A SHERLINE FACTORY TOUR

Anyone who visits the San Diego area is welcome to stop by and visit our factory. For those of you who can't get to Southern California, this page will give you a brief tour of the production plant and offices. Our new 66,000 square foot facility is now complete, so production, assembly and our administrative offices are once again under one roof. We invite you to stop by and tour the facility, but if you can't, please enjoy the following photo tour. (For safety reasons, actual factory tours are limited to those 14 and older. The showroom is open to all ages with appropriate adult supervision, but display heights were not designed for viewing by children.)

(Click on photo for larger image.)

The main entrance to Sherline's building is on the "back" side, away from the street. We chose to place the offices on this side because the building sits on top of a hill and this side faces a scenic valley with mountains in the distance. When you enter, the showroom is on your right. On the left through a wall of glass you can watch the assembly process. Offices are straight ahead up the stairs to the second floor. We moved into this custom-built facility in June, 2000. It is almost four times the size of the building on Navajo Street that served our needs for over 20 years until we just couldn't pack in any more machines or people.

This photo from down in the valley shows the hilltop location and gives a better idea of the overall size of the building.

The view South from the second floor offices. The green area below the building to the right extends down to the highway and is a protected "natural area". The mountains in the distance are also here to stay, so it looks like our offices will have a nice view for many years to come.

The view West from Joe's office. The Pacific Ocean can be seen on the horizon. We are about 4 to 5 miles inland from the coast. Since this photo was taken a new building was put up on the lot to the right, but the ocean can still be seen, and the daily breeze off the ocean keeps the weather temperate year around.

To your right as you enter the building the showroom can be seen through a glass wall. Displayed are both the standard tool line and the new line of industrial slides and spindles.

Inside the showroom are examples of all Sherline's tools and accessories. Demonstration models are available for you to try. Harold Clisby's original design drawing for the lathe is on the wall in the background.

To your left as you walk in is the assembly area. Years ago the Sherline-sponsored 1974 vintage Spyder IndyCar built by United Airline machinist Frank Fiore and restored and driven by Joe Martin was displayed here, but it has since been sold. In its place now are test benches where computers and stepper motors for Sherline's CNC systems are assembled and tested. More on the assembly area later...(Click on photo for larger image.)

The office and reception area is at the top of the stairs as you walk in to the lobby, and Kat and Kim will be the first people you encounter. Kim (left) expedites the orders, greets visitors and about 100 other tasks every day. She is indispensable!

With Kims help, a computer network and business software help keep track of the ever-increasing number of orders and customers. 

A display area at the top of the stairs offers visitors a chance to view some specially built Sherline machines used for special projects and even by the space program for testing in zero gravity. (Click on photo for larger image.) The vintage machine tool collection used to be displayed here, but it is now part of the Joe Martin Foundation's Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum now housed in its own 16,000 square foot facility a mile to the west in Carlsbad at 3190 Lionshead Avenue.

The art department is where the instructions and catalogs are produced. From here Craig also maintains the web page(s) and does all the product photography. Photos used to be shot with a film camera on 4 x 5 transparancies, but with the improvement in quality and decrease in price of digital cameras, product photos are now all done digitally with a little cleaning up in PhotoShop if needed to remove unwanted reflections and shadows.

The drafting board at the left still sees some use for exploded views and instructional artwork, but most work on catalogs, ads and instructions is now done on the computer.

Now on to the production facility...

Material is unloaded at the North end of the building using an overhead crane when needed. Racks of new bar stock and packing crates containing extrusion can be seen at the left. In the right foreground is a cutoff saw to bring material down to production length. The new layout provides much better workflow, with room to move raw materials and finished parts easily. The roll-up doors on both ends of the building provide natural air conditioning year around with a breeze off the Pacific Ocean.

 

Looking from the second floor glass-enclosed supervisor's room, some of the machining centers can be seen. To the far right is the unloading area seen in the photo above. Once again, plenty of space was allowed between machines for safe and efficient operation. A Mazak H400N is in the foreground with two Bridgeport Torq-Cut TC-3's to the right. The room in the back to the left of the open doors is for the grinding operations. (Click on photo for larger image.)

From the same position but looking toward the West end of the building, the Mazak FH-4800 can be seen in the lower right. To the left is the CNC lathe department. More on the lathes can be found a few photos further down. (Click on photo for larger image.)

Some of the manual machines on the shop floor. In the center on the second floor above you can see the windows of the supervisor's area and conference room. Skylights and large windows all around the shop area provide plenty of light for a good, safe work environment. The large angled beams are part of the earthquake bracing system. Unseen under the slab are huge blocks of reinforced concrete about 5' x 5' x 25' to stabilize the structure. New building standards make modern buildings safer than ever before.

Two Bridgeport Torq-Cut TC3 machining centers are seen in the foreground and several of the older blue Mazak machining centers line the back wall.

A Mazak H400N machining center removes metal fast yet makes parts of very high accuracy. The revolution in computer-controlled equipment is one of the reasons Sherline tools are now made not only faster but better than they have ever been made in the past. Here a machine operator checks the plans while waiting for the machine to produce another batch of parts. You need to see machines like this in action to really appreciate their capabilities. (Click on photo for larger image.)

An operator bolts parts to the pallet on our largest Mazak FH-4800 pallet-changing CNC machining center. Machines like this are capable of performing a number of operations in each cycle. Some of our more complicated parts like the mill saddle must have operations performed on all six sides of the part. Too much coolant is flying around inside to see the cutting taking place through the window, but a door on the right side allows you to see the tool changes take place. They move FAST! The machine is programmed from the keyboard and CRT screen on the right side. (Click on photo for larger image.)

 

Near the West end of the building are the CNC lathes. To the left and center are two Mazak bar-feed lathes. Full length bars of stock are loaded into the tubes. Parts are machined and parted off and the bar is then fed into position to make another part. To the right of the photo you can see the conveyer belt that carries chips away from the Mazak Quick-Turn 15N lathe just out of the photo to the right, dumping them into the hopper with the shovel in it. Material can be removed at the rate of two pounds per minute, which makes for a lot of chips. Several new lathes have been added since this photo was taken. (Click on photo for larger image.)

The lathe shop seen from above shows the two bar-feed machines at the top. The center machine at the far left is the 15N described above. The other three machines are another Mazak 15 and two Mazak 10N's. The windows in the background look out toward the street and had been intended to be the main entrance in the original plans.  Joe moved the offices and main entrance to the back of the building to take advantage of the view. (Click on photo for larger image.)

Sherline's Mazak robotic loader can pick up raw parts, place them in the chuck and return the finished part to the table. Once an operator sets up the machine and the raw materials are placed on the special table, the machine will finish all the parts by itself. From here you can also see the glass-lined 2nd floor office that looks out over the shop. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

 

 

 

The grinding department handles jobs like grinding the tops of steel lathe beds, mill columns and rotary tables. This part of the operation is enclosed in a separate room to keep the abrasive grinding dust out of the rest of the shop. The big grinder to the left can now do up to 50 rotary tables at a time. A number of smaller parts for chucks and other items also require precision grinding, so this is a busy part of the shop. It is also a critical part to the final accuracy of the machines. The grinding shop is in an enclosed area to keep the abrasive grinding dust out of the other operations. In the foreground you can see a pallet of lathe beds waiting to be ground. (Click on photo for larger image.)

Deburring and surface sanding of parts before they are sent out for anodizing also takes place in the grinding shop. Here, Juan is using an orbital sander to finish the surfaces of tilting angle table bases. This particular part does not get an anodized finish, so this will be the final finish. This is an important step, because, while flatness and smoothness affect how a part works, the finish also affects the customer's perception of the overall quality of the tool line. (Click on photo for larger image.) 

Outside the grinding shop in a separate covered area, several tumblers are also used to deburr parts and soften sharp corners. In this photo, cast steady rest bodies are being placed in the big vibrating drum that contains water and abrasive material. (Click on photo for larger image.)

Back inside the building and next to the grinding room, the chuck department assembles and tests each 3-jaw and 4-jaw chuck. Here lubrication is being applied to a batch of 4-jaw chucks. Over 25 years of making our own chucks has allowed us to continually improve their accuracy while keeping costs down.

An overview of the chuck department. You will notice many Sherline machines being used here as part of the production process. Here technicians grind jaws to fit the slots in the chucks so each new chuck is a tight fit and as accurate as possible. A grinder trues up all jaw surfaces after the chuck is assembled. (Click on photo for larger image.)

Here's a detail of a CNC collet drilling, boring and facing setup using a variety of Sherline components. Setups like this have reduced machining times substantially and show why a large number of Sherline tools find their way into industrial use. Why tie up a large, expensive machine to make small parts when a small but precise machine can do the same job at far less cost? (A full line of Sherline small industrial slides and spindles makes this even easier. See www.sherlineIPD.com.)

We produce all our plastic parts in-house with our own injection molding machines. Joe Martin designs and makes the molds for each part. The small machine in the foreground is a 25-ton machine. A larger hopper-fed molder is in the background. (Click on photo for larger image.)

Laser marking is done in this department. A YAG laser burns through the anodized coating on aluminum parts to expose bright aluminum below. This gives the look of a precise white painted line against dark material. Steel is also engraved, although the numbers aren't quite as easily readable as they are on anodized aluminum. Our first laser is housed in the tall cabinet to the far right. The newer AB Lasers machine is in the center. (Click on photo for larger image.)

The inspection department assures that parts are made within tolerances. In the foreground is a granite surface table and a selection of height gages and measuring tools. In the background is a coordinate measuring machine. The shelves and cabinets on the left holds pin gages and other measurement tools. Here a part is being checked for accuracy using a digital height gage.

An overview of the quality control area shows the granite table seen in the above photo. To the right is a large optical comparator...another bargain from an eBay auction. Next to it is the coordinate measuring machine shown in the next photo. To the far right is a Rockwell hardness tester under a vinyl cover. (Click on photo for larger image.)

The Cordax coodinate measuring machine allows parts to be accurately measured to be sure they are within tolerances. For even a small machine like a Sherline lathe or mill to work accurately, many parts must fit together. A small amount of "slop" in each part would add up to a machine that would be useless for doing accurate work. Inspection is a very important step in the production process to when making parts to close tolerances.

The assembly department receives parts from the machine shop and puts them together into sub-assemblies to await final packaging for shipment. Seeing the many bins and shelves of parts needed gives you an appreciation of how many parts it takes to make up both inch and metric versions of every machine and a very complete line of accessories. (Click on photos for larger images.)

The assembly department takes the finished pieces from the machine shop and builds complete machines and accessories. Here motors and speed controls are being assembled. Each unit is thoroughly tested and run in for an hour before shipment.

A new batch of CNC computers is tested before packaging. A diagnostic test is run on each computer to make sure the softwared is properly installed and that everything is working. Francisco is hooking up a gang of 4 stepper motors which will be connected to a computer to make sure all 4 axes are working properly. (Click on image for larger version.)

The accessories are assembled and packaged in another area. Dee is surrounded by parts bins and many sizes of plastic bags and cardboard boxes. She also prints the instructions that go with each accessory, so she has a lot to keep track of in this department. Here she is assembling a run of mill vises. (Click on photo for larger image.)

The completed machine components are packaged for shipment. Off to the right of the picture are shelves of finished, boxed product ready to be pulled by the shipping department as needed. Here a long bed lathe is being put into a box along with one of the motor/speed control units and accessory boxes in the foreground. Mills are more difficult to pack as each must be bolted to a piece of plywood before boxing to keep it from shifting during shipment.  (Click on photo for larger image.)

(Click here to see mills being packaged.)

The shipping department does the final packaging for all orders--from small individual parts to large orders for dealers. UPS & FedEx computer systems help streamline the workload and track the packages in route. Ryker sees that everything goes out on time and as ordered. A dual-height loading dock is outside the rollup door in the background. Finished and boxed machines are stacked to the left and accessories are stored on the shelves to the right. The big blue "balloon" in the background holds packing "peanuts". From here, Sherline tools come straight to YOU.

 

Despite all the emphasis on machines in this tour, keep in mind that the ultimate quality of the products we make are a result of the people who work here. This shot of the day shift shows some of the craftsmen and staff who make the parts, assemble and ship the machines you buy. Remember that Sherline tools are made in America by 35 people who care.

 

COME BY FOR A VISIT!

...There's also a map on the back of your Sherline catalog.

If you are in Southern California, please come by and visit us. Vista is about 35 minutes North of San Diego on Interstate 5 and about an hour and a half to two hours South of Los Angeles. We are always glad to show people our facility. No appointment is necessary. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. The hours between 9 A.M. and 3 P.M are the best times to avoid "rush hour" traffic.

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