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Chip-Collection Problem Solver Becomes Product Line

A Wisconsin contract manufacturer created a tilting chip hopper that can be used with a forklift for one-person emptying of scrap material. It has since become a product available to other companies.

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Mini Hopper from Wisconsin Metal Parts

This chip-collection hopper can be delivered to a main bin using a hand truck or forklift to make emptying simpler and safer. (All photos courtesy of Wisconsin Metal Parts.)

Over the years, I’ve highlighted a number of examples of shops parlaying a solution to a problem they were experiencing in house into a product they could market to others. That’s the case with Wisconsin Metal Parts in Waukesha.

This contract manufacturer and assembler serves a variety of industries, including military, medical, food service and heat transfer, producing individual components, subassemblies or even full assemblies. In the past, its machining department dealt with chip collection in much the same way as other shops: having a couple people empty a trash bin used to collect chips from a machine tool. Recently, though, it developed a compact hopper that takes up minimal floor space and enables one person and a forklift (or hand truck) to empty. The company has since turned this into a product it calls the Mini Hopper that it is now marketing to other shops.

Mini Hopper from Wisconsin Metal Parts

The compact hopper with casters can be easily transported throughout even cramped areas of a machine shop.

The Mini Hopper is mounted on casters to make it easy to maneuver, and height, width and volume can be adjusted to suit many types of machine tools. It can be used with a forklift or a hand truck to eliminate the manual process of lifting up a drum or garbage to empty scrap material. Once raised over a main chip collection bin, a person disengages a latch to enable the hopper to tilt and empty the contents. This minimizes the chance for accidents or injuries and enables one person to perform what is traditionally a two-person job. Wisconsin Metal Parts says it also found using this unit has made it easier to properly sort metal chips for recycling.

Has your shop developed a product from a problem in a similar way? If so, let me know about it.