Posted by: Peter Zelinski 24. May 2016

Put Employees’ Skills on Display

An adage in manufacturing says, “What you measure, you improve.” The acts of both measuring something and analyzing the measurement focus attention onto the particular output being measured, revealing shortfalls that had previously gone unnoticed. Those acts also convey to everyone involved with that output that the thing being measured is important.

The photo above shows how Tech Manufacturing carried that principle into employee skills. The leaders of the Missouri contract machine shop wanted more cross-training among employees—that is, more capability among employees to run various types of equipment in the shop. To encourage this, the company began tracking employees’ time with various equipment, awarding bronze, silver or gold status based on the hours logged. This sheet displays the different employees’ different levels of status. (Names have been blurred.) The sheet is posted in the shop for any staff member to see.

There was no carrot and no stick. Employees received no rewards tied to improving training status levels. There was just this sheet, which carefully accounted for cross-training success. But that was enough—the extent of cross-training began to increase as soon as the company began tracking and posting scores in this way.

Read more about Tech Manufacturing, including the full story of the company’s process improvement efforts.


Posted by: Stephanie Hendrixson 23. May 2016

Attend the Additive Manufacturing Conference during IMTS 2016

Registration has opened for the Additive Manufacturing Conference (AMC 2016), which will take place September 13-14 alongside the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) at Chicago’s McCormick place. Presented by Modern Machine Shop and Additive Manufacturing magazines, the conference focuses on the use of additive manufacturing technologies for making functional parts.

The event will feature one and a half days of presentations from 20 speakers, representing additive manufacturing OEMs, service bureaus, machinery suppliers, research organizations and product developers. The topics of these presentations will range from design for metal AM processes to shopfloor applications for 3D printers to the integration of AM and traditional machining.

Register for the conference, or access the complete agenda here for more information.

Already registered? Follow @LearnAdditive on Twitter for the latest updates, and use #IMTSadditive to connect with others during the event. 

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 20. May 2016

Doosan Technical Center Offers Collaborative Environment

Those attending the grand opening of Doosan’s new Technical Center included customers, members of the trade press, the company’s U.S. distributors and industry partners.

Officials at Doosan Machine Tools marked the opening of its new Technology Center in Pine Brook, New Jersey, earlier this month. The event was attended by the company’s customers, members of the trade press, and representatives from many of Doosan’s official North and South American distributors, including Ellison Technologies, Doosan’s newest U.S. distributor. Technical presentations by the company and its partners—Samchully, Royal Products, Renishaw, MD Tooling, among others—were also conducted during the event.

Along with his colleagues at Doosan Machine Tools, Young Kyun Choi, CEO (at far right with microphone), made opening remarks to the crowd preceding the cutting of the ribbon.

According to Young Kyun Choi, CEO, the center will offer a collaborative environment in which customers and other industry partners can see more than a dozen machines in action and work with Doosan technicians and engineers on special projects. Among the machine tools on display were:

  • DNM 400 II 5AX—five-axis vertical machining center
  • HP 5100 II + LPS—horizontal machining center with linear pallet system
  • Puma MX1600 ST-735—multitasking turning center
  • Puma TT1800SY—multitasking mill/turn center

Mr. Choi says the opening of the Technical Center signals Doosan’s renewed commitment to its end-users throughout North America to develop new machining processes that are tailored to each customer’s specific applications.

Doosan experts were on hand at each machine to answer customer’s questions about machine tools as well as resources that will be available at the Technical Center.

Posted by: Matt Danford 19. May 2016

Broken-Up Programs Limit Broken Tools

Breaking up programs by operation speeds the process of troubleshooting a worn or broken tool after an alarm is triggered by a Blum laser tool probe, an accessory common to all of the shop’s machining centers. 

Thanks to workzone-mounted cameras and other remote machine monitoring and control technology, personnel at Hard Milling Solutions (HMS) can respond immediately to any problems during the shop’s two lights-out shifts. However, determining the source of the problem when a machine’s laser tool probe triggers an alarm for wear or breakage can still take a great deal of time. In these instances, the shop relies on another strategy to get spindles spinning again as quickly as possible, one that’s exceedingly simple to execute. That is, to segment part programs by posting tool paths for different operations separately, rather than as a package.

Even during the single, staffed shift, the shop floor at HMS can be a lonely place. Programmers like Ryan Mihelcich, shown here, rely on video feeds and automatic alerts to keep them apprised of ongoing machining operations while they program future jobs. In fact, one such alert is tied into the shop’s doorbell, which rings whenever a machine stops. 

The essential idea is that determining why a one-hour program alarmed out is far easier than determining why a 10-hour program alarmed out, says Corey Greenwald, HMS founder and president. That’s because after an alarm, the program essentially “rewinds,” he explains. So, the process of discovering when a problem occurred (let alone why) requires retracing steps, sometimes all the way back to the first toolpath. Even if the 10-hour program calls for hourly checks for tool wear or breakage with an integrated laser probe, the only benefit of an alarm is ensuring that the machine shuts down and that the problem doesn’t get any worse. Posting the program in hourly segments instead, with a laser check after each, makes troubleshooting faster by isolating the portion of the machining routine where the error occurred.  

In some cases, a simple visual check of the part might be enough to determine which operations completed before the alarm. However, HMS’s mostly mold and die industry work, which often involves taking multiple, light passes across the same complex geometry, makes these visual checks less reliable than they might sound, Mr. Greenwald says. “If you’re squeezing down into a tight crevice, it can be hard to see with the human eye whether you've got a 6-ball (6-mm ballnose end mill) or a 3-ball in there,” he explains. He adds that segmented programs come in particularly handy when multiple operations use the same cutting tool, particularly when those operations don’t occur in sequence. “With one big program that’s errored out, all you’ll know is which tool is in the spindle.”

Although this concept is straightforward, it might not work for every shop. HMS has standardized largely on Makino, which supplied seven of the shop’s eight high-speed, hard-milling VMCs. That builder’s Professional 5 CNC offers two capabilities that facilitate HMS’s segmented programming approach. One is the capability to customize program names. This helps employees understand what’s happening during a particular portion of the machining routine, and Mr. Greenwald says it comes in particularly handy when multiple, non-sequential operations employ the same cutter (examples of typical names for HMS program segments include “10-mm rough” and “6-mm semi-finish”). Perhaps more importantly, the CNC enables running multiple programs in sequence, and that list can be displayed in the DNC list. “You could write a macro to list the operations with other controls, but when it errors out, it’ll just rewind to the beginning. With the Pro 5, it’s easy to have a list of every program that’s going to run, and they’ll run one after the other. If there’s an alarm, the program segment where it occurred will show up as incomplete.”

Segmented programming certainly comes in handy, but this is a shop that thrives largely on ensuring tools don’t break or wear prematurely in the first place. For an operation focused so heavily on unattended machining, process reliability and predictability are paramount. Although far more involved than segmented programming, HMS’s approach to ensuring that reliability and predictability is rooted in very simple concepts. Essentially, the shop makes the most of its CAM software tool library by painstakingly tracking machining parameters for every job, then standardizing on the most effective settings for particular combinations of cutting tools and materials. This March-issue feature article tells that story.   

Posted by: Derek Korn 18. May 2016

Three Technology Takeaways from FANUC Tour

Demonstrations at the event showed applications for the FANUC Intelligent Edge Link and Drive (FIELD) system, an open IoT platform that connects CNC machine tools and robots as well as peripheral devices and sensors.

I recently got the chance to visit FANUC’s manufacturing campus (on 1.2 million square meters of land) located near Mount Fuji in Oshino-mura, Yamanashi, Japan. This was my third visit there, where the company offered new technology demonstrations and tours of its servo-motor, milling, repair and robot factories to me and various U.S. manufacturing representatives. It’s pretty cool to see production cells in which robots build robots. It also remains impressive to me that FANUC produces 5,000 robots per month and 125,000 servo motors per month, and repairs customer circuit boards, servo motors, etc. that are sometimes more than 30 years old.

As I walked through the company’s new-product demonstration area, the following three technologies stood out to me, and their descriptions will give you a sense as to what the company will be presenting at IMTS:

• FIELD IoT technology—A collaboration with FANUC, Cisco, Rockwell Automation and Preferred Networks (a provider of artificial intelligence solutions) has resulted in the development of the FANUC Intelligent Edge Link and Drive (FIELD) system, a platform that connects CNC machine tools and robots as well as peripheral devices and sensors to deliver analytics that can optimize manufacturing production. Because this is an open platform, application developers, sensor and peripheral device makers, system integrators and others can build and integrate custom solutions that improve equipment efficiency, manufacturing output and quality.

The FIELD system extends the capabilities of the existing FANUC Zero Downtime (ZDT) connected-robots project that uses Cisco’s cloud-data-collection software. ZDT is said to proactively detect and then inform users of potential equipment or process problems before unexpected downtime occurs, enabling the maintenance issue to be addressed in a planned outage timeframe. FIELD takes this further by combining both artificial intelligence and edge-computing technologies to provide distributed learning. Data generated by robots and machines are processed in real time at the edge of the network so those devices can intelligently coordinate and collaborate in a flexible manner for applications such as bin-picking robots, anomaly detection, and failure prediction (the company refers to this as “deep learning”).

FANUC’s first collaborative robot offered 35-kg payload capacity. It has introduced more compact models with 4- and 7-kg capacity.

• Expanded collaborative robot line—FANUC took an interesting approach when it entered the collaborative robot market a few years ago (collaborative robots use sensing technology to enable them to safely work together with humans in a shared space). While some manufacturers started with light-payload models and are developing units with increased payloads, FANUC’s first model, the CR-35iA, was designed to be a high-payload model offering 35-kg capacity. It also has hand-guided, direct-teaching capability available. The company has since introduced three additional, more compact models. One offers 4-kg payload and 550-mm reach, and two others offer 7-kg capacity and 717- and 911-mm reach, respectively. All of these feature the company’s now-signature “collaborative green” soft finish to further reduce impact force.

Mike Cicco, who recently became President and COO of FANUC America (with Rick Schneider remaining as Chairman and CEO), notes that FANUC was also involved in collaborating to create the recently published ISO/TS 15066 technical specification, which serves as a supplemental document to the existing ISO 10218 industrial robot standards to facilitate collaborative robot integration. What’s key is that it offers guidance for robot integrators and manufacturing personnel to conduct more sophisticated preliminary risk assessments of both the collaborative robot system and the environment it will share with humans. Although Mr. Cicco admits ISO/TS 15066 is a bit complicated to follow, and that refinement of the risk-assessment guidance it provides is expected, it is a good first step to facilitate the integration of this automation technology.

He also says the company’s robotic automation business has seen growth in automotive and electronics industries. However, Mr. Cicco notes that there remains significant opportunity for robotic automation in machine shops, despite the fact that this is perhaps one of oldest applications for robotic technology. (Similarly, during my visit to FANUC in 2014, Mr. Schneider noted these reasons why robots will become more commonplace in U.S. manufacturing facilities.)

This model of the new iHMI series has a 19-inch touchscreen display and looks different than other FANUC controls you’ve likely encountered.

• New CNC look/interface—FANUC’s iHMI series of CNCs with flat panel design (including the Series 30i Model B shown above offering a 19-inch touchscreen display) represents a departure from the FANUC control you’re used to using. It’s also likely to offer a comfort level to the next generation of shopfloor employees who have grown accustomed to working with tablets and smart phones. This new series also complements FANUC’s FIELD technology, offering new maintenance and data logger functions required for IoT and smart-factory applications.

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