Mark Moore Design (Victor, NY) creates aesthetically appealing yet functional projects, like furniture for restaurants, offices and other commercial uses. This fabrication shop also does residential work and custom one-off designs that often require the joining of dissimilar materials, such as attaching wooden seat backs to a tubular steel framework, for example. Drilling and tapping holes in these types of jobs was once accomplished with a cordless drill fitted with a spiral hand tap, accompanied by elbow grease and a lot of concentration – demands that took a toll on workers as the shift wore on, causing them physical and mental fatigue that led to rework or scrap. But now, thanks to a pneumatic tapping arm from FlexArm Inc. (Wapakoneta, OH), these projects sail through the shop smoothly with no fatigue and far less scrap or rework.
Mark Moore, the owner of the shop, recalled how they once did sub-contract work for a company that was tasked with manufacturing furnishings for the Shake Shack restaurant chain. For six years his shop cranked out the furniture for one Shake Shack restaurant per week. This included booth backs made of laser cut P/O steel 2 in square tubing with 1/8 in 120 (11 ga) wall thickness. There are 8 laser drilled holes on two sides and each hole must be tapped with a ¼ in x 28 spiral tap. Rather than hand tapping, Moore took a ¼ x 28 spiral tap hand tap and cut off the handle so that it could be chucked into a cordless drill with a clutch set. He’d use paste as a lubricant and tap hundreds of holes each day with this cordless drill set-up. Besides the inherent wear and tear on the drill – with the drill switch constantly going from forward to reverse – they’d break a tap a week. Physically tiring and emotionally draining, this was all considered the cost of doing business.
Over time, Moore became concerned about the wear and tear on his employees. “People don’t often think about mental fatigue when you are doing production work, but there is a lot of it when you are constantly thinking about how the drill is positioned and repeatedly asking yourself if the drill is being held perfectly straight or is the drill tipping,” he explained. To ensure the straightness of the drill, Moore looked into buying a drill press for tapping. But moving all of the components to the drill press and then positioning them individually for tapping seemed like a lot of extra effort. Very long parts would have to be supported once they got to the drill press. Overall, Moore figured that a drill press might be an option for tapping, but he wasn’t convinced it was the option. Then he visited another specialty fabricator who showed him a FlexArm pneumatic tapping arm . . . . . and it was a “eureka” moment.
These pneumatic tapping arms make tapping easy and quick. They feature adjustable gas counter-balanced springs that allow an operator to position the tap over a hole without straining or fatigue. The tool absorbs the torque created by the motor to increase tap accuracy. The A-32 model that Mark Moore Design purchased has a 400 rpm motor that delivers 28 ft-lb of torque and has 9/16 in tap capacity. “I saw the FlexArm and thought ‘wow!’ I can leave all the parts set up and move right down the line with this arm, tapping them all one after another. That makes a lot more sense,” recalled Moore, who adheres to a simple rule: “Handle parts as infrequently as possible, because each time you touch it, it is time – and time is money.” So he bought the A-32 arm and it helped him to eliminate set-up time and handle parts only once.
Moore also loves the speed with which the taps can be changed. “This is faster than a drill press and faster than the drill set-up,” he noted, remembering time studies that showed how they tapped a ¼ x 20 laser-drilled hole into a piece of 1/8 in steel plate in 25 seconds. The same process with the A-32 arm is done in 15-20 seconds per hole. “The accuracy is 100 times better,” added Moore. “And eliminating the mental fatigue of positioning the drill perfectly at 90 deg went away. With this arm, you don’t have to be as observant because you know it’s going to be straight.”
In the two years the shop has been using their FlexArm, they have not broken one tap. An adjustable torque clutch built into the A-32 allows the tap to stop turning when it encounters any obstruction that might cause breakage – significantly reducing the likelihood of breaking a tool. Now Moore doesn’t have to worry about employees snapping off bits in a hole, another contributing factor to mental fatigue that has been eliminated. This is especially important when working with small taps: “We make a lot of custom drawer pulls with smaller taps, like No. 6 and No. 4. Before, I used to hate tapping these sizes because the holes were always bottomed taps and the taps are so delicate that they would often break and get stuck,” recalled Moore. But the clutch has eliminated tap breakage, so the time once spent on retrieving broken taps is now put towards more productive and profitable tasks.
While eliminating mental fatigue is certainly a benefit, physical fatigue has been reduced as well. “When you use a cordless drill your wrists get tired, but the A-32 is weightless so you don’t have that constant weight from holding and supporting a tool. That saves a lot of fatigue on the workers,” Moore explained. While other fabrication shops may shy away from or not be suitable for aesthetic work that requires clean lines, design elements and joining of dissimilar materials, this shop thrives on it. Fastidious about time studies, he has found a more efficient way to process his workflow, regardless of whether the furniture is ultimately installed in the board room of a Fortune 500 company, or a personal residence, or a neighborhood restaurant. That’s something to think about the next time you are sipping a Chocolate Shake while waiting for your ShackBurger® and Fries.
Mark Moore Design, 21 Framark Drive, 444, Victor, NY 14564, 585-330-8927, www.markmooredesign.com.
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