Firms Representing Area In Chicago

August 9, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Ten West Michigan firms are among more than 1,300 exhibitors participating in the International Manufacturing Technology Show Sept. 4 through 11 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Like most of their compatriots, this region’s participants are exhibiting devices and services that improve manufacturing productivity and efficiency.

According to the show’s headquarters in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., the need to boost productivity and efficiency is driving manufacturing competition throughout the world as industry begins entering a recovery stage from the international economic slow-down.

In addition to their 24/7 exhibits, many of the local people attending the show will participate in or witness one or more of 60 sessions in the tandem IMTS 2002 Manufacturing Conference.

Following is a run-down of the area firms willing to discuss their exhibits in advance:

Coherix Corp.

3100 44th St. SW

GRANDVILLE — As part of its introduction to the market as a relatively new company, Coherix Corp. will debut its Holomapper at the IMTS.

The Holomapper (see adjoining photo) is designed specifically to measure the flatness of products such as automotive wheel hubs, brake rotors and wheel clamping surfaces.

“This can become very important for quality control and really adds a new dimension to checking products for errors,” said Tyler Andrew, public relations manager for X-Rite Inc., the parent company for Coherix.

Using multiple wavelength lasers and a process called laser illumination interferometry, the precision machine measures the flatness of surfaces being studied.

Its parallel ray light source makes it capable of measuring down the sides of holes and close to raised studs, making it ideal for measuring auto parts, specifically brake hubs and rotors. 

“Being able to view a product in 3D is highly useful for companies because so many different points are measured instead of just one or two, leaving much more room for error,” Andrew continued.

In fact, he said the device measures more than a million points over a surface that’s 12 inches square. A measurement can be completed in about two minutes. Measurement data is graphically represented to help workers see a virtual version of the measured surface, rather than just offering sets of numbers.

After only a year and a half in business, Coherix looks to use the IMTS as a way to demonstrate the Holomapper to the public and also to gauge some of its competition.

“We see this as an opportunity to see what else is out there in the marketplace and see what other people are bringing to the table,” said Andrew.

“It will also give us feedback and to see how people react to the Holomapper.” — Katy Rent

MetroCal Inc.


4700 Barden Court

KENTWOOD  — When MetroCal opens its 10 foot by 10 foot booth at the IMTS, some viewers probably may unconsciously refer to it as Precision Central.

The exhibit will focus on an important piece of hardware MetroCal employs in one of its three major services to area tooling firms.

The exhibit will simulate linear laser calibration that it undertakes with an interferometer.

According to Robert Barzan III, MetroCal’s calibration and meterology manager (not to be confused with a meteorologist), the interferometer can give ultra-precise measurements over ranges of 24 feet, but for exhibit purposes it will be working over a 2-foot range.

When the Business Journal asked Barzan to define “precise,” he said the interferometer can measure within one ten-thousandth of a micron.

Barzan explained that interferometry is one of three services that the 25-member firm provides to area tooling and machining firms and manufacturers.

The company — which has a branch in El Paso to serve clients in Texas and Mexico — also has a CAD-CAM department that provides verification for layout accuracy, and it also can check or construct fixtures for manufacturers.

Layout accuracy means something entirely different nowadays from fabrication work, which not so long ago relied upon chalk lines drawn on steel for accuracy.

Tolerances in many industrial processes nowadays are such that modest temperature differentials can stop two parts from fitting together.

Barzan explained that a manufacturing fixture is like a template or a jig in that it enables a worker to insure that he or she is boring the right size holes in exactly the right positions.

The firm, founded and managed by Kent Anderson, its president and quality control manager, also does a dozen other varieties of measuring, from hardness to torque testing.

Barzan said the firm is fully accredited by the American Association for Laboratory Accredition to ISO Guide 25 and ISO 17025.    Scott Payne

Unist Inc.


4134 36th St. SE

GRAND RAPIDS — Unist Inc. will be showing basically its whole line at the IMTS.

The company will exhibit its “sproller” electronic controller system, the Unist SPR-2000, which controls both the lubricating roller and spray equipment, and its SPR-2000-JR, which is a smaller, less expensive version of the original.

Mark Elve, Unist’s national sales manager, said the company has experienced high demand for the “sproller junior” since its introduction a couple of months ago. 

Unist also will exhibit its Coolubricators, a spray system that delivers a precise spray of lubricant; saw systems for band and other types of saws; and its standard uni-Roller lubrication systems for coil and flat stock.  

Among other equipment featured will be the company’s uni-MAX single line systems  that supply metered lubricant spray for drilling, milling, tapping and sawing.

The line-up will include the Serv-O-Spray, which dispenses fluid intermittently upon receiving a pneumatic signal; the mini-Roller Lubricator, a uni-Roller with a smaller diameter roller; and Coolube, the company’s vegetable-based lubricant.

Unist products serve nearly every manufacturing process. The company’s customers are involved in such industries as metal machining, metal forming, woodworking, machine lubrication, part lubrication, air motor lubrication and mold release application.

“Our products are quite diverse,” Elve said. “Basically, anything that’s in metal forming or cutting we can service.”

“Our business is kind of a niche business,” Elve added. “We’re in the business of really reducing customers’ fluids and cleaning up their plants. A lot of people use way too much fluid and our goal as a company is to reduce fluid usage and supply it properly.”

It’s both a waste issue and environmental issue, he said.

“You need a good fluid, because you use less of a good fluid,” he explained. “All our systems are geared to use a minimal, precise amount of a good fluid. A lot of companies will use a water-soluble type fluid; they’ll flood it on their tools or whatever else and recycle it, but it’s really a mess.”

The excessive use of fluids and their disposal has driven up costs from about 4 or 5 percent of total manufacturing costs to about 15 percent, according to Unist. 

“Our fluids are not diluted with water, they’re 100 percent. Whatever you put on the tool is doing the job, whereas water is just a carrier a lot of times.”  

Unist designed, patented and began marketing a pressurized spray system for coolant application under the name of Uni-Mist in 1957.

Wally Boelkins, formerly a mechanical design engineer at Pneumo Dynamics in Grand Rapids, bought the business in 1968

Unist has some 2,500 customers on all continents. Anne Bond Emrich

Lach Diamond Inc.


4350 Airwest Drive SE

GRAND RAPIDS — Custom toolmaker Lach Diamond Inc. will be showcasing its latest chip breaker at the IMTS.

“When cutting metal, sometimes a chip develops and our chip-breaker tools automatically break the chips off into a very fine, very small length so that the metal being cut does not hit into the part being cut and put scratches into it,” said Jon Cade, controller at Lach Diamond.

The chip breaker is a money- and time-saver for metal manufacturers because it makes the cutting procedure a single-step process.

“It immediately breaks the scrap metal off. If someone doesn’t have that, then long strings of metal develop and can hit into the part. Then they would have to go into another process for a finishing process,” said Cade.

“With a Lach chip breaker, someone can do it in one step.”

Like many of the newest high-tech tools, the Lach chip breaker is tiny — about the size of an average fingernail. It is built right into the insert and fits into the tool holder.

In addition to serving metal makers, Lach also offers poly-crystalline diamond (PCD) tools for wood and wood-like materials, printed circuit board materials, and turning and milling tools. The firm also makes PCD grinding machines.

“It’s a man-made diamond that doesn’t look like jewelry at all,” Cade said.

“It’s about the size of a silver dollar, but it’s black. The base of it is a piece of carbide and the diamond is pressed onto it under very high pressure and very high temperatures,” said Cade of the PCD line.

Lach Diamond is the North American subsidiary of Lach Diamant of Hanan, Germany. The firm started in 1982 as a sales center, but began producing custom tools here in 1986.

Cade, who has been with the company since it became a toolmaker, said that Lach primarily served the woodworking industry until 1997, when it started a custom PCD insert tool line for metal makers. Lach Diamond has 25 employees.

“We also sell machinery that we purchase from a related company in Germany for the sharpening of the diamond tool,” he said.

A small, but interesting, piece of the Lach product line is the Golf Sport — a putter with a dime-size PCD diamond imbedded into the club’s head. The putter was once sold at a few area sporting goods stores. But because golfing associations didn’t endorse the club, it didn’t get much display room at local shops. Today, it’s only available through Lach.

“If you’re a good golfer, it does offer a straighter putt,” said Cade. “The entire putter is made out of various woods and it’s a unique type of product.”  —David Czurak

Muskegon Tool Industries


1000 E. Barney

MUSKEGON — Though the show in Chicago is international in name and scope, the president and vice president for sales of a 12-person plant still expect to see lots of familiar faces.

That’s because Muskegon Tool Industries fabricates custom cutting tools for firms throughout the nation and elsewhere in the world.

“We don’t export a lot,” said Gayl Beals, vice president for sales. “But we do export,” he added.

The firm was founded in downtown Muskegon to serve gray iron foundries, which then occupied the city’s Muskegon Lake waterfront. Smart parks are now arising on the old foundry sites, and Muskegon Tool has long since relocated to an industrial park while serving metal fabricating firms of all sorts.

“We serve the screw machine industry a great deal,” Beals said, “and we also do a lot of work for the aircraft industry.”

Beals said the firm will exhibit its line of standard cutting equipment. Its exhibit also will include many examples of the borers, reamers, spade drills and trepanning cutters that it custom fabricates for specialty work.

Trepanning is a style of boring that cuts out the circumference of a hole but leaves the inner core intact for further use.

The firm also fashions indexable drills, which can be used to bore a hole of differing diameters.  — Scott Payne

Micron-USA Inc.


4890 Kendrick SE

GRAND RAPIDS — The ITMS will have the first look at a brand-new cantilevered centerless grinder from Micron-USA Inc.

The firm’s MPC-600C grinder has been designed from the ground up and built to include the most recent technology. The machine, which stands about 4 feet by 6 feet, contains a 24-inch by 8-inch-wide grinding wheel and is run by a 20 horsepower motor.

“That particular machine grinds hydraulic spools two at a time in about nine seconds. It picks the part up and grinds it to the finished size requirement and finish requirement, and then drops it back off on a conveyor,” said Jerry Anderson, vice president of Micron-USA.

“It’s a very high-production type of machine and it’s a new product offering,” he added. “It’s packaged much differently than our traditional machines. We’re very excited about it.”

The MPC-600C was designed to allow metal manufacturers to use the newest material handling and coolant systems.

“It’s the first one of its kind,” said Anderson.

Anderson said potential buyers for the MPC-600C are auto parts manufacturers, suppliers and even automakers themselves — in fact, any firm that must meet tight tolerances in its high-production parts-making process.

But the initial target customers are smaller shop owners who have contracted work with the automotive companies.

“It’s unique here in Grand Rapids because there are four or five that fit that bill very well,” he said.

“It’s priced appropriately and it has enough flexibility that when that job goes away, the firm can move on and do something else with that particular machine.”

Micron-USA is an importer and distributor of precision machines. The firm got its start here in1986 under another name and became Micron-USA in 1988; it is a wholly owned subsidiary of Micron Machinery, founded in 1961 in Yamagata, Japan.

Micron is the No. 1 producer of centerless grinders in the world, having installed over 5,000. The company makes more than 30 different models.

Micron-USA works on a 24-7 basis and has 10 employees. The firm has achieved tremendous success in the fuel injection market, where the tolerance level can drop to as little as 0.2 microns. A grind-to-size tolerance of 0.2 microns means that all other tolerances have to be near 0.1 micron.

“We import the machine directly from the factory,” said Anderson. “We distribute these for sale throughout North America and Europe.

“We’re just now opening a new branch in Frankfort, and that is an exciting and emerging market for us. We have representatives in key target areas, whether it be in the South, in the East or the Midwest.”

September marks the 14th time Micron-USA has participated in the ITMS. — David Czurak

Dake Corp.


724 Robbins Road

GRAND HAVEN — Frank Kennedy calls it the “shop-guy approach,” an approach designed to steer “shop guys” to stop and take a look.

He hopes it’s enough to draw plenty of attention to Dake Corp. during the IMTS: a black Monte Carlo racecar once driven by late NASCAR racing legend Dale Earnhardt.

The plan is to display the vehicle — leased from a sports promotions firm — in a racing theme exhibit set up to resemble a racetrack.

The display’s design is geared toward luring IMTS attendees to the exhibit that will include a circular cold saw fitted with a new modular automatic feed.

The connection between NASCAR and Dake Corp. stems from the niche market that has developed for the saw, which many auto racing teams have bought to use in fabricating metal car frames, said Kennedy, Dake’s marketing director.

“It’s a good tie to your end user, and of course you want to draw people into your booth,” Kenney said of the planned exhibit.

Dake sold several of the cold saws last December through an exhibit at a Professional Racing Institute conference in Indianapolis.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve been very successful selling to race teams,” Kennedy said. “It’s a very good market for us.”

Dake Corp., a part of Grand Haven-based JSJ Corp’s. Distribution Business Group, produces hydraulic and arbor presses and metal-cutting band and cold saws.

The company, with a workforce of about 70 people and annual sales in the $10 million to $12 million range, sells largely to small job shops in the Midwest that do metal fabricating.

In preparing for the show, Kennedy pulled together the entire shop to come up with an idea for the exhibit. Employees staffing the show will be clad in racing theme attire.

“We’re having a lot of fun with it,” he said.     Mark Sanchez

Hemco Corp


455 Douglas Ave.

HOLLAND — When it arrives at McCormick Place on Sept. 4, Hemco Corp. will show off basically what it has been doing for nearly a half century.

The company, which was founded in 1945, will exhibit the several lines of standard gauges that it sells.

The firm also will exhibit an assortment of the gauges it custom fabricates for the machining, tooling and metal-fabricating firms in West Michigan.

Hemco, which has 65 employees, is operated by Laurence Wysong, its president.

Spokesmen for the firm stress that when they say “gauges,” they’re not talking about the dial-and-needle or digital read-outs one sees on an auto dashboard or aircraft instrument panel.

Instead, they’re referring to highly precise fittings that workers can use to ascertain if their work is accurate.

One example would be a gauge that looks like an ordinary nut. But the nut actually determines that the threads on a specialty bolt are cut at exactly the right taper and have the exact inside and outside diameters that specifications require.

Likewise, what looks like a bolt actually is a gauge to determine that a set of specialty nuts also accord perfectly with specifications.

Other fittings are used to determine that metal cylinders are of the correct diameter, length and shape.

The firm occasionally does some specialty work for the metal finishing operations with area furniture manufacturers, but the bulk of its operations are devoted to manufacturers that require precision metal fittings. — Scott Payne

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