Titans of industry and motivation speakers alike all tout the power of building sustainable relationships in business. Nowhere is that connection more pronounced and beneficial than at Superior Machined Products (SMP) in Oceanside, Ca. As the song goes “In this great future, you can’t forget your past.” For SMP, that past all started decades earlier with Wade Prescott and Allied Swiss Machine.
Opened by Taylor Prescott, Robert Swigart and Juan Maravilla in 2015, SMP is a Swiss only ISO1345 certified job shop specializing in medical and dental. They quit their careers and started SMP the old fashioned way, with no pay, no customers, and a single Star SR20R Swiss turning center. Only four years in and they are growing at a fantastic pace. Now with six machines and plans to add one a year until they run out of space, this startup is on the rise and stacked full of talent. “We are all here in a roundabout way because of my grandfather’s company Allied Swiss,” tells Taylor Prescott, president of SMP. “Our team has a long history together, and even though we don’t all have the same last name we are family.” SMP’s management team all honed their craft together at Allied: president Taylor Prescott, vice president Robert Swigart, quality manager Michael Lyons, and director of engineering Richard Allen. The Allied connection even continues outside of SMP to the next office over of Masa Tool CEO Matt Saccomanno and President Chip Prescott.
2575 Jason Ct. is a unique building, not in the sense that it is visually different, but the 10,000 sq.ft. concrete structure is an incubator for manufacturing. Originally hosting four separate companies, it now houses only two, SMP and Masa Tool. Both companies find their co-habitation to be an advantage. SMP was one of the first shops on the west coast to standardize on the Masa Microconic system for their sub-spindle work holding, and they have many examples of how it has increased their competitiveness. SMP acts as an unofficial test lab and showroom utilizing Masa Tool’s Micronics System for Swiss machining. “We love the success we are having with the Microconic System,” tells Robert Swigart. “One of our best advantages is our partnership with Masa Tool. We’ve always been confident in our skill level and workholding, but the Microconic System allows us to utilize the sub spindle in the same way we would machine with the main spindle. We have such faith in Matt and Masa Tool that we look at every part under 10mm with the philosophy of what else can we put on the sub.”
Masa Tool focuses on micro work holding in Swiss type machines. The Microconic System was born out of a need to maximize the machining ability on the sub spindle. As the machines have gotten more and more sophisticated the sub spindle has become more and more capable. It is a fully functional CNC machine independent from the main spindle. Successful Swiss machining is about maximizing productivity and minimizing cycle time. To do that you want both spindles working as hard as they can throughout the entire machining process. “On average the sub spindle is waiting 70-80% of the time for the main spindle to finish,” explains Matt Saccomanno, CEO of Masa Tool and inventor of the Microconic System. “That is a huge waste of a spindle time. The more work you shift from the main to the sub greatly improves your cycle times. The sub works away at the same time as the main for simultaneous machining. Any machinist will tell you the more that gets done simultaneously the better your profit margins. You always try and balance the load between the two spindles, but as more duties are shifted to the sub spindle work holding becomes your biggest issue.”
The same collet system invented over a hundred years ago for the main spindle is being used in the sub. The main is feeding a nice clean piece of round bar stock, it is an easy chucking situation that you can grab with some force and you are good to go. The same system is used in the sub, but that part can look like anything by the time it gets to the sub spindle. It is a far more delicate, more difficult work holding application. Most shops use an extended nose collet in the sub to allow room for tooling and coolant and so forth. Now you telescope out the worst characteristics; the holding force is bad; the concentricity is worse and all these other issues that derive from the traditional collet from 100 years ago. Seeing that problem Masa Tool developed the Microconic System. It is a collet system that fits in an existing machine just like a traditional collet. It is a two piece system with a cartridge and a collet. “The cartridge fits in the machine without modification,” details Sachin Joshi, director of engineering at Masa Tool. “Our cartridge replaces the traditional collet, and our collet goes into the cartridge. The Microconic System provides extreme concentricity, incredible accuracy, fantastic rigidity, and has a unique micrometer style locking system so you can clamp on the most delicate part without crushing them. You can hold a fragile part solidly in place allowing the sub to do things like broaching or heavy drilling that isn’t always possible. The closing force is applied throughout the part. It liberates you from a lot of the hassles of work holding on the sub spindle.”
SMP is building their business one customer at a time. From the beginning they worked hard to get their ISO1345 certification to drive business their way. “As a job shop we will produce any Swiss part you need, but our expertise lays in medical and dental,” tells Taylor. “Bone screws, dental hand tools, orthopedic, brain implants, we do it all. Regardless of your reputation most companies won’t work with you without your ISO cert, so getting ours right away was key to establishing ourselves in the field.” SMP utilizes Star Swiss turning centers that range in size between 20mm and 16mm with 12’ bar feeders. “Star has been a great machine tool for us over the years and we like to keep things standardized,” details Taylor. “Everyone can run all the machines, the tooling is the same, the controls are the same and the programming is the same. It makes life a lot easier for a shop our size.” Run quantities vary between a couple hundred to thousands and thousands, but it is
not uncommon for SMP to change setups a few times a day between the six machines. The Microconic Micrograd dial wrench allows you to set your clamping force with calibrated precision in a fraction of the time and with repeatable accuracy. Traditionally there is a feel of how much tension you are putting on your closer. It is a rudimentary style of clamping, grip it and rip it essentially, but the needed finesse requires experience. There is a fine line between the part pulling out of the clamp and being crushed to death. “The Micrograd simplifies the process,” explains SMP’s director of engineering Richard Allen. “Clamping down the part is like using a micrometer, set the adjustment and away you go. Our run sheets have the clamping force spec’d out on them for faster changeover times no matter who is setting up the machine.”
Customer service is a huge part of SMP’s business model. They’ve gained more and more work simply off servicing customers better. “We are growing as our customers grow,” concludes Robert. “Customers are coming to us because they feel neglected and bullied by some of these bigger facilities. We work with them constantly to provide the best parts and service out of all their vendors. By building trust through communication, the word got out about our service and quality. It’s been nonstop growth.” SMP has 12 employees and two shifts right now (removed txt here).“Employing great people has been one of the main reasons for our early success,” adds Taylor. “Every member of our staff is as dedicated to the success of SMP as we are.”
As a company SMP has a lot of pride in manufacturing. They also have a desire to never stop improving. You can tell right away that their reputation is something they take very personally. Afterall, they know better than most how today’s relationships become tomorrow’s possibilities.
Article by Sean Buur
Photos by Sean Buur and supplied by SMP and Masa Tool