Our new CNC milling machine arrived and with the help of our good neighbors at Quality Welding, we got it safely off the truck and into its position in its “corner office” here at OESH. Thank you, Quality Welding!
Me, a little nervous, watching it come off the truck:
Gary, guiding it into position. My job here is to look out for his right foot (and OESH!).
So, you may ask, what is a CNC milling machine and why do we need one to make shoes? Shoemaking requires a lot of specialized metal tools and molds. For example, the molds we use to make the cantilevers, which look like the wings of an airplane, are made from steel and the molds for the shoe outsoles and the lining above the cantilevers are made of aluminum.
A CNC (computer numeric control) milling machine is a machine that mills or carves into metal, the specific 3-D tool and mold shapes that we’ve created on a computer with a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program. With the help of an additional CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) program, the milling machine translates our 3-D files into actual tools and molds.
I’m pretty sure that 99.9% of metal molds and tools used to make shoes are made in Asia. This is really a product of tradition. When athletic shoes began being mass produced in Asia some 30 years ago, making molds and tools was an arduous, labor intensive process that relied upon cheap labor. But even now with advances in CNC manufacturing, most shoe companies still rely upon Asia for this work.
Not OESH. The milling machine is just one more example of how we are investing into local manufacturing and engineering. As far as I know, this is the first CNC milling machine in Charlottesville, VA. I’ve started reading the manual — it’s not too difficult to operate. It’s much like our CNC waterjet saw which took me about a weekend to master. No problem. But hey, if you know anyone who has CNC machining experience, have her/him contact me!