A ONE STOP SHOP THAT NEVER STOPS EVOLVING: Burns Machinery

By December 19, 2015Articles

Greg Burns, founder of Burns Machinery Inc.

Since 1987 Minden Nevada’s Burns Machinery has been in a constant state of evolution. After graduating from college with a degree in mechanical engineering and working in the aerospace forging industry, Greg Burns left Rancho Cucamonga, Ca. and moved his family to Nevada. “My specialty was seamless rolled rings,” explains Greg. “Rolled rings are everywhere, and lots of them. An engine in a 747 will have hundreds of them ranging in size from very small to 10’.” Greg was designing and building his own ring rolling machinery and ring expanding machinery and needed a way to produce it, thus Burns Machinery came to be. In the early 90’s they added full CNC capabilities to their 20,000sq.ft. facility to help minimize the peaks and valleys of the machinery business. That ability to adapt and evolve has brought them to where there are today, a state of the art one stop shop for laser cutting, fabrication, milling, turning and machinery manufacturing.

“I’ve always had a love of motorcycles,” tells Greg. “Ever since I was a kid I raced and rode dirt bikes and in 2002 I opened a company called Dirt Tricks.” All of the parts Dirt Tricks make are unique in some way and superior to comparable existing products. Their sprockets have reached worldwide recognition for their amazing longevity combined with their lightweight design. Greg took his experience as an engineer and his knack of selecting materials and developed a far superior motorcycle racing sprocket. A typical sprocket might have a life span of 15 hours on a 450cc 4-stroke Honda before it gets shredded, but Dirt Tricks’ Ironman Sprocket goes an impressive 1000 hours. “I built a better mouse trap using a high quality alloy heat treated steal, and we’ve seen tremendous growth from that side of the business.” For more than a decade all the laser cutting was farmed out for the sprockets, but recently they brought it in house. “We were sending the sprockets to different laser shops around the west to be cut,” describes Greg. “The teeth, the profile, all of it is laser cut so we figured owning our own laser was justifiable.” The next phase of Burns Machinery’s evolution began in July of last year when they purchased a 4000w Mazak Fiber Laser.

Burns and his team did a lot of research before making the huge investment into laser technology. They came to the conclusion that the future of laser cutting lies in the speed and accuracy offered by a fiber laser system like the Mazak Optiflex 3015. “The one thing a fiber laser does better than anything else is cut very thin metal very fast,” boasts Greg. “Because the beam diameter at the surface is so tiny (.002) we have incredible precision and phenomenal cutting speed. A CO2 laser cuts 16 gauge stainless steel at 150” per minute. We can do it 10X faster at 1500” per minute with the fiber laser.” The laser is so fast that that its original purpose of cutting Dirt Tricks sprockets and brake rotors only takes four days a month to manufacture. The Dirt Trick parts crack the nut needed to easily justify the cost of the laser, but now a new door had opened for Burns Machinery to take on all sorts of laser work from other customers. “We quickly saw our laser capabilities allowed us to be extremely competitive in that market,” says Burns. “Being able to offer a faster, more accurate, better cosmetic cut and a cheaper price is something customers always like to hear. If a part has 3 or 4 bends in it I can go from SolidWorks to laser, to press brake to part in my hand in 15-20 minutes.”

Most of the products being cut were then being sent to a forming house to be formed on a press brake, including some of their own products. That pointed to the need of having their own press brake and deliver a finished product to their customer. A one stop shop. “We are excited to have a precision CNC press brake. It came into being because of our Mazak laser and was something we didn’t know we wanted, or needed, and now it is a machine we can’t do without.” Greg contacted Bob Herling of Fab-Line Machinery and through extensive research purchased a European built Baykal APHS 3104×90 Compact 5 axis 100 ton CNC press brake. The Baykal can handle lengths to 10’ and offers a 16” throat depth, 39” back gauge range, and support arms on linear guides. Its maximum bend accuracy and repeatability is assured through constant monitoring and correction of beam parallelism by the CNC system. With a Ram repeatability of +/- .0004” and a speed of 780”/min it was a perfect solution to meet the needs at Burns Machinery. Although still learning the field of brake work, Burns and his team are finding their niche in the Northern Nevada area fabbing bumpers, metal point of purchase displays, motor mounts, as well as their many in-house items. According to Burns they don’t have a lot of direct competition in the area because the other shops are not equipped with precision European tooling. “Our Baykal utilizes European precision tooling that allows us to very quickly change tooling on the machine. Our competitors can’t do that with non precision American style tooling. For example if you have a bottom V-tool and its too short you just can’t add another two feet to it. You have to go buy another section and cut it to the needed size. We have a significant advantage in job setup time with the European tooling. If we need an additional 2’ of tooling we just take it off the tooling rack and it matches what we already have in place.”

Along with the sheet metal work, Burns Machinery is a significant CNC production shop in the Carson City area. With 13 CNC machines that include Fanuc Robodrills, a Kuraki horizontal boring mill, Kia turning centers, and Fadal vertical milling centers they are ready to tackle the next huge transformation that lies ahead. “We are all set to go into production with a new company selling nitrogen generators and boost pumps of our own design,” smiles Burns. “High speed fiber lasers like our Mazak consume huge amounts of Nitrogen. We knew that going in, it’s the nature of the beast.” On a fiber laser the nitrogen is passed through a small nozzle at 300psi. along with the beam. What has to occur for it to cut at high speed is using the nitrogen to force out the vaporized metal. More than a year ago Burns Machinery began development of their own nitrogen generator and boost pump. Utilizing their CNC machine shop, Mazak laser and Baykal press brake they built their first prototype, and for three months have been operating on the latest evolution of their system. Prior to their system being in operation they spent on average $100 per hour on purchased nitrogen. “We have a customer that wants one generator a week,” continues Burns. “We have the facilities, the wherewithal and the people to take that on, but it will change drastically how the guys spend their week.” Already a large portion of their work on the laser and press brake are geared towards full scale production of the nitrogen system.

Building a better mousetrap is something Burns Machinery has done well for 27 years. Be it dirt bike sprockets or nitrogen generators they continue to grow and evolve, elevating the “one stop shop” to new levels.

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