634 Glenn Ave., Wheeling, Illinois 60090

Meet Jim Davis: Willemin-Macodel USA’s Applications Manager

Here at Swiss Precision Machining (SPM), we started our shop over 40 years ago with just two Swiss-style cam machines. Today, we boast over 70 Swiss-turn machines—in addition to state-of-the-art specialty machines made by another well-known supplier and innovator of precision machinery, Willemin-Macodel.

From the Willemin 408MT models to our newer acquisition, the Willemin 508MT2, discover what this relationship means to both Willemin-Macodel and SPM through the eyes of Willemin-Macodel USA’s Applications Manager Jim Davis.

A conversation with Jim Davis

Can you please explain what your role is, Jim?

I’m the Applications Manager here at Willemin-Macodel USA. I train new and existing customers on new equipment, assist the programming, and generally help people make money with our equipment, as well as manage the team that does the same.

What does the relationship between SPM and Willemin-Macodel look like?

SPM is a user of our equipment and a newer customer, one of our bigger clients in the Chicago area. They’re expanding into the milling of feature-rich precision parts.

Currently, they have more than 70 Swiss turning machines in their shop, which are live tool-enabled, sliding headstock turning centers. It’s fantastic equipment that is really good for high L/D (Length-to-Diameter) ratio parts.

With these machines, the milling is performed with an attachment; it’s not always true five-axis machining. However, when you get parts that are more complex, i.e., feature-rich parts, you need increased milling capabilities with rotating tools, like the Willemin models.

I don’t want to knock Swiss-style turning machines; they’re all-stars, truly fantastic equipment. Everyone has their forte, though, and our forte is high feature density complex milling and turning.

How many Willemin machines does SPM have? How do they use them?

They have four Willemin machines. They have the 508MT2, which they purchased two months ago. That machine has given SPM even more capability than with the 408s they have. Now, they have milling and turning on both front work and back work, including full five-axis machining on the back work. This has allowed them to take on parts that are much more complex.

To be specific, the 508 can do milling and turning on the front and back end of a part, while the 408 can do milling on the front and back end, but only turning on the front end.

What makes Willemin a superior product?

It’s a really good integrated solution for complete machining of parts from bar stock that have a lot of features and very tight accuracy requirements in the microns, specifically single-digit-micron tolerances and the ability to hold microns in position. To get at feature-rich parts at whatever angle is required is a whole lot easier on a Willemin—making difficult parts possible.

What other uses are there for this type of machinery?

Willemin’s machines originally served the watchmaking market in Europe, specifically Switzerland where the machines are made. We’re talking Rolex, Cartier, Swatch. Then Americans started buying Willemin equipment and borrowing that technology to make really intricate parts and apply it towards medical use.

In the world today, these machines are often used to make custom dental implants, so dental is a big market for us. This includes the implant in the abutment that supports the fake tooth, including the fake tooth itself (i.e., ceramic machining).

Medical is a massive market for us, too, both implants and instruments, as are microelectronics. A lot of the big microelectronic manufacturers use our equipment in their prototype cells. There are just so many sub-industries in the medical field, too.

Other markets include aerospace, defense, and directional well drilling components. Precision manufacturing, in general, regardless of industry, is more prevalent than you’d think. A lot of contract manufacturers use our equipment to make all sorts of parts.

Not to name drop, but Apple has our equipment for prototype use. I believe Google has one through their acquisition of Fitbit. In Europe and Asia, they’re used by turbine blade manufacturers.

This has been incredibly informative, Jim. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

SPM’s shop is very impressive, and they have an incredibly sharp team. They’re good folks, and I enjoy working with all of their employees. As a tech support guy, it can be tiresome if you get people that ask the same question over and over again. No one at SPM does that. They ask interesting and new questions every time, which means they’re pushing the envelope.

Learn more about SPM and how they use their Willemin machinery on the blog, including an exclusive interview with Willemin expert Scott Goudie.