St. Paul, MN (April 4, 2019) — The Problem: Remaining competitive in a tough market.

The Solution: Focus on low volume, high precision work and close to $2 million in machine tool investments.

Aero-Safe Technologies’ competitive strategy is a simple but effective one: take the orders that few other shops want or are capable of handling.

“Business is looking great, especially because of our expertise in high precision, low volume machining. No one wants this work because it’s tight tolerance machining, which requires investment in high end machinery and quality equipment,” says Nick Rodway, general manager.

The Fort Erie, ON, business, formed in 1982 by Tony Rodway, began as a manufacturer of cargo parachute release mechanisms. It diversified into custom work, which eventually became the prevalent business.

Today, the 25,000 sq. ft shop houses 32 CNC machines including milling, turning, five axis, multi-tasking and EDM processes, and employs 45 people. Approximately 80 per cent of parts machined in the shop also undergo finishing processes–anodizing, chemical conversion, plating and passivation–at Aero-Safe Processing, a NADCAP and ISO 9001 approved facility. The shop houses a deburring operation equipped with the latest technology and run by skilled people. The quality department includes in-process and off-line CMMs, gauges and sensors for measuring various part characteristics.

The shop’s focus on tight tolerance (.0005 thousandth of an inch or less) precision machining requires ongoing investment in new machining technologies.

“If you don’t invest in technology, complacency follows,” says Rodway. “And if you don’t improve every one or two years, you will be left behind.”

That’s why Aero-Safe has purchased close to $2 million worth of machine tools in the past three years including two Matsuura MX-520 simultaneous five axis machining centers.

With high-precision, performance, speed, accuracy and reliability, the MX-520 provides a simple, effortless and cost-effective transition for 3-Axis users making the transition to full 5-Axis operation. Maintaining a compact footprint, the MX-520 has outstanding ergonomic design, allowing rapid set-up and processing of complex parts.

The Matsuura MX-520 guarantees high rigidity, as well as, a generous machining envelope with excellent operability and offers an assortment of configurations, which are ideal for all applications, all industries and all materials.

The Matsuura MX-520 is designed with a RAM type structure, which offers a compact and highly-rigid machining platform. The machine guarantees high rigidity, as well as, a generous machining envelope with excellent operability. The MX-520 also offers an assortment of configurations, which are ideal for all applications, all industries and all materials.

The headstock and trunnion on the MX-520 have been configured to minimize collision while maximizing tool access and reach. The MX-520 is offered with two table sizes: 11.81 in. and 19.68 in. (option).  Loading capacity is 440 lb.

Geoff Haynes, operations manager, oversaw the purchase and installation of the new machines. Haynes joined Aero-Safe in 1989, then left to pursue work in the automation and machine tool business, before returning to the company three years ago.

“I joined the engineering department and my role was to ensure we had the right tools and machines to improve our processes, and to carry on a Lean initiative that had been started before I came back to the company,” says Haynes.

The new machines were purchased from machine tool distributor Elliott-Matsuura Canada Inc., Oakville, ON, a long-time supplier to Aero-Safe, and Haynes says the support the company provided helped Aero-Safe organize the machine shop and make room for the new machines.

“We had to make some changes to the shop floor because we had older machines and wanted to replace them with the new ones we had purchased. Elliott took back the old machines as trade-ins to make room for the new machines they helped to install.”

The new machine tools have helped Aero-Safe entrench itself in the satellite communications, aerospace and defense markets. Aero-Safe’s niche is high precision, small component manufacturing for the satellite communications market, which is about 35 to 40 per cent of Aero-Safe’s business. Approximately 80 per cent of the parts it machines are aluminum with the remaining 20 per cent being stainless steel, brass and other alloys.

“We manufacture components such as switches on satellites that control radio frequencies. Some of these satellites might be in space for years before they’re activated to work and the quality control on these components is incredible. We have built up the experience to machine these parts, which is quite complex. We were doing a lot of the components using multiple operations but we’re now doing most of the work in one set up on the new five axis machines, which really helps in achieving the machining accuracies we need for these parts,” says Haynes.
Reprint: Shop Metalworking Technology, Mary Scianna, photo, Ron Ng

Matsuura Machinery USA, Inc., located in St. Paul, MN is the U.S. subsidiary of Matsuura Machinery Corporation in Japan. Since 1935, Matsuura has been the forerunner in designing innovative technology and manufacturing solutions to a variety of industries around the globe. Matsuura Machinery USA, Inc. delivers unmatched excellence in 5-axis, vertical, horizontal, linear motor, multi-tasking CNC machine tools and machines with a powder bed metal AM platform with machining capability. Matsuura Machinery USA, Inc. provides the service, applications and technical field support that have always been the Matsuura standard for business.

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