Sewing Needle Manufacturing
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  1. #1
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    Default Sewing Needle Manufacturing

    Our company makes industrial sewing machines for heavy leather applications like saddles, rigging, etc. Our machines were first introduced between 1882 and 1900, and we're still building and supporting them, although in lower numbers. Ours use an awl and a hooked needle to sew as opposed to a needle with an eye such as you would see on a home sewing machine. It's what sets the machines apart from more modern alternatives, but also can lead to issues with economically producing parts. Each machine has a variety of sizes (shank diameter) and a round, diamond, or chisel shaped point for both the needle and the awl.

    The needles and awls our machines use have always been made by companies that specialize in them. In recent years though, their minimum quantities have made it hard to stock all but the most popular sizes. So I'm curious about the possibility of bringing part of it in house.

    You can Youtube video's about sewing needle manufacturing. It's done by the 1000's involving many steps from drawing, molding, grinding, plating, stamping, etc. Lots of automation. I'm wondering how hard it would be to get into it in much lower numbers however. If we made 50 pieces a day, we'd be good.

    Instead of mass producing these things in all the different stages, I'm thinking about grinding all the features from steel rod in a single machine like a 5 axis micro CNC grinding center. I've never worked with such a machine so I'm wondering if such exists, what to expect in machine and tooling costs, control language learning curve, etc. Our CNC experience has been with 3+1 milling and 2 axis turning using Fanuc based G-code or conversational controls.

    These needles are often made from plated spring steel, but I'm wondering if pre-hardened stainless could work (skip the plating). The machine would only need a 5/32"x3" work envelope (not counting the tooling or work head). It could perhaps engrave the sizes on the pieces too, or we could have a second op lazer engrave or acid etch it in.

    I know the price of these pieces could go up 500% or more, but for the less popular special application sizes, that might not be an issue. It comes down to the cost of meeting a minimum quantity order that leaves us stocked for 200 years, or having them custom made on demand.

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    I'll be passively following this discussion with interest!

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    have you considered a third option?

    If you can tolerate a 5X cost increase, you might be able to find a different manufacturer that makes needles for another market, such as medical and scientific, perhaps?

    bringing such a specialized item in house with no prior experience sounds like a you would be facing a really steep learning curve, and unless you are looking for a "challenge" why ask for such a headache?

    there are members here who might be able to point you in the right direction, maybe Implimex (sorry if i butchered your handle there!)?

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyanidekid View Post
    have you considered a third option?

    If you can tolerate a 5X cost increase, you might be able to find a different manufacturer that makes needles for another market, such as medical and scientific, perhaps?

    bringing such a specialized item in house with no prior experience sounds like a you would be facing a really steep learning curve, and unless you are looking for a "challenge" why ask for such a headache?

    there are members here who might be able to point you in the right direction, maybe Implimex (sorry if i butchered your handle there!)?
    That's true. I'm going to get some images and prints scanned of some sample pieces.

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    20200226_185301_preview.jpg

    Here's a sample to start with. The awl is just a straight shank with with a sharp shaped point on the end (chisel, diamond, or round), and has a shoulder on the other end. The diameters and lengths will change based on what machine it goes in and what size it is.

    The needle has the most complicated feature, the barbed hook on the end. The dimensions will likewise change based on the machine and size.

    Both of these are aprox. 1/8" diameter and 2" long. Occasionally we'll see something bigger, but 99% will fall in this range. If we made every needle and awl for our machines, we could be looking at 100 variants tops.

    In my own research, it looks like I would be looking for a CNC tool and cutter grinder made for micro cutting tools (or a company that jobs them out). With that I imagine a simple collet would take care of the work holding.

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    Quote Originally Posted by M.B. Naegle View Post
    20200226_185301_preview.jpg

    Here's a sample to start with. The awl is just a straight shank with with a sharp shaped point on the end (chisel, diamond, or round), and has a shoulder on the other end. The diameters and lengths will change based on what machine it goes in and what size it is.

    The needle has the most complicated feature, the barbed hook on the end. The dimensions will likewise change based on the machine and size.

    Both of these are aprox. 1/8" diameter and 2" long. Occasionally we'll see something bigger, but 99% will fall in this range. If we made every needle and awl for our machines, we could be looking at 100 variants tops.

    In my own research, it looks like I would be looking for a CNC tool and cutter grinder made for micro cutting tools (or a company that jobs them out). With that I imagine a simple collet would take care of the work holding.
    hell yea, medical guys can do that sorta thing all day long! I've got some bone mangling tools that came in my lista cabinets from a large Manhattan hospital that look a lot like those. for the quantities you need, you would be crazy to invest in the equipment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyanidekid View Post
    ... for the quantities you need, you would be crazy to invest in the equipment.
    Not so sure. For about $100,000 you can get a rebuilt Walter mini and have the capabilities under your own roof. There'd be a bit of a chore getting the software working at first but after that, it's all in your own hands.

    Worked for Henry Ford

    MB, do your machines have small spiral beevils ? That was a big market for Gleason for decades ... just curious.

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    Perhaps ask your old supplier if they would sell the machines that
    made the needles. They may not be using them.

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    I suspect his old supplier is either one of the ancient large sewing needle houses like Singer, Organ, Schmetz or Groz-Beckert on the one hand, or a crusty ancient tiny niche supplier I never heard of on the other. In neither case do I think they would sell their machines.

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    Very naive thought: what about EDM?

    Paolo

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    Quote Originally Posted by EmanuelGoldstein View Post
    Not so sure. For about $100,000 you can get a rebuilt Walter mini and have the capabilities under your own roof. There'd be a bit of a chore getting the software working at first but after that, it's all in your own hands.

    Worked for Henry Ford

    MB, do your machines have small spiral beevils ? That was a big market for Gleason for decades ... just curious.
    One machine has no gears, the other uses some straight tooth miter gears and a pair of special long tooth helical gears.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paolo_MD View Post
    Very naive thought: what about EDM?

    Paolo
    Possibly. I wonder how bright of a finish or how sharp or a point you could make on one?

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    Quote Originally Posted by sfriedberg View Post
    I suspect his old supplier is either one of the ancient large sewing needle houses like Singer, Organ, Schmetz or Groz-Beckert on the one hand, or a crusty ancient tiny niche supplier I never heard of on the other. In neither case do I think they would sell their machines.
    I don't think our current suppliers would sell any equipment, but I haven't approached them about it because I don't want to give them the impression that we're tooling up to take away their business, which we defiantly are not. I don't think it would do any good anyway as their manufacturing method involves so many steps, mechanical automatic machines, and custom tooling. It would be comparable to buying a floor of turret lathes, while I'm looking for more of a tool-room CNC lathe type solution in that metaphor. I don't blame them for their prices. It's just the facts of mass production. Their solution for us is to meet the minimum so they can afford to tool up, and then we just stock up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr_CNC_guy View Post
    Perhaps ask your old supplier if they would sell the machines that
    made the needles. They may not be using them.
    I think they're still running the machines. They just have to re-tool them for each kind of needle.

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    If you're looking to make those shapes on small diameters, you could easily make what I see on a second hand CNC Swiss machine. A Citizen L12 outfitted with a grinding wheel could rough turn and then grind your tip geometry.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TeachMePlease View Post
    If you're looking to make those shapes on small diameters, you could easily make what I see on a second hand CNC Swiss machine. A Citizen L12 outfitted with a grinding wheel could rough turn and then grind your tip geometry.
    What about the hook shape? Can you set it up with some kind of Y axis grinding head?

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    Quote Originally Posted by M.B. Naegle View Post
    What about the hook shape? Can you set it up with some kind of Y axis grinding head?
    Picture's a little hard to see... But if it's just a normal fishing hook shape, yeah, you can grind it with the standard live tools located on the gang.

    This is an L12 type VII, the number of tools in this demo are way overkill, but they should demonstrate the capacity.

    YouTube


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