Delcam's PartMaker helps manage the chaos
Using Delcam's PartMaker CAM software is helping medical equipment manufacturer Criterion Tool & Die to continue its success in an increasingly demanding market. "The biggest issue in medical device manufacturing is that the components are getting more difficult to make,” explains Tanya DiSalvo, the company’s President and grand-daughter of the founder Mike Ondercin. Being successful requires more than just being able to produce good parts quickly; it also demands that the company is able to respond to the ever changing demands of its customers.
"We have learned that sometimes, when you are doing product development work, the engineer doesn’t know exactly what he wants the part to look like at the end,” claims Ms. DiSalvo. "The engineers can still be tweaking the design of the part, so we are managing the chaos because we’re making products to get somebody up and running, or to ramp up a company to send the equipment out to its sales people so they can demonstrate it to the doctors. All the while, they can still be making design changes, even wholesale engineering changes, not just ‘wouldn’t it be nice if…’ modifications.”
Further adding to the challenge is the variety of ways in which customers provide data to Criterion. Parts come through in all sorts of formats, from faxed prints, to emailed pdf files, to electronic 2D drawings, or 3D solid models. Criterion does not get to choose how the part designs are provided, or the engineering format in which they are supplied, but it does need to deal with them all expediently. This an important area where PartMaker helps, as it allows Criterion to either redraw parts quickly from hard-copy part prints or import geometry in a 2D or 3D format, regardless of which engineering system the customer used to create the part design.
Once the design is finalised, PartMaker’s offline programming speeds the move into production on the company’s Swiss-type lathes and other advanced equipment. "Programming plays a major role because of the complex geometry that is now required. Everything is blended or rounded, nothing is flat, and one feature flows into the next,” explained Ms. DiSalvo. "That’s all a function of maths and geometry that you cannot calculate in the old-fashioned, manual way.”
Criterion’s entry into the medical device machining business began innocently enough. In the early ‘90s, while at a trade show, Ms. DiSalvo’s father, Dennis Ondercin, came across a group of engineers asking how much it would cost to make a component for them. Mr. Ondercin took a look at the part design, shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don’t know – how many would you buy?” When one of the engineers responded: "As many as you can make,” he knew that the medical device industry was where his business needed to be.
Until then, since being founded in 1953, Criterion had made its name in the Cleveland area as a high-quality precision machine shop largely serving the needs of local aerospace and defence contractors like Martin Marietta. At the time, the company employed nine people and relied on conventional CNC lathes and mills to meet its customers’ demands. Today, Criterion has grown to thirty staff with a variety of CNC Swiss-type lathes and turn-mill equipment, all programmed with PartMaker.