WXL high performance carbide ball end mill reduces cycle time by half and demonstrates eight times the tool life in 416 stainless steel gun barrel production
Established in 2016, Shadow Systems Corp. is a privately held, Plano, Texas-based manufacturer of premium firearms. Shadow Systems’ products are designed and manufactured in the United States by a team of veterans and former law enforcement officers. With years of experience using firearms firsthand, the team has carefully crafted a series of 9 mm handguns with features and reliability that they have always wanted in their own firearms. All of Shadow Systems’ pistols are machined in-house at its 60,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, which houses more than 40 vertical and horizontal CNC machines along with 140 employees.
Shadow Systems match-grade spiral fluted barrels machined from 416 stainless steel. According to Shadow Systems, the spiral fluting pattern improves the evacuation of dirt and debris and reduces barrel weight. Photo courtesy of Shadow Systems.
Shadow Systems CEO Trevor Roe has put together a diverse management and production team that brings lean manufacturing experience from a myriad of industries. This allows the company to apply manufacturing best practices not commonly found in the firearm world, enabling Shadow Systems to be leaner and more efficient, which leads to competitive pricing. Shadow Systems’ manufacturing approach focuses on the principles of “built-in quality” and “mistake proofing,” where every person who touches a product during production is an inspector. When a product comes off the line, it has already benefited from a thorough multi-point inspection before its official inspection even begins. With a high standard in quality and reliability, OSG tooling became a natural fit for Shadow Systems’ manufacturing process.
From left, Shadow Systems CEO Trevor Roe, machine shop manager Jason Pettyjohn and Programmer Manager Scotty Whitmarsh, who have been instrumental in allowing OSG the opportunity to test on some of their more challenging applications.
DXP Enterprises, who is Shadow Systems’ tool supplier, has installed numerous vending machines on-site. With the cooperation and support from DXP, OSG has successfully proposed, tested and implemented numerous high-performance tools that demonstrated significant cost savings in Shadow Systems’ gun slide and barrel production.
DXP Enterprises sales representative David Aly poses for a photograph at one of four vending systems at Shadow Systems. DXP Enterprises is Shadow Systems’ tool supplier and has installed numerous vending machines on-site. With the cooperation and support from DXP, OSG has successfully proposed, tested and implemented numerous high-performance tools that demonstrated significant cost savings in Shadow Systems’ gun slide and barrel production.
Shadow Systems’ gun slides are made of heat treated 17-4 stainless steel. In addition to high mechanical strength, 17-4 stainless steel is corrosion resistant and can be heat treated to optimal hardness levels. The match-grade spiral fluted barrels are made of 416 stainless steel (JIS SUS416). According to Shadow Systems, the spiral fluting pattern improves the evacuation of dirt and debris and reduces barrel weight.
One application that particularly stood out was with OSG’s EXOCARB® WXL 2-flute ball nose end mill used on the gun barrel fluting. The EXOCARB® WXL (list number 3610) is OSG’s premium high performance carbide ball end mill. Everything about the WXL is designed for rigidity and performance in wide variety of materials and milling applications. Its substrates, geometry and proprietary WXL coating are all specifically tailored for nonferrous materials, mild steels, and steels up to 50 HRC.
The EXOCARB® WXL is OSG’s premium high performance carbide ball end mill engineered to excel in pre-hardened and hardened steel applications.
Shadow Systems was originally using two other competitor 0.25-inch 2-flute ball nose end mills for the application. Shadow Systems knew of OSG from past experiences and was using other OSG tooling for other parts of the gun. Shadow Systems was eager to further reduce cycle time and cost in its production. With the support from the leaders of Shadow Systems and DXP Enterprises sales representative David Aly, OSG was given the opportunity to test the WXL ball nose end mill.
OSG’s 0.25-inch diameter WXL 2-flute ball nose end mill is used on the machining of Shadow Systems’ gun barrel fluting. With a production volume of 12,000 guns per month, the WXL end mill demonstrated eight times the tool life versus two other competitor tools.
A Haas VF-2SS vertical machining center with a 40 taper spindle was used for the machining. Water-soluble flood coolant was applied. A 0.25-inch diameter 2-flute EXOCARB® WXL-EB (EDP# 36100611, 3-inch OAL, 0.25-inch LOC) was brough in for the cutting trial to slot the fluting on the gun barrel. The WXL ran at 14,750 rpm (294 m/min) and 32 ipm (813 mm/min), cutting cycle time per part from 67 seconds to 34 seconds versus the competitor end mills. With a production volume of 12,000 guns per month, the time reduced is equivalent to a cost savings of $99,540 annually. Moreover, the WXL end mill demonstrated eight times the tool life versus two other competitor tools. The WXL averaged 200 barrels while the competitors both averaged 25 barrels. Although the WXL end mill was twice the cost, it was able to demonstrate an annual cost savings of $278,580 due to its exceptional tool life.
From top, before and after barrel fluting.
“I have always had great success running OSG tooling,” said Shadow Systems programming manager Scotty Whitmarsh. “But the WXL end mill performance was absolutely unbelievable compared to the other competitor end mills we tried.”
Center, OSG USA engineering manager Jeff Stephens conducts a drill troubleshooting class at Shadow Systems. In addition to tooling solutions, OSG also provides training sessions for Shadow Systems’ operators and programmers.
Shadow Systems is expanding rapidly, adding more CNC machines and employees. As the company continues its journey of growth, OSG will strive to provide new tooling proposals to contribute to Shadow Systems’ lean and efficient manufacturing.