Linear Adds Drilling, Additive Machinery

A new gun drill and 3D metal printing machines are among the latest additions to Linear Mold & Engineering’s capabilities. The company’s facility is expanding as well.

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Linear Mold & Engineering, a manufacturer of precision injection molds, molded parts and 3D metal printing of production parts for OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers in the automotive, aerospace and medical markets, has added new machinery to accommodate rapid growth.

A new gun drill for deep-hole drilling for water lines, ejector pin holes and custom manifolds will give Linear the ability to bring that work back in-house. “It’s good to be in moldmaking right now. The mold world is very busy these days and we outsource a lot of gun drill work,” commented John Tenbusch, President of Linear.

Mike Misener, Director of Tooling and Manufacturing, concurred. “We produce between 450-500 molds a year in all sizes and varieties,” he said. “There are not a lot of companies that own gun drills which means those resources are limited,” said Misener. “We lose a lot of time trying to get a job scheduled into a shop, and the costs tend to be higher.”

The gun drill will reduce drilling time by 80 percent and is capable of drilling 80” a minute in aluminum, according to Misener. With steels it will do 50” to 60” a minute. While a typical job on the radial drill might take 10-12 hours to drill one block, the new state-of-the-art gun drill can do it in 1.5 hours. We can drill a depth of 50” and hold tolerances within a thousandth in both location and diameter.”

The Precihole Single Spindle gun drill has an auxiliary milling head that will handle up to a 6” facemill, and has a 24’ x 32’ footprint. The table can hold blocks that are 8’ long x 5’ wide, Misener explained.

While the mold manufacturing department is extremely busy, the company’s 3D metal printing production department is experiencing a big influx of work as well. To help open up production time, Linear is adding two M290 3D metal printing machines from EOS that are expected to arrive any day, and two dual laser SLM machines from SLM Solutions have just been delivered. Linear currently operates 14 3D metal printing machines, most of which are dedicated to production parts.

“Our sales will be increasing next year by quite a bit,” commented Tenbusch. “Our production business in the 3D metal process will exceed our moldmaking business sometime next month and this is only the beginning.  We have a number of customers that are serious about using 3D metal printed parts for production.”

In addition to building production parts using 3D metal printing, Linear’s conformal cooling business, which also uses the 3D metal printing technology, is also experiencing an uptick in demand. “Some of the SLM machines will be dedicated to conformal cooling technology,” Tenbusch stated, noting that as conformal cooling gains greater acceptance among OEMs, particularly those in the automotive industry, demand increases.

“The conformal cooling work is starting to pick up as customers take a serious look at this technology,” Tenbusch said. “First they have to have acceptance of what it can do and for that they run their own tests and trials on the technology. However, a number of them have moved past the trial stage now and are looking for applications that are a perfect fit.”

To accommodate the machinery additions, Linear is currently undergoing a 17,000-square-foot expansion. The company currently operates out of four buildings, including their North American headquarters which contains the 3D metal printing and CNC machining divisions, a molding facility, manufacturing facility and a warehouse.