Hayward, Ca. job shop IMT Precision Inc. primarily focuses on vacuum chambers that support the semiconductor, solar and aerospace industries. The job shop mentality means they do it all; from machining and outside processing to an assembled piece delivered to the customer’s door. Clients asked for a one-stop shop and IMT listened.
If you are a manufacturer in Silicon Valley, it means there is a good chance you now or at some point have done work in the semi conductor industry. IMT Precision’s roots date back to 1993. Tim ILario opened the garage-based company in the neighboring city of Fremont, Ca. machining semiconductor equipment for local companies. Through the years they outgrew building after building until 2000 when their current location became their manufacturing and corporate headquarters. “We have 50,000 sq.ft. of manufacturing in our warehouse area,” tells Zack Lemley, IMT Precision’s director of planning and production. “Everything we do inside the office area is to support the people in the shop. We have 60 employees right now and 20+ CNC mills and lathes.”
The cornerstone of IMT Precision’s business is machining large vacuum chambers. They have an army of bridge mills capable of hogging out vacuum chambers the size of small rooms. “Our largest mill is a Viper PRW-5340,” tells Zack. “It has 200” of X travel, 135” on Y and 42”+ on the Z. You literally could drive a car down between the walls. Six months ago we purchased a HMG PBM vertical from Selway Machine Tools. It has 100” on X, Y is 75” and Z has 60” of travel, but really it is about the W. The quill can stick out like 28” to get into tight spots, it is a pretty cool machine. Full 360-degree rotation. Super powerful and has a 3-speed transmission on it. We just got everything ironed out on it about three months ago. Now it runs like a champ. We are hogging out large steel chambers that get nickel plated on another machine then moving them over onto the new machine for finishing. We work with all type of materials for companies like Applied Materials and Sandia Labs. The local university sends us various parts for their linear accelerator. They are always making changes and improvements so it is rare we produce more than a single prototype.” Most jobs at IMT Precision are low volume. Most orders are for 1-3 parts, a big “production” style run is 20 pieces.
Large items are checked on the shop floor with a table and CMM arm. The arm reaches 12’ and typically is used to check localized tolerances. “A standard check we might do is flatness between a certain distance,” details Zack. “For example we will measure a 20”x2” area and it has to be within a certain spec. Our smaller vacuum chambers and parts have tighter tolerances and we take them into our QA lab for verification on the CMMs.
IMT Precision is an ISO9001:2015 certified company and part of maintaining that level of quality requires having qualified quality tools in inspection. “We had a really old CMM that was starting to have issues and give us bad readings,” details Zack. “It was a great machine for us over the years, but it was from the mid 90’s and still ran MS DOS. No point and click, everything was entering commands. We couldn’t find people to run it and no one wanted to learn on such an antiquated machine. We were getting inaccurate results. A couple of our aerospace customers required certain
surface measurements that were impossible to get from it.” Zack and the management team looked into the option of doing a retrofit to bring it up to current standards, but the price to do that was still high. “Doing a retrofit didn’t save us enough money to justify it,” continues Zack. “It made more sense to spend a few dollars more and get something brand new. We did a lot of research and met with a bunch of companies deciding that LK Metrology’s Altera-S 10.7.6 CMM offered us the best bang for our buck.”
Zack sites Scott Collier as a primary reason they went with LK Metrology. “We did demonstrations with other brands and Scott was fantastic to deal with.” IMT Precision liked that LK has been around forever as a trusted brand in metrology, and they love that the Altera line of CMMs come standard with a lot of features. “First and foremost the Altera is a very rigid and stable platform,” details Zack. “It has a belt drive that is nearly silent and an amazing self cleaning/self aligning air bearing system that comes standard. Also standard is LK’s 10-year original accuracy guarantee. That guarantee shows a lot of trust in their product and that we are getting exactly what we paid for years down the road.”
LK Metrology’s Altera-S 10.7.6 CMM has a larger work envelope than IMT’s older machine, plus all the benefits of new computer, new software, and new technology. “We grouped it with CMM Manager and that was a huge selling point for us,” explains Zack. “Reports and working with models has upped our quality game. We like that the Altera came with the Renishaw PH10 head on it. It has the removable styli and tool rack. We didn’t have any of those features before. A lot of the features are automated. If it has to check down a 4” bore it knows to go over and get the 6” styli. We told the old machine what to do, now we feed the Altera the model and tell it what we want to measure. It decides what the best and most efficient way to measure is. It will raise the probe just above a part and speed along to the next measurement. It scared us the first time we saw how close it came to crashing into the part, but now we know and trust it.”
The IMT team is has a lot of experience dealing with prints, but not as much when it comes to models. More and more their customers, especially the aerospace ones are moving to all model based system. “All the specs, all the tolerances, everything is in the model,” continues Zack. “We needed to be better prepared now and in the future. Most of the people I interview for inspector positions are familiar with CMM Manager so it makes hiring people a lot easier. We got 1 year of unlimited tech support and our quality manager Pete is taking advantage of it every chance he gets.” Three people went through the training program for the Altera CMM, but most of the information is being passed down from Pete to the other inspectors. “I had a little trouble originally with the models,” admits Pete. “I wasn’t used to working with models so it took a little time to get things working the way I wanted. Tech support was great in understanding what I needed, and how best to accomplish it. They pop onto our system with Team Viewer and go through any questions or issues. I never thought I would use the interchangeable stylus as much as I do. We didn’t have that ability before, and it was something I didn’t know I needed. We got a job in recently from a New Mexico based laboratory with a wide range of features on it that need to be inspected. It would have taken forever on the old machine. The new head and styli have come in very handy. You pick feature and just tell it what to do. The software is fairly flexible, allowing you to edit on the fly if you need to.”
“When you only produce one or two parts at a time quality has to be dialed in right out of the gate,” concludes Zack. “We don’t have days of production to fine tune a process. Producing the part right the first time is mandatory. Verifying that quality on our new Altera CMM is faster and more accurate than we had hoped. No one in the shop misses the MS DOS, and our customers love our added capabilities.”