Is manufacturing in the U. S. dead and gone?
Edited by Leslie Gordon
The answer to this question — not really. In fact, here are just a few examples of companies — either entirely based in the U.S. or with large manufacturing plants here — that have done well even during the recent downturn. They range from high-precision machine shops to carousel builders.
Machine shop produces complex, precision parts
From simple screw-machine parts to highly precise, intricately detailed parts, this shop’s up-to-date machines let it produce a wide variety of products. Currently, the company’s in-house machines include those with up to 12 axes, letting it perform multiple operations at once. The shop also has vertical-machining centers and a secondary department that uses processes including thread rolling, knurling, polishing, slotting, deburring, drilling, and milling. The firm can machine many different kinds of material, from 360 brass to 303 stainless and Nitronic 60. It can also machine different types of plastic.
Nook Industries Inc.
How to increase positioning accuracy
Precision metric ball screws (PMBS) provide a cost-effective, high-precision actuator to aerospace, defense, medical, machine, and tool-making manufacturers. To make the screws, the company uses advanced thread-rolling technology, letting it manufacture highquality precision ball screws in a range of sizes, diameters, and leads. According to company officials, precision metric ball screws provide a more cost-effective alternative for accuracy-intensive actuation and outperform standard thread-rolled ball screws. Fully compliant with ISO 3408-3 and DIN 69051 standards, PMBS such as the MRT and PMT offer fine adjustment, accuracy, and repeatability for tight control positioning. The availability of different mounting styles makes PMBS ball screws a good, interchangeable, domestically produced replacement for imported ground screws.
Rated for Division 1/Zone 1 hazardous locations, XCESX explosionproof enclosures are cast from 316L stainless steel. Intended for use in highly corrosive areas, the enclosures target offshore, petrochem, and volatile industrial areas where the setting requires additional corrosion protection. The XCESX Series provides an alternative to traditional cast-aluminum enclosures, which can become compromised or break down over time.
There are five standard sizes, which have internal dimensions of 10 × 14 × 8 in., up to 24 × 36 × 10 in. Features include a watertight gasket and stainlesssteel cover bolts for Type 4X/IP66 ratings; stainless-steel hinge kit; mounting panel; removable lifting eye bolts; cover-alignment device; cast-on mounting lugs; and internal/external ground screws. A flat plate cover is for additional viewing windows as well as devices such as pushbuttons, selector switches, and pilot lights.
The XCESX Series carry UL, cUL, ATEX, and IECEx approvals for global applications.
Toggle clamps for workholding applications
These versatile toggle clamps provide fast, easy workholding. The complete toggle-clamp line includes horizontal and vertical-handle hold-down clamps, push/pull plunger models, latch-action clamps, toggle pliers, and air-powered clamps. The clamps come in a range of styles, sizes, and holding capacities, from mini sizes to those for heavyduty applications. A safety lock option is available. Most of the clamps come in heavy-duty steel or stainless steel, with a straight or flanged base, and open or solid arms — all with a comfortable handle grip.
Fasteners for solar thermal-energy collectors
SkyFuel in Arvada, Colo., uses specially engineered fasteners rather than conventional nuts and bolts in the manufacture of parabolic troughs (a type of solar thermalenergy collector) for high-megawatt fields. That’s because the fasteners are engineered for this specific application to deliver high performance and long life, says fastener manufacturer Huck in Waco, Tex., a large division of Alcoa Fastening Systems.
SkyFuel’s troughs must withstand at least 84 mph, 3-sec wind gusts, so there’s no room for fastener slippage. The Huck CHFR, called the Huck SolarRivet, stays put even under extreme vibration. In addition, Huck systems don’t require highly skilled workers for installation. They can be installed quickly, without the “fumble factor” found with two-piece nut and bolt assemblies. Also, SolarRivets can be installed right in the field, cutting transportation costs. In fact, SkyFuel estimates that the Huck fasteners will reduce the construction budget portion of the total installed cost of the solar field.
Cloud ERP for manufacturers
Plex Online software includes new features that help manufacturers manage preventive-maintenance schedules more effectively as well as identify perishable tools and track tool life. Users can also add attachments or the supply BOM to preventive-maintenance schedules. BOMs appear on work requests created from schedules for easy reference. Access to attachments helps users easily reference manuals, schematics, work instructions, or other information they need for decision-making. In addition, new reports provide a detailed view of tool labor and work-center costs as captured from the tool work-order system. They provide greater visibility into tool-room performance. In addition, users can link tool details and tool sets to tool orders to help create accounts-receivable records for tools sold to customers. These changes let users capture more details and introduce more flexibility and efficiency.
Custom design: The name of the game
Currently the only company in the world that makes wooden carousels from design to installation, Carousel Works in Mansfield, Ohio, says manufacturing in the U.S. is viable for companies such as itself that provide highly customized products which hold their value over time. It is also important to use technology to efficiently bring carousels to “life.” While horses are popular figures, animals such as panda bears, kangaroos, grasshoppers, and sea turtles are also available. Manufacturing capabilities include carving, woodworking, pattern making, casting, and artistic painting. One tool the company relies on is Inventor 3D designengineering software from Autodesk Inc., San Rafael, Calif.
Inventor lets Carousel build “digital prototypes” of carousels, making it simple to share design ideas with customers and project stakeholders. For example, on a recent project, the company and a customer held many meetings over a fourmonth period. But the stakeholders still couldn’t quite visualize the design. It wasn’t until the company created a digital model of the carousel in Inventor — which showed exactly what the product would look like — that everything “clicked.”
In addition, the digital prototype helped Carousel cut the risk of potential problems during construction. The accuracy of the digital prototype helped the company ensure that carousel parts would fit together exactly as designed. This approach helped Carousel avoid costly errors and generate enough revenue to be a successful manufacturer.
Interestingly, according to the company, wooden carousels have consistently appreciated in value, unlike their fiberglass counterparts. A unit that Carousel built in 1994 for a private collector recently sold at an auction for three times the amount originally paid. And, surprisingly, a wooden carousel costs about the same as a fiberglass one when all extras such as hardwood floors, ornamental LED lights, and brass pole sleeves are factored in.