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Cal-Draulics, Inc.


Corona, CA


CNC Machine Tending



Article and Photos by Sean Burr — CNC-West Magazine


Cal-Draulics has a pair of Okuma LB3000EX mill turns that average 22 hours a day of running. They are affectionately referred to as the BAOs.

"Give me a few minutes in person and you will sell yourself on the cobot. You will wish you owned a machine shop just to buy one. You think I'm joking but wait for your hands on a demo."
Jose Gonzalez, Operations Manager, Cal-Draulics

It’s been exactly ten years since CNC West Magazine spent the day at Corona, California based aerospace manufacturer Cal-Draulics, Inc. According to Operations Manager Jose Gonzalez. "everything has changed", but the owners still met me at the door, they still have on time delivery, still provide exceptional quality, and still supply 100% customer satisfaction.


The caption on page 22 of the 2014 Aerospace and Defense Issue reads "Doug and Jeanette Johnson have owned Cal-Draulics since 1992 and love coming to work every day; they will probably do it until they are 90." The article hypes the decades, and I mean decades long history of their involvement in aerospace manufacturing. It goes into Cal-Draulics build it, assemble it, test it approach to everything they do, and touts being a great place to work. Initially everything seemed the same, same buildings, same parts, same smiling faces, but then came the robots.


It isn't often that adults brag about getting a robot for Christmas, but that's exactly the case for operations manager Jose Gonzalez. He was gleeful as a kid in a candy store and as proud as any parent when talking about OB1 and Robeka. "Take a look in the shop and you will see right away the changes we've made," tells Jose. "The last article focused on the mobility and flexibility of our pair of Trak 20p portable machining centers and touched on our Hardinge. Those are pretty much the only machines still out there from your last visit. We took what we learned from having those cells and expanded the lean manufacturing concept into automation with Okuma and collaborative robots from Productive Robotics operations."

Johnny and Jose were able to train the magazine guy how to program basic operations on Robeka in under 10 minutes.

"We originally figured a robotics system would cost us $100k. Thankfully, the OB7 systems are economical, and we were able to easily get both built to our specs, with tax, and delivered for less than our budget."
—​Jose Gonzalez, Operations Manager, Cal-Draulics

Seven years ago, Cal-Draulics set out to replace a few aging CNC lathes with something newer and faster. Kevin Larson (formerly of Gossiger) introduced them to Okuma's Genos line. "The Genos Okumas are a Japanese machine manufactured in Taiwan," explains Jose. "You get the Japan quality at a lower price. Kevin hyped the features and price of the Okuma GENOS L-250. It's a compact machining center ideal for small to medium-sized parts. It offers versatility, accuracy, and productivity with its rigid construction, powerful 7.5hp spindle, and advanced OSP control system. We took a chance and ordered one. We liked it so much the very next month we ordered another one. Then another, and then one more with a bar feeder. We call our four L-250 the "little Okumas."


The little Okumas were such a success that owners Doug and Jeanette began researching a larger option with added milling capabilities. "We wanted a machine that could deliver a completed part and run lights out, tells Jose. "Okuma was having an open house in North Carolina and Keven flew me and our shop supervisor Johnny out to see their LB3000EXII Space Turn in person. The LB3000EXII is a high-performance lathe with excellent machining qualities. It features a rigid construction and powerful spindle, allowing for heavy-duty cutting operations.


The OB7 robot is programmed by doing. It learns by going through the desired motions. It begins its cycle by opening the door, wiggling the part to break it off, then closes the door while still holding the part.

"Lights out manufacturing was a big step into the future for Cal-Draulics and set the wheels turning towards more automated solutions. Robotics came up in meetings, but where to start."

The machine is also equipped with a variety of advanced features, including a Fanuc 31i-B5 control system, a 12-station turret, and a B-axis for multi-axis machining. The LB3000EXII is ideal for a wide range of applications, including turning, boring, milling, and drilling. After seeing it at the show we immediately purchased one upon our return home. Based on our previous success with Okuma, we ordered the second one while we were still getting the first one up and running. It is a popular machine, and the wait time was such that we wanted the redundancy before even getting the first one fully operational. The second one came online in 2019 and we call them the BAOs (big ass Okumas). Within a year we were able to accomplish our goal of lights out operation on the BAOs. Now they both average 22 hours a day of production."

Lights out manufacturing was a big step into the future for Cal-Draulics and set the wheels turning towards more automated solutions. Robotics came up in meetings, but where to start. "Naturally, we began by looking into a Fanuc robotics system," details Jose. "They are a well-known and respected product, but the cost is a big commitment.


Honestly, they are more complex than we really needed and take up a lot of area when you factor in safety. Doug went to a show and ran across a couple robotic options and handed me a pamphlet he picked up from Productive Robotics.


I began watching videos and was really drawn to how easy and versatile the collaborative robot was. I called up Productive Robotics and spoke to Kevin Meister on a Wednesday. That Friday, Doug and I were driving up to Carpinteria to see it in person. On the way back Doug half joked "We have your truck, why didn't we just load it up and bring it back with us." I wish I could say we turned around and got it, but we waited until Monday to order one. Kevin was like "we have it in stock, you should have come back." So, within a week we had our first collaborative robot delivered. Johnny and I put it together in less than an hour. Probably could have done it faster but we put the base on backwards."


OB1 waits in ready as the first article is being completed. On this run he will stop every five parts and alert the operator to check a specific feature before continuing.

"It is as simple as activating the learn mode on the handheld controller and away you go. It is so fast and easy to setup that we don't even bother saving most operations because it is just faster to reprogram."
—​Jose Gonzalez, Operations Manager, Cal-Draulics


The OB7 is a 7-axis robotic arm and comes with various payload options and reach. Cal-Draulics opted for the OB7 Stretch model since their parts are small and having a longer extension would add versatility. After a three-hour drive to Carpentaria, it took only five minutes to train Jose and Johnny on the Productive Robotics OB7 cobot system through their simple and intuitive drag and drop interface. "Teaching us to use the cobot was simple and fast," details Jose. "It learns by doing. You move the arm where you want it to go, and it creates the path. Want to set a way point? Click a button. Set your arm travel to avoid possible obstacles by physically moving the head in the direction you want it to go, and it remembers, and is repeatable. Open the jaws, set. Close the jaws, set. 

Move to this position, set. It is as simple as activating the learn mode on the handheld controller and away you go. It is so fast and easy to setup that we don't even bother saving most operations because it is just faster to reprogram.


Once the door is closed the machine is restarted by pressing the button. The parts are then dropped or placed into a grid system on the table. The process is then repeated. Each cobot delivers a fully unmanned shift 6 days a week.

Xymox Cobot 2.jpg

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