4 Takeaways for Shops New to Micro-machining

Jul 22 / Jedd Cole
By taking the plunge into micro-machining, one Minnesota micro molding and machining shop now specializes in the design and production of parts 0.015 inch and smaller. Here is that story and the lessons learned in the process. 
When Jon Baklund reflects on micro-machining, his words demonstrate something almost like awe: “It’s like normal physics go out the window, and you’re dealing with something in the range of kind of a ‘pre-quantum’ world. Your cutters will break if you touch them, but then you can machine metal with them. So it’s a strange thing, this dynamic between speed and materials.”

That tinge of wonder colors my discussion with Mr. Baklund about his journey into dedicated micro-machining after decades spent on the shop floor working with all kinds of equipment over the years, from learning how to machine on knee mills with his father, to progressive die making and R&D strategies. Representing something of a new chapter for him, Mr. Baklund considers the micro scale to be about twice the width of a human hair, or 0.015 inch and smaller, “because that’s really where everything changes.”

“Can’t Be Done”

Taking the time to learn how to effectively make chips at this scale is also precisely where Mr. Baklund says “a lot of companies are missing the boat.” With that in mind, the lessons he has learned over the last few years are worth sharing.

“We’re just a small shop next to a cornfield out in Hutchinson, Minnesota,” Mr. Baklund says. But as the brains and knowhow behind Minnesota Micro Molding, Machining & MFG (M5 for short), he and his five employees have carved out a space for themselves doing valuable and challenging micro work in a field (no pun intended) with relatively little competition. “Generally the jobs that we take are the jobs everybody else either doesn’t want to do or says can’t be done,” he says, adding with a chuckle, “Our customers really love us, but they don’t like the fact that they can’t get it done anywhere else.”
Modern Machine Shop has written about Mr. Baklund in the past, namely in his capacity as proprietor of Baklund R&D. But that was before he started M5 in 2016, thereby dedicating his work to micro-machining. Much of M5’s work serves the medical device industry, along with aerospace, military and occasionally electronics. Within the past year, the company has added micro-molding capabilities, launching a Production Desktop Micro Molding platform providing complex mold design and for direct-cavity injection of thermoplastic, silicone, metal and bio-absorbable parts of 0.003 cubic inch and smaller. Having begun with micro-machining, this move was perfectly natural for M5. As Mr. Baklund puts it: “If anybody is talking to us about micro-machining, generally the next conversation is about micro-molding; and if we’re talking to people about micro-molding, they ask if we do micro-machining.”

Read the full article HERE @ Modern Machine Shop online.

1. Philosophy
2. Planning
3. Machining
4. Finishing and Inspection