If you have ever had a CT (computed tomography) scan, you know it can be stressful. You lie on a hard, narrow table that slides into the scanner’s centre. You must stay completely still during the scan; any move you make could blur the images, and your life may depend on what the scanner finds about your organs, blood vessels, bones and tissue.
“The patient certainly doesn’t want to hear any strange sounds or get the impression anything is wrong,” says Frank Capasso, vice president of Canadian Tool & Die Ltd (CTD). The company makes the high-tolerance metal base that keeps the critical scanning equipment rigid. The customer is Siemens Healthcare, a worldwide supplier to the health-care industry.
Such failures are unlikely, and part of the credit goes to CTD, a family-owned industrial manufacturing company based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. “Inside a CT machine are some fairly boring parts,” explains president/CEO James Umlah, a former high-profile investment banker who acquired the company from his stepfather, Johnnie Gatschuff, in 2004. “But it’s like an automobile frame. If the frame doesn’t work, all the fancy ABS and GPS systems aren’t worth anything. The component parts in these medical devices can’t fail.”
CTD expanded into medical devices five years ago. “I’m really excited that we’ve been getting into this type of product,” says Capasso, who has been at the company for 38 years.
Specializing in exacting industries and remote locations, CTD has built its reputation on rugged components designed to prevent failure in the field. “We’re a manufacturing company for other manufacturing companies,” explains Umlah. “We will manufacture any custom product a manufacturer wants us to.”
By far its largest market is supplying North American agricultural equipment manufacturers such as John Deere, Case and New Holland Equipment with hubs, wheels, spindles and other components. Its applications are in large tractors and in seeding, spraying and other field equipment distributed throughout North America, Europe, Russia and Australia. “You can probably look at any country in the world that has agriculture, and our agricultural components are being used,” says Umlah.
CTD is “the beneficiary of outsourcing,” he says, because almost everything the company makes used to be made in-house by customers. “Most resisted outsourcing the components that CTD now manufactures because they were too crucial to their operation.”
CTD also supplies a growing market in the mining, oil and gas, industrial and medical device sectors. Oil rigs in rural Texas depend on CTD hydraulic cylinder components to avoid costly breakdowns. “If you’re paying 3,000 to 4,000 [Canadian] dollars an hour to operate an oil service truck and the hydraulic cylinder in the boom lift leaks or malfunctions, it renders the whole operation inoperable,” Umlah says.
The company’s 30,000-square-metre manufacturing plant is situated in southern Winnipeg, about 2,400 kilometers northwest of Toronto. From its beginnings in the fur trade, this historic city on the Red River has grown into a major North American transport hub – and the centre of Canada’s grain trade and agricultural equipment manufacturing.
“Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba are two of the hidden gems of the world, in terms of running a business,” Umlah says. “Maybe the weather isn’t the best, but as a feeder of high-quality, hard-working staff, it cannot be beat.”
He describes the shop floor as a “United Nations” with many employees from the Philippines and India. Capasso, for example, started at the company at age 16 before completing his formal education, working every position on the shop floor before becoming a top executive. CTD has not resorted to layoffs even in lean times, although Umlah says “the walls might get painted three times.”
CTD’s unique selling point is its ability to deliver high-quality, cost-effective products on time. “Invariably someone can always find a cheaper version of what we make,” says Umlah, “but we make sure they can’t find the same solution for the same price.”
Both Capasso and Umlah credit the focus on productivity improvements that Sandvik Coromant offers with helping to sharpen CTD’s competitive edge.
“Sandvik Coromant understands we are a customer-solution business,” adds Umlah. “At the end of the day we need to be in line with lowest cost production. We do that with intelligent technology and design.”
Recently, by working with Sandvik Coromant to develop a new cutting tool (the new R210 GC1010 insert), CTD gained a foothold with a manufacturer of heavy equipment to Antarctica. “We needed a special grade of insert,” explains Roberto Bovino, machine shop supervisor. “It seemed like a simple task, but it was more complicated because the material is induction-hardened.”
Despite the economic crisis, CTD is acquiring new customers and maintaining its annual growth rate of 20 percent. “The demand for agricultural products remains relatively strong,” Umlah says. Manitoba’s economy is also one of the most diversified and stable in Canada.
The company’s strong customer focus in both robust and lean times is also paying off. “We don’t look at ourselves as a machine business,” says Umlah. “We’re a customer-solution business. That’s why our relationship with Sandvik Coromant is such a good fit.”
Induction-Hardened Pin Optimizes Performance:
When Canada’s largest supplier of heavy equipment attachments approached Canadian Tool & Die Ltd (CTD) to produce induction-hardened steel pins for hydraulic cylinders, “we were in a bind,” says Frank Capasso, CTD’s vice president, manufacturing.
Weldco-Beales Manufacturing Ltd demanded optimum performance for its TwistAbucket technology, used in 25-metre-high excavator machines in Europe, Canada and the United States.
To obtain the required wear resistance, the pins had to be induction-hardened on the outside but soft inside to give the pin flexibility. The challenge: CTD needed to produce a hole through induction-hardened pins with a +/– 0.001 inch (0.025 millimeter) hole tolerance. The pin was 18 inches (457 millimeters) long and 4 inches (102 millimeters) in diameter, and the hole needed to be 1.761 inches (44.7 millimeters) in diameter.
With the outside of the pins roughly twice as hard as the inside, it was impossible to machine the holes by drilling. “We needed to remove the hard layer from the top and bottom of the pin,” explains Capasso. “A handheld grinder would not produce a good finish, so it needed to be machined.”
Capasso and a Sandvik Coromant Canada team rejected profile machining using a solid carbide endmill as too time-consuming.
But Tom Groot, the Sandvik Coromant technical sales representative in Winnipeg, realized that when you produce a hole through a round part, the side profile is a radius. “It then hit me to remove the induction hardened section by plunging with a 4 inch [102 millimeter] RA210 style milling cutter and the new GC1010 grade insert to produce scallops.”
The process development team at Sandvik Coromant drew the part in 3D and measured the radius. It turned out to be just under 2 inches (51 millimeters). Groot proposed using a 4 inch RA210 cutter with the new GC1010 grade insert and plunge milling the scallop area on both sides of the pin to remove the hardened steel.
“Once we removed the hardened skin we were machining regular steel, and we could use standard machining practices,” Groot explains. The part could then be rotated 90 degrees on the horizontal machining centre, and CoroDrill 880 could be used to rough out the hole. The fine boring head R825 was used to finish the bore to size, with the required +/– 0.001 inch tolerance.
The new R210 GC1010 insert has reduced cutting times by 25 percent. “It’s a very good solution,” says Roberto Bovino, CTD machine shop supervisor. “We’re really happy with the quality of the insert.”
Adds Capasso: “The technical support we received from Sandvik Coromant was second to none.”
Learn more about Milling Solutions from Sandvik Coromant.
Originally published in Metalworking World 3.2009, a business magazine published by Sandvik Coromant.