Metal Masters: McGinley machines mining parts, high-tech medical drill

Mike Moore photo
Travis Blankenbaker unloads a flange bushing used for underground mining equipment after being machined on a lathe at McGinley Manufacturing Jan. 4. Blankenbaker has worked at McGinley Manufacturing three years, originally starting out as a welder.

Colin Tiernan

Burly, bearded men mill about the shop. The room is spacious and loud, full of machines cutting corkscrews of metal off hunks of steel, whittling dull, massive blocks down to shiny, intricate parts. The noise isn’t oppressive, doesn’t drown out the rock music coming out of the shop speakers.
This is a place of lathes and mills. There are hundreds of drills, lots of them are carbide: Thick, shiny gold drills, evil-looking, many-pointed ones for smoothing surfaces.
The whole place is impeccably clean, except when a mill is shaving down a part, chipping off wet-looking steel slivers. Machinists clear and recycle the chips often: The operations are sensitive, and a tiny stray chip could mess up a part. 
Many Glenrock businesses do their work in the oil and gas fields north of town. McGinley Manufacturing does its work in house. In this facility, McGinley mostly makes metal parts for underground drilling equipment, for clients often in Nevada, Montana and Alaska.
Production Manager Steve Bateman, who’s been at McGinley for almost two years, estimated 90 percent of the company’s clients are from the West, and 10 percent are from Wyoming.
“What we’ve done is kind of re-engineered the original manufacturer’s parts to make them either last longer or to separate them into components that are easier or cheaper to buy,” Bateman said. “That’s where our specialty lies.”
Bateman said McGinley has gained 20 new clients in the past year. Mining companies make up the majority of the clientele, but some customers are in the aerospace or medical fields.
Medicine is what the company is best known for these days. Back in 2012, McGinley Orthopaedic Innovations purchased the Glenrock business DS Manufacturing in order to manufacture a new medical drill.
The IntelliSense drill aids surgeons by automatically stopping before penetrating through the far side of a bone. It also takes depth measurements while it bores through, which helps surgeons select the proper screw length, therby reducing the risk of post-op complications for the patient.
Vice President of Operations Ben Warren, the only cleanshaven man in the building, estimates 20-30 parts of the drill are made here, requiring hundreds of operations and probably 20 man hours.
Warren worked as a mechanic for 18 years, most recently at the platinum and palladium mines up in Montana, before starting a machining business here in 2009. He mostly taught himself CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining when he started the business. 
“He’s the mastermind that figured out how to make (the drill),” Bateman said of Warren.
McGinley makes the surgical bits for its drills, too. This room looks brand new, almost as sterile as the operating rooms where the bits will be used. Medical drill bits are single-use, like needles, and if a doctor tries to clean a McGinley bit, a plastic piece will melt away and render the bit unusable.
There are a handful of machines in here. There’s a laser etcher, and machine that essentially burns un-millable shapes into steel and a behemoth that uses a robot arm to grind the spiraling flutes into 1,500 bits in three days, running non-stop.
Bateman’s favorite machine is the one he made with Warren. From scratch.
“It’s awesome,” Bateman said, his face lighting up. “This was cool, to actually complete a fully-functional asset . . . This is what I was initially hired for, the electronics and the programming part of it.”
The drill bits work exclusively with the McGinley drill (the part that goes into the drill chuck is actually diamond-shaped). Bateman and Warren’s machine takes the top part of the bit, that goes into the chuck, and laser-welds it to the business end of the bit.
Bateman explains all the specialized equipment as you walk through the building. That empty patch of floor over there will soon be home to a five axis mill. There’s a lot of buzz about the five axis in the building today.
A three axis mill allows you to move the mill’s spindle up and down (one axis), and the fixture holding the in-progress part side to side (two) and forward and back (three). When the fixture can rotate, that gives you four axes. Throw in another level of rotation, you get five. Having a five axis machine will let McGinley make parts in fewer operations, and it can run 24-hours straight.
When you walk through the kitchen, past a case of Monster Energy drinks, into the main work area, you’ll notice a mural, full of characters like the Jetsons painted in neon colors, wrapping around the whole interior of the building.
The building has been home to a number of businesses over the years. The Jetsons wouldn’t have seemed out of place when this was a roller rink. Before being bought by McGinley in 2012,  Ben and Joleen Warren started the mining parts business back in 2009 with four employees.
Now McGinley has about 20 employees, 10 making parts in Glenrock and 10 in Casper. Bateman estimated about half of the Glenrock crew lives in town.
It takes a while to train people for the work. Bateman said it can take up to a year for a new machinist to get comfortable making a part from start to finish.
“It’s very difficult to get people to do this job,” he said. “Almost always we’re training from the ground up with zero experience.”
On the business side, McGinley hopes to get its drills into more hospitals. Director of Engineering Adam Johnson said that at one point McGinley drills were in 30 facilities. The company’s working on other medical products as well, and will air a Super Bowl ad in Wyoming this February.
Bateman said he believes strongly in the company’s most famous product.
“If I ever go into surgery, I’m going to demand (they use that drill),” he said. “Because what I’ve seen is horrendous. The standard care for bone plates and screws and stuff is abysmal. There’s no way I’m going to have surgery without that drill.” 


Glenrock Independent

Physical Address:506 W. Birch, Glenrock, WY 82637 Mailing Address: PO Box 109, Douglas, WY 82633 Phone: (307) 436-2211

The Glenrock Independent is located in the Bronco Building

Office hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday - 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday - 9:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Subscriber Login