By Dan Davis
B.J. Schrank is a man who knows what he likes. He’s been doing it for 29 years. “What I really like to do is metalworking.
That’s what I do,” he said. “That’s probably why I
didn’t have kids. I spent every minute of every day
He’s also done a little welding as well. His dad,
who was mechanically inclined but involved in
sales, introduced him to welding when he was 6
years old. Schrank started welding on go-karts, and
since then he’s never really walked away from metal
fabrication and metalworking.
As the owner of AA Precision Tooling in Blooming
Prairie, Minn., Schrank has carved out a nice life in
his own shop. The shop was larger at one time, but
Schrank got tired of working 16-hour days and dealing with workers who’d rather be home not working.
“I decided to downsize, do better work, and
charge more for the high-precision work,” he said.
So now AA Precision Tooling is a three-person operation: Schrank; Ruben Kubista, who is married to
Schrank’s older step-daughter; and Christina Korpi,
Schrank’s younger step-daughter. Kubista handles
the sheet metal work, and Korpi manages the company’s finances and purchasing, while also helping
out in the shop occasionally. It’s a quiet operation
that is also a formidable business for its size.
As an example, Schrank invested in a robot for
machine tending about three years ago. Penelope,
as the robot is called, has almost 500 jobs stored
in her control memory. He said he can program a
job in about two hours. If a job is already uploaded
into Penelope, changeover from one job to another
can be done in about 20 minutes. He also has rearranged the shop so that the robot can run multiple
machining centers simultaenously.
AA Precision Tooling took another interesting turn
a;er attending the International Manufacturing
Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago. It led Schrank
and his team into the world of sheet metal (“flat
manufacturing,” as Schrank called it), and eventually to a fabricating project that has the potential for
changing the lives of thousands in lesser-developed
lands across the globe.
Enter the World of Waterjet Cutting
The AA Precision Tooling team visits every IMTS.
While Schrank spends most of his time looking at
chipping machinery, he said Kubista likes to walk
the few aisles of the fabricating area at the show. So
they typically split up and meet for lunch.
At a recent tradeshow, Kubista never strayed too
far from the waterjets. Every time Schrank checked
in with him, Kubista indicated he was at another
table taking in the latest technology.
When Schrank saw it, he saw potential. Not only
would a waterjet give AA Precision Tooling the
chance to cut out flat sheet metal and plate, but a
5-axis cutting head could give the shop the means
to cut tube, alleviating the need to place these parts
in a machining center.
It wasn’t soon a;er that show that AA Precision
Tooling got into the waterjet cutting business (see
Figure 1). They purchased a 5-axis, 60,000-PSI
Classica waterjet machine from Waterjet USA, Elgin, Ill., and their local dealer, FORGE Manufacturing
Solutions. Schrank said the 60,000-PSI pump from
KMT Waterjet Systems (see Figure 2) was more
than enough to power his single-head machine.
B.J. Schrank and the company mascot, flanked by Roberto Impellittiere (le;) and Stefano Giudici, an installation technician (right) from Waterjet U.S.A., stand in
front of AA Precision Tooling’s waterjet.
The 60,000-PSI waterjet pump is kept in a separate
area from the waterjet to allow for ample room around
the machine tool.
about waterjet cutting
A small machine shop finds new capabilities
lead to exciting opportunities