Investing in Innovation

Embracing new technologies helps create an innovative environment in the machine shop, looking forward to what’s possible rather than backward to what’s already been done.

�

Brendan Slabe uses his shop’s 3D printer to produce prototypes of a piece at each stage of the machining process to enhance discussions between engineers, operators and customers.

Only a week after Slabe Machine Products (SMP) of Willoughby, Ohio, purchased its first tabletop-mounted robotic arm, Karthik Mellechervu—a young engineer with the company—had already utilized it as the centerpiece of a system designed to coat finished parts. He first determined the components he’d need for such a system, such as a gravity-fed ramp for positioning parts within the robot’s reach, and then he grew them on the company’s 3D printer. “We bought the robot just to see what we could do with it,” according to Brendan Slabe, vice president of sales and marketing. “All we had to do was put it in Karthik’s hands and he was off and running.”

Mr. Slabe discovered the value of investing in new technologies—new to the company, at least—almost two decades ago, when SMP purchased its first Swiss-type lathe about 20 years ago. “It immediately opened our eyes to the value of making a part complete on a single machine,” he recalls. “It changed the whole way we think about machining.”

He also uses the 3D printer to simplify and clarify prototyping. Rather than producing a prototype of the proposed finished part, he grows parts at each phase of the machining process to support discussions between engineers, operators and customers as to the best method for reaching the desired goal. Read this article to learn more about SMP’s approach to Swiss-type machining. 

�

Karthik Mellechervu and Brendan Slabe discuss the details of an automated coating system, with components made by 3D printing.