Ep. 25 – Brett May on Keeping Cam Screw Machines Relevant

By Noah Graff and Rex Magagnotti

We interviewed Brett May of BME Inc. Screw Machine Attachments for today’s podcast. Brett’s mission in business is to make old cam multi-spindle screw machines like National Acmes, Wickmans, and New Britains into productive money makers in today’s competitive machining environment.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast with Brett May.

Brett builds unique attachments which eliminate secondary operations that many people would put on a mill-turn CNC to finish, or run on an accurate but achingly slow Swiss-type machine. When he does his magic he turns supposed clunkers into enormously valuable machine tools.

Brett sees an old Acme and visualizes value, where others see a candidate for the scrap heap. As part of the BME value proposition, he also rebuilds multi-spindle machines, particularly National Acmes.

Question: Have you given up on non-CNC equipment? Why?

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5 thoughts on “Ep. 25 – Brett May on Keeping Cam Screw Machines Relevant

  1. Bob Ducanis

    Very nice podcast with Brett May. Per the conversation, it is obvious that Brett is a hands on engineer that understands the mechanics of a multi-spindle screw machine and the cutting action of tools against materials. It sounds as if his ‘aluma-lok’ (sp?) coolant lines may be a winner for use on screw machines and CNC lathes and machining centers.

    Late in the segment there is a question regarding shave tool holders. I’m out of the business now, but we had excellent success using Langholf shave holders on multi-spindle Acme’s on very close tolerance hydraulic valve components.

    Regarding the question of the continuing relevance of cam automatics, in my opinion, there is still a place for them in the high volume manufacturing world. The issue, as always, is the ability to hire qualified operators and set-up personnel to work on those monsters. The ease of pushing a button on a CNC control will be more attractive to most individuals than sticking your head & hands into the ‘belly of the beast’ to make a tool adjustment amongst a tangle of chips, oil, and coolant lines.

  2. Lloyd Graff

    I loved this interview with Brett May. He is such a hands on, wrenchy guy who really knows multis from the inside out. This is the kind of podcast which is unique to the Swarfcast and exemplifies the sort of stuff TMW can provide. I think we should quickly graduate to YouTube broadcasts.

  3. r in nyc

    We have vertical & horizontal machining centers, no CNC lathes.
    We do our “lathe work” in the machining centers by slugging blanks and using conventional & collet chucks. We have numerous 5 and 10 gang collet chuck holders.
    this allows for what would have required secondary operations on a swiss type or CNC lathe without cross mill/drill capabilities.

    real “Swiss work” we send out to screw machine shops.

    I often do most short run jobs on conventional horizontal and Bridgeport mills as well as conventional lathes. I can get it done quicker that writing a program, let alone setup & offsets etc…

    I think you will always need someone with skills and knowledge about the “old fashioned way of doing things. Especially for very short runs, prototypes, and repairs.

    I say: you need a foundation.

    Even if you are working a CNC, feed, speed, material, cooling, lubrication, chatter, rigidity, tolerance, finish, workholding, etc…

    It always comes back to fundamentals and foundation!

  4. Brett May

    Thanks Lloyd, Noah and Rex, I appreciate your complements and enjoy working with you guys, This Process has given me incentive to pursue new ideas, thats what I love about being in business. Thank again. Looking forward to seeing you at the PMTS show,

  5. Paul Huber

    The “accurate but achingly slow Swiss-type machines” do still have profit making potential.
    Our best customers run Cam-Swiss and CNC Swiss. They produce some critical parts faster on their Cam-Swiss due to part size and/or specific configuration.
    Bob Durant is correct by writing that the issue is the ability to hire qualified operators and set-up personnel.
    May I add that the contributions of a motivated expert in manufacturing methods, sequence of operations and tool design is are also critical.
    That is, in a nutshell, exactly what our customers have faced over the years. Some did resolve this age long puzzle by establishing a working relationship with local high schools, trade schools and two year colleges. Their investments in time and money is paying off as they now have a established pipeline of talents to choose from.
    Most of these schools now also have STEM programs and robotics teams. They require industry/business support via instructors and financial donation. These students will never forget what you have done for them. They are your future workforce!

    Paul Huber


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