China Top Machinetools

A Canadian machine tool manufacturer uses old-world craftsmanship to create new technologies.

Employees of Racer Machinery Intl. Standing in front of a 6m multi-axis turn/mill center ready to ship from the company’s plant in Cambridge, Ontario.
Across the street from a well-known automaker on a robot-filled production line in Cambridge, Ontario, a worker patiently cleans a lathe with his hands. He works at Racer Machinery Intl and does a fantastic job.
“Our headboard box is hand-set into place and set on the same V as the carriage. No machining process can achieve the same finish and fit as hand-machined,” explains Alex Vojinovic, the company’s chief operating officer. . “That’s why we do it this way. It takes time, it takes effort, but this is the right way to produce this part.”
These methods apply to Standard Modern™ lathes that steel fabricators are familiar with. First manufactured in 1931, these powered lathes were primarily intended for the North American market and were widely used by the military and educational establishments. Racer estimates that there are over 17,000 Standard Modern installations in North America.
Vojinovic and his brother Igor run the day-to-day affairs of a machine tool builder, one of the few remaining in the country. The vast majority of parts for the company’s equipment are manufactured in-house, which keeps the company’s machine shop busy. Tailstocks, collets, gears and gearboxes, and spindles are all Racer models.
Alex and Igor’s father, Don, began working on doing as much work as possible on his own, starting the company in 1983 as Progress Machine and then Racer Machinery in 1990.
“Our customers use the same processes in their daily work as we do in the shop, making tools for them,” adds Vojinovic. “We turn spindles, headstocks from castings and milling cutters for our own gearboxes. We make the most of our own equipment and know-how.”
Racer’s early years are typical of many startups. It could easily have been a different kind of business, but Don knew the machines worked in Europe, so they were machines.
“Racer was founded by my father and mother, in fact, they founded the company because my father had a passion for machines,” said Vojinovic. train”.
In its early years, the company was a very service-oriented store. Don did a lot of rebuilding and remodeling and finally in 1990 he started building his own CNC machines, a tradition that continues today.
“He saw a need for a machine with a PC-based controller, so he worked on it early on,” Vojinovic said. “They built a PC-based machine and everything just went up. There was a learning curve, but we kept working, we kept building the car, and everything went to where it is today.”
It was a huge leap from repairing spindles to creating an entire machining platform, but over time, multi-spindle machines from the Racer brand became a reality.
“Father’s dream has always been to build anything. So whenever he had an opportunity, he wanted to take it. We started making small machines in 2000 and now our machines have evolved and now we are making bigger machines,” says Vojinovic.
This transitional phase of the business has advanced rapidly over the past five years. It starts with refocusing the business and entering markets where the company can thrive. Unable to compete on the world stage by producing smaller equipment (machines with a bed up to 1 meter), the company focused on the production of large CNC lathes. It also focuses on other core products such as standard modern lathes, machining centers and sawmills.
Today, Racer Machinery manufactures and sells turnkey Racer brand CNC machines, a Hyundai standard lathe acquired in 2014, and an ER Maier™ industrial saw that the company acquired in 2008.
“To the best of my knowledge, we are the only machine tool manufacturer in North America that still manufactures conventional motorized lathes,” said Vojinovic. “It’s a unique thing in itself, but now we can offer a pretty complete line from small lathes to these multi-purpose machines. The Standard Modern, since they’ve been around since 1931, is sort of an outdated machine. With them, we’re trying to breathe new life into brand. Our goal is to bring it back to its glory days. Together with Racer Machinery, we are trying to create a new brand in the market.”
Brother Igor is responsible for the financial and marketing aspects of the company, while Alex is responsible for sales, engineering and production.
“It’s good when generations and family members work together, because there are things that my father can give, and my brother can pass on skills that I don’t have. It’s easier to work with such support,” Vojinovic said.
One of the items left on the Racer team’s second generation to-do list was cars and corporate branding. Since well-known brands are part of the product offering, he felt it was time to strengthen that part of the business.
“We needed to make the Racer name widely known so that people could see the name and know exactly what we were doing,” Vojinovic said.
Part of this branding phase included promoting the company’s Phantom Machine Technology™.
Phantom Machine Technology is a patented machine design process that Vojinovic says allows manufacturing processes to run faster while reducing noise levels in the manufacturing area. The company has significantly changed the design of the base of the machine, getting rid of most of the cast parts and replacing them with steel. This is a feature of Racer devices.
Race cars are not standard ready made machines so they can be customized with different lengths and options.
“These are not exactly catalog items,” Vujinovic explained. “If you’re looking for a machine that starts at 5 meters in the X-axis and goes up from there, then we’ve come to you. 8 m. Literally, being able to produce machines of this length is our biggest difference.”
While the store clearly prides itself on quality, the company is also trying to stand out by producing custom gear with fast turnaround times.
For some builds, the company has a stock of parts to complete projects, but for others, it creates a large number of custom machine parts.
“These builds have a process that checks at every step,” said Vojinovic. “I would call the middle of the build a tipping point. You have so much work to do at this point that you better be perfect from now on.”
“You know, we’re a pretty small team considering what we do,” Vojinovic said, adding that most of the workforce is in manufacturing, with the rest in the office, sales, and engineering.
In a small workshop, it is important to have deep skills, and the Racer production team is able to perform many operations and assemblies. However, the most important skills companies are looking for—loyalty, dedication, and a willingness to learn—cannot be taught in schools or acquired on the shop floor.
A worker assembles boxes of feed in Racer’s machine shop. Gear milling is just one of many machining processes performed on the shop floor.
“The rest of the skills can be learned,” he said. “If you are applying for a job as a machinist, this should be your main skill. In addition to core skills, we are looking for more social skills such as how you interact with people, how well you know your job, and how active you are. It’s more about who they are than what they know. You can hone other skills.”
Keeping pace with new technologies and processing methods, Racer production remains afloat. Companies are constantly looking into every process and tool to see if there are better or newer ways to accomplish critical tasks.
“The new blade technology allows us to cut dry. When a new method becomes available, we implement it in the workshop,” said Vojinovic. “Tooling technology has come a long way in recent times and we don’t cut wet unless it’s necessary. We’ve found that during our machining, wet cutting can lead to micro-cracks [in the tool] due to thermal shock. and cleaner “especially when we’re working on castings. The guys can vacuum and sweep up the chips, and I’ll do it.”
“Through continuous improvement and waste reduction, we can really make an impact on build quality and the price at which we can get the machine to work,” he said.
The next step in the development of the company will be the creation of a dealer network for the sale of Racer equipment around the world.
“This will be a big step for us,” Vojinovic said. “Having machines on show floors around the world will allow us to increase the number of machines we produce each year and hopefully maintain some stability in the orders we receive.”
Joe Thompson has been manufacturing in Canada for almost two decades. He is responsible for the daily editorial management of the magazine, which provides a unique Canadian perspective on the world of metalworking.
An award-winning writer and graduate of the Sheridan College Journalism Department, he has published worldwide in a variety of industries including manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, infrastructure and entertainment.
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Post time: Nov-21-2022