Develop a list of target customers.

Step three: Determine the equipment you need to make parts for those customers. Consider purchasing machines that can produce complete, burr-free parts in single setups. And be sure your equipment can run lights out.

Step four: Keep your machines running with regular preventive maintenance. Regular maintenance lowers downtime dramatically and increases profitability.

Step five: Engage the technical experts at the company that manufactures your machines in the development stage of projects to get their insight on streamlining production.

Step six: Measure the performance of every thing you do and post the results to motivate your staff and impress your customers.

Step seven: Keep your shop clean and organized – like a hospital room.

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