Solid Design Enterprises Case Study

Caldwell was faced with several challenges to add in-house manufacturing. As a home-based business, he would need to accomplish design, inspection, and manufacturing—all within a 12 ft x 20 ft shop space. The initial concern was finding a CNC milling machine that would fit. Because SDE didn’t make large parts, using a smaller machine was possible. But it would need to run on single-phase power due to residential power restrictions. As SDE’s first machine purchase, this would represent a significant financial commitment, so cost would also be a major factor.

DATRON featured German design with outstanding quality and shockingly good features. It was easy to use, and the “next control” software was unique in the machine tool industry. However, like most top-of-the-line brands, it was an expensive piece of technology. Caldwell says, “The next control, camera probing system, vacuum technology, and machine build quality of the DATRON neo is top tier.”

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The final choice came down to the DATRON neo or the Haas CM1. Both were great machines, and although Caldwell’s first choice was the DATRON neo, cost was the overriding factor at that stage in the company’s finances. He opted to start with the Haas CM1 and continue to grow SDE until he could invest in a DATRON neo.

The solution

The challenge

Caldwell continues to be impressed by the entire workflow and technology design of the neo. He has discovered that the next control is so smart that even if parts are loaded crooked, they still come out flawless. He finds the vacuum work-holding perfect for high-density part nesting, and being able to break through the vacuum card for some parts comes in handy. Caldwell says, “It’s a major productivity boost to have the 3D probe and such fast changeovers between vacuum and fixtures jobs.”

Published: Wednesday, August 30, 2023 – 12:01

Running the Haas CM1 for three years was a good experience for SDE, but not perfect. Fortunately, SDE’s growing success with in-house manufacturing had put it in position to add another CNC machining center. This time, Caldwell was able to upgrade to his first choice. The vacuum work-holding, probing, high-speed capabilities, compact footprint, intuitive next control software, and single-phase option all made the DATRON neo a perfect fit for SDE’s needs.

During the past 25 years, Caldwell has worked as a production manager, manufacturing engineer, manufacturing process designer, and prototype machinist and programmer across a variety of industries, including optics, defense, and space. His passion for design and manufacturing led him to form SDE in 2009 to provide mechanical design services. Early on, SDE worked with small companies and individuals who were developing their own products. But soon Caldwell’s growing customer base began asking him to manufacture the parts he had designed.

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Even the DATRON four-in-one tools have earned his stamp of approval for roughing and finishing metal and plastic parts. Running both the Haas CM1 and the new DATRON neo will ensure many more years of manufacturing success for Solid Design Enterprises.

The DATRON Dynamics team was so responsive and helpful that Caldwell was able to purchase the DATRON neo without ever having to travel. In fact, when he had requested a quote from DATRON Dynamics for that first machine purchase in 2019, regional sales manager JD Wogoman drove from Phoenix to Sahuarita, Arizona, so he could meet Caldwell and better understand the needs of his small, one-man shop. Caldwell never forgot that.

‘I consider DATRON Dynamics’ customer care to be the best in the industry.’
—Clint Caldwell

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Despite these challenges, Caldwell didn’t want to buy a hobbyist machine since it would limit speed, quality, and long-term growth as a cutting-edge manufacturer. Finally, after months of intense research, he narrowed down the list of possibilities to three machines: Tormach, Haas, and DATRON.

Tormach’s price and capabilities were good, but they were not what SDE needed for the results Caldwell was looking for. Haas was American-made with a large selection and a proven record for getting the job done. Most machine shops in America had a Haas CNC, so most CNC machinists could run a Haas control. The price and quality were good for what you got.

Every CNC machine purchase begins with a need and the inspiration to grow. Recognizing the value in his ability to design and manufacture customer products in-house, Clint Caldwell of Solid Design Enterprises (SDE) wanted to put his extensive manufacturing background to work and move beyond his company’s origins of a “design only” business. Starting out with a Haas CM1 in 2019 and then adding a DATRON neo in 2022 has allowed SDE to take on a wider variety of projects and better serve its customers.

A few weeks later, Antonia, a DATRON Dynamics application engineer, arrived to power up and configure the machine. He took the time to answer all of Caldwell’s questions about the machine and explained what he was doing during each step of the setup process. The next two days were spent training Caldwell on the next control and machine functions. By Day 3, he could successfully set up a reasonably difficult part despite being a brand-new DATRON user.

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Second test part ran successfully: Caldwell says, “I went from zero to running this new control in just three days.”

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Solid Design Enterprises Case Study

A CNC buyer’s journey to a DATRON neo

Purchasing the DATRON neo turned out to be a very different experience than Caldwell’s first machine. This time he felt like he was getting more than just a great CNC milling machine; he was also getting an amazing CNC support team.

The results

When the machine was delivered, Caldwell asked the riggers to off-load the machine right in his driveway. The documentation for uncrating was so thorough and easy to follow that he had it unboxed and placed in less than an hour, by himself.

Clint Caldwell of Solid Design Enterprises running parts on his DATRON neo.