DEARBORN - All U.S. industries have been affected, to varying degrees, by fierce global competition and the wild fluctuations seen daily in the world’s economies. In an effort to survive and grow in this environment, most companies have looked to new technology and the ingenuity of their employees to become faster, leaner and more productive to ensure their position in the market place.
The Dearborn Tool and Die Plant (DTD) is no exception. Over the last five years, there has been both a technological, as well as visual transformation of this facility that has allowed employees to build dies faster than ever before (10 weeks vs. 36 weeks).
These changes are a result of a commitment made by the company in the in the 2007 and 2011 UAW-Ford negotiations of capital investments totaling $40 million at the site.
Below are examples of transformational improvements the facility has implemented:
Major rejuvenation of an aging facility: Dearborn Tool and Die was designed by Albert Kahn and built in 1939. The design is a remarkable one that lets in large amounts of natural light and provides abundant ventilation during warm periods, but being over 70 years old, the age has taken its toll. In an effort to reduce slips, trips and falls, as well to make maintenance easier, DTD has replaced the wood-block flooring with smooth and clean new concrete floors. Approximately 90 percent of the building’s interior also has been repainted with a relatively new process called encapsulation. This white material improves the brightness of the facility.
Four new Okuma five axis milling machines: These new machines replace five older Ingersol machines and are larger in capacity, both in weight and size of the dies being machined. Because of the very high-speed spindles (up to 20,000 RPM) these machines can finish at four to five times the feed rates of the machines that they replaced, and with better, smoother surface finishes.
Two new Grob five axis machining centers: The two new Grobs are now producing twice as much output as the three Mecof machines they were intended to replace, and have more flexibility in cutting complex angular surfaces. They also are more accurate and incorporate advanced tools like laser cutter measurement and electronic probes to measure part quality.
New NTC five axis laser: This machine can cut sheet metal parts (fenders, doors, etc.) at any angle so that we can try a proposed engineering change (like moving the location of a hole) to see if it actually works before making the permanent change to the die.
Blue Light Scanning: This new scanning equipment allows us to accurately create a digital representation of a part or die using light and camera optics. It basically takes a 3D picture of the part that is accurate to .002” and can be measured and changed with computer software. This image can then be used to program a revision to the die surface, which is then cut on a milling machine eliminating hand grinding on the dies. The blue light also eliminates glare problems that can cause errors in measurement.
Upgrades to our CMM’s: Coordinate measuring machines have been upgraded with new heads that allow unlimited rotation of the probe, improving flexibility and speed in measurements, and new tool changers to be able to change probes without recalibrating the machines each time. These two changes shave precious minutes off of each measurement task.
This is just a sampling of the transformational actions at the DTD facility. These and many other changes have helped DTD become a leader in die manufacturing, so much so, that other companies are now using the site as a benchmark.
The plant also has been actively sharing methods with the other Ford die-making plants throughout the world.