Category Archives: manufacturing

40 Years of HARBEC: Part 4

The fourth segment of this forty year adventure covers 2007 to the present. It started out with one of the most difficult challenges Harbec had to deal with to date. 2007 and 2008 were the most economically challenging years they had ever faced. During this time they saw their business’s financial health fail significantly and while they lost no customers during this period, the customers they did have reduced their orders substantially. The challenging times forced them to cut back, utilize resources carefully and join together to weather the storm. They came out of it stronger and more prepared for the future.

One of the most successful capabilities they have to win the attention of new customer potentials, has proven to be their advanced additive manufacturing technical abilities. In a time when everyone is dabbling in ‘3D printing” they are doing some of the most complex and advanced work that is available in the manufacturing marketplace. Their belief that additive is only part of the answer and that its combination with precision subtractive CNC machining offers the best total solution, is resonating with their customers.

This success is helping them to develop their strategy for future enhancement and growth of the business. Specifically they are working toward the day when all of their toolmakers will be able to think and do both additive and subtractive equally well and so will apply both to accomplishing the production of the ‘best solution’ for their customer. From molds, to models, to precision components, all will be equally involved. The journey will be similar to the advent of CNC machining where some toolmakers decided not to participate and were eventually left behind. Harbec is very fortunate to have the ability and equipment to offer this new path to their toolmakers and as they develop the training opportunities and methods, they will eventually become one of the first ‘manufacturers of the future’.

Another advancement in their capabilities this past decade is in the area of precision CNC machining. They have come to appreciate the significant benefits that 4 and 5 axis CNC machines can offer. Until recently these machines were thought of for their abilities to do machining of complex parts like turbine blades, pump impellers and other parts that required simultaneous multi-axis cutter paths. They now realize that they actually offer much more than just that. Their ability is even greater and more advantageous to Harbec, for reducing the amount of setups required to do more conventional precision parts. They give them the ability to machine a part from multiple sides, therefore requiring many less setups, which offers improved precision overall. Moving forward Harbec will replace 3 axis CNC machines with 4 and 5 axis mills and lathes. This change will offer even more exciting new things for their toolmakers to learn and get involved with.

Harbec’s injection molding department has also made great strides this past decade, from increased utilization of automation to improve quality and reliability, to reduction of waste and improved efficiencies. Their cleanroom capabilities have helped them to become a certified medical molder. Recent developments in transfer molding and the related opportunities in bobbin and component machining have given them exciting new skills and capabilities to help them win new business in the future. Their management of materials and waste has also made great strides and improvement.

During this decade Harbec has continued to progress in the area of sustainable manufacturing, believing that they should be a conscientious manufacturer who takes responsibility for their business and what it causes both directly and indirectly. Typically manufacturers do not pay attention to how they are releasing carbon into the atmosphere, whether they do it directly through onsite chimneys or let the utilities do it for them through the production of their power. To the contrary, Harbec has attained carbon neutrality, which means that the component parts that they make have no carbon footprint. They are currently developing a set of metrics that will allow them to share with any existing or potential customer, the amount of carbon that they reduced from their company’s footprint by buying HARBEC parts. Their hope is that this will be an attribute that they offer, at no additional charge, that their competition does not.

Their most recent improvement in the area of sustainable energy is the completion of their CHP upgrade. In 2014/15 they won a NYSERDA grant to upgrade their CHP plant. While the plant was running fine, the grant allowed them to double their ability to use the energy in the fuel they were consuming even more efficiently as a result of thermal use enhancements. They were able to remove and recycle eight natural gas furnaces, eight 5 ton electric DX air conditioners and two 20 ton rooftop air conditioners, and replaced them with 12 new heat/cool air exchangers. They estimate that this will improve their energy BTU efficiencies to over 80% compared to the average for utility power which is only 25 to 35% efficient.

Harbec’s owner, Bob Bechtold concludes: “The past 40 years have been a great and rewarding experience for me. While they sometimes held challenges and difficulties, they more than equally offered amazing rewards and good fortune. In my life I have been blessed by always knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up and have had the opportunities to pursue that dream. These forty years of progress are due to all the people who have contributed in so many ways, for which I’m eternally grateful. My final challenge is to find a successor who understands what HARBEC is really all about, someone who will use the direction and momentum they have accomplished and take the wheel to drive it even farther into the future.”

 

Here is the complete 40 years of HARBEC series:

40 Years of HARBEC: Part 3

1997-2007…The Era of Energy Awareness

Harbec ended the late 90’s and entered the 21st Century with continued growth in their customer base and increased technical expertise. They survived the Y2k threat, economic slumps and other challenges while continuing to grow in size, capability and customer base. As they did, the amount of space dwindled and by 1998 and 1999 they needed to get serious about another expansion. Around this time, they had a wonderful opportunity with a customer to do a very large project in the models department. It would be very profitable but they were going to need more equipment and more space.

As they set out to design the space to fulfill the upcoming needs and give them opportunities for continued growth, Harbec’s president, Bob Bechtold began to investigate alternatives in the areas of energy. He knew that they would need to air-condition the space after dealing with the “Sweat Shop” environment their molding facility became in the hot days of summer. Unfortunately, the price of air conditioning would add a significant overhead cost and make it more difficult to be competitive. They needed an alternative that would be cost effective and insure a comfortable and safe working environment.

Ever since he could remember Bob was captivated by the potentials of renewable energy. He installed his first wind turbine at his own home in 1981. He was also intrigued by geothermal energy and in the early 90’s installed heat pump and geothermal ground loop system to heat and air condition his home. These experiences showed him how this amazing invisible “fuel-less” energy could make a significant difference in the cost of heating and cooling a home so he started to think of ways that he could try to apply similar advantages to the company. He had also become more aware during those days of the increasingly evident negative impact that burning fossil fuels was having on the environment. It made him proud to be able to give his family the comfort and security they needed in an alternative way that was reliable, cost effective and not environmentally damaging.

Armed with what he had learned from his home experiences, he began to investigate how it might benefit Harbec. By the late 1990’s he had developed a plan that he believed would give Harbec the same advantages and pride that he had realized at home. He put together a proposal with the help of a unique energy engineer who was exceptional because he was willing to listen to Bob’s ideas and consider them with an open mind. Most engineers were very conservative, and because Bob’s plan was not being done or they had no experience with it, they would not even try. This person was willing to consider alternatives and then apply his engineering knowledge, to determine if it was plausible.

Eventually Bob put together a proposal and tried to get financing. Bob reflects, “Unfortunately, I made the mistake initially of over emphasizing the environment or ‘green’ aspects and how it would help to improve the future of our children and the planet. After several months of failure I realized that I was inadvertently branding myself as a burnt out hippy or a tree hugger and after being turned down by more than 30 banks between here and Ohio, I decided I needed a new way to ‘sell’ my proposal. After a few months and with the help of numbers I was able to get from the engineers, I presented a new proposal for the same project but only used financial reasons and economic benefits for doing it. This time they listened and took me seriously and the needed expansion of 17,000 feet and our first energy project got funding in 1999 and was completed and operational in 2001.”

Harbec added the needed new space along with an onsite generation (combined heat and power) facility that included the first phase of an energy solution that was destined to grow and change significantly during the next 15 plus years. By pursuing the efficiency opportunities that energy awareness taught them, Harbec was able to realize the economic advantages that Bob had experienced at his home. This also insured that they had a pleasant and comfortable place to work. Furthermore they were able to make a significant improvement in quality in molding. Before this their number one quality issue was moisture in their material, causing assorted dimensional and cosmetic issues. After installing A/C, they reduced and almost eliminated the problem by controlling the moisture in the system’s output.

Along with all these benefits, an unexpected advantage was presented to them. The wind turbine became a differentiator that identified Harbec as a unique company. Bob says, “I never could have intentionally branded the company so effectively if I tried.” As a result, the community has come to know them as the wind turbine company and usually thinks of Harbec as a caring and responsible manufacturing company even if they don’t know exactly what they do.

Initially most of the employees thought that this was just a personal passion or hobby and did not get the idea that it was saving the company a lot of money. Then one-day Harbec’s controller suggested that a good way to help everyone better understand the economic advantages that this energy management system gave Harbec was to convert the savings of energy costs to personal impact that resulted in every employee’s profit sharing. So at the next company meeting he turned the savings for the company into the dollar impact on everyone’s profit sharing check. The employees were amazed.

What started out as a simple way to control energy cost, improve working conditions, help profitability and reduce expenses, grew in unplanned ways. As time passed, the other unspoken side (environmental benefits) of the energy project started to become acceptable to be considered by businesses. It had also been renamed and what used to be called green or renewable was now referred to as ‘sustainable’ and the environmental issues became more acceptable to consider. Today not only is it acceptable, but the majority of the modern world is on its way to an economy that is based on carbon values. Meanwhile, Harbec stands as one of a very small number of manufacturing companies worldwide that have taken responsibility for the carbon that would normally be produced in their manufacturing efforts and, cost effectively, eliminated them.

As this decade drew to a close, a series of new challenges presented themselves The Great Recession, which was the worst economic period since the Great Depression affected Harbec with a down turn in business. Fortunately, they lost no customers during the recessionary period, but the customers they had, greatly reduced their orders. To survive they needed to reduce and economize where ever possible, and so they did.

 

During this period, they were also entering the world of metal additive manufacturing. Initial experiences came from their DTM machine which not only allowed them the ability to grow nylon parts to .005” accuracy but also to produce metal parts. In those days they did this by first growing what was called a ‘green part’ which was a mixture of polymer and metal powders. The resulting shape from the growing process was similar to the consistency of chalk. The green part was carefully removed from the DTM machine and placed in a nitrogen environment kiln along with strategically placed bronze pellets. The kiln heated the combination to the correct temperature where the polymer powder would vaporize. This created microscopic voids between the metal powder and caused the bronze to melt at the same time. The melted bronze then infiltrated the voids by capillary action and the result was a part that was a perfect blend of 60% tool steel and 40% bronze.

 

This new potential was not only interesting for them to use for metal prototype parts, but it intrigued them as a possibility for use in mold making efforts. The thought of mixing the wear ability of tool steel with the conductivity of bronze should have been a perfect mixture for molds. However, each time the metal parts came out they had a slight droop factor that would cause them to be inaccurate and as unusable as mold details. Harbec had tasted the potential of metal additive, now they just needed to wait for the technology to improve, and it did. Meanwhile, Bob was investigating a new technology in Europe called Direct Metal Laser Sintering that was able to grow the metal parts directly and needed no secondary sintering process.

The company that had invented this was EOS and so Harbec set their sights on obtaining this new capability. This was to prove to be difficult, because an American company was working hard to keep it from coming to the USA. They persisted though and as a result they were the first company in the US to receive an EOS DMLS machine, which is still being used today.

Here is the complete 40 years of HARBEC series:

40 Years of HARBEC: Part 2

1987-1997… Growing, Transforming and Embracing New Ideas

During Harbec’s second decade, many significant changes and opportunities were in store. By 1987 Harbec had outgrown the barn and it was time to come out into the open and find a real manufacturing space that could offer them a solid opportunity to grow and develop. The pursuit of a better space lead Bob Bechtold to an opportunity in nearby Ontario that was conveniently located and was an enormous, 10,000 square feet of space and coming from the 2000 square foot barn basement, this seemed like more space than it could ever use. Now the business was able to grow and expand and in only a couple of years they were already starting to add on to what would grow to over 50,000 square feet in the years to come.

This was also the decade of plastics for Harbec. During that time the company was called “Harbec Manufacturing”. It was doing general machining, pattern making and model making and enhancing these wherever possible with the strength and precision of CNC. They were also getting a taste of plastics through the rubber molding they did as part of their model making. Bob believed, “the business indicators at that time were offering much more consistent and positive growth in the plastics industry,” so he formed a second company named Harbec Plastics.

This is also the period when they completed their first addition to the building. They had a chance to mold clear plastic boxes for holding baseball cards. Initially they were successful producing a single box cube and from that the customer offered them the chance to mold the ‘triple cube’. The problem was that they did not have a big enough press or a place to put it. In the pursuit of opportunity, they took the job and while they were building the mold (6 or 8 weeks), they added an addition to the front of the building. They bought and installed the new (actually pretty old and used, but new to them) 400 ton injection molding machine and built the mold for the ‘triple cube’ sports card collector’s box.

That 9,000 square foot addition allowed them to put all the molding machines in the new area which meant they could dedicate the complete original front of the building to machining. Around this time they also decided to merge the original Harbec Manufacturing Co. into Harbec Plastics, Inc. and became one company which years later would become the present HARBEC, Inc.

CNC machining continued getting stronger and stronger but the pattern shop was diminishing and eventually faded away. The skills used in pattern making are similar to those used in model making so as the pattern work dried up, they replaced it with a new line of business. They developed their ability to make proof of concept , engineering models where precision and material type were required to be as close to production intent as possible. It was the pursuit of this ability that led them eventually to aluminum ‘bridge’ tooling and additive manufacturing.

Before they developed aluminum tool making, if the customer needed multiple plastic prototypes, the best they could offer them was to either CNC machine them, or to cast plastic parts from silicone rubber molds. This process required a ‘master’ of the needed part to be precision machined and then it was encapsulated in silicone rubber. After it hardened they would remove the machined ‘master’ and then pour liquid urethane into the void of the rubber mold cavity. They could usually get about 25 urethane parts from the rubber mold before it would fail. One of the most significant jobs they ever used this on was a virtual reality helmet. They produced over 100 units for the customer who then gave them to software developers so they could be using them to write the programs and games while the production tooling was being built.

Virtual Reality helmet molded by Harbec in the 90s.

They were constantly trying to find ways to improve their ability to produce engineering prototypes. This led them to investigate the potentials of a new technology that was being introduced called rapid prototyping or 3D printing. In the early days the 3D processes were Stereo Lithography (SLA) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) came shortly thereafter. While these processes were capable of doing some things well, they were not able to use the exact materials or produce the accuracies that you could get from a CNC machined part. Bob Bechtold shares, “We had confidence that these technologies would be of major importance in the future and we wanted to be part of it.”

They purchased their first 3D printing equipment in the mid 90’s and went through several different devices before they got the DTM brand SLS technology machine. This machine was able to produce, as an example, a nylon part to +/-.005″ tolerance and so they were able to use it to produce functional and accurate engineering prototypes. At about the same time they were trying to figure out a way to produce their molds faster and cheaper like the rubber molds but that could produce more parts per tool. Eventually they reversed their rubber mold making. They cut the opposite of the part (the cavity) into an easy to machine material which, after a number of different material experiments, was determined to be aluminum. This success gave them not only the ability to do more engineering prototypes better and cheaper, but it also gave them an excellent way to do low volume molding more cost effectively without sacrificing any precision or quality requirements.

This new ability opened their eyes to a completely new kind of customer. As they were products of their location, being near Rochester, they lived, learned, and grew up in a world of Kodak, Xerox and General Motors, etc. These were companies that made ‘millions’ of cameras, copiers and cars so everything they were involved with was affected by that huge volume kind of thinking. Unfortunately those “millions of” kind of companies did not last and if Harbec was to survive without them, they needed to find this new potential customer and learn how to think and act differently.

Developing their skills around faster, less expensive tooling capabilities that offered shorter life or lower quantities introduced them to different kinds of companies that had much more variety and product change over and whose products were produced in the thousands or tens of thousands instead of millions. These companies had great depth and variety of products. They also needed Harbec’s quicker lower cost tooling and molding capabilities to help them get to market faster and more cost effectively. This was the niche that they were looking for.

By the end of this second decade of Harbec, while some things ended, new and exciting opportunities emerged. Although the technology and concepts were new, Harbec would develop these new opportunities and potentials, like additive manufacturing and aluminum tooling, to become major portions of its capabilities. Harbec was working to “do it all”. From concept to completion, Harbec would be there every step of the way.

Watch for the next Blog in September discussing the next phase of Harbec’s growth and the preliminary planning that would lead them into their third decade and the 21st century. There’s more expansion and new endeavors ahead!

Here is the complete 40 years of HARBEC series:

40 Years of HARBEC: Part 1

1977-1987… The Barn.

 As we are now in our 40th year, we will devote one blog per quarter to each decade we have been in existence. Harbec started in two garages, belonging to Bob Bechtold and his brother Mike, in the village of Webster, NY. In the first few years they were both working full time jobs and the new business part was on the side. The majority of the work was odds and ends of machining work for friends who had machine shops, along with buying and repairing/rebuilding used machine tools. The money from these side jobs they did allowed them to buy more machines.

In the late 70’s, Bob found a farm on the edge of Webster that had magnificent barns and a house and in 1980 he was able to buy it. The space that the new barns provided was just what they needed to get serious about the business, but not without significant preparation. The reason that farm had been for sale was that it was a pig farm and the county was not allowing any more of them. So the last pig farm in Monroe County became the new home of Harbec, but not without a ton of work.

In 1982, Bob decided to leave his full time teaching job at Rochester Institute of Technology, to work at Harbec full time. His original intention was to have himself doing the work with part-time help. That did not work out as he thought it would because he could not get a consistent flow of work and a consistent flow of money for his family. When he was doing jobs for people, there were no new sales happening. Then, when the job was done he would have to find more opportunities, therefore no work was getting done, this meant no income. Bob recalls, “It was either feast or famine which definitely is not conducive to paying bills and raising kids.”

Eventually, Bob hired his first full-time employees, two young toolmakers from the area. Then, within a couple of years, they were up to 6 or 8 full and part-time people. They were able to build technical capabilities and equipment, as well as expand their customer base and the types of work they did.

They did some unusual work in those days including building two 20’ long cabbage harvesting machines that were nicknamed the ‘Head Masters’, for a local farmer. They were pulled along during the harvest and the pickers would set the heads on a conveyor near the ground where they were picking and automatically lift them up into the wooden boxes. Another thing they did during those early days was to mount a TIG welder in an old van and go to the area beer distributors to repair the rips and tears in their aluminum bodied delivery trucks (from the fork trucks loading and unloading the beer barrels and cases). They also had a full wood working shop and were doing pattern making for the local foundries. They continued to do this kind of work for a number of years, even after they moved to the current location. Unfortunately, this was the time when foundry work was moving overseas and eventually there was little or no pattern making work left.

Bob explains, “The skills used in pattern making are similar to those used in model making, so as the pattern work dried up, we replaced it with a new line of business. We got more and more involved in model making and were able to apply the precision and complex capabilities of the CNC to this work. It allowed us to become very competent at creating engineering models or models that were expected to be as close to production intent as was possible. This means the material type, dimensions, and all other characteristics had to be as exact as if they came from the injection or die-cast molding process.” This line of business was ready to take off and will be covered in the next decade’s blog.

The most significant job during this first decade was the ‘Glass Hubs’.  During this period of time, the most high-tech computer memory was magnetic tape and a local company had a very high end product that was a glass sided tape reel that held one mile of tape. The reels were about 14” in diameter and two glass side discs were mounted to a precision aluminum hub. The hub was a die casting that Harbec would precision machine to the required tolerances. The accuracy of these was critical because if there was the slightest error, the tape would eventually get off center, then would not wind or unwind correctly.

While these were interesting and varied work types, the main goal Bob was trying to accomplish since starting the business, was to get involved in CNC machining. Bob had taught the subject when he was at RIT/NTID and through that experience, became convinced that this new technology would be the most dynamic opportunity for the advancement of manufacturing ever to happen. The biggest problem he had to overcome was that the machines were very expensive.

As you might imagine, it was difficult to convince a bank that Harbec was a good risk for a loan when they were asking for a very expensive, very accurate, very state of the art (at that time) machine, to put in a barn. Eventually they built the business and their bankability enough to get their first equipment loan for their first CNC milling machine. With this new capability in precision and complexity, Harbec was able to look for new areas of business to apply them to. One of these new areas was mold making, which required high precision and finishes. At the time, there were not many mold building shops that had CNC machines. They were able to eventually work their way into this line of business by doing complex mold details for other local mold shops.

“One of the really neat early mold details we did was to cut the cavity blocks for a new type of computer memory that was unknown at the time. During the early days of the personal computers there were two types of computers, Apple or PC. Both used a memory device called a floppy disk. Harbec was involved in a very confidential project where they cut the mold cavity blocks for…what was eventually to become the 3.5” memory disk. If you were to open one of those “three-and-a-halfs” you would notice fine ribs and shapes that contained and guided the spinning magnetic disk inside. The first mold details to create the prototypes of this new media were cut in the barn at Harbec,” remembers Bob.

There were many other interesting and diverse things they did in those days, and eventually they out grew the barn and needed to find a bigger home. In 1987, they moved to the current location, to begin the second decade of Harbec’s history. The barn continued to offer a birth place to other businesses including CNC Systems which Mike and Bob started, so that they could pool their talents and interests to get involved in this exciting new CNC industry. There was also a welding company that started in the same barns and an optics manufacturing company that became known as Optimax.

While work was not consistent in the early days, the vision and dedication to creating the business was. Bob and Mike Bechtold took chances, explored uncharted territory and embraced diverse potentials. They were good at not just finding, but creating opportunities. These are the things that would continue to allow Harbec to grow into the business it is today.

Here is the complete 40 years of HARBEC series:

Beyond Proof of Concept: How HARBEC Brings Design, Engineering and Manufacturing Value to Every Part and Project

In September, HARBEC, Inc. proudly celebrates its 39th year in business. We begin by thanking our employees, some who have been with us since day one, for continually evolving, and building a better business and better future in our community. We also graciously thank our customers, suppliers, and service providers who have been mutual partners in HARBEC’s evolution.

For a company that began as a tool and die shop, a great deal has changed in nearly four decades of service. HARBEC’s business resiliency has been enabled by its founder, Bob Bechtold, and the code of conduct for continuous improvement he’s instilled within the business culture. In forty years of business, HARBEC has remained agile, competitive and innovative as it has evolved to serve the needs of its customers, new and old.

Today, HARBEC, Inc. has three principle business units including CNC Machining, Custom Injection Molding, and Rapid Prototyping. Since its inception HARBEC was a trusted precision manufacturer, earning a reputation for paying very close attention to detail, and providing high value service, quality, and superior prototypes and parts. Further, HARBEC was viewed by its customers as a “solutions provider,” a partner that proactively pursued ways to do things faster, better, and at lower cost.That commitment is alive today, particularly as the digital revolution transforms the foundation by which products are designed, developed, and manufactured.

According to Mr. David Anderson, author of “Design for Manufacturability: How to Use Concurrent Engineering to Rapidly Develop Low-Cost, High-Quality Products for Lean Production”,  Design for manufacturability (DFM) is “the process of proactively designing products to (1) optimize all the manufacturing functions: fabrication, assembly, test, procurement, shipping, delivery, service, and repair, and (2) assure the best cost, quality, reliability, regulatory compliance, safety, time-to-market, and customer satisfaction.” Further, Mr. Anderson defines Concurrent Engineering as “the practice of concurrently developing products and their manufacturing processes. If existing processes are to be utilized, then the product must be designed for these processes. If new processes are to be utilized, then the product and the process must be developed concurrently.”

Here at HARBEC, we’ve been practicing DFM and concurrent engineering for decades. Under our own branded nomenclature, Quick Manufacturing Solutions (QMS). Before the ‘maker movement’ became en vogue, characterized by the next generation of industrial designers and inventors, HARBEC was actively servicing its customers as an innovation, DFM, and production house. Like the agile maker movement, HARBEC has embraced digital and software tools, 3D printing, machine learning, and robotics into our operations. What’s more, HARBEC has continuously moved the ticker on innovation, working to improve every process, from design through manufacturing, by integrating our knowledge and experience gathered from forty years of manufacturing excellence.

Over the years HARBEC has developed and implemented new manufacturing processes, and integrated new software, technology, and manufacturing capabilities that allow our designers, engineers, project managers, and operators the ability to design, prototype, sample, and scale products with exemplary attention to precision, speed, quality, and cost.

While HARBEC does a great deal of mid-to-high volume parts manufacturing of custom injection molded and precision machined parts, we’ve invested in and created a specialty for in-house design and rapid prototyping services. Whether your need is one or millions of parts, HARBEC’s team can support your product design, development and manufacturing needs, and deliver upon your goals through a full range of manufacturing capabilities.

 

Design/Engineering Support

Prototype/Production Capabilities

Systems-Level Integration

 3D CAD: SolidWorks 2016

Injection Molding Simulation: SolidWorks Plastics 2016(Flow, Pack, and Warp Analysis)

FEA Software: SolidWorks Simulation

CAM: Mastercam 2017

3D Printing: Materialise Magics

Additive Manufacturing

  • Stereolithography (SLA)
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
  • Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
  • Fused Disposition Modeling (FDM)

Quick Molding Solutions (QMS)

  • Aluminum molds using standard bases
  • Dedicated sampling technicians and presses

CNC

  • High-speed 3 to 5 axis vertical mills
  • Horizontal lathes
  • EDM & Grinding
Carbon-Neutral and Water-Neutral Manufacturing Facility

Robotics and automation

Full in-house capabilities from design through manufacturing, secondary operations and support

  • Product design, prototyping, and manufacturing have each gone digital. The lines between these once disparate silos of product development have been blurred by rapid advancements in digital manufacturing technologies. As the worlds of software and hardware have converged, designers have now become manufacturers, and machine operators have become code writers. This fundamental change is reshaping the future of manufacturing for businesses like HARBEC, and for small and large manufacturers throughout the world.
  • More rapid development and integration of digital manufacturing technologies are reducing, and in some cases eliminating, traditional barriers for transforming an idea into a physical product. Digital manufacturing bridges the technical and communication gaps between designers and manufacturers. As such, entrepreneurs and mature businesses can design and produce functional prototypes in less time than it takes to watch your favorite movie.  With relatively low cost of entry, the makers’ movement has become mainstream, captivating the minds of do-it-yourselfers and professional industrial and product designers.
  • Although having more options for quick design, prototype, and production is all good, scaling up production is an entirely different skill set. Having the right software and equipment can get someone started in rapid prototyping, however, making the leap from printing one dimensionally correct part to manufacturing thousands of precision parts that need to be validated and integrated into a complex product system, requires far greater knowledge and capability.
  • For over 20 years HARBEC has been working with additive manufacturing (AM) technologies, and has also explored ways to envelop AM not only as a capability, but as an integrated manufacturing strategy and process.
  • Our recent work, for example, to incorporate principles of biomimicry into 3D printed injection molds demonstrates how we’ve leveraged prior knowledge, with state-of-the-art AM capabilities, toward enhancing the performance of new-age custom injection molding tools and manufacturing processes.inj_mold_copy_tall_did_you_know_tall_normal
  • Whether the need is for one, hundreds, thousands, or millions of parts – HARBEC’s team evaluates how it can bring unique solutions and value to the customer. By using DFM principles, software tools, and QMS approaches in early-stage product design and prototyping, HARBEC helps customers get their product to market quicker, with less risk and greater value.
  • For additional information, check out HARBEC’s Design Guides related to Additive Manufacturing, Sustainable Product Design, and Injection Molding Part Design and by visiting www.HARBEC.com.

The Future is NOW!

Frequently called upon for manufacturing solutions to challenging projects, HARBEC serves the most discerning customers within the aerospace/defense and security, medical device, electronics, automotive/transportation, and consumer product markets.

HARBEC takes great pride in delivering high performance precision parts to ALL of its customers. “Value indicators” such as speed, quality, performance and cost are top priority to HARBEC’s design, engineering, project management, quality, manufacturing, logistics and marketing teams’ members. In doing so, HARBEC views its role not just as a supply chain vendor – but as an integral member of our customers’ teams, converging capabilities to achieve better products and solutions.

From Robots to Racing

HARBEC never compromises on its integrity or value. Whether our customers are launching rockets to space, exploring the vastness of the deep-sea, or transporting goods across the interstate, HARBEC’s manufactured solutions are delivering unparalleled performance.

HARBEC extends this ethic to the “NOW Generation” – high school, college and university, and trade program students who represent America’s future innovators, engineers, and technologists.

In the past year HARBEC proudly served students of three regional technology design and development teams just as we would any customer: with 100% commitment to quality, performance and satisfaction. These included:

  • TAN[X], Canandaigua’s FIRST Robotics Team
  • Rensselaer Motorsport, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s (RPI) Formula SAE Team
  • RIT Clean Snowmobile, Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) SAE Clean Snowmobile Team
Rensselaer Motorsport
 Competition_Team_Photo  Roll_Out_Top_View
RIT Clean Snowmobile Team
5 20160601_151655
TAN[X]
 2016 Robotics Team Photo A2_Med  Harbec 3D Wheels_Med

In each instance the student-led teams sought out HARBEC for its ability to provide high-value technical expertise, precision manufacturing, agile innovation support, and very fast turnaround time.

For example, RIT’s SAE Clean Snowmobile Team sought a way to redesign their air intake system which would eliminate flow restrictions and improve overall engine performance. Project Manager Anthony NaDell shared his experience:  “From the moment we contacted HARBEC about potentially helping us out, everyone was very helpful. They guided us with things like figuring out the best way to make our product and what material we should use to handle the rigorous operating conditions.  HARBEC’s customer service was excellent and we would love to work with the company again in the future.​ For a single part prototype the small lead time was very impressive.”

TAN[X] designs and builds robots to meet demanding challenges established by the FIRST Robotics competition each year. Launched in 2008, TAN[X] teams’ now average about 35 students per year representing grades 9-12. Further, TAN[X] has brought together dozens of local sponsors and team mentors to support their annual challenges. HARBEC supported the team with quick turnaround parts, as they managed frequent modifications depending upon the needs of each design challenge. Specifically, TAN[X] had complications with their robot’s tank treads falling off. In response, the team designed a new pulley using CAD that was cogged with teeth, enabling the treaded track to stay in place. HARBEC 3D-printed the pulley for TAN[X]. Steve Schlegel, one of the mentors of TAN[X] stated, “HARBEC’s ability to quickly respond with a 3D printed part made a HUGE difference, and took our team up a couple notches in how well we could compete.”

Each year more than 30 student members of Rensselaer Motorsport, the official name of RPI’s Formula SAE team, design and build an open-wheeled formula race car from the ground up. The competition is regarded as one of the world’s largest intercollegiate design series. The experience enables students to take what they learned in the classroom and apply it to real-world hands-on high-technology applications. The process expands upon students’ knowledge and continued development of career-critical skills including team building and communication, engineering and systems design, data analytics and problem-solving.

HARBEC has supported Rensselaer Motorsport for many years of competition, particularly in the areas of 3-D design and analysis, materials evaluation, and production of custom precision parts.

Nicholas Debono of Rensselaer Motorsport reflects, “Rensselaer Motorsport depends on the generosity of sponsor donations to complete our yearly goal. For years, HARBEC has been one of the teams most generous and critical sponsors.  Working with HARBEC has always been a great experience. Parts are always provided with the shortest possible lead times, and professionals are always willing to help our students when advice is needed. Simply put, without HARBEC, Rensselaer Motorsport would not be able to achieve our design goals.”

For example, HARBEC supported RPI’s team with their intake assembly. Formula SAE rules require that the engine’s design teams, like Rensselaer Motorsport intake pull air through a circular restrictor 20mm in diameter. This design constraint greatly affected the power and performance of the engine. In order to compensate for the restrictor, RPI FSAE has, over the years, developed the intake assembly pictured below. It is one of the most developed systems on their racecar, earning them valuable design points during competition.

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Figure 1: Solidworks Rendering of Intake Assembly

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Figure 2: Sectioned View of Intake Assembly

Prior to working with HARBEC, leveraging its in-house 3-D design and printing capabilities, RPI’s SAE Formula Team relied upon much simpler designs, limiting the range of materials and performance of the intake. Many of the features of RPI’s current design were not able to be used with the older carbon design. For example, the rifling seen in figure 3, and the spike in the center of figure 4, would be almost impossible to recreate without 3D printing technology.

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Figure 3: Section view Throttle Body

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Figure 4: View of Runners

Because the intake is exposed to very harsh environments, material selection is also crucial. Fuel is continuously injected into the intake assembly, requiring materials to be chemically resistant. Further, the intake assembly needed to be strong, compliant, and heat resistant to ensure high performance in a combustion environment.  HARBEC engineers worked with RPI’s designers to select a glass filled polyamide material that performed extremely well in their unique application. The end result was an extremely efficient, lightweight intake assembly that added technical performance on the track and brought unique design points from the judges.

Why investing in the NOW Generation is So Critical to Business Success

The future is NOW. And in HARBEC’s experience, investing in students is critical to business sustainability and success. Just like the three examples described, every customer of HARBEC comes to us with unique technical requirements, design, engineering and manufacturing challenges. In our experience, overcoming technical challenges requires teamwork, problem-solving, and ingenuity.

It’s been a pleasure for HARBEC to have been a part of these three student design and competition teams. The students are the NOW Generation, focused, eager, competitive, creative, and willing to learn. They displayed technical prowess and grace under pressure as they functioned as a team, and collaborated professionally with mentors and technical solutions providers.  The individuals of these teams represent the future of design, engineering, product development, and innovation for HARBEC as well as our global customers in the aerospace, defense, security, automotive and transportation, medical device, consumer products and goods industries.

We congratulate TAN[X], Rensselaer Motorsport, and RIT Clean Snowmobile on their accomplishments, and stand ready to serve them and all of our customers with continued excellence.

Delivering Value to the Toughest Customers Requires Trust, Ingenuity, and Teamwork

The aerospace/defense and medical industries have very discerning requirements. Customers in these sectors value precision engineering, and manufacturing. With that comes adherence to very tight part tolerances, superior performance, speed, agility, efficiency, and for many, 100% inspection. HARBEC has manufactured precision parts for customers in these fields, meeting the most stringent customer requirements and demanding applications.

In the medical sector HARBEC manufactures parts for:

  • spinal implantsblood-pressure
  • MRI and imaging components
  • surgical robots
  • dialysis and IV components
  • medication disbursement devices
  • reagent closures
  • blood pressure
  • surgical head lamps
  • blood and DNA collection and analysis devices
  • a diverse array of other components used in surgical, emergency, laboratory or clinical office applications

In the aerospace/defense sector HARBEC manufactures components such as:24589505473_74c0268b7e_o

  • electronic and battery housings
  • measurement devices
  • lenses
  • precision poppets
  • valve housings and covers
  • heat sinks, display modules
  • robotics, engineered solutions for thermal management
  • additional applications spanning space, sea, terrestrial, and soldier-readiness applications

These examples represent a small sample of the hundreds of critical end-uses that HARBEC’s parts have been entrusted to support. Although the application demands and part features between the aerospace/defense and medical sectors are different, there are some similarities with regard to the attention to detail they demand of manufacturers.

Often, customers in medical and aerospace/defense specify difficult to mold or machine materials including engineered polymers, titanium and magnesium. They also request full traceability for our parts, requiring us to have a disciplined project management and documentation process. Commitment and adherence to production and quality processes have been instrumental in keeping HARBEC a trusted partner for all customers, including aerospace/defense and medical customers.

As our customers have come to trust in HARBEC’s core competencies (quality, speed, performance, and value?) and capabilities (customer injection molding, prototypes, 3D printing, CNC machining) they’ve also realized they can obtain better results by extending their relationship with us. Here are two examples, one in medical and the other in aerospace/defense, where customers are realizing the full potential of HARBEC.

Aerospace/Defense Customer Example

For an aerospace/defense customerHARBEC is providing 3D printed components that are part of a valve assembly. The components, grown in HARBEC’s ESO 290 machine,are made out of stainless steel andwill be used in space-flight applications.3D printing provides tremendous design and manufacturing flexibility that simply is not available from other traditional manufacturing processes. But, as this particular customer has realized, 3D printing is not the be-all end-all solution for every part. In many cases, 3D printed parts need further processing, whether it’s precision machining, cleaning, over molding, heat treating, and so on.

While many customers (this one included) are attracted to HARBEC for one solution (in this case 3D printing), they are typically very pleased to discover that HARBEC’s expertise in CNC Machining, Custom Injection Molding, and Prototyping can complement and provide additional value to their part and the relationship they have with HARBEC.

Once completed, the component that was 3D printing for this aerospace/defense customer was inspected and shipped. The customer would then open the shipped part, conduct their own in-house inspection, and then proceed to a series of additional manufacturing steps including machining, cleaning, and assembly. This was adding expense and prolonging the completion of their final component. Once we were aware that these operations were occurring after we shipped the parts, it was proposed that we could reduce valuable time, cost, and materials from the process.

Medical Customer Example

A longstanding medical customer of HARBEC had a need for cleanroom molding of custom prototype parts. HARBEC worked with the customer on a design for manufacturing strategy that included mold making, implementation of a self-contained cleanroom manufacturing cell, integration of an automated labeling fixture, and hourly air monitoring to ensure particle count was well within the desired threshold.Achieving project delivery success for this multifaceted project required collaboration, coordination, and commitment from a multi-faceted team comprised of representative from project management, sales, engineering, plastics, models, quality, and maintenance.
cleanroom

In manufacturing it’s easy to get fixated on “the part.” The final and physical form of the “part” after all, is the culmination of hours of engineering time, creativity, teamwork and focus. The part is the embodiment of value. But the value does not end with the part. Where the part goes next, whether it has additional manufacturing operations, how it will be assembled and integrated into a system, and what happens in-service and at end-of-life, these are each critical points of value-creation for manufacturers. As cutting edge additive manufacturing technologies like 3D printing continue to expand, other capabilities like machining will not go away. Rather, a complement of manufacturing tools, capabilities and integrated processes are increasingly necessary to meet the stringent needs of aerospace/defense and medical customers. By focusing on the total solution, and not just the part, manufacturers can assess and determine how best to derive the greatest value for win-win supplier relationships.