Finding a Competitive Edge
In 1982, Steve Van Dyke started making parts in the basement of his duplex apartment with a focus on delivering exceptional quality parts with excellent customer service. That business focus was a formula for success and what started out as a solo side job steadily grew into a thriving parts manufacturing company specializing in the production of unique, custom fixtures for the automotive and electronics industries. After outgrowing several other locations, Tool Technologies by Van Dyke, LLC can now be found in a 16,000 square foot building in Marysville, OH. Steve brought on his brother, Howard Van Dyke, as Project Engineer and together they continue to deliver products that exceed customers' expectations.
A key component that sets Tool Technologies apart from competitors is the ability to produce close-tolerance parts from virtually any material. Contributing to this competitive advantage are two abrasive waterjets, an OMAX 55100 and a MAXIEM 1530. With the waterjets, the Tool Technologies team is able to machine fixtures, jigs, mixer plates, bus bars, and other parts, all with stunning accuracy. Many of the tools manufactured on the waterjets are utilized as clamps or fixtures for other parts around the shop that require precise placement. Steve Van Dyke cleverly describes this process as, "Making a tool, to use the tool, to hold the tool, to make the tool." This type of ingenuity has increased the shop's overall productivity and allowed them to achieve greater precision from other machines in the shop.
On the 55100 at Tool Technologies is a Tilt-A-Jet cutting head. "We're essentially a tool making shop with waterjets in our machining mix," says Steve. "For tool and die makers, the ability to cut taper-free edges is essential." The Tilt-A-Jet cutting head was engineered to do exactly that. It can position the nozzle at an angle to offset taper and produce parts with taper-free edges without slowing down the cutting speed.
Tool Technologies often uses an abrasive waterjet for secondary operations. In these cases, it's imperative to locate fixtures on pre-cut parts and precisely align the tool path in the waterjet controller to avoid the costly process of trial and error. To make locating features and setting reference points quick and easy, Tool Technologies fitted their OMAX 55100 with a Precision Optical Locator, or POL. The POL includes a high definition camera with a microscopic lens and software that streams the image from the camera to the waterjet controller. The waterjet operator can zoom in on a pre-cut part, locate holes, edges, corners and other features and set reference points in the tool path to carry out the necessary precision machining. All this is done right from the controller without the need to take manual measurements or reposition the part on the waterjet table.
In his persistent pursuit to maintain the company's competitive edge, Howard Van Dyke applies ingenuity and engineering expertise to help their customers be more successful. "We've worked with many customers developing their own products, and this often requires using the POL to locate start points for the waterjet tool path," states Howard. "A good example of this was a ceramic plate job that needed narrow linear cuts. Our team accurately located tiny pinholes in the ceramic to start the cut. Each starting point needed to be on location or the ceramic plate would shatter."
Howard states, "The OMAX machine is extremely, extremely accurate. We found that, with our engineering expertise, we can dial in the machine to cut at even more precise tolerances than the advertised specifications." Pairing this with the POL accessory, they have been able to tackle previously impossible projects.
Having the POL allows Tool Technologies to offer another distinctive service, the reverse engineering and subsequent production of parts. Customers can bring in tools or parts without an engineering drawing and Tool Technologies is able to reverse engineer the parts by locating edges, holes, etc. on the part, setting reference points and map out a tool path for the part. They can then cut a precise replica of the part.
In a competitive manufacturing market, Tool Technologies has found an advantage by producing close-tolerance parts that prove to be too complicated for other manufacturers. The extreme precision and accuracy provided by the OMAX abrasive waterjets and accessories have been instrumental in finding and maintaining this competitive advantage.