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The State of the U.S. Orthopedics Industry

March 6, 2014

Fotosearch_k11390307It seems new and exciting medical breakthroughs are constantly being revealed on television programs and in newspapers—and there’s a reason for it: The 21st century has offered amazing opportunities for the medical industry. This sector is expected to be worth a staggering $127.1 billion this year in the U.S.

Thanks to the growing interest in health and life-extension, the U.S. ranks as the world’s largest spenders per capita on medical devices—and within the medical device market, the orthopedics industry is a major player. As the massive “Baby Boomer” generation ages, the demand for orthopedics (such as knee and hip replacements) grows as well, and according to the Millennium Research Group, the U.S. orthopedic extremity device market should be worth $4.2 billion by 2016.

While knee and hip replacements make up a large share of the orthopedics industry, plenty of other innovations and inventions are in the spotlight as well, including:

  • The growth of the sports medicine industry.

These are just a few of the interesting and exciting trends that will help orthopedics in the U.S. grow over the next decade, and we’re working to continue to boost the industry. For more information on how our products function in this growing sector, check out Metal Craft and Riverside Machine & Engineering.

How Metal Craft and Riverside Machine and Engineering Serve Customers

January 8, 2014

We recently wrote about Metal Craft and Riverside Machine and Engineering celebrating 35 years of quality, service, and innovation. While both companies celebrate this accomplishment, we reflect on the separate paths each took to get here. Although they are very similar with shared customers and capabilities, they each have their own special functions which help them stand out in their respective industries.

Metal Craft
Started as a small job shop, Metal Craft has grown steadily since 1978 mastering the trade of Machining. The majority of Metal Craft’s business today falls within the medical industry, with a small portion being in the aerospace industry. Today you can find us at plenty of medical and orthopedic tradeshows throughout the year promoting our precision instruments and complex assemblies.  From long run production to prototyping, we can manufacture even the most complex projects in house.

Specialties: CNC Milling, CNC Turning, Swiss, Wire EDM, 7-Axis CNC Grinding, Gundrilling, Welding, Passivation, Complex Assembly, Prototype & Production, and Manufacturing Engineering Support.

Riverside Machine and Engineering
Unlike Metal Craft, Riverside was originally opened as a manufacturing facility for Cray Inc. specializing in manufacturing aluminum brazed cold plates for the original supercomputer. In 1996 it was purchased my Metal Craft and re-named Riverside Machine & Engineering.  Keeping their current customers and adding medical customers, Riverside is a dual industry supplier. Best known for its Aluminum Furnace Vacuum Brazing, Riverside specializes in cold plate and heat sink manufacturing.

Specialties: Aluminum Furnace Vacuum Brazing, Heat Treating, CNC Milling, CNC Turning, Swiss, Laser Etching, Passivation, Prototype Services, & Complex Assembly.

Although the two companies are about 120 miles apart and considered separate entities, they owned by the same management. Many other employees are shared and cross trained, which allows us to utilize the same standards and work together as a team—helping us live up to our promise of Quality, Service, and Innovation!

For more information on Metal Craft and Riverside Machine and Engineering, head over to their respective websites.

Why It’s Important to be Made in America

November 7, 2013

American FlagWith Manufacturing Day and American Made Matters Day just past us, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to support American manufacturing. We’ve been leaders in precision machining for the medical device, aerospace, space and defense, and electronics industries for more than 35 years, so we know the importance of keeping products made in the U.S.

It’s no secret the manufacturing industry and varying sectors have seen ups and downs over the past few years, but there has been a steady uptake of contributions to the U.S. For example, last year, manufacturers made up $1.87 trillion in the country’s economy, supporting more than 17 million jobs, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. If the manufacturing sector were to separate from the country, it would be the 10th largest economy in the world—and with that kind of growing capacity, why would we be shipping our business elsewhere?

NAM also calculated (based on data from United Nations, Bureau of Labor Statistics and the International Labour Organization) that manufacturers in our country are the most productive in the world. Yet many companies manage to outsource millions of jobs per year. Although big names such as Apple and many well-known automotive companies are bringing jobs back, there are plenty of reasons to push for even more companies to bring manufacturing back home.

When you support American manufacturing, you’re supporting the American workers, the economy, and future generations of this country, and we at Metal Craft and Riverside Machining and Engineering are dedicated to keeping the Made in the USA initiative alive.

We’re Celebrating 35 Years of Quality, Service, and Innovation

September 9, 2013

35 Years of Metal CraftIn the past 35 years, Metal Craft and Riverside Machine and Engineering have seen major growth and innovation while delivering the highest quality and services to our customers. As we celebrate this major milestone within our company, we can’t help but want to share a little about our journey and how we got to where we are.

Metal Craft and Riverside Machine & Engineering trace our roots back to farms in rural Minnesota and South Dakota, where founder Jack Mowry spent his childhood. As years passed, he eventually left crops behind and moved toward machining by taking a six-month course at Dunwoody College of Technology.  Jack worked his way up to night foreman, but grew tired of the nights. After another stint in school (earning his degree in mechanical drafting), he attempted a new career. Realizing that he could earn more money as a machinist than a drafter, he returned to machining and being a night foreman.  One day, an opportunity presented itself for Jack to start his own business. Feeling like he could do the work better he started Metal Craft in 1978 in the basement of a small strip mall in Elk River, MN.

At the beginning, the main focus was on computers, electronics, and the food and drug industries. After a decade of steady growth, Jack became interested in looking for another way to boost business. While doing research, he discovered expected growth in the medical-device industry and decided to start creating close-tolerance parts for surgical instruments, which is a majority of Metal Craft’s business today.

As the need for more employees and space grew, the Mowry’s looked to expand out into other areas of manufacturing. A small machine shop originally owned by Cray Research, Inc. for manufacturing cold plates for super computers was for sale. In August 1996, The Mowry’s purchased the facility from then Silicon Graphics and Riverside Machine and Engineering was born. This acquisition allowed Metal Craft to expand its capacity and hire more employees. Today the company services the medical, aviation, space and defense, and electronic industries and specializes in aluminum vacuum furnace brazing.

Currently, the two companies have more 180 employees combined. Metal Craft moved into a new 83,000 square foot facility in 2009 and Riverside is working on a plan to expand their 40,000 foot facility over the next couple of years. Jack has moved into an advisory role within the company but the business he built is still in the family—his son, Sean, and his daughter, Trisha, lead Metal Craft to its continued success.

3 Orthopedic Industry Trends: What we learned at recent tradeshows

August 20, 2013

ConferenceAt Metal Craft and Riverside Machine and Engineering, we pay attention to the latest news and trends within the industries we serve. Recently we’ve discussed manufacturing, aerospace, and defense, but after attending two recent tradeshows, OMTEC and OrthoTec, we have the medical device industry in mind.

The two conferences focus on the design, manufacturing, and productivity of orthopedics implants and devices.The shows both featured both conferences where attendees could hear industry updates as well as learn about new products, as well as a technical exhibit where device manufacturers and suppliers of all types showcase their products and services in front of top industry officials.

Here are three major trends we saw while attending and meeting with industry leaders at these shows:

Lower Costs-Post-recession or not, it’s clear the industry wants to cut costs. Whether this involves self-reflection on what lean practices can be implemented to trim production costs in the company or evaluating ROI, lower numbers are better—unless, of course, you’re talking in terms of profit. This is why Metal Craft and Riverside partner with our customers to find best practices and find ways to cut costs and still be profitable for both parties.

Faster Turnaround Time- With new technologies sweeping every major medical market, it’s no surprise the turnaround time is getting quicker. But, this doesn’t mean companies can skimp on quality—investors still expect the same, if not better, standards at a faster pace. That is why Metal Craft has recently invested in multiple new floor CMM’s. This allows for faster first article checks so we can get projects moving faster while ensuring the quality standard we live up to.

Automation Investments- Investing in suppliers with automation equipment is a key part of manufacturing in this day and age. Technology is rapidly increasing, which means less manpower is required to produce more products. It response to this trend, Metal Craft has recently purchased two Integrex i-150 Mill Turns, three new Fanuc Wire EDM’s with a Robotic Loader, and a Robotic Loading 7-Axis CNC Anca Grinder.

Trade Shows not only allow us to connect with long time customers and meet new ones, it also allows us to get an insight to where the industry is and where it is going. We are committed to staying with current trends and offering the best service, quality, and experience in the medical device industry. To see what shows we will be attending next, follow the link and visit our website.

Aerospace: The Past and Future for Humans and Machines

June 17, 2013

Aerospace: The Past and Future for Humans and Machines

Because we do so much work for aerospace clients, we try to keep as up-to-date as possible with progress at the cutting-edge of the industry. That’s why a recent article in Time magazine caught our eye. In “Drone Home,” science writer Lev Grossman observes that a new generation of pilotless vehicles is increasingly substituting for manned missions that used to be handled by veteran fliers.

“More than a third of the aircraft in the Air Force’s fleet are now unmanned,” Grossman notes. “The military logic couldn’t be clearer.”

This logic extends throughout the furthest extremes of the wild blue yonder, from drones in combat to flights to other planets. Since the beginning of the Space Age, planners have been wrestling with the vexing question of whether the future of space exploration belongs to humans or machines (at least, human-controlled machines). That question, for the time being, seems to have been largely settled in favor of the machines.

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first living creature into outer space, a dog named Laika; and in 1961, they successfully sent the first human into orbit, Yuri Gagarin. This set the first goal of space flight for the competing nations; going to the moon and back. Ultimately the U.S. would win the race, and each nation created its own goals for their space programs. Costs, risks, and benefits though would ultimately change the future of aviation and space flight. That cost-benefits ratio reached its ultimate tipping point in 2010 when the Obama Administration shelved NASA’s plans to replace its aging space shuttle fleet with an enormously expensive rocket delivery system called Constellation; leading years later to the creation of the new Space Launch System (SYS).

Now, human space travel is limited to shuttles to the International Space Station aboard Russian Soyuz capsules (and various suborbital projects such as Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship and XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx), and the most sophisticated missions are handled by remote-controlled vehicles, such as the Mars Curiosity rover.

Even the most advanced systems in the vaunted X Program overseen by NASA and the U.S. Air Force are remote-controlled vehicles. Consider three of them as being at the very furthest points in “pushing the envelope” that we have ever come.

• The NASA X-43 is an experimental hypersonic aircraft with a scramjet engine that has broken all airspeed records, flying as fast as 7,000 miles per hour. Its early prototypes are designed to test whether scalable versions can be stepped up in the future.
Boeing’s X-51 Waverider is another scramjet-powered aircraft that uses its own shockwaves to add lift. It successfully completed its first powered flight in 2010 and also achieved the longest duration flight at speeds over Mach 5.
• The USAF X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is a reusable unmanned vehicle that is boosted into space by a rocket and then re-enters the atmosphere and lands as a space plane. The secretive X-37B has been reported to operate for over a year (and one prototype is in orbit now).

All of these vehicles represent an unmanned future for aerospace, simply because they go where no human can take them. And that is an interesting notion to think about as we ponder the future of aerospace technology.

Mathematics in the Real World

June 3, 2013


Where would we be without math?

In our daily tasks, we use math every day; we just don’t think about it. It runs through almost every job we do, but it lies in the background so we take it for granted. Consider CNC (or computer numerical control) machining as an example. We do our best to keep up with the latest in CNC equipment and have made significant investments in new CNC tools; as we’ve said, CNC is the foundation of our operation. It enables us to increase efficiencies, meet deadlines and reduce costs. And CNC is strictly mathematical.

There was a time when CNC was considered a revolutionary breakthrough in the manufacturing sector; bringing computer control to what had been a labor-intensive, hand-written craft going back hundreds of years. Today, we would barely know where to start a job without programming a CNC turning, milling or grinding machine.

We were reminded of this because April was Math Awareness Month, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) is one of the sponsors of the month-long focus on the topic. This year, the theme of their activities is the “Mathematics of Sustainability.”

At the website for Math Awareness Month, the sponsors state: “Humanity continually faces the task of how to balance human needs against the world’s resources while operating within the constraints imposed by the laws of nature. Mathematics helps us better understand these complex issues and is used by mathematicians and practitioners in a wide range of fields to seek creative solutions for a sustainable way of life. Society and individuals will need to make challenging choices; mathematics provides us with tools to make informed decisions.”

Mathematics is essential in our work as well as in our world. It is the key to the innovation we provide to customers everyday and its roll in our operation is always growing. We are constantly supporting Math and Science programs as well as manufacturing programs to help bring up the next generation of machinists and engineers, and potentially our future employees.


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