CAM keeps spindles turning at Hightown Engineering

Author / Editor: / Rosemarie Stahl

They know it’s corny, but Terry Smith and his partner Steve Browning, owners of Hightown Engineering, like their company motto: “If spindles aren’t turning, we’re not earning." Smith says it keeps them focused every day on what’s most important. That is what they have done for 12 years now: kept spindles turning.

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Dynamic milling toolpath for deep pocket.
Dynamic milling toolpath for deep pocket.
(Source: CNC Software)

To keep pace with the work, they acquired a powerful CAD/CAM system (Mastercam from CNC Software) and developed proficiencies that allowed them to keep equipment fully utilised even though the two partners would be required to create many more CNC programs to produce the same number of parts.

Hightown Engineering is not the first engineering company Terry Smith has operated with a partner. About 20 years ago, he was involved in a similar business, but his partner became disenchanted with the unpredictable and sometimes long hours. So they closed the shop and sold their equipment to a large OEM customer that decided to establish its own manufacturing operations.

When Smith and Browning started their business, they approached this former customer to find out if it might have any overflow work. The OEM liked having its own manufacturing department but wanted to update its manufacturing equipment. Smith and Browning were invited to purchase the old machines and take over manufacturing while they also installed new equipment, designed and built fixtures, and wrote NC programs for the customers’ new high production facility. Within 18 months, Smith and Browning had completed this assignment and, as a result of their good efforts, they were minus their largest customer. However, as they were phasing out production work for customer #1, they were phasing in a lot of jobs from strategically targeted OEMs in the aerospace, defense, medical, and commercial sectors.

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If they were going to have long-term success, the partners knew that they would need better equipment. Although credit was easy to obtain during the first couple of years, they didn't want to be saddled with debt. They only financed their first vertical machining centre. Then, instead of borrowing, they worked long hours, including opposite shifts, saved their earnings, and bought only what they needed most and only with cash. Today, they have 11 CNCs – four vertical machining centres, all with 4th axis (10k RPM), a high-speed cell comprised of three vertical machining centres, all with 4th axis (15k RPM), one CNC vertical mill, three CNC lathes, and a CMM. All were purchased new and are owned outright.

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