After spending a dozen years as a manufacturing engineer in the screw machine industry, Harold Jarvis founded Northern Precision in 1999 with veteran mill operator Dane Kerby.
Despite flat-to-negative growth of machine tool sales in the U.S., purchases of CNC Swiss-type machine tools are climbing steadily. The reason is the machines' unique capabilities.
Originally developed to produce small, complex parts for watches, Swiss machines employ a sliding headstock that feeds a rotating workpiece through a collet and bushing. Static and rotating side- and end-working tools cut the part as it is fed. The workpiece can be transferred between main and back spindles, enabling machining of both ends of a part.
As a result, the machines are able to produce small, intricate parts complete in one chucking. This addresses two hot issues in manufacturing: The need to produce parts for increasingly miniaturized devices, and the quest to reduce costs by eliminating secondary operations and minimizing part-handling time. One Midwest job shop tackles these issues head-on every day.
Northern Precision Inc., of Fairfield, Ohio, combines Swiss CNC technology with creative machining strategies to stay busy and profitable--and fill a solid niche.
"We specialize in hard-to-make, complex parts," said the company's president, Harold Jarvis.
Northern Precision operates five Citizen L20 VII & VIII CNC Swiss machines. Because each one is essentially "two lathes and a mill in one," Jarvis said, the shop must focus on producing complex parts. "To be cost-effective, we can't just feed out and cut off. We have to make a part that would normally take several operations."
Swiss machining is all Northern Precision does; the shop has no equipment to perform secondary operations. "If you have to pick [the part] up and do something else with it, it's going to cost you money," Jarvis said. "We drop it right off the machine, ready to put in a box and ship."