Over the last few months, safety has been on everyone’s mind. From going to the store to working around others, most of us have considered our personal safety and the safety of those we come into contact with even more than we normally do. While Semco has done an exemplary job protecting our employees during the pandemic, the coronavirus is not the only danger to our employees that we have been thinking about. As a company that prides itself on its safety consciousness, we continue to look for areas of improvement within our graphite machining shop. Our employees’ safety is of utmost importance, hence we will make sure all necessary steps are taken to insure that.
One example of a safety precaution we are exploring is in the inspection process that occurs in our Haas EC-1600 Vertical turning center machine. This is a big machine that requires our inspectors to actually climb inside to inspect the machined parts. This being a graphite production machine, we do have a filtration system inside that is designed to evacuate the majority of graphite dust created in the machining process. However, not even the best filtration systems are not capable of removing 100% of the graphite dust from inside the Haas EC-1600. As graphite is a solid lubricant, surfaces inside the machine can become quite slippery. It became apparent to us that we needed a solution that would facilitate the quality inspector stepping inside the machine safely.
We are living in an age of rapid evolution of inspection equipment, and one inspection tool has come into focus for us. Portable articulated measuring arms CMM, such as the Faro Quantum Series, are inspection devices that allow the inspector to work from a relative distance. Add-ons such as laser probes provide the capability of scanning surfaces for features from a distance, making this the perfect tool to address our concern with inspection of the Haas machine. With these inspection devices, particularly ones with the laser probe add-on, there would be virtually no need to step inside of the machine to inspect it. It could be done from a distance. Our inspectors are safe and our product is inspected properly.
It probably goes without saying that such an inspection machine is not cheap. Nevertheless, Semco has taken the next step towards acquiring such inspection equipment as we see clear benefits to our graphite production operation and our employees. Luckily, the State of Ohio has a very useful grant program that allows companies to apply for funds in order to acquire a piece of equipment that solves a safety issue. The grant program is designed to provide up to 50% of the cost of the equipment, with the small business providing the other half. The only requirement is that the company demonstrate that the particular piece of equipment will eliminate a particular safety risk. The application for the program is quite technical and detailed, but in broad strokes, the grant program looks to help small and medium-sized companies acquire equipment that will eliminate safety issues. Semco applied, and in the preliminary applications reviews, it was selected for the grant. There are additional steps to be taken at our end, but we are encouraged and excited to have a great chance at qualifying. With Semco’s budget, and this particular grant, Semco is close to acquiring a machine that would allow our inspectors to measure machined features effectively, accurately, and from a safe, secure location.