Forged from Scrap / by Alex Schreer

Made in America

Series: The origin 

There is a art, in taking you're ideas from paper and turning them into a successful business, the road is never straight, and often times origin finds their context in the late hours of the night outside in the garage. The unique thing about the American dream is that no one is entitled to it, its something that has to be earned in during lunch breaks and weekends. The story I am about to tell is hopefully the first chapter in what will be an ode to an American success story. 

It all seemed to fall into place, an engineer and designer, long time friends both born with a drive to create. It was only a matter of time before we would jump off the cliff of pursuit in the name of an idea. 

Arraignments had been made for after hours access to a HAAS Automation CNC, we would be allowed to prototype our product and refine our machining during weekends and evenings allowing us to sell a few products to prove its merit. It is the definition of bootstrapping a business out of our own pockets. The triggering factor of this recent push was the discovery of a piece of under used extrusion at a local warehouse. A hidden stack of octagonal aluminum extrusions, as if it was perfectly dimensioned for our product, and could be bought at cost and then machined to our specs. 

The G code was written with the help of Autodesk's Inventor, a first attempt would be made to flush out any un foreseen issues. Once we confirmed our dimensions, our attention would shift to reducing our machining time, which in turn would bring the cost of manufacturing down for us, constantly aware of the valuable lesson of working with the margins. 

The first extrusion was loaded into the machine, clamped tighter with each rotation of the vice. Each full rotation brining the part closer to the equilibrium of retention without distortion. Manipulating the control panel our zeros were set, and lines of code double checked before sliding together the doors and extending a finger to start the program, "Send it". Just like that we began our first cut on the very first prototype, coolant flooded the scene impairing any type of visual on the cut, we knew it was working only by the occasional chip of aluminum that found its way out of the rushing fluid and into the air. 

What seemed like an eternity later, the machine would come to a stop, raising the head on the z direction to reveal the first series of cuts made in our stock. The doors were pulled open to reveal our a pattern cut through one side of our extrusion, a mirror image of the CAD file. It was successful, but we were far from the final results we wanted, there were still 7 sides of the extrusion to machine, and countless hours of refining the code to speed machine time. 

A quick caliper check, showed our dimensions were correct and would could rotate our part to make the next pass at it. The vice was loosened, part hosed down with compressed air to remove excess material and coolant, then place back in the vice with its next face ready to be plunged through with the bit. 

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We would run the machine late into the evening, and finally pull off a complete part when it was dark outside. The journey has just started however and there is a lot of work to come. I hope to continue on the "Made in America" series as way of giving a behind the scenes look at what it takes to make something in America, whether its successful or a failure you will get to ride shotgun on the journey and hopefully learn something, just as I will be learning from these expiriences.  

Alexander Schreer

Industrial Designer / Visual Storyteller