Seattle Lighthouse Production Worker Steve Allen works on the robotic finishing cell that helps produce the entrenching tool (E-tool)

With the addition of three new Okuma CNC Machining Centers and a robotic finishing cell, The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. continues to expand its machining capabilities to create opportunities for employment for people who are blind, Deaf-Blind, and blind with other disabilities.

In April, Seattle Lighthouse continued to expand its machining capabilities with the installation of three new Okuma Vertical Axis Machining Centers, bringing the total number of Okuma machines installed at the Seattle facility to ten. Since 2007, Okuma America Corporation and Gosiger Northwest have partnered with the Lighthouse to increase the accessibility of machining equipment, playing an active role in creating and enhancing employment opportunities for individuals who are blind, Deaf-Blind, and blind with other disabilities.  They have provided generous financial support, consistent partnership, and a commitment to the Lighthouse mission. CNC machines continue to provide Seattle Lighthouse the opportunity to add value for their customers, such as The Boeing Company and Triumph Composites, by making the Lighthouse more price competitive and enabling them to meet quality and delivery requirements, while providing high-paid jobs to blind and Deaf-Blind individuals.

Set-up Specialist Christopher Loomis operates one of several Okuma CNC Machining Centers at Seattle LighthouseIn addition to manufacturing aerospace parts, the Lighthouse also produces products for the Federal Government under the AbilityOne Program. Last year, the Lighthouse began production on the E-tool (or entrenching tool), a collapsible shovel that is used by members of the U.S. Military.  An integral part of the Lighthouse’s ongoing success with E-tool production is the utilization of an advanced robotic finishing cell, operated entirely by employees who are blind or visually impaired.  The robotic finishing cell is equipped with audio output and enhanced visual monitors that help Lighthouse employees maintain productivity and top quality in the grinding and finishing stages of production.

The robotic finishing cell at Seattle Lighthouse grinds blades for the E-tool. Using voicing technology and large print buttons, employeees who are blind are able to program and operate the cell to increase production“The new robotic cell helps ensure our profitability, product quality, and helps us deliver products on time, while being very user-friendly for blind and visually impaired employees,” said Douglas Hintz, Special Projects Coordinator for The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.  As a result of E-tool production, the Lighthouse has created 20 jobs for people who are blind in such areas as machining, small parts assembly, and final assembly.