Carbide Shop Advances with Grinding Technology and Support

To advance means to move forward or expand. In that case, Advanced Carbide Grinding, Inc. is certainly true to its name. Since the shop’s start in 1999, continuous growth and a  commitment to producing the highest-precision quality parts has, and continues to, drive its success. By incorporating innovative grinding technology and techniques, as well as achieving ISO certification, the shop continues to propel itself into new eras of productivity.

Just six months after its modest beginning, the growing Advanced Carbide Grinding moved to a 2,400 square foot building where it remained until 2004. That facility proved adequate enough until 2011 when growth once again precipitated another advantageous move to a larger 13,000 square foot manufacturing facility. Then in 2011, the shop moved to its existing facility in Derry, Pennsylvania, about 45 miles east of Pittsburgh, increasing its total square footage to an impressive 100,000 square feet.

“It was an increase in volume of work that drove that continuous expansion,” said Edward Beck, CFO of Advanced Carbide Grinding, who owns the company with CEO David Butz and COO Jim Elliott. In the 20 years the three have worked side-by-side, they’ve acquired 450 active customers and have 102 employees running three shifts. Impressive still, Advanced Carbide Grinding, over the years, has acquired nearly $5.5 million worth of new advanced grinding equipment, all of which are STUDER internal and external universal cylindrical grinders from UNITED GRINDING. In fact, Advanced Carbide Grinding has a definite preference for STUDER machines because they help the shop effectively meet its varying production demands that are a mixture of both high volume/low mix and low volume/high mix.

For some product lines, the shop will run 10,000 pieces on one of its STUDERs then 10 one-piece jobs on that same machine the next day. According to Beck, the fast setups and the part-processing flexibility of the STUDERS is what makes this possible.

He added that after the shop used the STUDER OD and ID grinders for the first time, they were convinced that those were the only CNC machines they wanted on their shop floor. And after acquiring their first STUDER S33 CNC universal cylindrical grinder and really learning the machine’s capabilities and accuracy, they decided to purchase five additional S33s. Advanced Carbide Grinding also consulted with UNITED GRINDING about designing an ID grinder geared toward a particular product line the shop was manufacturing at the time. The result was a custom-designed STUDER S31 cylindrical grinder that worked so well, the shop purchased three additional machines.

The STUDER S31 handles small to large size workpieces in single, low and high-volume production, while the STUDER S33 is well suited for individual and batch production of medium-sized workpieces. Both machines are extremely easy to program thanks to StuderPictogramming software and STUDER Quick-Set that speeds set-up time and reduces resetting times. For increased flexibility, integrated software modules and optional StuderWIN programming software allows shops such as Advanced Carbide Grinding to create grinding and dressing programs on an external PC. 

“We were so impressed with the machines. We were able to reduce our cycle times by almost 60 percent from manual operations,” Beck said, adding that the shop now has a total of 11 STUDER machines that also made the shop’s ISO certification possible. “Having such advanced grinding technology on our shop floor gave us the confidence to become certified,” Beck emphasized.

Continuous improvement is a necessity for any modern manufacturer, and Advanced Carbide Grinding has achieved ISO 9001:2015 Certification, an international standard signifying commitment to quality and customer satisfaction and an important step toward becoming any customer’s best used supplier. “I think our quality is what has driven us to that point,” Beck said. “And we’ve been fortunate that we're located in an area known as The Carbide Valley. Within a 15-mile radius, we have probably nine carbide manufacturers that pick up and deliver orders to us on a daily basis.”

While the Derry, Pennsylvania, area is, in fact, considered the Carbide Capital of the World, Advanced Carbide Grinding doesn’t limit itself to strictly carbide grinding. Our customers requested that we start making steel and carbide assemblies, so we expanded and added a full machine shop,” Beck said. “We also have a lot of experience with cutting tools, and we provide blanks for the cutting tool industry.”

The majority of the company’s carbide and steel assemblies are used in the oil and gas industry for a variety of applications that include wear parts, downhole, seal rings and pumps, as well as finished parts for assemblies. Because of the particular grades of carbides used, Advanced Carbide Grinding must grind them with diamond wheels.

“Carbide outlasts tool steel approximately ten to one in a wear application,” Beck said. “We’re capable of grinding from a 0.062” diameter up to and including a 14” diameter and holding tolerances of +/-  0.0001”.

All of Advanced Carbide Grinding’s  operators do their own programming. “A lot of people that run CNC machines have what some refer to as button pushers – load a part, hit a button. Our philosophy, instead, is to train our people on machine operation, then teach them the programming,” Beck said, adding that it is difficult to find the right people with the right multi-tasking skills. However, the STUDER machine homing capabilities, that tell the machine where a part is, are simpler and contribute to the ease of setup.

With its STUDER grinders, Advanced Carbide Grinding is able to also perform swiveling operations, radius work and meet special surface finish requirements. The shop uses various wheel manufacturers, and 20 years of trial and error have taught it which wheels have the grit sizes and hardness required to generate the finishes needed.

The STUDER machines further increase the shop’s part-processing flexibility, and Advanced Carbide Grinding is confident they’ll have the equipment and support they need from UNITED GRINDING to continue growing and expand into the aerospace, automotive and mining industries or branch out into ceramic lines or other exotic materials.

“With our ISO certification, it's going to open doors to phenomenal opportunities for us. We are not going to look back. We're going to keep moving forward and advance,” Beck said.