Boasting a team of 15 people and producing more than 200,000 tools per year, Mictu exports tools to China, Hong Kong, North and South America, Switzerland and Germany, as well as servicing their local Italian market.

Andrea Colavo, the son of the founder of Mictu said: “There has been significant growth in our company since its beginning. We have a big body of knowledge as the eyewear industry gave us the opportunity to test our tools in many different materials giving experience in working with many kinds of plastics and metals.”

Servicing the changeable eyewear industry

The eyewear industry is different from other kinds of industries, mostly because it's fashion. Eye wear trends are constantly changing and customers require different tools to machine different shapes.

The industry also uses very small tools and Mictu have produced tools with a 0.2mm diameter mill. For example, a hinge requires very tight tolerance - in fact drawings often specify plus or minus one hundredth of a millimetre.

Understanding different materials is fundamental

Colavo continued: “We are a curious team who understand the value of trying new approaches and materials. If a customer is asking to use a material we have no experience in - we ask them how these material reacts to machining and describe the chips of this material. This helps us build a picture of how the material reacts to cutting.

"We make a sample tool and analyse its performance - is the tool working correctly or does it require adjustments? In the ANCA 3D simulator we can make these adjustments to produce a second batch and try again at the customers.”

Mictu has developed many different tools for many different materials. The most common plastics are nylon or polycarbonate and metals are titanium, stainless steel or cast iron.

Designing the best tool takes trial and error

“I think that anyone can make a tool, especially now that we have more intuitive software. However experience is still key. Cutting tool makers should consider the dynamics of the grinding wheels and need to know the right speed that will not cook your material as otherwise it will break like glass,” said Colavo.

“Generally we start from a drawing of the finished part and ask our customer how he wants to machine their component. Next we use our ANCA 3D simulator software program to simulate the tool to evaluate the best performing shape for that tool.”

“We start using 3D simulation with an ANCA MGX that we bought in 2002. The 3D simulator has changed the way we make tools, mostly because using this software means we are making less errors.”

“The characteristics that make a tool perform best is choosing the right material.

“A cutting edge must be appropriate for the material you have to machine for example, sometimes a very sharp cutting edge is not the best choice. Very sharp edges are weaker than a rounded edge and can vibrate more. So for soft materials you need a very sharp edge but for hard to cut materials you need a stronger cutting edge. “

“I have found it is important to make mistakes. This means you can learn what is not working and that helps you next time you are designing a tool.”

Technology matters - ANCA’s MGX has produced more than 350,000 pieces and is still running

Mictu invested in an MGX in 2002. Colavo recalled: “It's our first ANCA and is still performing with more than 350,000 pieces manufactured over the years. We found the MGX is a very good machine for producing small to medium batches of very small tools.”

“More recently we purchased two new FX7 Linears because of their flexibility. They are excellent machines for producing varied sizes batches of tools. So far, we have been running them all week, overnight and on the weekend with big batches. During the day we use them to produce smaller batches. On the FX7 we mainly produce drills, step drills and mills and sometimes even end mills with a profile.”

“The FX7 can produce very different tools in the same batch making the machines extremely efficient. Another big advantage of these machines is that we can measure the tool without looking at it. The machine has a laser that measures and if necessary, corrects during the grinding process.

"Even if no one is looking at the machine, we know the machine is automatically taking care of the tolerance of our tools and that the end quality will be high. I sleep much better because I know the laser is doing its job checking the diameter of every mill you are producing.”

“We use the iBalance to ensure our wheel packs are balanced, reducing the vibration on our tools. This is fundamental when you're making very small tools. If you have even very small vibration, you're cutting edge will be hammered and cheap. If you have it balanced well, it will work much smoothly and have a nicer cutting edge.”

“Personally I also liked the appearance of the machine, I would even say it is good looking! With the new Linear models, we expect a longer machine lifespan and improved surface finish. The small footprint is welcome and its many features help with the repeatability of our tools.

"In summary we choose the ANCA FX7 Linear because it is a complete package with a wheel changer, large loader, laser measurement technology and has 3D Simulator software.”

Professional facilities build trust with customers

Mictu recently moved to a new facility and are reaping the benefits of investing in custom design. Andrea continues “The biggest benefits we’ve seen moving to a new facility was starting from a blank sheet. We decided to put all the pipes needed for the oil for the grinders underground to make a clear surface with less stuff that can leak on the floor.

"The measuring machines have been installed in a separate environment to keep them on a steady temperature. Since moving we have seen improved production, better quality control and overall we are more efficient and have a better environment for our people because it's clean and fresh.”

“I think it's really important for a customer to visit your facility so they can assess the working environment. Pleasingly, customers are very impressed which helps us build trust in our products and services. Customers choose to work with us because we are very lean and listen to their needs. We have a skilled and experienced team who are able to solve problems.”