Craig Machinery & Design, Inc. | Haas Customer Success Story
During the early onset of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Louisville-based Craig Machinery & Design was tapped to design and build N95 Mask Making Machines to help address the worldwide shortage for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). According to owner Craig Rabeneck, this project was the most important they’ve ever taken on.
Each N95 Mask Making Machine was designed and engineered to produce 12 masks per minute. The machine ultrasonically welds layers of a mask together, and forms a mold shaped for a close facial fit. As Rabeneck explains, “Basically, the machines are taking plastic, heating it, and welding it together using vibrations to take on the form of an N95 mask. As masks are removed from the machine, the only remaining step is to attach straps.”
Craig Machinery & Design Inc. is a full-service automation company that designs and builds custom machines for welding plastics, including ultrasonic and vibration welding. Craig Machinery has been using Haas CNC machines to make their products since 2001, when they purchased their first Haas VF-2SS. Today, the company boasts a stable of five Haas machines, which includes two VF-2SS Super-Speed VMCs, two VM-3 Mold Making VMCs, and a GR-510 Gantry Router.
The most recent addition to Craig Machinery’s shop is a Haas VM-3 Mold Making Machine they purchased in March 2020. Delivery of this machine was expedited by Haas and the local Haas Factory Outlet – Midwest, after Craig Machinery received the order to design and build three N95 Mask Making Machines. The order quickly grew from 3 to more than 75 machines, as the virus began to surge.
“This was an ‘all hands-on deck’ order for us at HFO/Midwest,” stated Dave Tucker, President of Haas Factory Outlet, A Division of Midwest Manufacturing Resources. “Craig Machinery provided us with government documents that we immediately shared with the factory in California to expedite the order, at a time when many companies were being asked to shut down. The day the VM-3 arrived at Craig Machinery, we had a Service Engineer in place to make sure it was installed and making chips the very same day.”
“The VM-3 arrived at the perfect time to help expedite the N95 Mask Machine order,” states Rabeneck. “With the help of the VM-3, we were able to design, build, and ship the first three Mask Making Machines in less than three weeks. Typically, a project like this can take up to 14 weeks.”
One of the major components produced on the Haas VMCs at Craig Machine are mold cavities. A mold cavity is machined from a solid piece of 6061-T6 aluminum 60 HRB (Rockwell B) using SGS Ski-Carb square and ball endmills. The toolpath tolerance required is set to .0001", with cusp height <.0001, and can take up to 12 hours, including roughing, 3D rouging, and fine 3D roughing.
The company’s Haas GR-510 gantry machine also played a critical role in the N95 Mask Machine production. Craig Machinery utilized the GR-510 to machine, drill, and tap large, Blanchard-ground plates and aluminum dial plates that are used for the machine tabletops. In the past, this process was done using a magnetic drill, but it took hours, and was not always accurate. Before 3D CAD, the company would lay out all the parts, and use a transfer punch to mark the hole locations on the tops. Now, the ground plates are loaded on the GR-510, and the machine completes the drilling, tapping, and other machining in less than an hour.
Craig Machinery & Design was founded in a two-car garage in Villa Park, IL, in 1975. Founder Ken Rabeneck’s passion for tooling and machine design led him to leave his 10-year job at Branson Ultrasonics, who partnered with Craig Machinery on the N95 mask project, to start his own company. In 1977, Craig Machinery & Design was officially founded in Louisville, KY.
Craig Rabeneck officially joined the company in 1989, after completing his master’s degree in engineering at University of Louisville. Craig took over Craig Machinery after Ken’s retirement, and his two sons have since joined the business. Craig Machinery’s industry experience with ultrasonic welding fixtures means they have the knowledge and ability required for making part molds and custom urethane fixtures for a variety of applications.