A space flight customer once sent Wagner Machine a 14-page PowerPoint presentation explaining why a complex part they needed was impossible to make. They had attempted to make the part several times by outsourcing the multiple operations required to various vendors. But each time they ended up with out of spec parts, a lot of finger pointing, and no solution.
This customer had entrusted us with numerous prior jobs and would often bring us complex CNC machined parts that other machine shops had no-quoted or failed to machine successfully. Until that point, they had mainly relied on our 5-axis machining and CNC turning capabilities. This part required secondary processes like grinding, honing, and hardcoat anodizing, which they didn’t know we offered.
They asked us if we had trusted vendors who could get this part done correctly and were thrilled to learn that—even better—we could perform almost every operation in-house.
The Challenge: Meeting Tolerance Specifications for a Multi-Operation Part
The space flight part was challenging because it required many steps: two CNC turning operations, one 5-axis machining operation, grinding, honing, and hardcoat anodizing, followed by a final milling and grinding operation after anodize.
The customer had outsourced the operations to different vendors specializing in each capability. While each vendor technically met the tolerance requirements for their individual operation, lack of an overall, coordinated manufacturing plan led to tolerance stackup issues between operations. By the time the part reached its final processes, there was no way to complete the final machining in tolerance.
The Solution: Breaking Down a Complicated Process into Straightforward Steps
One of our biggest strengths at Wagner Machine is taking what appears to be a complicated process and breaking it down into a handful of relatively straightforward operations—most of which we’ve done successfully before and can confidently apply to new parts. And that’s precisely the approach we took for this part.
Because we could perform every operation in-house (with the exception of hardcoat anodizing), we had complete visibility into how each operation would impact the next. We used that insight to make some necessary adjustments to the tolerances for each step of the manufacturing process. We also incorporated some additional operations, such as a cylindrical grinding op before anodize.
With our carefully planned process in place, we set out to make the small batch of 12 parts our customer ordered. Because the material wasn’t expensive and we expected some scrap along the way, we machined a handful of extra blanks. In the end, we didn’t scrap a single part!
Benefit from Wagner Machine’s Multiple Capabilities
This customer story highlights an important truth: when CNC machining complex parts with multiple operations, working with a single precision machine shop instead of multiple vendors gives you the best shot at success.
In addition to the core manufacturing capabilities Wagner Machine is known for, we offer a broad range of support services that enable us to perform most processes in-house:
- Surface grinding
- Centerless grinding
- Cylindrical grinding
- Chem film
- Welding (MIG welding, TIG welding, spot welding)
- Sheet metal fabrication
If you need a process we don’t provide, such as anodizing, plating, heat treating, or specialty inspection processes, we have direct relationships with trusted vendors and can manage any outsourcing on your behalf.
We’re proud to have the capabilities, expertise, and drive to make the impossible possible for our customers. Got a part you’re convinced can’t be made? Send it to us!