EDM Outlook ???
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Thread: EDM Outlook ???

  1. #1
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    How's the workload for everyone? Our sinker has sat virtually empty for almost a month now. First time since it was purchased! Of course we still have to blast a tap or drill occasionally, and the "When all else fails send it to the EDM" routine. A few months ago a friend had so much on his plate he was getting frazzled meeting deliveries. He said last month it was like someone flipped a switch and turned off the work. I was just curious if this was a local thing.

  2. #2
    D. Thomas Guest

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    I'm not in the job shop business anymore, but I've noticed alot of mold shop auctions in the past 3 months, esp. in the Minneapolis, MN area and Ohio. Seems the smaller shops are especially hard hit. I went to one small mold shop auction in Asheville, NC (kinda odd locale for a mold shop btw) a few months ago, but at that one it sounded like from talking to ex employees that they were doomed irregardless of the economy due to owner related issues.

    The latest issue (Nov) of MAN magazine features a long article on Adron Co. of WI, supposedly the largest wire EDM job shop in North America (but they also do sinker work) which paints a rosy picture for them. But they have some unique capabilites in dimension and size, and for all I know the article was actually written 3 months ago...maybe even they had their "light switch" at least set on "dimmer" by now ! www.adron.com

    [This message has been edited by D. Thomas (edited 11-06-2001).]

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    I guess every shop is different depending on what their expertise is. I am doing fine on the west coast, but know others in this local e that are barely making rent. I spend years honing my expertise in fine wire and now is keeping me out of the bread line. I have noticed a marked decrease in requests for quotes so I know it is slim out there.

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    We have been doing loads of quotes for other machine work but very little for EDM. Normally we receive orders for 30% of our quotes. For the last 4 weeks it's been about 6%. Other shops are doing the work for little more than material cost.

    We don't do much with molds. It seems that the buyers want them engineered, made, proofed, and repaired for very little. That's the area the friend with the switch is in. He's told me too many horror stories. I don't think MAN mag would do a large story on a shop where everyone was performing maintenance or making tooling that operators would like to use. (Kind of like us right now.) Heck, we are even thinking about trying to sell some of the in-house tooling we make for ourselves.

    We have been asked by a few potential customers about wire work. Right now there is no way we could handle the cost of machine and tooling. Hats off to Doc! Fine wire EDM in my opinion would require a great deal of patience. I couldn't stand running the .004 occasionally at a place I used to work. Funny thing, when switching back to .010, it felt like a cable! Glad to hear your still doing OK.


  5. #5
    D. Thomas Guest

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    I wonder if there has been a fundamental shift in US mold work being ordered from China, such that a decline in US mold shop orders was in progress anyway, and the currect economic situation has just exacerbated the problem ? I also wonder whose EDM machines the Chinese are using...European, Japanese, or something they have concocted themselves ? (I've seen Tawain EDM machines, such as Santec, but have never seen a Chinese EDM)

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    I would think that the lead time from China would be too great. But who knows, there are companies out there that know what they are going to need. I have seen a few things that came from China. Quality was not that great, but it looked like they put a lot into making it look good. I would hope that the US would put a huge tariff on stuff like this. Machining is a very large part of the US economy. Just open a phone book and check the machine shop section of the yellow pages. Take a look around and think about it. How many of the things you see required some type of machinery to produce, process, harvest, deliver, or form? Absolutely everything!

    I would venture a guess that for the most, the Chinese use their own machines. Since labor costs for them are so little, they would rather throw labor at things instead of technology.

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    We have seen our work load pickup in our wire area, but not to the degree it was a year ago. Sinker area has stayed about the same for us a little slow but consistant.

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    I have seen no pickup in wire work in my area-the only shops that I know of that are doing well are ones that are doing less precision work, and more general machining- and even those are often week to week on their workloads. I have seen a great deal of info that suggests that, at least in the near(2-3 year) term, we are going to continue to lose die/mold work to the Chinese, Thai, Indian,and Taiwanese shops, simply because the advantage they have, not only in labor, but in cost of raw materials(government subsidized), the purchase of new machinery(not only government subsidized, but with a totally different tax write off situation-usually 100% in the year of purchase) and, along with all of that, they are not using old equipment-whereas our equipment is 5-10 years old, theirs is much more up to date. As far as what equipment they are using, I would like to point out that, if you look at the source of technical papers on the EDMTT site, you will find that some of the most advanced and original research in the field is being done in China. Don't fall into the trap of believing that they are just ripping off our technology and are not as advanced as we are-if we don't watch out, they will pass us by, both in the level of installed tech in the workplace, and in the level of research being done to advance the state of the art in the field. I have seen so many posts on other forums that consistently ignore the realities of the situation and scream for tariffs or taxes to remedy the situation-in reality, the only thing that is going to succeed is for the American machinist to have available the latest equipment and technology, and for those to be used to maximize both quality and productivity, because when the American worker has the tools necessary for the job, they have consistently proven that they can out produce any worker in the world, both in quality and quantity. Whether the corporations will make the investment necessary to accomplish this depends in part on tax policy and on the corps' own vision. Or so it seems to me-I could be wrong and this might just be a pointless rant.

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    It has been awhile since there have been any comments here so I thought it was time for an update. Anyone see the temperature rising? Work is my shop is steady and is humming along about the same as it was last fall. Forecast from my customers is continued steady work. It could be better, but can't complain as long as the bills are being paid and I can take a tad extra home once in a while. I really do think the only thing keeping me alive right now though is the fine wire. Everyone wants things smaller , lighter, less cost, but the smaller you go the more it costs. Gotta be a crossover point here soon. I run .001 to .004 wire most of the time.

    TheMetalDoc

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    We have been on a roller coaster ride since Feb. when it comes to orders. I do see a trend of improvement. Our sinker is still not real busy. We have been doing a job here and there, but still not like a year ago. The customer that kept us busy lost a contract. Very touchy situation. I know who the contract was with and I'm sure we could get the work back. But this may upset our customer and we do quit a bit of turning and mill work for them.

    Our bills are getting paid, but it would be nice to bring a little extra home. I do have my eye on a couple of machines I would really like to have though.

    We have been doing smaller and smaller items ourselves. Who knows, maybe some of the items we made will end up in your wire. We have been making the housings for diamond guides. What a challenge! Boring holes as small as .060 - 1/2" deep in hardened 17-4 stainless. The customer says they make guides down in the triple '0' range. I thought once they seen our quality they may not mind paying a little more. Wrong. They said they always go with the lowest bid. If they parts aren't right they reject them until they are right.

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    Like just about everything in this world, you get what you pay for. Those working on the bottom of the barrel will quickly jetison the low paying job(s) as soon as something better comes along and the customer does not have a supplier any more. Also if the customer comes back with any problems or wants help and advice from the original machinist, he has so little (or none) profit in it that he cannot afford to spend any time with the customer. Again the customer got what he paid for, but the purchasing agent probably got a bonus for keeping costs down.

    TheMetalDoc

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    Hey JimF, How about directing the new contract holder to me. No ones feeling will get hurt and I'll cut you a "finders fee" check. I cut everything from bronze to PCD. Prefer to only run .008 wire though. My personal specialties are form tools (dovetails and sticks), molds (wire cuts only for now), stamping dies, broaches (4-axis is a non-issue), and anything in between. Plus I'm a fellow Ohioian so we'd be keeping in the family and close to home. Let me know.


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