Posted by: Mark Albert 5. February 2016

Connecting Forklifts to the Industrial Internet of Things

A smart tablet, mounted in the front of the forklift, connects the truck to ITAMCO’s ERP system. The forklift also has a GPS.

ITAMCO, a manufacturer of precision-machined components and high-precision gears in Plymouth, Indiana, has a history of integrating its machinery and equipment with networked sensors and software. Many of these connections are powered by software applications for mobile devices—apps developed in-house by its own technology team. In 2012, the company implemented an MTConnect-enabled machine monitoring system. Soon after, key pieces of machinery were connected to the company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Now ITAMCO has developed a communication system for its forklifts, citing this connection as a good example of how the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will benefit manufacturing. In this case, it has made forklifts, the workhorses of the plant floor, more valuable than ever at ITAMCO.

Here is how the company describes the way forklifts are running on the IIoT. As soon as a machine operator scans the barcode on a pallet, signifying the completion of the product cycle at his machine, a forklift operator and forklift are on their way to the machine. Each forklift is linked to ITAMCO’s ERP system through its GPS and an application on a smart tablet mounted in the forklift. Forklift operators are notified via their smart devices (employees use iPods, iPads and smartphones) when they’re needed. The communication system is so efficient it will summon the closest forklift to the machine. The forklift operator will also know how many pallets need to be moved and where they should be taken. If the product is being moved to another workstation, the workers in that area will be notified that the product is on its way. 

The technology team at ITAMCO created an application that links machine operators, forklift drivers and the company’s ERP system.

“We developed the application because both of our facilities are rather large and forklift operators where always looking for forklifts to move their material but could never find one. Also, material would sit for hours at a machine, delaying the next operation. This application solved the problem by notifying a material handler as soon as the materials were ready to go to the next work area,” says Joel Neidig, an engineer and lead technology developer at ITAMCO. According to Mr. Neidig, the system has been well received by ITAMCO employees. “It has definitely helped me schedule the movement of materials from one work center to another,” says Arthur Doody, material handler at ITAMCO. “We’ve seen a 10-percent reduction in the time it takes to get material ready for the next operation,” Mr. Neidig says.

To learn more about other innovations at ITAMCO, watch the video below.


Posted by: Matt Danford 4. February 2016

What’s “Cavaforming?”

You turn to Modern Machine Shop primarily for information about cutting metal, not forming it. So, you won’t find much material here on rotary swaging. Nonetheless, I think it’s worth sharing the last article I wrote for MoldMaking Technology, our sister publication, before transferring to Modern Machine Shop a few months back.

After all, metalcutting might not be all you’re interested in, and I’m guessing you’ve never seen anything like what this plastic injection mold manufacturer is doing. “Cavaform” (for “cavity forming”) isn’t just the name of this shop. It’s also the trademarked name of a rotary swaging process used to produce tubular insert IDs by forcing an annealed steel tube around a hardened mandrel. The result is ±0.0002-inch tolerances and 4-micron surface finishes right off the machine, prior to any subsequent polishing. Beyond the “cool factor,” perhaps it will spur some ideas for your own operation. 

Posted by: Emily Probst 3. February 2016

Read the February 2016 Digital Edition

Read the February digital edition by clicking on the photo above.

The daily reporting document pictured on the cover of the February 2016 issue is a visual tool used by plant managers at Tech Manufacturing to easily check the previous day’s machine performance. The color red indicates a planned interruption (such as inspection or scheduled maintenance), while black indicates periods in which a machine is scheduled offline. Green, meanwhile, is in-cycle time. The machine is producing parts and making money during these periods. Yellow is what the shop doesn’t want to see. This color indicates unexplained non-cutting conditions. Click on the cover image above to access the digital edition of the magazine and turn to page 74 to read the full story.

Also in this issue:

  • How  machining IDs and ODs of 0.0160 inch with tolerances down to ±0.0001 inch led to the development of a new multifunction turning center;
  • How one shop took baby steps to integrate five-axis manufacturing; and
  • What Hydromat is doing to tailor its rotary transfer machines to specific high-volume applications.

Posted by: Derek Korn 2. February 2016

Five Patent Points to Consider for Your Job Shop

This article highlights a few reasons why owners and managers of job or contract shops—companies that often don’t have their own product lines—should be mindful of patents. The registered patent attorney who provided the information in that article says it is important for shops to:

  • Think processes, not just products.
  • Clarify employee assignments.
  • Know what a patent grants and doesn’t grant.
  • Know when you might be liable for patent infringement.
  • Think early when thinking about a patent.

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 1. February 2016

A Virtual Approach to CNC Training

One of the best things about using a CNC simulator during training is that it removes the fear of crashing an expensive machine, enabling students to gain confidence as they develop new skills. That’s the approach taken by Machine Training Solutions (MTS) LLC of Longwood, Florida, a software provider of training for CNC manufacturing companies and educational institutions. Whether conducted at a site of the customer’s choosing or at the MTS Training Center, classes contain knowledge-based exercises, video, and interactive labs and simulators to engage students and reinforce key concepts.

According to President Al Stimac, a key feature of the MTS system is that the programming methods and techniques used during the simulation training are identical to those in production machine shops. Led by industry experts, classes can be customized to meet a company’s needs, targeting areas such as:

  • CNC simulation of multi-channel, Swiss-type CNC lathes (10 axes in three channels with axis superimposition)
  • CNC simulation of complete machining on lathes and mill-turn centers (seven axes)
  • Programming and simulation of multi-spindle CNC machine tools (24 or more axes in eight channels)
  • Universal machining cycles for turning and milling
  • CNC simulation for five-axis turn-mills

Watch this video for an overview of the program.

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