Build or buy? Manufacturing engineers must answer that question with every automation project. Sometimes, the best solution to an assembly challenge is simply unavailable, and there's no other choice but to make a part or build a subsystem in-house. At other times, however, engineers can significantly reduce the cost of an assembly system by using off-the-shelf technology.

David Shealey knows the build-or-buy dilemma well. Shealey is director of internal production machine development at Autosplice Inc. (San Diego), which makes electrical connectors and the machines to install them. Shealey decided to outsource various machine components to Misumi of the Americas Inc. (Schaumburg, IL). He estimates that the move has saved Autosplice 25 percent to 70 percent on the cost of machine components, compared with making the parts in-house or having them made at a local machine shop.

"The Misumi catalog is a design engineer's candy store, with a huge variety of custom parts available quickly and in small quantities," says Shealey. "We are now building a good number of our custom manufacturing equipment from the frame up using Misumi components."

Shealey says that nearly 90 percent of the mechanical parts needed for his company's assembly machines are now sourced from Misumi. These parts include linear shafts, bearings, spur gears, collars and rollers.

"One of the more amazing things was finding that raw material pieces were available cut to the desired outside dimensions, finished, packaged and shipped at a very competitive price when compared to cutting and squaring the stock in-house," says Shealey. "The cost and time savings are considerable. It's great to have one catalog that provides one-stop shopping for everything from actuation and control system components to complete, complex machine designs."

Design engineers can download part drawings directly from Misumi's Web site. Engineers can then size the parts to their specifications and insert them into their drawings. Drawing files are available for most of the CAD software programs, including AutoCAD, Solid Edge, Pro/Engineer, Catia and TurboCAD.

For more information, call 800-681-7475, visit, or Reply 4.