My trip to Tubingen included a guided tour of Horn’s entire manufacturing operation, which, among other processes, employs injection molding and extrusion to shape indexable inserts. Click here for highlights of what I saw.
Although Horn initially built its reputation on grooving and part-off technology, pigeonholing the tooling manufacturer as a specialist in those areas alone would be a huge disservice to the company and any potential customers. Moreover, a broader product line isn’t the only factor in Horn’s becoming a bigger contender during the past few decades. The company itself has grown steadily as well, a trend that management expects to continue throughout 2013 and beyond.
These were two major takeaways from “Technology Days,” a biennial event at the company’s headquarters in picturesque Tubingen, Germany. Along with more than 2,000 customers and dealers from around the world—a reportedly larger crowd than in previous years—press members including me and Chris Koepfer, editor-and-chief of MMS sister publication Production Machining, enjoyed a busy three days of demonstrations, tours and technical presentations.
Although Horn’s grooving expertise was evident from the get-go, demos and placards also showcased products that ran the gamut from milling and turning to broaching, reaming and thread-whirling. Notably, not all of these offerings were selections from the company’s 20,000-strong line of standard tools. Many were custom-designed models—which represent more than 50 percent of the company’s total annual turnover. The merits of custom tooling was also the topic of a particularly interesting technical presentation, while others focused on high-feed-rate machining, cutting with ultra-hard diamond and CBN materials, and performing broaching on CNC machines. (Watch for in-depth coverage of these topics in upcoming issues of both MMS and PM.)
In the United States, standard and custom tools alike are manufactured at Horn USA’s facility in Franklin, Tennessee. The U.S. market’s strength and growth potential has spurred plans to more than double the size of that facility beginning this year. The overall company is growing, too. With annual turnover expected to rise by € 5 million this year over the € 220 million reported in 2012, the company is constructing a new building at the Tubingen campus for additional capacity. That project is slated for completion in 2015.
These expansions follow close on the heels of the 2012 completion of another new facility in Tubingen: a 16,000-square-meter factory for Horn Hartstoffe, the company’s carbide manufacturing operation. Here, powdered carbide mixes are shaped into “green” inserts via three different processes: axial pressing, and, perhaps more notably, extrusion and injection molding. This aspect of Horn’s manufacturing process, as well as the custom machines it uses to grind inserts after sintering, were among the most fascinating aspects of my trip. Click here for a brief virtual tour.
Interest in additive manufacturing was evident at last week’s Rapid show in Pittsburgh. Rapid is SME’s annual event focused on additive manufacturing technology and applications. At the show last week, the exhibit hall bustled and the conference sessions were frequently packed. Attendance nearly doubled that of last year, says SME. A veteran exhibitor told me he thought the opening day last week might have been the busiest day he’s ever experienced at a trade show.
However, it’s not just the quantity of attendees that distinguished this year’s show. The nature of those attendees was different as well. This year seemed to be the moment when Rapid transitioned from being focused on 3D printing as an aid to visualization and design, toward being focused on additive manufacturing more as a means of producing industrial parts.
Certainly that was the focus of a significant share of attendees, particularly those coming to the show for the first time. I thought I caught evidence of this when a keynote speaker asked for a show of hands from people who were attending the show for the first time. Perhaps 30 percent of the hands went up. But at a standing-room-only conference session focused on applying additive manufacturing to making end-use parts, the speaker asked the same question. This time, about 70 percent of the hands went up. The difference told me that, among the newest attendees to the show, the lion’s share of them were interested in additive manufacturing specifically for production applications.
A CNC shop owner I know gave me an example of this. He was at the show for the first time. When I ran into him, he pulled a machined part out of his pocket to show me why he had come. The complex part was difficult to machine, and he was here to explore whether additive manufacturing would enable him to produce it more efficiently.
Other points worth noting:
● While the show was underway last week, two important developments related to additive manufacturing were announced. 3D Systems announced plans to acquire most of Phenix Systems, marking the parent company’s move into metal part production. Meanwhile, GE announced two “Open Innovation” contests awarding cash prizes to entrepreneurs for redesigning an industrial part and demonstrating advanced 3D printing technique.
● NAMII’s presence at the show was interesting. The organization aims to be an encourager of additive manufacturing and a connection point for companies advancing the technology, and it illustrated this role with a booth that was essentially a giant wrap-around whiteboard inviting Rapid visitors to engage by sharing their thoughts. Speakers giving talks inside this booth were accompanied by NAMII personnel spontaneously taking notes on the booth’s surface as they spoke. The effect was energetic and, to put it plainly, fun. The photo below illustrates this—here are Tim Pasterik of ExOne and Greg Morris of GE speaking in the NAMII booth. (Consider also what this photo says about the maturing of this technology and the likelihood of its staying power. Here are employees of two publicly held American companies committed to the technology, speaking as guests of a government organization founded on that same commitment.)
This video created by Jesel Inc. shows the operations this company employs to create custom valvetrain components that are tailored to the particular demands of individual auto racing teams. One of those operations the Jesel custom shop uses is 3D printing. The 3D printer seen in this video complements machining, because trial parts are printed and fit into the assembly as a way of ensuring that the geometry is correct before machining begins. Learn more about Jesel and the various ways it uses 3D printing.
Cameras at Quality Tooling are used to monitor unattended machining operations. Because they can be accessed via smartphones, the Alveys (Michael is shown here) don’t have to leave home to periodically check on equipment in person.
Corydon, Kentucky’s Quality Tooling is a family-owned tooling manufacturer that’s into its third generation. James Alvey started the company in 1968 out of his garage and has since retired. His sons Michael and Brian now run the successful operation, and Michael’s son, Stephen, is one of the shop’s lead designers. I met with Michael, Brian and Stephen while visiting the company to develop this story.
A number of shops that receive our magazine are family-owned. Therefore, I asked the Alveys to offer insight about what it takes to run a successful family business. Here are their thoughts.
Those who work with CNC every day (or those like me who write about it) can forget just how powerful this technology is and continues to be. Here is a reminder of what precise and programmable motion control is able to do.
The photo, which appears on the website for Dezeen magazine, has not been distorted. Rather, this is an accurate photo of a cabinet that was created to look like a distortion by its designer, Ferruccio Laviani. CNC machining made this possible.
I titled this post “CNC Art II” because it reminds me of another time I happened upon an artist using a CNC machine.