Most machine shops will evaluate new cutting tools in an effort to reduce machining time, increase tool life, or improve part quality, and sometimes to accomplish all of this. But, Stellar Precision Components Ltd., a Tier 2 aerospace supplier in Jeanette, Penn., did it for an entirely different reason. “We’d just taken an order for some Inconel parts,” recalled production manager Edward Frieze. “None of us were really worried at that point about tool life or making a profit on the job; our only concern then was how the heck could we get them shipped in eight weeks.”

Opening doors — Four decades ago, Mike Vucish was working for a manufacturer of naval nuclear components when he saw an opportunity to start his own business. He bought some machining equipment, invited a few students from the technical school where he taught a shop class at night, and opened the doors of Stellar Precision in 1978. Vucish continued to work at his day job until his start-up was more established, but in the meantime he brought some family members on board to help.

“We started out doing a lot of overload work from other larger shops in the area, but that evolved into direct support of several nuclear programs because of my father’s experience,” said Vucish’s daughter Lori Albright, now the owner and president of Stellar Precision. “We’ve since become a key supplier to a number of prime aerospace and defense contractors, including Boeing, Lockheed, and Raytheon, as well as various nuclear and medical customers, and have over 70 employees and sales revenues of nearly $10 million dollars.”

Today the shop has an eclectic mix of CNC machine tools from Haas Automation and Okuma —although Albright pointed out that Haas machines are "Made in America," which resonates with many of Stellar’s customers — and Stellar prides itself on the frequent updates to its production assets. “This approach also lets us replace our equipment on a more regular basis, which in turn keeps us current on technology,” she explained. 

The critical equipment includes an Okuma LB-45 lathe able to turn 36-in. diameter parts up to 120 in. long (91 mm x 305 cm), and a Haas VF-11 five-axis machining center with 10 ft. of X-axis travel (305 cm) and a table load capacity 4000 lb. (1814 kg). Stellar’s stable also features several wire EDMs, a dozen or so three-, four-, and five-axis machining centers and mill-turn lathes, and it offers value-added services like non-destructive testing, welding, heat treating, and Teflon coating.