Investing Somewhat on the Edge
The winner in this year’s machining technology category is Baker Industries, located in Macomb, Michigan. When brothers Scott and Kevin Baker co-founded the company as Baker Duplicating in 1992, it was a three-person operation with 2,100 square feet of space. Today, Baker Industries has 285 employees across four facilities and 220,000 square feet of space. The tooling supplier also is now heavily focused on the automotive, aerospace and defense industries, having capabilities that include design, engineering, fabrication, welding, machining, assembly, CNC machining, 3D printing, inspection and validation.
Twenty-five-year industry veteran Jerry Kablak is the company’s program engineer and additive manufacturing champion. He says that from the beginning, the shop has focused on integrating new machining technology and was an early adopter of five-axis machining. It now has 35 CNC machines of varying types and sizes. “The approach here is to stay on the leading edge of new machining and manufacturing technologies,” Mr. Kablak explains. “Although there is risk involved, we want to add advanced processes even if the market doesn’t currently call for them or isn’t necessarily ready for them yet. Staying attuned to our customers’ needs helps shape our decisions as to what new technologies to bring in.”
“We researched this type of machine for a few years, but nobody ever came to us promising work if we bought it,” Mr. Kablak says. “Fortunately, our company is positioned to accommodate these sorts of risks, given that we have a solid base of more straightforward work. This enables us to reach a bit without putting the business in a bad situation.”
Where the company is realizing real value in additive technology is with hybrid tooling. That is, tooling in which some components are machined and others are 3D printed. In some cases, this enables the tooling to incorporate complex shapes or internal geometries that would be difficult or impossible to create via traditional methods. In others, it can reduce overall tooling weight.