Okuma Lathes: A Baby and a Grandfather

At the Horst Engineering Family of Companies, we often tout our combination of tradition and innovation. As a 68 (soon to be 69) year old family business, history and legacy are important to us. You don’t survive for three generations without investing in new technology.

1967_Okuma Lathe

In 1967, our company was 21 years old, and we were in the market for a new engine lathe to increase capacity. In those days, USA built machines dominated the landscape. The big lathe builders were Monarch, South Bend, and LeBlond.  The history of turning on lathes (used for woodworking) goes back thousands of years to Egyptian times. Even modern metalworking lathes go back centuries. So, a 48 year old lathe is a baby, but when you compare it with a brand new lathe built in 2014, it is old technology.

1967_Okuma Lathe_Wiring Diagram

In late December, Sterling Machine took delivery  of an Okuma LT2000 EX multi-axis lathe. This isn’t our first Okuma. Our first Okuma was a Type LS lathe, delivered in 1967. That machine was a controversial choice at the time. It wasn’t common for a USA business to invest in a Japanese machine. Harry Livingston, Horst Engineering’s founder, wasn’t a fan of Japanese technology, but it was an undeniable value when compared with the American brands.

1967_Okuma Lathe_Test Record_Page_2

The debate over Japanese vs. American was significant. At the time, we had four Monarch’s and a quote for a new one. Harry’s son, Stanley, recalls that the Monarch cost $28,500 and the Okuma was $5,600. Stanley convinced Harry to go with the Okuma and it was a decision that paid off. That machine is still running daily in the tool room at Horst Engineering’s 41 Cedar Street plant. It hasn’t been used for production in 35 years, but it was well cared for, holds size, and still serves a purpose when we need to make fixtures and tooling.

2014_Okuma LT2000

The LT2000 is the latest generation multi-axis CNC lathe that our company will use in our ongoing efforts to increase productivity. The twin spindle/triple turret machine has a lot of capability, but is a major investment. Turning technology continues to evolve and the best companies stay on the cutting edge. In early 2015, a sister machine will be delivered to Horst Engineering’s 36 Cedar Street plant. The two new lathes are the first major co-investment between Sterling Machine and Horst Engineering as we implement standardization and best practices throughout our organization. Stay tuned for more on these amazing machines.

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