Prototyping can be a challenge. We live in an era of fast-moving start-ups and Kickstarter revolutions, which leads to specialized machining and short turn-arounds. Chris Rauch keeps his “dual aspect engineering company” running steadily, thanks to both a lathe and mill from Tormach.
PCNC 1100 and 15L Slant-PRO Lathe™. “We make parts that we design, and we make parts for other companies,” he explains. “We specialize in underwater robotics and our products consist of peripheral components for underwater robotics such as grabbers and thrusters. For our external customers we make parts for vintage Ford’s, and tooling/fixtures for specialty manufacturing companies.”
Rauch Engineering is comprised of one full-time machinist, one full-time engineer, one office manager/bookkeeper, and Rauch himself, who splits his time between engineering and machining. “At this point the two Tormach machines are doing all the work in the shop,” he explains. “We are pretty much maxed out on machine usage. We run the mill and lathe over seven hours a day, and we often run the mill over-night, if we have a well proven code and a minimum number of tool changes. Our experience is that if something is going to fail it will occur during a tool change.”
Rauch has his lathe set up with both a quick change tool post and 3-position gang tooling. “We try to minimize tool changes for efficiency reasons but as you may expect we have a lot of tools (20+) that we use on the lathe, thus the choice to go with the QCTP rather than the tool turret,” he explains. “We are presently running batches of 150 parts through the lathe. We feed in two-foot lengths of bar stock through the head stock and turn, then cut off the parts. After we have 150 parts thru the first operation we then set-up to run the second operation on the cut-off side of the part.”
He uses his PCNC 1100 in a similar fashion, for large (10+) quantity runs, which is why they also utilize an Automatic Tool Changer, to automate tool changes and keep work moving. For quick, one-off parts, Rauch uses the manual mill or manual lathe that they keep in the shop for just that purpose.
Before switching to Tormach machine tools, Rauch struggled with a manual machine that was converted to a CNC. “The converted lathe was never repeatable and needed a lot of attention for every part that was machined. By contrast, we are currently running a batch of 300 parts and getting consistent results for every part,” he explains. “Both machines were set-up with a quick change tool post, but with on the Tormach we also have gang tooling for drilling. This greatly reduces the amount of time that we need to spend standing next to the lathe waiting for tool changes.”
For Rauch, the strong selling point of Tormach was the customer service, but he’s also found the machines to be robust. “I feel that the hardware is solid and very capable.”