Machines Making Machines: Inside a SiG Factory

This is content we personally found fascinating, so we’re sharing it with you, even though it’s from another site and almost a year old!

We’ve always been fascinated with manufacturing processes. Here’s a five-minute slice of what goes into a German-made SIG pistol. Shot on location, as it were, in the highly automated plant in Eckernförde, Germany, near the Danish border.

Sig Pistols Factory: An Inside Look At How Sig Sauer Pistols Are Made From Sig’s Plant In Germany – YouTube.

Several things are very striking about this video. One was the tidniess of the place: clean uniforms worn by the workers, clean floors, well-organized workbenches, nothing obstructing machines. A thoroughly modern plant, with perhaps a touch of the Teutonic (fittingly enough). Another was the sheer level of automation involved. Combination mill/lathes, automatic honing machines, hammer-forge machines for barrel making, and of course modern multiaxis CNC machining centers.

Consider the machining center. The machine itself is expensive, hundreds of thousands of dollars (well, here, Euros). The tooling (both work-holding and cutting tools) are expensive, and at least some of it amounts to wear-out items that need periodic replacement, on schedule or on condition. But the real expense, the real value-added inside that maelstrom of tearing metal and spraying coolant, is in the programming, the software for the machine. That lets, subject to minimal human ministrations, machines make machines.

Until, of course, it all comes together. The machines are assembled (and the highest-end ones, custom-tuned) by human smiths at the end of the assembly line.

Note that while some of the products of this plant are imported, other SIGs are made in the USA.

Finally, we wish we knew the name of the young man in the video so we could credit him. He’s clearly engaged in the subject and presents some very complex processes in a clear manner.

Update: The Firearm Blog identifies him as Andrew T, a former Navy Corpsman, who blogs at the Vuurwapen Blog *”firearms” in Dutch), where he further ID’s himself as Andrew Tuohy. Figures anybody that squared away is a vet.

Recently, the buzz is that SIG-Sauer handgun quality has taken a hit. There’s obviously no valid statistical information available, just “buzz.” And like much internet commentary, it may well be manure, or “I got the old one” snobbery. With a process this automated, it’s honestly hard to see where it can go wrong, given minimum levels of calibration of the machinery and inspection of the processes. Even in this overheated gun market, where anything that goes bang is flying off shelves, SIG won’t be able to sustain their premium pricing if they don’t hold the line on quality (if not raise the bar still higher), and they’re intelligent people, so they don’t need us to tell them that.

SIG-sauer handguns are used by several Federal agencies and about a third of American police departments. (About half of PDs use Glocks, and the rest of the gunmakers fight over the 15-20% that SIG and Glock haven’t got. Smith & Wesson’s Glock-off M&P is coming on strong in that segment).