Countless products used on a daily basis fly under the radar by those who use them, such as GCX Mounting Solutions’ medical mounting systems. While the utility of its products is unquestionable, the vital goods manufactured by Petaluma, California-based GCX often go unnoticed precisely because they perform their jobs so well.

While the 45-year-old, international company has changed its manufacturing processes throughout the years, it has successfully managed to keep many of its jobs in America. GCX manufactures products for original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners in addition to conducting direct, off-the-shelf business.

Staying competitive

For more than a decade, Rich Dodele, manufacturing manager at the company’s Petaluma facility, and his team have used the Surfcam Traditional computer-aided-manufacturing (CAM) solution by Vero Software to program parts for GCX’s range of mounting solutions.

“We have to constantly be looking at technology to make sure we’re staying competitive, and Surfcam has done a remarkable job of keeping up with that. They always seem to be one step ahead of what industry is asking for,” Dodele says.

While the concept and utility of GCX parts made hasn’t changed throughout the years, the company has transformed its manufacturing methods. Parts once CNC machined from aluminum extrusions are now die-cast by injection mold, with machined features and finishing work completed in Surfcam Traditional.

“The concept hasn’t changed, but the designs have,” Dodele says. “It just gets harder and harder to machine 2,500 parts as opposed to die-casting 2,500 parts. When we determined we were going away from machining parts to die-casting parts, we were going for a different look, less industrial and more clinical.”

Collision-free machining

GCX machines in up to four axes with accurate, collision-free toolpaths generated in Surfcam Traditional. The company uses multiple live-tooling stations for much of its machinery, including 12 Haas and Fadal mills, 2 Mazak horizontal mills, and 1 Mazak 200 MSY multi-tasking turning center.

Dodele and his team use PTC’s Pro/Engineer computer-aided-design (CAD) system to design new parts and make changes to existing models. Once those solid-models are imported into Surfcam Traditional, users can select features to be machined, including holes, pockets, bosses, fillets, and chamfers.

“Surfcam is one of the tools that allows us to get our product to market much faster. It takes us hours to do now what it used to take us days to do. It allows us to create features you can customize that are difficult to machine in cost-effective ways,” Dodele says.

The GCX Petaluma facility takes advantage of Surfcam Traditional’s TRUEMill machining cycle for fast and accurate prototype turnaround. TRUEMill is an optimized roughing toolpath that can be completed with a one-step, 3D roughing-through-pre-finishing operation.

“The TrueMill feature allows you to fully engage your tool and make the most of your material,” says Dodele, who primarily machines aluminum, cold- and hot-rolled steel, and some stainless steel. “We’ve been able to be really ultra-aggressive and really utilize the tool.”

With TRUEMill, Surfcam Traditional delivers a synchronized multiple-tool strategy that coordinates up to eight tools in a single operation. The toolpath creates uniform step heights across all surfaces, regardless of how many tools are used. It also removes material at significantly faster rates at greater depths of cut.

“Without Surfcam, I wouldn’t be able to turn requests from engineers around as quickly as we do,” Dodele notes. “If we didn’t have Surfcam, we would have to do something different – and that may be taking some employees out of the U.S. and sending business overseas.”

Dodele says Surfcam’s support has helped GCX remain up and running successfully for more than a decade.

“The support is one of the real positives with Surfcam. We will have in-house training where they come to work with our guys for two or three days. It can be introducing a student to Surfcam, or having an advanced user come in and ask very specific questions,” Dodele says. “If we have an issue, we never wait more than 24 hours for them to get back to us.”

GCX plans for continued growth, with new products that include its variable height adjustable arm and patient engagement table. For the first time, it will also market a variety of information technology (IT) mounting solutions for manufacturing and industrial companies.

“We use our product throughout our manufacturing facilities, as it allows our employees to be more productive and have a more comfortable working environment,” Dodele says. “We feel we have the best IT mounting product on the market and we shouldn’t limit our product to just medical. With the tools and support of Surfcam, we hope to continue to grow and provide all markets with the best most reliable mounting solution hardware possible.”

GCX Mounting Solutions
www.gcx.com

Haas Automation Inc.
www.haascnc.com

Mazak Corp.
www.mazakusa.com

PTC
www.ptc.com

Vero Software (Surfcam)
www.verosoftware.com