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Hamilton Company’s building 3 is home to offices, assembly and manufacturing. They have 35 Citizen Swiss turning centers and and 21 Matsuura MAM72 5 axis mills in just this building.

Hamilton Company is a global enterprise with headquarters in Reno, Nevada; Franklin, Massachusetts; Timișoara, Romania; Bonaduz, Switzerland; and subsidiary offices throughout the world. Hamilton Company (HC) specializes in the development, manufacturing, and customization of precision measurement devices, automated liquid handling workstations, and sample management systems. Their comprehensive range of products includes ultra-low temperature automated sample management systems for biological and compound samples, benchtop devices, and consumables designed for sample integrity, flexibility, and reliability in life science applications. Additionally, Hamilton Robotics provides liquid handling systems for fully automated workflows, ensuring consistent results for assays from low-throughput pipetting protocols to high-throughput systems.

In business for over seven decades, Hamilton remains a privately owned company employing 3,000 people worldwide. Their Reno, NV. location is home to offices, assembly, and manufacturing. Their ISO9001/ISO14385 production facilities are spread between two buildings encompassing more than 100,000sq.ft. Building number three houses all their Citizen Swiss turning centers, Matsuura 5 axis mills and the primary quality lab. Building thirteen is located down the street and is filled with DMG Mori mills, DMG Mori mill/turns, Haas Mills and Lathes, plus its own inspection area. The machining department staffs more than 110 people, with a squad of 10 programmers, and a team of 10 engineers. Philip Linscheid is the Director of Manufacturing and came on board at HC in 2018 with the task of eliminating the backlog of machining in the Reno plant. “My background is in automated machining, manufacturing engineering, and assembly,” tells Philip. “I spent a long time working for Haas Automation, as well as for a robotics company in the mid-West. Steve Hamilton hired me because the machine shop couldn’t make enough parts, fast enough to satisfy our internal demand. Kind estimates showed us 20-30k spindle hours behind where we needed to be. Through additional machinery, money, and hiring the right people we were able to make drastic improvements.”

Hamilton has a literal fleet of Swiss turning with (19) Citizen Cincom L12, (10) Citizen Cincom L20, (3) Citizen Cincom L32, (1) Citizen Cincom M32. Citizen L12, L20, and L32 represent three distinct solutions within the Swiss-type lathe market, each catering to specific machining requirements. While the L12 excels in precision machining of small parts, the L20 offers increased flexibility for medium-sized components, and the L32 provides advanced capabilities for high-volume production.

The 2017 data showed Hamilton Company was growing at a rate indicative of their stature and the industry they support.  With a mixed bag of machine tools at their disposal, production couldn’t keep up. They had no idea what was instore for the medical world in a few short years’ time, but luckily, they were prepared. “In 2017 we had a little over 44k earned hours between all our machines,” details Philip. “So that is spindle time = cycle time x quantity. 2018 went to 66k, then 111k in 2019, and then Covid blew us up to 167k in 2020 and 294k in 2022. We added machines, and that adds capacity, but we also added to the number of earned hours per machine we were getting. So, 2017 was roughly 1700 hours per machine and we were able to get that number up to 3,200 hours per machine (of all machines, including non-automated) via automation, bar feeders, pallet systems, better processes, things like that.” “It’s easy to see progress in hours running and parts shipped, but one matrix that is really difficult to show is hours saved,” adds manufacturing engineer Steven Martinez. “Cycle time reductions saved significant time per part. We went from 32k parts a year per machine to 63k per machine average. Looking at 2022 stats for example we identified 258 changes in processes for the year involving 242 parts. We saved an average of 52% of time on those parts, saved 25k hours in that year. None of these numbers consider the improved efficiency, so our 300k earned hours in 2022 would be closer to 400k adjusted. At the peak of Covid we ran just over 5 million parts in a year.”

Systematically reshaping the machining department was a top priority for Philip and his team in 2018. The shop was filled with a hodgepodge of CNC mills, lathes, and Swiss turning. “A problem we had was lack of continuity between our machine tools,” explains Swiss department head Brian Lahmann. “Throughout the machine shop we had several brands of machines, with one model of this, and a different but similar model of a different brand. So many machines we just had one of. Even brands like Citizen that we have, and love were all over the place. For example, we had K16, M16, L720 and L12, even though one part could run on all those machines it was four different programs, 4 bushing sets, and big pain in the butt. So, consolidating into families of machines made a lot of sense. Philip was able to begin that process soon after he got here.”

With (19) Matsuura MAM72-35V and (2) MAM72-52V the MAM72 series are HC’s go-to for 5 axis work. They have 320 tools, and a 32 pallet system.

The first phase included a complete overall and standardization of the Swiss department and adding 5th axis milling. “I wanted to revamp the entire shop,” touts Philip. “First it was consolidation, then it was additional machining centers, then we focused on specific processes. Our mills run mostly heavy aluminum, 6061, 7075, while stainless and a variety of plastics are more prominent on the Swiss. We can make pretty much anything. Parts range in size from needing to use our Haas GM-2 gantry mill to smaller than a grain of rice coming off the Citizen Swiss machines.” There are 13k part numbers assigned to the machine shop. Not all are produced every year, but HC functions more like a job shop. Very few parts stay on a machine for a long period of time. “What we have is a very dynamic manufacturing environment,” explains Steven. “It isn’t just running the same part numbers over and over; we also support a very large R&D department that never stops adding new parts and revising old parts. We have ten programmers who generate at minimum 8 new programs a week. We need to be able to make changes quickly. Most of our Swiss runs are in the hundreds with a few in the thousands. Fast changeovers are a key element to our success.” HC are in a constant state of setup, and having the right tool for the right job was important, leading Philip and his team to Citizen, Matsuura, DMG Mori, and Haas.

Service is the most important factor at HC when it comes to machine selection. Fortunately, their preferred brand for Swiss turning is Citizen and their dealer is also a Reno local. “HC had a connection with Spinetti Machinery before I got here,” tells Philip. “But that partnership has flourished the last few years as we’ve built up our fleet of Citizens. The owner Page Spinetti and I are in direct contact, and we have a great relationship. Spinetti is located 3 miles down the road and we couldn’t be more pleased with the support. Right now, we have 35 Citizen machines, and the ones we have were picked as a collaborate effort to best produce the parts we have now and the ones we will manufacture in the future. As Brian mentioned previously, we had a mixed bag of Citizens, but currently we have four different but similar models; (19) Citizen Cincom L12, (10) Citizen Cincom L2-20, (3) Citizen Cincom L32, (1) Citizen Cincom M32. Our first order was 17 machines, and everything is packed in as tight as safely possible.”

Hamilton Company have (10) DMG NHX 5000 mills, as well as (3) DMG NTX 1000 and (1) DMG NZX 2000 mill-turns in building thirteen.

“We enjoy producing square parts from round bar on lathes,” explains Brian. “We have parts that previously ran on a mill but are now machined on our Citizens. There is not a round feature on them, but a drilled hole. That’s the beauty of the Citizens.” “The L12 for example lets us produce parts not typically thought of as lathe parts,” continues Steven. “The variety of parts it can make is mind blowing. Load a 12’ round bar and every few minutes get a fully complete 3/4” square part off the machines. Bar is done, load another bar with no opportunity for human interaction and error. When we made this part in the milling area, we started by cutting the plastic material into pieces, loaded pieces into a fixture, ran the first op, unloaded, and reloaded in the fixture for op two. Every time we lost parts because of the size, shape and deformation of the plastic material it’s made from. The yield off the mill was 53 out of 64 loaded. By going to the Citizen lathe, we don’t lose any parts, we are 100%.” HC are admittedly a little strange in the sense that they don’t have any traditional turning. All their lathes are Citizen advanced Swiss turning centers or DMG Mori NX 1000 mill-turn machines. Recently though Spinetti showed HC how to take a sliding head stock lathe and convert it to a standard lathe by removing the guide bushing. Steven and Brian are looking forward to the added options available in that configuration.

Brian is quick to point out an often-overlooked advantage to shop wide similarities. “The consolidation and standardization of the machines also helped the maintenance crews be more successful,” explains Brian. “You get good at fixing the same things. We have teams that handle everything from preventative to complex repairs. On the Citizens, Spinetti shows us how to complete advanced tasks because they know we can handle it the next time it comes up. They are great at sharing information and they don’t hold back by making it only possible for them to do a service. When we ask, they tell us how to fix it. Spinetti host production and maintenance classes throughout the year. We just sent three new people through their program. It’s convenient having Spinetti so close because it doesn’t interrupt people’s lives by having to travel all over. Get training and be home for dinner with the family.” “The same rings true on staffing,” adds Philip. “Being able to easily move operators around is another aspect of having nearly the same machine. If you can run the L20 you can run the L32. Plus, it gives a cooperative and supportive environment to the operators. People learn at different paces, but when you have 19 of the same machines you have automatic training built right in because you have peers.”

HC have the ability to make pretty much any part. Sizes range from large pieces to smaller than a grain of rice. Milled parts are mostly heavy aluminum, 6061, 7075, while Swiss is primarily stainless, titanium, aluminum and a variety of exotic plastics.

Along with the Swiss upgrades, Philip’s phase one plan began by adding 5 axis milling. His decades of experience working for manufacturers in automation drew him to the Matsuura MAM72 series mills. “The Matsuura MAM72 series is a high-productivity 5-axis machining center designed for precision and accuracy,” describes Philip. “I really wanted one for a couple of reasons. First as always is service. Matsuura is a hard company to beat because they are a smaller supplier and every customer matters to them. They are a private family run, multigenerational company, same as we are, so lots of symbiosis. I went to IMTS in 2018 and fell in love with the MAM72-35V. I went back to Steve and said I wanted to buy one machine. He looked at me like I was crazy because I just told him we needed 20 machines. But we’d never done 5 axis before, it was a new concept for us. I went to the show and met with Matsuura and Selway Machine Tool, our local distributor and said I want one, with a letter of intent for 6 more. I love how the MAM72 are constructed. I love that the Y axis goes under the X axis and is fully supported, they have a large 320 tool changer, and 32 pallets. One of the key reasons behind backing the Matsuura over others is they don’t rely on a third-party pallet system. I worked for a company where I was the person people complained to when 3rd party automation didn’t go as planned. So, it was important that the pallet system was also Matsuura. Before the first batch of 7 was installed and running we added another 12 to our order. We have (19) Matsuura MAM72-35V and (2) Matsuura MAM72-52V, its one of the largest fleets of privately owned Matsuura MAM72-35V machines in a single building anywhere in the country.”

The last few years Hamilton Company focused on more, but now with the Covid boost winding down they are focused on better. “We got through the last few years using brute force,” describes Philip.” “It was tactics not strategy. Now we are developing as a company to best utilize all our technology. We are focused on better training, better performance, and better processes throughout all departments. Thankfully the owner had the vision to let us go bigger than we thought we needed. He gets all the credit. The last machine commissioned was operational prior to March 2020. In February when I said we are going to run as hard as we can to see what kind of numbers we can generate. Turn it all on. Well, we got one week of full gas running before Covid became the only thing we focused on. For a couple years we never lifted off the accelerator, and I’m proud of all we did. Trial by fire improved us as a company. In all our departments we run parts better than expected. We have parts that really should be ground, but we are delivering better that spec’d right off the mill or lathe. All our machines are consistent on surface finishes and tolerances helping our people to over perform.

HC have (2) Haas GM-2 gantry mills to tackle larger parts. This one has magnetic fixturing.

Article by:  CNC West Magazine  Photos  by:  CNC West Magazine and Hamilton Company