Joseph Ilmberger and his wife Jan left the Midwest to pursue a manufacturing career in California’s booming Silicon Valley. An unexpected layoff sent Joe to the bank and on a 40+ year journey. “I broke my knee skiing and was let go by my employer,” tells Joe Ilmberger, President/CEO of Hayward, Ca. based ILM Tool Inc. “I went straight to the bank and took out a loan for $9000. I used the money to purchase a Bridgeport mill. In 1981 ILM Tool opened in my garage as a side business.” Slowly but surely the side business grew, expanding into multiple machines and five people working from the that one garage in a residential neighborhood of San Lorenzo. “My wife was tired of chips in the carpet and all over the bathroom, so we ended up moving out and I bought a building on American Avenue a block from here. We resided in the back of the building for five or six years and rented out the rest.” ILM outgrew other locations too but in 1998 ILM bought and moved into their current 25,000sq.ft. facility. The converted health club has been transformed into a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility housing 30+ advanced CNC machining centers, 35 employees, and a very impressive solar array.
“The majority of machining centers we get are from Selway Machine Tool,” adds director of sales and estimator Joe Ilmberger Jr.” “So, our Japanese machines are all Matsuura horizontals and Matsuura 5 axis. Our American made CNC mills and lathes are all Haas. We have a sheet metal division down the street and a Swiss turning department in Ontario, Ca. too. Ontario has nine Citizen Swiss screw machines right now with more on the way.” “Over the last few years, I have reinvested heavily in our machining centers, computer systems, and the company in general,” adds Joe Sr. “We have a wide variety of CNC to handle the quality demands from our customer base. We use JobBoss shop management software. All our programming and simulations are via GibbsCam. We are also committed to better environmental sustainability with 400 solar panels on my roof.” ILM Tool got their start making plastic valve blocks for a bio medical company but have diversified over the years supporting high tech government companies, wafer chambers, wafer handling, medical research, chip making and defense. They’re tier one suppliers to the biggest names in industry. A typical semicon project might include engineering, prototyping, and manufacturing a wafer chamber for a new factory being setup. ILM’s design engineer and lead programmer Daniel Wormuth did the entire project right down to the fixturing and creating the processes.
Dan’s foray into manufacturing also came from a garage shop, but it wasn’t Joe’s. “My dad Ron had a shop in his garage during the 90’s,” tells Dan Wormuth of ILM. “We were using GibbsCam back then to program and I just had a knack for it. I bounced around a few companies in lead positions before finding my way here to ILM. I’ve always used GibbsCam and find WestCam Solutions customer service to be the best around. One call and I have an answer, there is no waiting around for someone to get back to me while machines sit idle. I brought my love of GibbsCam with me to ILM Tool and together we are making some incredible things.” Most of those incredible things are for their eyes only, but fortunately ILM Tool manufactures Griptite Workholding LLC. Systems. “I designed the Griptite system about four years as a universal way to handle our workholdings,” describes Dan. “I did it all on GibbsCam focusing on easy and repeatable dovetail systems for our Matsuura and Haas 5 axis machines. Everything we machine is pretty much done in a single 5 axis operation and then a secondary op to get rid of the dovetail. We use the Griptites to manufacture the Griptites. Our 5 axis system mounts directly to the pallet on our Matsuura MAM72-35V, saving the added connection point of an adapter. Selway is now offering them as part of their tooling package to new Matsuura owners. They are easy to use, fast to operate, hold on tight and have allowed us to really experiment in how we attack a part. We have multiple pallet systems on multiple Matsuura’s and each one is using the Griptite system.”
One of Dan’s primary objectives when coming on board at ILM was to streamline processes by maximizing speed and efficiency while minimizing risks and costly mistakes. “Ramping up speeds and feeds can be scary if you don’t have the right software,” explains Dan. “ILM was programming jobs on the conservative side. They had no way of verifying the paths prior to it being put on the machine tool for production. One of the many features I love and utilize is GibbCam simulation. Using Gibbscam machine simulation gives a true perspective of the programmed job before going to the actual machine. I know exactly what is going to happen when we start cutting chips because I have run the job virtually already. Every machine, every pallet, every combination of tombstones and Griptites are all modeled into GibbsCam” All ILM’s parts are high value, and high complexity; two things that normally lend itself to steady machining. “Once ILM began using GibbsCam to maximize efficiency on the horizontals and 5 axis machining centers we were able to decrease run times across the board,” touts Joe Sr. “We were also quickly able to modify some existing programs using GibbsCam intuitive one click features to improve processes without the need to completely start over. The ease of use and instinctual menu options make teaching and learning in GibbsCam a breeze. We have a lot of long-term customers and some of the parts we’ve manufactured for years were becoming a cost nightmare. You can’t tell a customer that, but you can reprogram it. Setup is easy with Griptite, our speeds and feeds are up, and it is profitable again. Seeing Dan run the simulation in GibbsCam we knew it was going to work, and exactly the gains we could expect.”
ILM Tool Inc. has come a long way since Joe Sr. needed a side hustle. They’re as complex as their machines and systems, encompassing the best of old and new. You can tell right away they still embrace that old school mentality that takes pleasure from manufacturing as if it were their duty. Joe Sr. is that guy who can tell you a story about every part in the lobby, but he is also they guy who knows you can’t dwell on the past and need to keep moving forward and evolving. His investment the last few years in machine tools, personnel, and software systems sets the tone for the next forty years in business. “At ILM Tool Inc, we take pride in everything we produce,” concludes Joe Sr. “Although our industry has changed since we opened, there are some things that remain constant such as our attention to detail, the quality of our goods and our care for those who use our services. Customers trust ILM Tool with their products, and we want nothing more than to deliver above expectations.”