For over 40 years, a small company in the western suburbs of Chicago called Linear Kinetics Inc (LKI) provided area manufacturers with custom-built factory automation systems. These LKI systems helped companies speed up their processes, increase output, and deliver higher quality manufactured goods.
Along the way, Linear Kinetics also began developing automated testing systems for Elite and its clients. The relationship between Elite and LKI became more strategic with each test automation project and with the growth of Elite’s environmental testing services. Not only was Elite using LKI services to a greater extent, but from the perspective of LKI, the majority of projects devoted to Elite were becoming a key segment of their operations.
So in December 2016, it made perfect sense that Elite and LKI to join forces in a strategic and formal way. By April 2017 the entire LKI operation was officially moved into the newly-opened North Annex to launch Elite’s new Machining, Automation, and Controls (MAC) services.
Heading up Elite’s MAC team is Todd Bruhl, Sr. Mechanical and Controls Engineer. Todd was the principal at LKI and now brings end-to-end automation engineering expertise to Elite clients along with a customer-service-oriented “whatever it takes” attitude. Todd was asked to describe the benefits of having MAC integrated with Elite’s testing services.
Todd: “We have all the equipment, ability, knowledge, and expertise in place to provide test automation and fixturing of all kinds to Elite clients. How about a quick tour of the Elite MAC center to look at our key machining resources?”
Todd: “The Fadal CNC milling machine and Burgmaster CNC milling machine centers make our metalworking processes incredibly efficient. We’re able to take a Solidworks CAD model to the machine center and with a few additional steps get completed parts in minutes. Plus we machine right here at Elite and save clients the task of having to develop fixturing on their own. When our work is done the fixturing and support gear are all here ready for testing. It’s a great time saver and very convenient for customers.”
Todd: “We also have manually operated machines such as our Induma knee mill, a Clausing gap bed lathe, and Cincinnati radial arm drill press for quick turn machined parts when the CNC machine is not necessary. These are standard machine shop systems, but they’re here to offer quick response metal working to customer needs.”
Todd: “Our Flexarm pneumatic tapping rig gives us the ability to quickly tap holes on the fly. We use this tool often to fit custom-tapped holes to vibration and shock fixtures”.
Todd: “Our 3D printer is just awesome. It’s used nearly every day to create the small and intricate shapes that we need to adapt our test gear to customers’ test items. It also frees up time on our CNC machines to perform large-scale metalworking tasks”.
Todd is also skilled at developing controls and automation for unique tests that require mechanical cycling of switches, levers, buttons, and just about any other product that needs kinematic or dynamic motion. Using electric actuators, pneumatic, or hydraulics, Todd and his team can create a full range of forces, torques, speeds, and other conditions for cyclic or production validation testing.
Todd: “We start with customer requirements and test item specs to come up with an automation concept. From there we bring it to a finished installed system in a reasonably quick turnaround time. We have all the expertise, great control suppliers, along with an in-house machining center. All the key parts are right here at Elite to streamline our automation development and get final test results to clients in the shortest time possible. For sure, test automation systems are demanding engineering projects, but as engineers, we love the technical challenge and feed on the pride of seeing our hard work delivered on time, on-test, and performing per spec.”
Do you have a manufacturing or testing process that would benefit from automation? Send us your requirements and our MAC team will collaborate with you to design and build a solution.