Tolt Machine Works Starts New Complex Near Seattle

May 12, 2011
Expanding operation restarts vintage machinery, plans new manufacturing technologies to produce large, high-precision components in complex shapes.

Washington-based Tolt Machine Works Inc. completed the first phase of its new machining operation near Seattle. When it is completed next year the new shop will have large 5-axis machining capability, large-area metrology, laser micromachining, fabrication and design, and electron beam welding capability.

Last year TMW purchased EDM Wire-Cut Northwest as part of its effort to build a range of operations capable of supplying specialized components to advanced manufacturing companies. TMW is a 30,000-ft2 plant that specializes in large machining and micromachining jobs.

In its modernization, the company reports it has ambitions “to pioneer new technologies using some big old vintage machines.” And, TMW plans to concentrate on machining exotic materials like titanium, Hastelloy, Kovar, Inconel, and carbide, and offer customers a variety of machining services from one location.

Its particular focus will be large, high-precision components of complex shape for wind, hydroelectric, and nuclear power generating; aerospace, naval, and military craft; scientific research and engineering test; and precision jigs and fixtures.

TMW said it will spotlight two core capabilities; fitting large, heavy parts into machines that have large machining volumes; and precisely measuring features over a large measurement volume.

Frequently, large components must be machined out of exotic or difficult-to-machine materials such as high-temperature nickel alloys, various grades of titanium, or large iron or steel castings.

Most large machine tools in aerospace are optimized for machining aluminum. They are light in order to attain high-speed, but cannot sustain the heavy, high-torque forces required for more difficult materials. In the measuring realm, there are laser systems coupled with portable arms that can measure precisely over great distances. Most of these systems are intended for machine calibration or for measuring a few critical dimensions. They require a lot of labor to set up and perform measurements, especially when a part datum is difficult to reach. More extensive measurement needs can only be supplied by a coordinate measuring machine (CMM).

Phase one at TMW included installing one of the world's biggest coordinate-measuring machines (CMM). An Italian manufacturer, D.E.A., had supplied it to Boeing in the late 1980s. With a measurement volume of X = 500 in. (12.7 m), Y=160 in. (4.06 m), Z=100 in. (2.5 4 m) it will be the core of TMW's metrology department.

Also now in service is TMW's EDM wire-cut division, the result of a 2010 acquisition of Horst Binde's EDM Wire-Cut Northwest.

The second phase of Tolt Machine Works’ expansion has begun now. It calls for installing two electron-beam welding units, as well as a laser micromachining facility, and fabrication shop. And, TMW is bringing online a large six-axis Waldrich Siegen horizontal boring machine that had been operated by a nuclear-power plant. It is capable of a machining volume of X=300 in. in. (7.65m) by Y=96 in. in. (2.4m) by Z=96 in. in. (2.4 m). in. Additionally there is a 120-in. (3 m) diameter B-axis rotary table. The articulating headstock also provides an A-axis of +/- 135 degrees with a boring spindle of 6.3 in. (160 mm). It is one of the few machines on the West Coast with this capability available for outside work. The goal of Tolt Machine Works is to create make complex, high-precision components at both ends of the spectrum - large parts such as wind-turbine housings or fixtures for building airplane sections, and small parts used for medical devices.

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