By Mark Langlois
Designing the tool to stamp a part is a bit complicated, but it sounds like the first steps are taken sitting down at Jo-Vek Tool & Die Manufacturing Company. When a customer has an idea, Jo-Vek workers sit down, paper and pencils in hand, and they talk it out.
Who sits down? Frank Longo, who, along with his business partner, Paul DeLeo, co-owns the Bristol, Connecticut company, said that they both do, along with engineers from Jo-Vek and the customer.
“There’s a lot of discussion on how we’re going to do it, and what it’s going to look like,” Longo told a reporter visiting the plant. “You bring in your own engineers, and you do a strip layout first. It’s going to tell you how many stations your die is going to have. That’s what we base it off of. That’s typical of any firm that’s going to design and produce dies.”
Jo-Vek is an old company with young owners. Longo is 33 and DeLeo, 36.
“We like to, on every level, think of ourselves as engineers. If you give me a drawn shell, in my mind, I can sketch and tell the engineer exactly what I need to figure out the beginning of the tool to the end of the tool. I grew up with a grandfather who started this. He started the company in 1952 from his basement. From there, they went to the North End of Waterbury for a couple of years, and then 40 years on Thomaston Avenue (Waterbury),” Longo said.
Longo and his partner moved the company from its 9,600-square-feet plant on Thomaston Avenue, Waterbury, into the present 22,500-square-feet facility in Bristol in April. With the extra space, the partners figure they have about 10,000 square feet to grow into, not including undeveloped land out back for future expansion. Inside the factory, workers who set up machines for production can move them with forklifts or trucks because of the extra space around each machine.
“Everything is spaced out nice. It looks good. You get a good feeling when you have a customer or a company comes in. It shows very well,” Longo said.
If they’re going to stamp the part out of metal, they need to design a tool. Sometimes they face a part unlike any they made before.
“We will talk with the engineer and get better knowledge of the parameters,” said Longo. “What is most important dimensionally? We’ll see if it can change, look at thicknesses. If it varies, can we make it out of one thickness. If it’s one thickness, progressive stamping might be better.”
“The first thing we look at is the print. We’ll discuss what we can do to make it more manufacturable,” said Longo in an interview at the company’s headquarters.
In progressive stamping, parts start as a ribbon of metal that is shaped into the part, step by step. The final cut removes the now-completed part from the strip. Along the whole metal strip, each spot that will eventually become a completed part could be stamped dozens of times, depending entirely on the complexity of the finished part. Two advantages of progressive stamping are repeatability and productivity. It allows longer runs between material changes, which improves precision and production.
“Another advantage is speed is going to be a factor,” Longo said. “You could have multiple parts per stroke. For a high volume job, you could have a die that has five different draw stations. You call that five up. High repeatability—parts are going to come out the same. Each stroke, numerous parts are punched.
“What we bring to the table is experience with a part, with a certain level of
service. Just being able to think like an engineer and make their dream reality, that’s the whole goal. We want to make the most cost-effective part for the customer without deviating from the application. It has to do the application at hand. If we can make it more cost effective and still have the part perform the application, that’s where we work with the engineers,” Longo said.
Jo-Vek specializes in three industry sectors: automotive, medical, and electrical. Its specialty is progressive die manufacturing on Minister, Perkins, and V&O presses, from five to 100 tons.
For medical, they design dies and stamp parts used in medical assemblies.
In many cases, they have no idea what the part does or its purpose. In one case, a medical OEM came to Jo-Vek with a twopiece hinged assembly, a part of a larger assembly. Could Jo-Vek machine it?
“They asked us to make the tools and make the parts, and assemble them,”
Longo said. “The medical part came as two separate parts that would get hinged in a secondary step. What we did was, again, we sat down, discussed our options, and figured out the most cost-effective way to manufacture it (progressive stamping). We put it on paper and did it. That was a new
part—it was with us from inception.
“We looked at how we’d draw the eyelets. On that one part, there were three
of them. (An eyelet is a drawn shell.) The length is probably ¾ inch wide, but each different eyelet varies from being 0.060 inch in length to 0.150 inch. They’re tiny. You have two eyelets that are drawn down and one that is drawn up,” Longo said. What started as a flat ribbon of metal became two stamped, separate parts that were finally assembled together, all by the same die.
For electrical applications, Jo-Vek stamps terminals, splices, and stamped
brackets that hold wires in the ceiling. For automotive and aerospace, the company typically works on CNC machining a fixture. It also offers wire EDM and progressive stamping. Wire EDM is electric discharge machining, using a zinc or brass coated zinc wire on a conductive part submerged in water to cool the part and wash away debris. Jo-Vek’s EDM has 2- and 4-axis capabilities, allowing tapered angles and independent upper and lower part profiles, the company said on its website.
“Mainly, a customer is going to give us a print of an assembly or a detail number, and we’re going to make it. We don’t know what it’s for. It could be for someone at a rolling mill. It’s a part of something that’s bigger. We don’t really get to see that assembly. You just see your contribution,” Longo said.
“You’ve got to think about moving along with the times,” Longo added. “I think some companies that go out of business might not have moved along with the times.”