Category Archive: Blog
The heart of aerospace manufacturing is known as Aerospace Alley–an area of the United States that encompasses the southwest Massachusetts and northeast Connecticut region. From this hub, our AS9100 machine shop proudly machines complex parts that help put planes in the sky.
Peerless Precision has been a trusted aerospace machine shop in Aerospace Alley for four decades, and aerospace machining comprises over 50% of our work. Our Westfield, MA company plays a pivotal role in the larger supply chain, crafting vital components to join with larger assemblies from other shops in the area.
The Critical Role Peerless Precision Plays in Aerospace Alley
Nearly every plane or helicopter soaring through the clouds carries a piece that was manufactured in this region, with each aircraft boasting at least $200,000 worth of parts crafted in Aerospace Alley—including parts from our precision machine shop.
In our 40 years serving the aerospace industry, we’ve grown and evolved to meet the industry’s demands and continually exceed quality expectations.
Here are five ways we stand out among aerospace machine shops:
1. One-stop shop services
Peerless Precision is a one-stop shop for all your aerospace machining needs. From CNC milling and turning to lapping and honing, we perform all operations in-house, ensuring a seamless and controlled manufacturing process.
Thanks to our range of capabilities, we can control costs and consolidate vendors to provide the best service to our aerospace customers.
2. Rigorous certifications
Our AS9100D and ISO 9001:2015 certifications reflect our dedication to meeting the highest aerospace industry standards. We maintain these certifications via yearly surveillance audits and external audits every three years.
But that’s not all. Peerless Precision is also ITAR registered for our military and defense customers. Additionally, our compliance with Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) ensures the safeguarding of proprietary information, offering our aerospace partners peace of mind in an increasingly digital landscape.
3. Finishing services
Our attention to detail sets us apart, and you’ll see this attention to detail reflected in our finishing services.
Finishing services are just as important as machining, as these services can enhance surface properties such as adhesiveness, electrical conductivity, wear resistance, corrosion resistance, and frictional resistance.
We can perform grinding, honing, lapping, and more. These capabilities enable us to achieve tolerances that are unachievable with CNC machines, from +/- .0001” down into the millionths of an inch.
4. Low-volume specialization
Our specialization lies in low-volume, critical components. We found our niche early on and focused our resources on developing our low-volume and custom capabilities.
Compared to larger aerospace shops that can “do it all,” we work on more customized, niche parts with a level of precision you can’t find anywhere else in Aerospace Alley. Customers come to us not only because of what we do but what others can’t do.
The Peerless Difference: Why Aerospace Comes to Us
Peerless Precision is a proud member of Aerospace Alley. Our focus on low-volume, custom work and our one-stop-shop capabilities empower us to take on projects that our competitors can’t.
As we continue to grow, we will keep elevating our aerospace machining capabilities, contributing to the innovation that propels the aerospace industry into the future.
Request a quote to work with our peerless aerospace machine shop.
In our industry, there is a common disconnect between design and manufacturing. As a result, we often receive part designs with over-engineered or impractical features—for example, unreasonably tight tolerances or unnecessarily strict plating specifications that will increase costs and lead times without any significant benefit to the part’s function.
As a build-to-print precision machine shop, we are dedicated to manufacturing the. That said, we are also always on the lookout for opportunities to save you time and money, and often that means speaking up to offer our expert opinion and collaborate with you to achieve optimal results.
Collaborating with Customers to Achieve Optimal Results
Working with our MA machine shop isn’t just an exchange of goods and services–it’s a partnership based on mutual success. As your precision machining partner, we’re determined to communicate with you to deliver the best parts possible.
Our experienced team of machinists understands the principles of Design for Manufacturability (we even wrote an eBook on it) and can suggest design modifications that result in cost savings and faster, more efficient manufacturing.
We’ll combine our precision machining expertise with your engineering knowledge to optimize your part. Our naturally inquisitive team asks questions like, “Why did you design these tolerances so tight?” and “Is there another way we can achieve this result?” We value knowing the “why” behind your design so we can make time and cost-saving recommendations.
In short, we view communication and collaboration as critical aspects of the manufacturing process and hope you do, too.
From prototype to production
Our collaborative approach proves most valuable when we work with you from prototype to production.
When we receive a prototype design, we build it to the initial specifications and determine whether the form, fit, and function fulfill our customer’s requirements. If not, we identify areas for improvement. This iterative process continues until our customer is satisfied and we deliver the best part possible.
Once the part reaches production, it’s a seamless transition because our team knows the part, our machines are already programmed, and we’ve done the upfront work to optimize the design for manufacturability.
Case Study: Our Collaborative Precision Machining Approach in Action
Recently, one of our defense customers wanted a new version of a part we’ve been making for them for 10 years. We manufactured the old version from aluminum, but the customer wanted us to make the new ones from tool steel.
However, the part is heat treated, and the combination of heat treatment and roughing out the part on the mill distorted the tool steel. So, our foreman reviewed the design with the customer to find a solution.
In the conversation, we learned that several dimensions and tolerances weren’t necessary for the part’s function. By knowing what tolerance and dimensions had a little wiggle room, we could manage the distortion to not affect the fit and function of the part.
This back-and-forth exchange is just one example of our collaborative approach at Peerless Precision. We strive to produce parts as close to perfect as possible, and we always include the customer in that conversation. It’s your part, after all!
Partner with Peerless Precision for Headache-Free Parts
We strongly believe that customers deserve a precision machining partner who relieves headaches—not one who causes them. We strive to be that shop for you by keeping an open line of communication and sharing recommendations for optimizing your part whenever possible.
When you partner with Peerless Precision, you work with a machine shop that has your best interests at heart. We’re not just going to deliver what you ask for but what you deserve—the very best.Ready to get started? Request a quote today.
The manufacturing industry is facing a workforce development crisis.
A study conducted by the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte estimates that by 2030, 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled if more people aren’t inspired to pursue modern manufacturing careers.
The shortage could cost manufacturers $1 trillion in 2030 alone.
That’s why Peerless Precision’s president, Kristin Carlson, is investing her time and money to create opportunities for Western Massachusetts youth to discover a different, exciting side to manufacturing.
Her story uniquely positions her to be a force for change as she works to change the narrative around technical schools and careers in the manufacturing industry.
After all, Kristin wasn’t always the president of a multi-million dollar MA machine shop and the Western MA NTMA chapter.
She had to take the long way to get there.
The Long and Winding Road to Precision Machining
Kristin didn’t plan on pursuing a manufacturing career.
Sure, manufacturing was the family business. Her father, Larry Maier, bought Peerless Precision when she was a sophomore in high school. All the tell-tale signs of a future machinist were there: she loved shop class, home economics, art—anything that let her work with her hands.
Plain and simple: Kristin loved making stuff.
But when it came time to cement her plans after high school, Kristin’s father was adamant that his kids go to college—not technical school. It’s ironic, considering he was the owner of a machine shop.
Kristin enrolled in a business administration program, but lectures, textbooks, and passive listening didn’t work for her. She learned by doing—she wanted to get her hands on something and figure it out.
“I went to college because everyone told me I was supposed to,” said Kristin, “not because I wanted to.”
So she dropped out.
Rewriting the precision machining narrative
As Kristin moved into the working world, she held several roles and even worked as a buyer for a fire alarm contractor. However, the pressure of other people’s expectations and the stigma around technical vocations like manufacturing followed her.
When her journey brought her back to Peerless Precision, Kristin found herself in a position to start changing the narrative around manufacturing jobs. She joined the leadership board of her local NTMA chapter and began searching for ways to invest in the local workforce in her community.
“My goal is getting the next generation of students interested in what we do,” Kristin said. “We need to change the negative perception of the manufacturing industry and show students how awesome it is to make stuff for a living.”
Industry Leaders Must Invest in Workforce Development
Kristin often uses a fishing metaphor to describe the future of the manufacturing industry’s workforce:
“We’ve got this small pond with a limited number of fish that we’re all fishing from,” Kristin explained. “If we don’t start putting fish back in there, what will happen? We have to find a way to boost that population.”
In recent years, the emphasis on standardized test scores and increasing college enrollment came at the expense of hands-on classes like shop, home economics, and art. Meanwhile, the message from many teachers, parents, and guidance counselors remains: vocational jobs are the ‘lesser’ choice.
Many kids have lost the chance to discover the joy of making things with their own hands—and the realization that, yes, you can make a living doing just that.
Investing in manufacturing workforce development is pretty simple for most shops: all you have to do is find a way to empower and enable young people to create. Whether that’s donating to a local innovation center, hosting a field trip at your machine shop, or offering apprenticeships to high school students.
It’s time for manufacturers to take matters into their own hands and repopulate the pond.
How Workforce Development Helps Shops
When shops invest in workforce development, they benefit just as much as the people they’re inspiring. For example, these investments are a great way to combat employee shortages and pull ahead of the competition.
Thanks to Kristin’s investments in her community and demonstrated commitment to the future of manufacturing in Western MA, she never has to look too far when hiring a new Peerless employee.
“When I’m part of the change, I am the first one schools reach out to,” Kristin said. “When they have students looking for co-ops or internships, or if there’s a training program in our region for unemployed and underemployed adults, they reach out to me and ask, ‘Who do you want to take?'”
But for Kristin, workforce development is about more than just bringing new people into manufacturing. She’s ready to shape them into the best machinists—and people—that they can be.
“In every job I had before I started running Peerless, my employers always saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself,” Kristin said. “They gave me opportunities to become more than the college dropout that I was. And now, I’m paying it forward.”
Workforce Development Investments in Action
Here’s how Kristin and the Peerless team have recently invested in their community:
Funding the local Junior Achievement center
In October 2023, Kristin used her late father’s memorial education fund to sponsor the building of a Career, Innovation, and Leadership Center at their local Junior Achievement Center.
The new center promises exciting opportunities for students outside of a traditional school curriculum. One of the center’s standout features is the manufacturing room, a tribute to the robust manufacturing heritage in Western Massachusetts.
The fund sponsored a Cricut machine and the Cricut starter bundle to empower kids to start making things for themselves. In the future, Kristin hopes also to sponsor a 3D printer and a mini-mill machine to bring tangible machining tools to the center.
“I’m always happy to support initiatives like the JA center,” said Kristin. “It warms my heart to see my father’s fund help make this innovation center possible.”
Speaking on a panel at MA Tech Collaborative
Investments don’t always have to be financial—manufacturing leaders can offer their time, too.
Kristin recently spoke on a panel at the MassMakes Innovation Challenge, whichcombined hands-on manufacturing, engineering projects, and Q&A sessions with industry leaders. Over 300 students from across Western Massachusetts attended and heard Kristin speak about her non-traditional journey to precision machining.
“After the panel, students asked us for advice that we wish we’d gotten when we were students,” Kristin said. “I said, ‘Look, have fun. You have to be able to laugh at yourself and realize that nothing is a straight path.
“It’s okay to take the long and winding road to find out where you’re supposed to be.”
Workforce Development Is Our Responsibility—Let’s Act Like It
In manufacturing, change often starts at the top. It’s up to the presidents, CEOs, and VPs to do the legwork and usher in the next generation of manufacturers and machinists.
“As industry leaders, investing in workforce development is our collective responsibility,” Kristin said. “You can either sit back and wait for someone else to do it, or you can be part of the change.”
To learn more about meaningfully investing in workforce development, contact David Cruise, chair of the local NTMA’s Workforce Development Committee.
In the precision machining world, there’s little room for error. Whether manufacturing a lens housing for an optics customer or a plastic piston ring, we’re committed to delivering quality at all times.
Peerless Precision’s rigorous inspection process—run by an experienced team using top-tier equipment—ensures customers always get what they ask for.
To achieve truly peerless results, our inspection starts when we receive a purchase order and ends when parts leave our shop. As an AS9100 machine shop, we maintain AS9100 quality standards, whether or not parts require it.
Because to us, quality isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a promise.
Our 6 Stages of Inspection for Precision Machining
We implement six inspection checkpoints to guarantee part quality. It’s not enough for parts to meet the minimum requirements—we’re determined to exceed customer expectations.
Here are the six stages of our inspection process:
1. Purchase order review
We thoroughly inspect each PO to ensure all customer needs will be met and parts are designed for efficient manufacturing. Our engineering, quality, and production department leads sign off on POs before production begins.
2. Material certifications
Our inspection department reviews raw material certifications to ensure the grade, composition, and relevant specifications match the customer’s request. We call the material supplier to request a replacement if we receive raw material that doesn’t meet all the criteria.
3. First part approval
We check the first part we’re precision machining after each operation to ensure measurements align with the design specifications. If the measurements match, the operator continues manufacturing parts. If not, we repeat the process until we get the measurements correct. Machines are calibrated yearly on a rotating basis to ensure tools remain accurate.
4. In-progress checks
As parts run through machines, operators measure the most recent machined parts to ensure correct measurements. Machines can quickly go out of tolerance, and by checking consistently throughout the order, we can catch errors before a whole order is compromised.
5. Specialized treatment evaluation
Our inspection team measures parts before and after sending them to a third-party vendor for a specialized process like heat treating or plating. We also check treatment certifications to verify the processed parts meet customer specifications.
6. First article inspection report
We inspect 100% of the parts made for first-time part orders to provide a first article report. Customers receive an in-depth report containing the dimensions of every part in the order, which they check against the received parts. When customers repeat part orders, we only inspect a sample of the final parts. The customer dictates the sample amount.
The Inspection Tools of an AS9100 Machine Shop
One of our shop specialties is achieving minuscule tolerances ranging from 0.0001” to 0.000005.” But with such small measurements, there’s hardly any room for error. A variance of even 0.005” can cause parts with tight tolerances to fail.
That’s why we rigorously inspect part tolerances using our wide range of tools, from standard gauge blocks to cylindricity measuring machines. We regularly invest in the newest technology to better serve our customers.
Here are some of our state-of-the-art inspection tools:
- Air gauging equipment for inspecting inner diameters
- Laser micrometers for performing precise measurements up to six decimal places
- Keyence instant measurement systems to speed up the inspection of priority parts by generating 99 measurement points in 3.5 seconds
- Cylindricity measurement machines to verify precise part roundness
Regular equipment calibration
At Peerless Precision, we calibrate our tools every year to maintain their accuracy. We schedule calibrations on a rotating basis to ensure we can still complete orders in a timely manner.
Quality People Are the Key to Success in Precision Machining
Behind our advanced, finely calibrated machines is a team of experts. We hired dedicated, seasoned inspectors to ensure we live up to the name “Peerless Precision.”
Our quality manager has over four decades of experience in quality assurance for manufacturing, and our lead inspector brings 30 years of experience. The rest of our team benefits from the guidance of these two industry experts.
Delivering quality parts to quality people
Our in-depth inspection process goes above and beyond to provide exceptional parts to customers. Combined with our dedicated team and state-of-the-art equipment, we do more than manufacture—we perfect.
Requesta quote today.
When the police caught the Boston Marathon bombers, we learned that the camera that identified them contained parts made by Peerless Precision.
How did we know that?
The parts had laser-marked serial numbers that could be traced back to our shop.
From security cameras to jet engines, serial numbers are vital in ensuring traceability and accountability for machine shops like Peerless Precision that specialize in medical, defense, commercial optics, and aerospace machining.
Over 90% of the parts we machine require serial numbers. So, 15 years ago, we added laser marking to our list of in-house finishing capabilities.
Benefits of In-House Laser Marking
Peerless Precision’s in-house laser marking capabilities do more than empower customers to utilize parts confidently. We achieve faster lead times and cheaper production by removing a third-party laser marking company.
Parts stay in our capable aerospace machine shop from start to finish, ensuring truly peerless results.
Improved lead times
We brought laser marking in-house to make life easier for customers. Without the back-and-forth shipping, we streamlined our process and improved customer lead times.
Our direct control over the laser marking process allows us to manage costs more effectively. Our customers also avoid potential markup costs or additional shipping fees associated with outsourced laser marking services.
We can customize laser markings based on customer requests, from specific fonts to intricate pictures.
Our laser marking machine is on the small end, but it’s adaptable. We’ve optimized the settings to handle all the parts we produce, and the machine can laser mark letters and logos as large as 4”.
Fun fact: Our machine once engraved a Grateful Dead poster on a 0.5” square, and we needed a jeweler’s loupe to see all the details!
Ensured quality and traceability
Laser marking isn’t just about branding. In defense and aerospace machining, part traceability is required to meet AS9100 standards. Traceability is also important in the medical industry.
If parts malfunction in these high-stakes industries—for example, if a pacemaker fails or a jet engine quits—tracing the origin of parts is crucial to preventing future crises.
The serial numbers and logos we laser mark ensure this traceability.
Designed to Meet Customer Needs
Our thorough laser marking process enables us to work with detailed customer instructions. We can accommodate specific font sizes, font types, and even guidelines regarding the appearance of serial numbers. For highly customized orders, we appreciate detailed requests so we can get your order right the first time.
We’re equipped to meet nuanced needs like adding a starting letter or number to serializations. For example, if parts for a customer’s shop in San Francisco need to start with SF and parts for their second shop in Cleveland need to start with CL, we can make it happen.
Enhanced data security
We’re committed to protecting customer data. Our laser marking system is controlled through a dedicated computer that’s isolated from our primary network. We also perform monthly backups to an external hard drive, ensuring that all new programs and serial numbers are stored securely.
Complete Machining Solutions
Many companies only offer laser marking services, but Peerless Precision proudly provides an all-in-one solution. We can machine and laser mark parts in our aerospace machine shop, helping clients avoid the hassle of coordinating between different vendors and services or facing potential quality issues.
Our one-stop-shop approach reflects how much we value customer satisfaction. By manufacturing and laser marking parts under one roof, we ensure parts are on time, high quality, and designed to meet every need, no matter how specific.
You know what they say: happy customer, happy manufacturer.
Request a quote today for your next medical, commercial optics, defense, or aerospace machining project.
No machine shop wants to turn away customers. However, if the work is beyond a shop’s capabilities, it’s not good business practice to take the job and deliver subpar results.
Fortunately, there’s a third option—one we frequently turn to at Peerless Precision: collaboration between shops. When shops collaborate, we can build partnerships that work off each other’s strengths and manufacture high-quality parts—no matter the requirements. Everyone wins.
Keep reading to find out how we support other shops—and when we know it’s time to reach out and call on other shops for their support.
How Peerless Precision Supports Other Machine Shops
Shops often call on Peerless Precision for our expertise in manual machining methods and finishing processes, tight tolerance parts, prototypes, and low-volume orders.
Manual machining methods
The machinists at Peerless Precision are experts in manual machining—a skill that’s becoming more difficult to find. While budding machinists are taught manual methods initially, they soon move on to CNC machining. This transition leaves little time to develop the feel of manual machining, which can take years. We continuously train our machinists on manual methods so we can perform this type of work for our customers.
Manual machining has many advantages, including short turnaround times. The process involves fewer steps than CNC methods and requires no programming. Manual machining is also ideal for smaller projects, a major focus area for our shop.
Tight tolerances for defense and aerospace machining
A part is considered to have a tight tolerance when its permitted variance is plus or minus 0.002-0.001”. Even a slight variance of 0.005” can lead to part failure and potentially result in severe damage. With our expertise, our team can achieve tolerances from 0.0001” to 0.000005”—a range often required for medical, aeronautics, and aerospace machining.
Prototypes and low-volume orders
Some job shops turn down orders for five, 10, or 25 parts because they prefer high-volume work involving thousands of parts. However, our machinists have decades of experience focused on prototypes and low-volume production. Our problem-solving and critical-thinking skills allow us to build partnerships with our customers to meet their small order needs with quality, efficiency, flexibility, and speed.
Manual finishing processes
Our shop specializes in cylindrical grinding, lapping, and honing. We work with two different honing technologies, including our Sunnen ML-4000 machine. We also have two types of lapping capabilities: match lapping and roll lapping. These manual finishing processes are ideal for high-precision parts common in medical, optical, defense, and aerospace machining.
When We Seek Outside Support from Other Shops
We reach out to our network of precision machining partners for several reasons. Sometimes, a piece of material may be too big for our machines, so we contact another shop that can handle it. Other times, capacity becomes an issue. We may subcontract mill and lathe work to another shop when we see a bottleneck brewing.
With this flexibility, we can ensure our customers get the parts they need when they need them. Working with other shops also improves our ability to control costs—though that’s been challenging in the past few years because of supply chain issues and cost increases across the board in areas like utilities, labor, and materials.
While we enjoy working with other businesses, not every precision machining shop is willing to join forces. They worry another company will steal their customers. But we believe churn won’t be an issue if you provide excellent service. It’s all about trust. We work with shops we know and have good relationships with to fill each other gaps and keep customers in the region.
Learn more about working with our team by requesting a quote today.