SeeScan’s Quest for Excellence Triggers a Move to DN Solutions
Operating out of a 120,000 square foot state-of-the-art campus in San Diego, California, SeeScan’s mission is to create products that help their customers see beneath the ground and below the water’s surface. The company began over 35 years ago when founder and CEO Mark Olsson, a graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, needed a waterproof power solution for an underwater light. He solved the problem in his home garage, building the SeaBattery. Today, the company continues to innovate with a product line that includes everything from subsea lights and cameras to plumbing diagnostic camera systems and utility locating equipment.
Time for a sea change
SeeScan makes almost every component for their products in-house with equipment that includes mills, turning centers and special purpose machines. The company had depended on other machine tool brands for over a decade, but service and reliability issues led them to seek out a new partner. We asked Kirk Joy, who has been Director of Tooling at SeeScan since 2009, why and how the change came about.
Unacceptable service and need for precision
The problem SeeScan had with the previous vendor was not so much the machines themselves, but the service. “We had a machine go down,” Kirk said. “I knew what it was, but it took four weeks for someone to come and take a look at it.” That was the last straw as far as Kirk was concerned, and he began looking around for other options.
Quality was another factor in Kirk’s decision. “As our production transferred from primarily aluminum molds to more complex steel molds, our machining needs were getting more sophisticated,” he said. This only reinforced the need to start shopping for a new high-performance vertical machining center.
“I was almost certain that I was going to go with a Japanese machine tool builder that I had good luck with earlier in my career,” Kirk said. “I took one look at the actual machine and quickly changed my mind. The design was awkward, and the machine’s footprint was too large for our crowded facility.”
Enter Ellison and DN Solutions
“I was looking for a partner, not just a vendor,” Kirk said. “But I still wasn’t connecting.” That changed when his local Ellison Technologies sales engineer came to call. “We gelled right away because he talked straight. He told me if something was necessary but didn’t try to sell me on something that wasn’t.” The Ellison rep introduced Kirk to the DNM 5700S from DN Solutions, and everything fell into place.
The 15,000 r/min spindle speed and faster rapid speed rates on the DNM 5700S were key factors, not to mention the standard BIG-PLUS dual spindle. “When you’re running bigger tools in steel, the dual contact spindle gives you superior rigidity, reduced runout at high speeds, better surface finishes and longer cutting-tool life.”
Standard features were also a major deal. “Even though the starting price was less for a machine from our previous vendor, if you equipped it the same as our DN Solutions models, you’d have to spend a lot more money.”
Most importantly, “The first cut on the DNM just felt better,” Kirk said. “With our old machines, we saw more tool chatter, more tool wear and you could just feel the older machines in the floor more.”
Although the operators in the shop were used to the controllers on the previous machines, Kirk said the learning curve with the FANUC controller on the DNM 5700S wasn’t bad at all. “It was quite easy to integrate,” he said. “We were good to go in a couple of days.”
The collaboration continues
SeeScan’s first DNM 5700S was installed in early 2020. Since then, it has been joined by two DNM 4500 machines.
Kirk related what happened when one of the DNM 4500 machines was fired up for the first time. “We just got the machine installed, and we happened to have a job that required a really heavy hogging cut. We’d just gotten some new 1” insert mills and I said let’s push it and see what we can do. Next thing I know, chips were hitting the doors so hard it sounded like hail. Someone came over with a decibel meter and told me they’d never heard a cut so aggressive before. But it cut with no problems whatsoever.”
The company’s most recent purchase was a BVM 5700, DN’s new top-of-the-line VMC. “The bridge mill style is more robust in a footprint that is taller and deeper, but no wider than a DNM series machine. It also came with a generous list of standard features.”
“With Ellison and DN Solutions, I feel like I’ve found the partnership I was looking for,” he said. “We have excellent communication both ways and I always feel they have my best interests in mind.”
Unrelentingly high standards are at the center of what SeeScan does. By teaming with Ellison and DN Solutions, the company now has machine tools that mirror this principle and will enable continued innovation.
Looking for machine tools that can keep up with your evolving needs—with impeccable service to go along with it? Click here to find a DN Solutions distributor near you. You can also contact us at our New Jersey headquarters.