PACIFIC SWISS AND MANUFACTURING – Going Big by Machining Small

By June 19, 2017Articles

Greg Cde Baca, president of Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing

Greg Cde Baca is a second-generation machinist and president of PS&M (Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing Inc.) in Clackamas, Oregon. Since the early 90’s his big plan was to machine small, but it took until 1995 to make that a reality. Today, Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing Inc. specialize in multi axis CNC Swiss Turning and multi axis CNC Swiss Micro/Miniature machining.

Greg has been a machinist his entire adult life. He began by sweeping floors in his father’s machine shop right after high school graduation. “I learned my craft on manual machines,” tells Greg on a misty Oregon afternoon. “I progressed to operating and setting up the CNC mills and lathes then ran sales for a number of years.” Greg’s father built his machining business in Southern California in the 60’s before moving to the Pacific Northwest in the late 70’s. “Dad was set in his ways and liked the level of comfort he’d grown accustom to,” explains Greg. “When I went to him about the possibility of expanding into the small parts arena, he wasn’t interested. Customers were asking for us to make these small Swiss style parts and we were turning them down.” After three long years of telling customers no, Greg was set to tell them yes.

In 1995 Greg was in a position to finance his first Swiss machine and took delivery of a Citizen B12. “I knew the sales rep for Citizen, so that’s what I purchased” tells Greg. “It was a B12 with a single spindle and only seven tools. It was the most I could afford and just enough to get the ball rolling. My core idea was precision small parts made in the Pacific Northwest so I named my new company Pacific Swiss Precision.” Clackamas Community College has an advanced technology center that trains CNC personnel and Greg spent his first year in business as part of their program. “I was the first person in their new incubator program for startup manufacturing businesses,” details Greg. “I took business classes and had a small work space within their facility. When that program came to an end I sublet a 10’x30’ space from my dad in the back corner of his shop. He was fair as a landlord, but it was definitely a business to business relationship and he didn’t cut me any slack.”

Top – Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing work in a variety of metals and plastics. A few of the primary industries they serve are: medical, aerospace, automotive, dental, test and measurement, microwave, linear & motion control.
Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing are micro machining specialists. To them micro ranks just above nano manufacturing. PS&M consider micro machining to be anything with a diameter down to .010” and a drilled hole size down to .005.

Greg added a second Citizen a year later and increased his rented floor space. The same thing happened again in 1998 when he added a third CNC Swiss machine. “It wasn’t until I added the third machine that my dad really understood the idea I had pitched him years before,” explains Greg. As he was ready to retire in 2000 we discussed and agreed on a buyout. I purchased all the assets of his company and renamed the company Pacific Swiss &  Manufacturing.” Greg spent the next few years attempting to grow the traditional manufacturing side of the business, but it wasn’t performing near as well as the Swiss side. He sold off the standard CNC mills and lathes and reinvested 100% into CNC Swiss manufacturing. By 2005 they were a 100% CNC Swiss shop again. Greg had realized his dream of CNC Swiss manufacturing, but by then instead of being a regional source for CNC Swiss parts and micro machining PS&M had become international with customers all over the globe.

Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing has 5000sq.ft., nine Citizen CNC Swiss machines and a full-time staff of 9 people. Medical part manufacturing makes up a large portion of their business, but other industries include: test and measurement, dental, aerospace, electronics, automotive and linear & motion control to name a few. “We work a lot in stainless,” tells Greg. “Stainless, aluminum, brass make up most our parts, but we also excel in medical grade plastics and standard steel.” Since phasing out the traditional machine tools, Pacific Swiss &  Manufacturing has seen steady growth and expansion. They added three new Citizen CNC Swiss machines  last summer and are expected to need more next year. “We are up 75% in the first quarter compared to last year,” touts Greg. “A lot of that comes from the three new machines we purchased from Spinetti Machinery. Product familiarity is very important to us so we keep buying the Citizen machines. Parts are here in the US and easy to get. Spinetti ‘s staff is great, when and if we need service they are just a phone call away. Since they are Citizen machines we don’t have a lot of need for service, but I consider product knowledge a big part of service. It is nice to know when we are adding a machine that the sales people know enough about what we do to lead us towards machines that will benefit us the most.” Pacific Swiss &  Manufacturing produced more than 9 million parts last year and by 2018 Greg expects to have another two or three machines online to meet their growing demand.

Greg and his team maximize every foot of space, so deciding on the right machine is paramount. “Our newest machines are a Citizen L32 Type VIII  and a pair of Citizen L12 Type VII with the 16mm upgrade,” details Greg. “We got the L32 because L25 was showing its age and needed to be replaced. The L12s we added to support a specific job run. Each L12 machine runs a single part 24/7.” Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing have been running that part all day, every day since 2013 and churn out 1000+ each and every day. It is one of a handful of medical parts that has PS&M written in to the customers manufacturing program. Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing helps customers design parts predicated on their capabilities and areas of expertise. Greg explains how the complex features are not always easy to machine. “We have for example a part with a miniature, modified  reverse buttress double lead thread made out of 304L stainless steel. It requires custom ground tooling with specific geometry to do correctly. If you run to print you will be fine, but it is beyond the capabilities of most shops. We like it like that. We like being good at what we do, and our customers love it. Our customers put us in a position of trust and we take that responsibility very seriously.

What started out as a 10’x30’ rented space in his dad’s shop has grown to 5000sq.ft. of CNC Swiss manufacturing. Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing has nine Citizen CNC Swiss machines. They added three last summer and expect to need a few more by 2018. Greg has been a Citizen supporter since 1995 when he purchased his first B12. The latest additions are two Citizen L16 VII CNC Swiss Screw Machines, 5/8” Dia. capacity, 23 tools, 7 axis, HP Coolant, Mist collection and one Citizen L32 VIII, CNC Swiss Screw Machine, 1-1/4” dia. capacity, 25 tools, 8 axis with angular hole capability, HP Coolant, Mist Collection.

They know if we made the part it is better than the print.” When dealing with Swiss and micro machined parts the tolerances and specifications are very minute.  Many times, there is no plus or minus, just the number it has to be.

Micro Machining fits in the machining spectrum right above nano manufacturing. Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing consider micro machining to be anything with a diameter down to .010” and a drilled hole size down to .005. All the Citizens at PS&M can run the micro parts; it comes down to machinist experience, tooling and setup. “We run a lot of the micro parts on our 3/4” machines,” explains Greg. “Even though the parts are small they have a lot of features and the 7 axis capabilities on the L12 and L20 Citizens gets the job done.” Features might include milled slots, off-center cross holes and broaching. Something as simple as parts delivery becomes more difficult when the parts are so tiny. PS&M has vacuum systems, oil systems, strainers, sieves, strainers, you name it to keep track of all the parts. A single sandwich size bag might have as many as 50,000 parts in it.

Having good suppliers is very important in how Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing. It starts with good bar stock and tooling before letting the Citizens do their job. “We have a tight supply chain when it comes to materials and tooling,” describes Greg. “The tools have to be perfect and so do the materials we machine. We use Western Tool & Supply(Milwaukie, Or) as our primary tool supplier. Schmolz + Bickenbach (Brea,Ca.) is the supplier of most of our  stainless, we partner with Earle M. Jorgensen (Portland) to get precision ground aluminum and steel bar from Banner Service Corporation out of Chicago and  E. Jordan Brookes (Santa Fe Springs, Ca.) handles most of our Plastics” Getting quality bar in-house undamaged is the first step in Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing’s process. All their bar is OD ground to +/- .0005  and the metallurgy is matched from batch to batch. “Defective bar coming in effects cost, production schedule, and customer service,” continues Greg. “Because of the percentage of metal removal and the size of the parts starting with the best possible bar and tooling is key to our precision manufacturing process.”

“We are one of the only exclusive CNC Swiss shops doing what we do,” concludes Greg. CNC Swiss and micro machining is already a specialty machining process and Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing are specialists in these 2 disciplines of CNC Swiss Turning. Their Quality Control Personnel  are specialists, their machinists are specialists and everything they do revolves around making very small parts 24 hours a day. “We think all day, everyday about producing the best possible parts from .010” in diameter to 1.25” diameter. Our team loves the challenge of getting these small parts manufactured. I’m excited to see us grow and expand and look forward to what the future brings for Pacific Swiss & Manufacturing.”