Virtual to Real

Spread the love

The 1940s were a decade of rapid world-wide technological advancement as nations competed to win World War II. Aircraft evolved from piston engine to jet propulsion and bombs evolved from chemical to atomic. American corporations Ford, Chrysler and GM learned to manufacture bombers at the rate of one per hour, produce more tanks than Germany and became the largest military contractor in the world in that order. In Traverse City, Michigan John Parsons was capitalizing on his experience, business network and passion to construct a more efficient bomb casing plant. Unfortunately the war concluded at about the same time Parson’s facility was completed and his bomb casing contract was cancelled.

As John Parsons envisioned and constructed his advanced bomb casing manufacturing facility Frank Stulen was earning an aeronautical engineering degree at what would later become Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and serving in the Army Corps of Engineers and US Air Force as head of the Propeller Lab. Frank accepted a job offer from John Parsons and moved to Traverse City, Michigan to become Vice President of Engineering and Design at Parsons Corporation. Together Frank Stulen and John Parsons, with some input from Frank’s brother who worked at Curtis Wright Propeller, recognized the potential of using newly developed computing machines to control machine tools. Their “numerical controlled” machines used punch cards and punch tape to produce very complex shapes to very tight tolerances. The bomb casing plant was converted to manufacture rotors for American inventor Igor Sikorsky and the burgeoning helicopter industry. Today Computer Numeric Controls (CNC) are utilized on machine tools world-wide and Sikorsky’s rotor configuration is used on many helicopters currently produced.


Parting ways with punch cards

While Parsons and Stulen were developing the world’s first computer numeric controlled machine tools Patrick Hanratty was growing up in San Diego, California. Patrick would enter the Air Force immediately after high school, suffer injuries in a crash landing requiring more than a year to rehabilitate and utilize his time to take a battery of tests which identified him as a gifted scientific mind. Despite lacking a degree Patrick was hired by the aircraft manufacturer Convair in 1954 as a computer programmer working on IBM 650 and Univac 1103 computers. Hanratty would move on to work at General Electric, General Motors, McDonnell Douglas and finally found his own company, Integrated Computer Systems. Hanratty spent his career developing Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Manufacturing (CAM) . At the 1970 International Machine Tool Show in Chicago Hanratty’s company, ICS, introduced the world’s first CAD/CAM software.

As Patrick Hanratty was revolutionizing CAD/CAM at GE, GM, McDonnell Douglas and finally Integrated Computer Systems, Ivan Sutherland was working toward his PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a part of his doctoral thesis in 1962 Sutherland invented Sketchpad. Sketchpad was the first computer graphic user interface and broke new ground in 3D modeling and visual simulation.

Teton machine

Today Teton Machine Company utilizes software from Solidworks and Espirit. These software packages allow us to receive 3D virtual models designed by our customers, program our machine tools and inspection equipment using advanced graphic user interface and turn those virtual designs into actual parts made from a wide variety of metals and plastics. Thanks to the work of these pioneering gentlemen we don’t have to manually interpolate complex shapes with machine tools, deal with punch cards or punch tape or try to envision a complex three dimensional shape based on a two dimensional drawing. We’re proud to work with the aerospace, medical device and several other very demanding industries.

Located in Payette, Idaho, Teton Machine provides a wide range of precision machining services for leading companies across the United States. As an employee-owned company, all of us have a vested interest in providing the highest quality service in our industry. Companies who work with us recognize and appreciate this commitment, which has played a major role in our ongoing growth. 

Whether you need CNC milling, CNC turning, Swiss machining, product consulting, or are unsure what machining process best suits you, we’d love to hear from you. We know and understand manufacturing, and will be happy to share our industry knowledge with you.


Please like or Share our article

Spread the love
Scroll to Top