Shown here on display at IMTS 2014, Esab’s Hydrocut LX combines waterjet and plasma cutting for greater efficiency.
One advantage of cutting metal parts with a waterjet is the lack of heat distortion and mechanical stress, which translates into more accurate cuts. However, there’s usually a trade-off in speed for this precision. Depending on the type of material and its thickness, other processes like laser or plasma cutting may be able to cut more quickly and at lower cost than waterjet, though less accurately.
Machines that combine waterjet cutting with other processes can offer higher productivity and faster cycle times as a result. For example, the Hydrocut LX system from ESAB Cutting Systems combines the accuracy of waterjet cutting with a plasma system on the same gantry. The system enables precision without sacrificing speed on every cut, the company says. High-precision contours can be cut with the waterjet while non-critical contours can be cut with plasma for cost and time savings. The waterjet can also be configured with oxy-fuel cutting, plasma or ink jet marking, and drilling capabilities.
Jon Baklund of Baklund R&D has a distinctive approach to marketing that I described in this article. The Minnesota shop owner does not score his business development reps’ efforts on how much business they bring in, but instead on how many live contacts they make with prospects. That’s it. His theory is that spreading awareness and continuing to establish and build positive relationships—without being pushy about getting business—is ultimately going to translate to more business in the long term.
He even tracks these positive contacts with prospects as a real-time business performance metric for all of the shop to see. In the various bar graphs on the right side of this shopfloor display, the green bar tracks business shipped relative to the shop’s costs across various time horizons. All employees know that 80 percent is the break-even on this bar. The business is making a profit above that. Meanwhile, the blue bar in each of these graphs displays a score based on a system Mr. Baklund devised to show the number and quality of direct contacts the business development reps have made. In other words, both the manufacturing personnel and the marketing personnel are generating real-time metrics for all of the company to see.
With a reading of 51.3, Gardner’s Metalworking Business Index (MBI) showed that the industry grew in November for the 11th consecutive month and the 13th time in 14 months, at a rate slightly faster than October. The month-over-month rate of growth was just 2.0 percent, which was the second slowest rate of growth since August 2013, and the annual rate of growth decelerated for the second month in a row.
Both new orders and production increased for the 14th month in a row, although new orders grew at their second slowest rate since September 2013 while production grew a little faster than it has since July. Backlogs contracted at their fastest rate since December 2013, and compared to the same month one year earlier, they contracted for the second month in a row. While it was still growing quickly, the annual rate of growth has decelerated for three months in a row, indicating that capacity utilization will likely see its peak rate of growth in the first or second quarter of 2015. Employment has continued to expand since August, and the rate of contraction in exports slowed significantly in November, although the dollar continues to appreciate against other world currencies. Supplier deliveries continued to lengthen, but the rate of increase has slowed the last three months.
Material prices have increased at a slower rate since June and were at their slowest rate since December 2013. Prices received have increased the last seven months, although the increase has accelerated the last two months. This is the strongest period of sustained price increases by metalworking facilities since the summer of 2012. Future business expectations increased sharply in November and were at their highest level since May.
Future capital spending plans contracted 13.7 percent from a year earlier, the fastest month-over-month contraction since February. The annual rate of growth decelerated to 0.5 percent.
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When industry innovators partnered to create the world’s first 3D-printed, electric car on-site during IMTS 2014, they made manufacturing history. Some say the remarkable collaborative process that created this car is the real history-maker in this scenario. Such collaboration may be the key to success in all manufacturing in the years ahead—and thus a most appropriate topic for the keynote address at The MFG Meeting (Manufacturing for Growth) March 4-7, 2015 at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida.
No one may know more about this collaborative process than Jay Rogers, CEO and co-founder of Local Motors, the man and the company behind the “Strati,” the name given to this revolutionary automobile. Rogers, in fact, will deliver this keynote address, which will introduce MFG attendees to the third industrial revolution and explain the implications of large-scale and subtractive manufacturing processes. He will detail the collaborative process—from conception to test drive—that made this innovative idea a reality.
Registration for The MFG Meeting will open soon, but booking a hotel room for the event is urgent—the cut-off date for the group discount is January 30, 2015.
Machining verification and simulation software developer CGTech says it prefers to develop its software capabilities internally rather than licensing capabilities that were developed outside. It made an exception in the case of Vericut Force, a physics-based machining optimization tool newly made available for the company’s Vericut software. This resource was developed not by another software company, but by manufacturer United Technologies Corporation, or UTC, the OEM owner of Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky, Otis Elevator and other industrial brands.
Within UTC, streamlining machining processes using the optimization tool, which was formerly called PromptFM, has cut some cycle times by 50 percent. The company manufacturing leaders and researchers involved in developing the utility therefore want to see it used by company suppliers (ultimately saving cost for UTC). To realize this hope, however, the company needed an established software provider willing to back the product and support its users. Allowing CGTech to adopt it was the answer.
Vericut software from CGTech already has machining feed rate optimization capability. This existing optimization is based on the simulated sweep of the tool’s envelope through the workpiece material. Feed rate changes are calculated from changes in the area of the tool’s material engagement throughout the cut. By contrast, Vericut Force’s optimization draws on modeling of the cut based on metalcutting theory combined with machining experimentation. UTC researchers ran and monitored cutting trials with various tools at various conditions, then interpolated within those results and iteratively refined the software until it produced recommendations that accord with real-world testing.
CGTech says the result is more effective optimization of the cut when cutting conditions are unusual or extreme. Its existing optimization and Vericut Force produce similar results during typical roughing in freer-machining metals, but in finishing hard metals with complex cutter contact conditions, for example, the UTC system offers feed rate recommendations that are nearer to the ideal for that cut.
The initial release of Vericut Force is to UTC companies and their suppliers. The existence of this potential customer base was part of the business case that made licensing the external software product appealing to CGTech. After proving out the new option with these customers, the company says it will extend its availability to the rest of Vericut’s users.