by Kip Hanson
This established Ontario machine shop gets a new owner, new equipment, new software, and new opportunities
MEIC Inc., Mississauga, ON
years in business: 24 size: 3,250 sq m (35,000 sq ft)
services: Machining machine types: Five axis machining centres and turn/mill lathes
When Matthew Lomnicki began his quest to buy a machine shop in late 2013, he went into it with a five year plan. Step one was to find a company with “good bones.” A mouldmaker by trade, Lomnicki considered starting from scratch, but after working his way through the past two recessions, he felt it would be better to build on something with a predictable cash flow and a good reputation. He found it with Medical Environmental Instrument Components Inc., or MEIC, a medical and injection moulding parts manufacturer with a name for high quality products, good customer service, and on time delivery. “It was a very good fit for me from the start,” he says. “I’ve since made it a lot better.”
Updating the Bones
Unfortunately, much of the CNC equipment at MEIC was outdated, and Lomnicki needed to make a few upgrades. He started in the turning area. At that point MEIC was strictly a two axis turning shop. Lomnicki decided to keep his Hardinge GT Super-Precision gang style lathes, but ended up scrapping some of the older equipment. He then made a nine axis leap of faith and purchased a live tool equipped Nakamura-Tome WY100.
It wasn’t an easy decision. Neither Lomnicki nor his employees had any experience with complex, multi-axis turn/mill centres. But after careful research and many lengthy discussions with Ken Pannunzio, the area sales representative for machine tool distributor Elliott Matsuura Canada, Lomnicki took the plunge. “Aside from the equipment’s capabilities, I wanted to establish a relationship with someone that would give me a fair price, good financing terms, and excellent service,” he says. “I’ve been very happy with my decision. Whenever I have a question or need help with something, they’re available.”
That’s a good thing, because the learning curve on the new machine was quite steep. But after many long nights and no small amount of support from Elliott applications engineer Terry Beckwith, Lomnicki was soon making full use of the equipment. He still uses his two axis lathes because “they’re great for making small, precision parts,” but says he needed to break into other industries–with his Y axis, twin spindle, milling capable Nakamura Tome, he’s been able to do just that. It was time to look at the shop’s milling capabilities.
Taking new paths
Based on his positive experience with Elliott, Lomnicki gave Pannunzio a call to see what he had available for five axis machining centres. Here again, MEIC’s only CNC milling experience to date was with three axis milling, but Lomnicki knew he could count on the distributor to steer him in the right direction. He wasn’t disappointed. The shop soon acquired a Matsuura MX-520 MAXIA, a 60-tool, 20,000 rpm five axis machine with a G-Tech 31i control and coolant through the spindle.
Not only did Lomnicki need to learn a new control and an entirely way of processing parts, he soon found his CAM software was not up to the challenge of five axis tool paths. Thanks to his now long-standing rapport with Elliott Matsuura, he was comfortable reaching out to Beckwith for advice.
“Matthew was doing a great job of programming the Nakamura using his old software, but he ran into some roadblocks on the five axis work,” says Beckwith. “I put him in touch with the people at Autodesk, who looked at what he was doing and showed him what was possible with their FeatureCAM product. It was pretty impressive. One of the first jobs he programmed literally took weeks to do on his old CAM software, but Matthew had it running in less than four hours with FeatureCAM. He’s since switched everything over to the new system.”
Mary Shaw, marketing manager at Autodesk, says this isn’t an unusual outcome. “With the simple toolpaths and slower feed rates MEIC was using, we recognized they were less effective than they could be. To overcome these limitations, we showed them some faster ways to program leveraging the skills they already had. This included automated programming techniques, ways to minimize non-productive setup times, and the use of simulation to increase confidence with much faster feed rates.”
That was six months ago. Lomnicki has since become confident on machine tool and software alike, and has been able to open some new doors as a result of purchasing the Matsuura. He says he’s now ahead of the curve on his five year plan. Aside from his greatly expanded machining capabilities, he’s also become ISO-9001 certified, and is considering the purchase of a multi-pallet machining centre to increase his flexibility and possibly run lights out.
The biggest challenge he faces now is one with which most shop owners in Canada are familiar—finding qualified people. In lieu of that he’ll continue to automate wherever possible and look for work that complements his extensive machining potential. He’s also open to additional opportunities, both within Mississauga and beyond. “It’s important to recognize the market and adapt to its needs,” he says. “For example, some of the medical work we were doing fell off after the acquisition, but now that the dust is finally settling we’re looking forward to getting back into it. We’re also seeing growth in other areas. Sometimes you have to learn by mistake in this business, but all in all, everything is going according to plan.” SMT