Q&A with Alan Miller

Engineering Manager & Product Manager with BIG KAISER Precision Tooling Inc.

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What’s a typical day like for you at BIG KAISER?

As the engineering manager, I help guide the engineering department. I’m also hands-on as we do a lot of application support. Whether that’s traveling around the country to visit customers or provide support over the phone, our goal is to make sure our tools work out in the field.

What does BIG KAISER do for the gear manufacturing industry?

BIG KAISER is a combination of things. We have many types of tool holders and get into special arbors and things for the gear-manufacturing industry. We have angle heads, which are used a lot to cut internal keyways or splines.

We also have boring tools, and while they’re not used a whole lot in the gear-manufacturing industry, the need for boring tools arises from time to time.

You’ve recently enhanced your online access to BIG KAISER’s 2D and 3D tooling data. What was the reason for that?

Our customers are requesting 2D and 3D data on a daily basis, and we’ve added the data to our website to make their jobs easier. 

The industry has gone through a transformation. When I first started 20 years ago, we were working on 2D applications; 3D was just emerging. To see the industry progress to where you can do all the simulations and verifications before you even attempt to run a part really requires a lot of digital data that wasn’t necessarily fully available or interchangeable.

The hardest thing was always getting a file from a company. When you finally got the files and brought them together, you had to reconcile layers and how things were put together in each metric, among other challenges, before you had data you could use.

Using the DXF standard allows customers to combine products from multiple companies with unified layer structures and eliminates some of those challenges. Now, multiple files from multiple vendors should work interchangeably with each other. You don’t have to do all that translation on your own.

How will this enhancement further aid your clients and customers?

Getting consistent file formats will ease or eliminate some of the responsibility for the operator. The files also are being used by most of the CAD/CAM systems out there. Whether using tool management software such as our own Intelligo for our tool presetters or TDM; verification software such as Vericut; or CAD/CAM software such as Mastercam, ISPRE, or one of the other systems, the same file can be used across all platforms interchangeably. You’re working from the same dataset in your CAD program and your verification software. It really makes things a lot simpler.

Could you give an example of how this worked for one of your customers?

I find that just about every one of our customers these days is using these files in their planning or in their CAD systems, their verification systems, and their programming systems. It’s giving them that availability to integrate our products into it. Pretty much everyone is using this type of technology, and it’s getting to a point where it’s easier to use now that there’s a standard.

You mentioned that growing standard, could you go into more detail about what that means?

There was an ISO standard developed that gives you a template to follow to be able to exchange data with all these different systems. Part of that was with the DXF files, which define everything about the layer structure — from names and colors to line weights — so when you put multiple components together, they’re on the same layer system and match up exactly. It’s very easy to take single components and turn them into a full assembly.

They also include layers for the cut and no-cut boundaries, specifically for verification software. So, I’d be able to generate a profile of what will be happening if that tool holder is spinning. The second part of it is into the 3D graphics. There’s the 2D, but the standard also covers 3D step files to take them directly into verification software without having to translate it in any way. And then the third part is that the data file helps the software identify what it is and gives it specific information such as what type of tool and some of the dimensions in a data file. Within those three parts, they should have enough information to use it in a variety of software applications.

Can you give an idea of how much time is saved with these standards in play now?

It’s going to be hard to put a number on it. Preparing data for input into your own system was a large investment in time and manpower. Just a simple step of getting most of the files on the same layer setting eliminates that entire job or most of that job, instead of changing layers and copying and pasting. The data manipulation part of it is a huge time savings.

What does BIG KAISER hope to achieve by transitioning to this drawing standard?

We hope to give the customers the tools to be able to implement our products as this industry progresses into Industry 4.0. If you don’t have digital documents available for your customers, the customers are going to go somewhere else. Staying on top of the latest trends and giving customers the tools they need to effectively do their job is a motivating factor for us.