I’m not sure what you think when you hear the term ‘precision manufacturing’ but when I saw the 7+ axis micro-machining capabilities of Swissomation, I was completely floored. They take precision to the ultimate level.
The company has over 70 years of experience working with some of the largest manufacturers in the U.S. They have locations in Texas and Virginia with machines that can take on the smallest parts and most intricate prototype, up to millions of units for a production run.
They used Fusion 360 for the modeling, but Fusion 360’s integrated CAM and collaboration capabilities have optimized their process and changed the way they’re able to interact with and get feedback from customers.
I talked with Swissomation President, Christian Welch, to find out more.
SolidSmack: What is at the core of what Swissomation is all about?
Christian Welch: So the mission for us is to make top quality parts for our customers. Not just as a supplier, but to really work with our customers. The ideal customer for us is one we can work with on a long-term basis. We’re not the kind of “get in, make money, get out” type of business. I really enjoy working with clients who need help with engineering, and the engineering side is my passion. Prototypes and production runs are our bread and butter, but helping people grow their business, helping people succeed, is one of my favorite parts of my job, and what I would say is at our core.
SS: What’s unique about the approach Swissomation takes to machining and prototyping?
CW: It’s really a commitment to customer service, as well as the quality in our abilities. We’ve got machines to cover a range of needs. You’ll see an image of a dime with dozens of parts on it. What sets us apart is the capabilities we have to make parts where you can put 10,000 in the palm of your hand all the way up 10 inches.
There’s a wide range of sizes we can handle. The Texas facility specializes in tiny parts up to 1/2″. The Virginia shop specializes in parts from 1/4″ up to 1-5/8″. So we work together very closely to be specialists. Not a ‘jack of all trades’ for everybody but to really, truly be able to serve a wide variety of customers as specialists. When you make this small part–parts that are three-quarters the thickness of a sheet of paper–Now you’ve made it. How are you going to clean it? How are you going to count it? How are you going to handle it? That’s where we come in as specialists in the field.
SS: What 3D software is used at Swissomation?
CW: We switched from SOLIDWORKS to Fusion 360. With Fusion 360, the integrated CAM and collaboration tools are really important to us. We use the collaboration tools a lot, with smaller companies or even larger companies where we help on an engineering project.
SS: How are Fusion 360’s collaboration capabilities utilized?
CW: We’ll ‘live review’ a drawing and interact without having to buy software or services like GoToMeeting. I can show them everything with a browser link–no software to install at all. Whether it’s an engineer or someone in marketing, I can show them and say, “Hey, you see this circle right here, I need this to look like this.” I can explain it and they understand it.
In the old days of SOLIDWORKS they had to install eDrawings–they couldn’t install eDrawings or get it to read. Then I sent them a .exe, which the email service blocks. With Fusion 360, I can just send the link. If something changes I update and go. I don’t have to go through sending models back and forth. Fusion 360 just makes it very easy to collaborate with people on different designs.
SS: How has Fusion 360 changed or improved your process?
CW: We also do design work. When we’re designing products for other people, the features that have improved our process is the integrated CAM, the collaboration and being able to do renderings. Within the eight-hour process for me to do it in SOLIDWORKS, I can hop into Fusion 360 and have something in two hours the first time. I can offload the renderings and simulations to the cloud instead of tying up my machine for three or four hours and have it back in 10 minutes. It frees me up to do something else.
SS: What advice do you have for others start-ups, inventors or those who need machining services?
CW: The best advice I can give to someone starting up is to learn Fusion 360. First and foremost learn Fusion 360. Watch some videos–it’s easy to pick up and go to work. And keep your cash flow going–that’s always a tough thing. With Fusion 360, it’s a no-brainer to me. It’s free for startups. I mean, how much better can you get your cash flow than ‘free for startups’. That’s a no-brainer. If you own a machine shop and you don’t have Fusion 360 and you know about it… you know there’s something wrong. I really say you should have your head examined but. (laughs) Here’s what I say, “If you are aware of Fusion 360 and the benefits of it and you’re not willing to pay $300 (per year) for it, you should have your head examined.”
Your sales staff can have a copy to read drawings and talk to customers. Your engineers don’t have to have one copy of SOLIDWORKS in the back room that cost you $8,000 to buy and $2,000 a year, like I did, with one person knowing how to use it.
Teach your kids. Right now, I’m teaching my sons. One of my sons came to me when building a drone saying, “Hey dad. I lost this bushing.” I didn’t have to make them go through the process to create a bushing, bBut what they learned from going through that process is pretty cool. I love it and being able to spend time with the kids and to teach them, and ask, “How can you make this and 3D print it?” It’s just a great opportunity that we have to teach the younger ones. I could not afford to do that on SOLIDWORKS. When I had SOLIDWORKS, I couldn’t do it.