TechSolve is a Cincinnati-based organization that provides consulting and R&D services to the manufacturing and (more recently) the healthcare communities. One of its most important facilities is the M. Eugene Merchant Technology Development Center, an especially well-equipped machining laboratory dedicated to developing advanced machining processes and conducting basic research in machining-related technology.
My most recent visit to TechSolve for its Machining Open House, which spotlighted the organization’s on-going projects in machining R&D, included a tour of the machining lab. The lab’s six main machining resources include these CNC machines:
Mazak Integrex i200s eight-axis mill-turn
DMG DMU 70 five-axis machining center
DMG Deckel Maho DMU 50 3+2 axis machining center
Makino V 55 high speed die-mold vertical machining center
Chevalier Smart B122411 CNC grinding machine
Milltronics HMC 35 horizontal machining center
Each of these machines is equipped with a variety of sensors, dynamometers, and data acquisition systems to collect cutting force and other machine data at very high speed. This enables TechSolve to provide a variety of analytical and development services to manufacturers as well as suppliers of materials, cutting tools, cooling systems and accessories.
Demonstrations on these machines involved a number of current projects or research capabilities that reflect critical issues facing metalworking manufacturers. For example, the lab conducts evaluations of metalworking fluids to determine quantifiable benefits of specific coolant formulations for challenging workpiece materials such as those frequently encountered in aerospace. These tests are usually conducted on the DMU 50 CNC machining center, with results that compare the cooling and lubricating effects of coolants to enable the lab’s clients to select the most appropriate products and apply them properly.
A demo on the DMU 70 five-axis machine showed how problems with unpredictable tool life for certain CBN cutting tools were resolved. Testing indicated that a lack of edge preparation on the CBN segment often led to chipping that precipitated tool failure. Honing the edge prevented this chipping so all of the tools delivered their expected productivity. The lab’s Keyence Digital Microscope capable of 200X magnification was essential to this research.
The Chevalier grinding machine provided a good example of the lab’s extensive use of sensors added to the machine structure for detecting grinding forces, power, vibration, temperature and acoustic emission. These extremely sensitive devices provide data for evaluating grinding processes, optimizing operational parameters.
While not part of a live demo, a Hardinge CNC lathe is currently used to evaluate TechSolve's in-house developments regarding surface treatment of carbide inserts, with specific focus on machining titanium.
Additionally, a of the machines in the lab are used for testing TechSolve’s MTConnect-enabled applications, such as ShopViz, for machine monitoring and energy management. The variety of machine configurations and control types simulates the situation encountered in many machine shops for a realistic evaluation of connectivity issues.
The DSI machine project is the latest in an extensive series of retrofits at Major Tool & Machine. Here, Scott Elder of Indiana Automation installs wiring at the electrical enclosure of one of the previously upgraded machines, a Cincinnati U5.
Major Tool & Machine (MTM) is no stranger to extensive retrofit projects, and the company’s latest order is no exception. Set for completion in 2015, the job involves equipping a DSI (Dorries Scharmann) turn-mill gantry machine with not only a new Siemens CNC and drive system, but also a new cross-saddle, ram, and five interchangeable cutting heads, among other components. This work follows close on the heels of a series of similar projects that the shop began to undertake in 2010, and it can be similarly informative for manufacturers considering their own rebuilds.
As detailed in this article from our May issue, these previous projects demonstrate that retrofits provide the opportunity to not just restore machines to like-new condition, but also to add new capabilities. Just as importantly, the article describes why rebuilding MTM’s old machines would have been a complicated, involved process even if the company had less lofty goals. In fact, anything less than a total motion system upgrade wouldn’t even have been an option.
The DSI machine rebuild also demonstrates the need to plan around downtime. The project is part of a multi-million dollar order from MAG IAS that also includes two new machine tools: A VTC 2500 and a U5 XL 2500 universal portal mill with turning capabilities. The rail-type U5 XL 2500, the newest and largest model of the U5 portal mill series, will initially replace production capacity during the rebuild the DSI machine. “This is an extremely complex project that involves much more than simply adding machine tools, because it is critical that we maintain our large-part mill/turn capacity when the DSI machine goes offline,” says Steve Weyreter, chairman and CEO of MTM. “Part of our reputation is based on the depth of our capacity, so coordination and timing are vital when we take a critical machine offline.”
Industrias Romi is Brazil’s largest machine tool builder. It highlighted its large-part machining capability at the 2011 Feimafe show with its 130T horizontal boring mill for parts such as wind turbine hubs and Centur 60 CNC turning center suited for oil-field components.
I’m heading to Brazil the first week of June to attend the 14th edition of the Feimafe trade show in Sao Paulo, which will be the third time I’ve attended this show. While I do enjoy traveling there, the time change—or lack thereof—still seems odd. After flying for 10 or so hours to Sao Paulo, I lose just one hour heading essentially due South down and across the equator.
In this report about the 2011 show, I noted that the Brazilian machine tool builders say they continue to eye foreign markets such as the United States. At that time, though, Brazil’s strong currency (called real) made it tough for them to compete abroad. However, the Brazilian real has since weakened compared to the U.S. dollar, so that could open up greater export opportunities for them as I intend to find out when I visit.
This slideshow from the 2011 edition gives you an idea of the type of equipment commonly highlighted at the show. The 2013 edition is expected to attract 70,000 attendees and feature 1,300 national and international exhibitors and 85,000 square meters of exhibition area. I’ll report back what I learn in a future blog post.
Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council under the President, gives this 60-second explanation of the importance of manufacturing and the value of the new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes. Mr. Sperling says manufacturing “punches above its weight” in terms of the jobs and innovation it produces. He says the manufacturing innovation hubs will bring together businesses and universities for cooperative investment and research that neither side would do alone. The first such institute is the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute recently opened in Youngstown, Ohio.
With a reading of 48.5, the MBI showed that the metalworking industry contracted slightly in April after growing in March. Since the noticeable contraction in the second half of 2012, the industry has been virtually flat.
The real story through the first four months of 2013 is the diverging performance across plant sizes. Facilities with more than 50 employees have grown in every month. Those with fewer than 50 employees have continued to contract, however, and facilities with fewer than 19 employees continue to contract at the same rate they did in the second half of 2012. Primarily, it is small job shops that pulled the index back below 50.0 in April. Shops dedicated to specific industries are showing much better performance in the first four months of this year.
New orders contracted for the first time since December 2012, and this was the most significant reason the index moved below 50.0. Production, however, continued to grow, albeit at a slower rate than in March. These subindices contributed to the faster contraction in backlogs, but there is likely also some over-capacity in the metalworking industry. This would further explain why backlogs have contracted since April 2012 and why smaller job shops are performing worse than shops dedicated to specific industries. Employment continued to grow in April, while exports continued to contract. Supplier deliveries continued to lengthen, but at almost the slowest rate since August 2011.
Material prices are still growing, but at a much slower rate than the previous two months. Prices received were virtually flat. The combination of these two trends, contracting new orders and growing employment continues to put pressure on profits at metalworking facilities. Future business expectations dropped in April, but they are still above almost every month since July 2012.