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Case study: Rising to the challenge of aerospace alloy at Baker Hill

Baker Hill is not your typical job shop. 

 

They’re a leading supplier of precision machined components to the aerospace, defense, and commercial industries. Since 1967, Baker Hill has produced high-end, difficult-to-machine parts on equipment ranging from 3, 4, and 5-axis milling machines to 3-D additive manufacturing. 

 

Machinists spend their days working with exotic alloys where there’s no room for error. Run-of-the-mill tools aren’t an option at Baker Hill. Propulsion components end up in F-35 engines and other complex aerospace applications. To stay competitive in this landscape, they need top-of-the-line tooling.

 

In this case study, we’ll show how Fullerton supported Baker Hill with: 

  • A robust understanding of aerospace alloys. Errors with these materials can be costly, and our confidence in finding best-fit products allows us to provide effective solutions.  
  • On-site engineering sessions to upskill their team. Presentations are tailored to the unique challenges their machinists and production team face in the day-to-day on the shop floor.

“I don’t look to them as a vendor, I look at them more as a partner,” said Leigh Livesay, Pre-Production Tooling Manager at Baker Hill. “They always go above and beyond to do what it takes to provide the best customer service possible.” 

Nothing run-of-the-mill

 In the world of machining, many shops will take on work that runs the gamut across different industries and applications. Baker Hill, on the other hand, has a specific focus on aerospace and Department of Defense (DoD) work.

Next-level expertise is needed from everyone on Baker Hill’s team, as well as their partners.

“They’re not a company that deals in general purpose tooling,” said Steve Oszust, Product Development Manager and Lead Tool Design Engineer at Fullerton Tool. “It’s all the latest technologies, even adaptive technologies. They’re in the top five percent of manufacturers in that area that are taking on the hard work. There’s nothing run-of-the-mill with Baker Hill.”

Leigh and the rest of the operations team work hard to give their machinists all the resources they need so they can operate as close to 100% uptime as possible.

As their tooling partner, here’s how Fullerton rises to the challenge:

Expertise in machining exotic alloys

Machining jobs at Baker Hill rarely call for a one-size-fits-all solution.

Fullerton tooling specialists go the extra mile to triple-check the correct coatings, material grade, and edge preps for any particular job.

And these materials they’re working with require an added layer of expertise. Magic number of machining you need to know like the back of your hand.

“You’re not going to bury into these materials,” said Steve. “You’re going to use very specific geometries. You would never buy a 1/8-inch diameter tool into a 1/16-inch radius, because you essentially get a drilling effect, you get many more points of contact. There are some golden rules as far as 60 to 65% engagement. When you get into materials like this, you almost need to know that from the beginning.”

Thanks to our decades-plus worth of experience in newer alloys like Inconel, we can confidently take on their projects.

Working with difficult-to-machine parts

The majority of Leigh’s orders are stocked parts — end mills, drills, and reamers — and he works with Fullerton to find the best-fit tool for his applications.

But when a need for a special order arises, Fullerton’s there to answer the call.

 “We reach out to their engineering team from time to time to modify some tool designs, recommend speeds and feeds or cutting parameters,” said Leigh. “The Fullerton team will recommend different machining practices or tool paths to our engineers for us as well.” 

After all, these are costly materials to make mistakes on. Whereas in a typical application, we may suggest a few approaches to try out, there’s no room for error when you’re working on a $40,000 forging.

It falls onto the Fullerton team to troubleshoot, and to troubleshoot fast. And experienced team members like Steve keep the problem-solving relay moving forward. They get what they can from the machinist and begin the work of finding a suitable solution. This is something another generic, more catalog-driven tooling supplier couldn’t provide.

“We take the known and try to fill in the pieces of the unknown, and you have to have a really good perspective on tooling to do that.” – Steve Oszust

Engineers supporting engineers

This level of education and technical service goes beyond the late-night troubleshooting calls. As part of our FAST Academy program, we set up an expert-led workshop on-site at Baker Hill.

We bring the customer, distributors, and reps together to give them an overview of Fullerton in the industry. Talking points may include:

  • Product overviews and demonstrations
  • Discussions of ongoing projects
  • Machining best practices
  • Website training for faster quotes
  • Meeting the Fullerton team

At the end of the day, it’s about making things easier for our customers in their day-to-day. These are all tools and resources we invest in at Fullerton, and we make sure the questions and challenges of the on-the-ground team are what drive the working session.

It’s just another way we go the extra mile to keep Baker Hill at the top of their game.

“I think sometimes with certain vendors, even though our spend can be high, I feel that we're just another number, another account and I don't feel that with Fullerton. I feel part of the Fullerton family.” 

Work with the tooling experts.

You can only go so far with generic, catalog house tooling.

Elevate your operation to the next level with industry-leading tooling from Fullerton. We’ll learn your machining operation’s challenges, recommend best-fit products for your budget, and help you maintain an efficient operation. 

Keep your tooling spend low and meet your customer’s high standards. Talk to a tooling representative today

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