Pacific Swiss Offers Specialized Niche in CNC Swiss Turning and Micro-Miniature Machining
A variety of micro and miniature parts produced by Pacific Swiss Manufacturing. The company makes parts with tolerances of +/- 0.005 inch
Photo courtesy of Pacific Swiss Manufacturing
When producing small, intricate parts for the medical industry, it's the power and precision of a company's machining capabilities that puts the strength and overall quality into every part. Pacific Swiss Manufacturing, Inc., of Clackamas, Oregon, has a highly-specialized niche in using CNC Swiss turning technology with 7-axis capability to make the smallest of parts, with sizes typically in the range from 0.005 inch diameter to 1 inch diameter.
"We're specialists," said company president Greg Cde Baca. "We don't do anything but CNC Swiss turning and micro miniature. A lot of people we compete against have other areas of manufacturing, like CNC lathe and CNC mill fabrication. We've chosen to stick with our original core competency."
And because all of the parts manufactured are no larger than 1 inch diameter, Pacific Swiss is able to draw from a previous part's machining experience and apply it to another part if the materials are relatively the same. Half of what the company produces goes to the medical industry, specifically medical equipment OEMs and surgical appliance. Philips Medical is one of their largest customers, and parts produced include minimally-invasive surgical tools and surgical appliances, such as spinal implants, dental implants, laser and ultrasound parts, and critical contacts for Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). Pacific Swiss also produces parts for the sports and recreation, motion control, and fiber optic industries, among others.
The company (www.pacificswiss.net) has an array of Swiss automatic screw machines, including a Citizen L20 Type VII with 7- axis, 3/4-inch diameter capacity and a Citizen L25 Type VII with 7- axis, 1- 1/8-inch diameter capacity. During the next six to nine months, the company is looking into adding to its six machines, with the purchase of one or two Citizen A-20s. The benefit of a 7-axis machine is that it primarily allows Pacific Swiss the ability to produce simple to extremely complex parts in one machining operation, in which the part comes out of the machine virtually burr-free. There is less chance, therefore, that a part is damaged in a secondary operation. The Swiss machining eliminates any secondary operations and gets the product to the customer faster, thus reducing their time to market.
As is typical with medical parts, they require extremely tight tolerances and high surface finish callouts. Every day, Pacific Swiss is making parts with tolerances of plus or minus 0.005 inch and surface finishes of 16. By utilizing the multi-axis CNC Swiss machines, the company can complete a burr–free, complete-to-print part. This allows for minimal handling of parts and expedited delivery time.
"Our company's biggest strength is that we are exclusively a CNC Swiss and CNC Swiss micro miniature shop," said Cde Baca in an e-mail response. "Customers choose us because we are specialists in these two disciplines of machining. We offer dock-to-stock quality and managed inventory systems for our customers. Customers can order large quantities and have deliveries set forth by scheduled P/O dates or by on-demand pull-in."
In one instance, the customer needed a custom, miniature thread that would cut into a bio-degradable, implantable plastic part. The thread needed to be miniature and burr-free. The customer flew one of their engineers to the facility and, during a three-day period, Pacific Swiss manufactured and tested multiple types of custom cutting threads for the part.
"What we helped develop was a very special and unique thread form," said Cde Baca in the e-mail. "A custom, miniature, modified reverse buttress thread is what was settled on. This burr-free, custom thread turned out to be very effective for the application. It was designed into the part and plays a significant role in its performance."
Quality is constantly monitored on all parts, and the quality manager handles the AQL (acceptable quality level) samplings for final inspections. Parts are checked under 20 to 50 power magnification. The 11-ft x14-ft, temperature-controlled inspection room is equipped with an extensive range of inspection tools and gages, meeting the requirements of MIL-I-45208a and MIL-Q-9858a. It is also ISO and FDA compliant.
"The accuracy of the machines allows us to maintain a high level of quality," Cde Baca continued. "One-hundred percent, hourly inspections are done on all parts, and the date is recorded and stored. Final inspection reports are sent with parts along with material certifications and any outside process certifications."
The company is able to achieve short lead times by "running lean," Cde Baca said, explaining that this entailed running "lights-out" and consolidating like-sized parts. With five employees and 5,000 sq. ft. of floor space, Cde Baca said he has room for another four machines. Currently the machines run between 80 to 100 hours a week per machine.
Since opening in 1978, Pacific Swiss has kept its growth slow, and Cde Baca said he doesn't see the company growing to more than 10 people.
"We want to keep it (company) small so we can keep that intimate connection with our customers," he said.
The size of the company is also limited by a shrinking labor pool for the shop floor, he said.
"Nobody wants to work in the shop. A lot of people are drawn to the engineering side of manufacturing because of the pay. I think people are not going into machining like they have been in the past. They're going more into the computer and the engineering side of manufacturing, where they can demand the higher dollar," Cde Baca said.
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