The honor of moving the first shovelful of earth at Hydrotech's groundbreaking belonged to President Pete Jones as other Hydrotech executives stand beside him.
Companies customarily mark new construction with a groundbreaking ceremony. Such an event to celebrate Hydrotech Inc.’s expansion of its suburban Cincinnati headquarters, however, revealed some unexpected facets to this diverse fluid power and automation solutions provider.
Because Hydrotech is a local company, taking in its recent groundbreaking was a convenient way for me to get to know the company better. I was partly motivated by the fact that, as the company has expanded, it is branching into areas of growing interest to metalworking companies. These include minimum quantity lubrication systems for environmentally friendly machining and a soon-to-be announced Internet of Things approach to preventive maintenance, for example.
These developments build on Hydrotech’s 58-year history of providing solutions to the hydraulic, pneumatic, lubrication, machining and automation industries.
The groundbreaking marks the commencement of the company’s 23,000 square-foot expansion to its headquarters in West Chester, a northern suburb of Cincinnati. Company officials explained that the expansion is necessary because the firm has grown 14 percent per year since 2010, has hired 35 people in the past five years (with 10 more positions to be added this year), and needs more room for offices and additional factory/warehouse space.
At least three other news items about the company caught my attention because they are not so typical of other groundbreaking events I have covered.
As a family-owned company, Hydrotech actively supports the Goering Center at the University of Cincinnati. This center offers programs to help family and private companies meet the challenges that can keep them from growing and prospering. Hydrotech benefited from these programs and now mentors other companies that work with the Goering Center.
Philanthropy is important to Hydrotech, as it often is for family companies who naturally feel compelled to give back to the community and the industry they serve. For example, at the ceremony, the company announced a donation of four new hydraulic training stands to Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. The stands represent a total value of $120,000. This marks the second major donation to this program. Last year, similar pneumatic training stands were also donated.
Four hydraulic training stands like this one are going to Cincinnati State's Electro-Mechanical Engineering program to help train technicians in the fluid power industry.
Hydrotech has a sideline in educational, therapeutic and practical life products for children and teens living with autism. Called Got-Autism LLC, this business sprang out of an employee’s experience with finding resources for her son, who has a form of autism. With the parent firm’s support and investment, Got-Autism develops and distributes products that encourage individuals with various forms of this disorder to grow, learn and enjoy life. Proceeds go back to local and national autism charities.
Although it may a seem sideline unrelated to industrial hydraulics, company backing has put Got-Autism LLC into the mainstream of providing products and resources that help youngsters with autism.
It didn’t take much digging for me to discover these aspects at the event, but I would probably have missed them otherwise. Unfortunately, I am not able to get to many events like this. I was pleased by what turned up at this one.
Dr. Lonnie Love, group leader of the Manufacturing Systems Research Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will be one of the speakers at the upcoming Additive Manufacturing Conference. At an event earlier this year, he discussed additive manufacturing’s need for “moon shots.” The conference—October 20-21 in Knoxville, Tennessee—focuses on industrial applications of additive manufacturing. Learn more and register to attend at additiveconference.com.
Renishaw’s new Innovation Center houses R&D and corporate services staff, as well as demonstration, training and conference areas.
I know Renishaw fairly well. I had been following and writing about its myriad metrology technologies even before joining Modern Machine Shop back in 2004, having worked seven years prior to that for a public relations agency that had Renishaw as a client.
Due to scheduling conflicts and various other circumstances, though, I hadn’t had the chance to visit the company’s operations in the U.K. Luckily, I got that opportunity last week, being the sole U.S. editor invited to a press event to tour Renishaw’s new Innovation Center located at the company’s headquarters near Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire and get a preview of the products the company is introducing at EMO this October.
The 153,000-square-foot Innovation Center represents a £20 million ($31 million) investment and is the first phase of a development that includes the approval for 77,000 square feet of additional space. The facility houses R&D and corporate services staff, as well as demonstration, training and conference areas, and is the first such demonstration center to house all of the company’s product lines, which includes spectroscopy, healthcare and laser calibration.
The Innovation Center is the first such demonstration center to house all of the company’s product lines, including metrology, spectroscopy additive manufacturing and health care.
The energy-efficient building includes a number of machine tools and CMMs to demonstrate Renishaw’s latest probing, gaging, ballbar, laser calibration and software solutions, including the following that will be on display at EMO (which illustrate how the company is striving to make applying and using its technology easier and more affordable):
The Intuo gauging software for the company’s Equator inspection system is designed to simplify and automate the gaging of a wide variety of parts, removing dependence on the skill of manual gage users and offering an alternative to multiple devices such as Vernier or digital calipers, micrometers and plug gauges. The software enables a programmer to create gaging routines using just a part with an engineering drawing. With the Feature Predict function activated, the programmer uses the Equator’s joystick to take points on each part feature, and the software predicts the type of feature, the nominal value and a possible tolerance band.
The Modus 2 metrology software suite brings efficiency to the programming and operation of CMMs. Based on the existing Modus platform, and supporting Renishaw’s range of three- and five-axis CMM sensor technologies, Modus 2 includes an intuitive interface and faster programming. The user experience is designed to be identical whether the software is connected to a “live” CMM or is working offline environment where full simulation with speed control facilitates measurement sequence development and visualization.
The Primo twin-probe system (which includes the Primo Radio Part Setter, Primo Radio 3D Tool Setter, Primo interface and GoProbe training kit) is said to offer the advantages of automated setting with a “pay-as-you-go” credit token business model that combines minimal up-front costs, a free, comprehensive training package, and immediate parts replacement. The six-month credit token enables unlimited use of the Primo twin-probe system during that period. Once the credit expires, users can simply purchase an additional credit token to extend usage.
Machine tools of various brands and sizes are used to demonstrate Renishaw’s numerous probing and calibration solutions.
I was also invited to see two of Renishaw’s other facilities during this trip. One was the new Additive Manufacturing Products Division location in Stone, Staffordshire. (And as you might have heard, Clive Martell, former president and CEO of Delcam, is now Renishaw’s head of global additive manufacturing.) The company moved its additive division to this 90,000 square foot building back in March. The facility includes individual private “hot cells” the company will set up for manufacturers to privately test additive manufacturing equipment for their own products. This concept will be replicated in facilities in other countries. Another building at this site is home to Renishaw’s vacuum casting division. This technology involves encasing a master model in silicone rubber and applying a vacuum to make a mold. It is a bridge between additive manufacturing equipment and full production molds for quantities of 500 pieces or fewer.
Finally, I was finally able to visit Renishaw’s Stonehouse machine shop, where the company applies its RAMTIC (Renishaw’s Automated Milling, Turning and Inspection Center) concept. This machining approach was developed in the early ‘90s as a solution for effective process control during unattended production of components for the company’s metrology products. Through the use of standardized work fixtures and mobile carousels, master workpiece artifacts, and on-machine probing routines, RAMTIC enables machine tools to maintain control of precision machining processes on their own. Mark Albert, MMS editor-in-chief, wrote this article in 2007 about the approach, and I wrote this follow-up piece about it a couple years later.
The PM 750 from R&P Metrology is a portable device used to measure large parts on production machines lacking onboard inspection. A docking system with a rotary table is also available.
It’s always good to have options, and that’s what the PM line of gear inspection and measurement systems from R&P Metrology provides. Designed as a portable device, it is used to measure large parts on production machines lacking onboard inspection. It allows for inspection to be conducted on many different machines with a single measurement unit that is easy to transport between locations. In addition, a new docking station with a base plate and rotary table transforms the device into a standalone, full-featured, four-axis (+1 positioning) measurement system that is capable of profile and form measurements as well as gear inspection and 3D measurements.
The PM is a three-axis CNC measuring column, capable of gear inspection, form and profile measurements as well as 3D measurements. The system utilizes proven air bearing and linear motor technologies and industry standard 3D scanning probe systems from Renishaw. The standard models are the PM 750 and the PM 1250. The PM 1250EX (extended version) is also available for larger gears, as well as custom configurations.
R&P Metrology designs and builds its own metrology equipment concentrating on medium and large parallel axis gears, bevel gears, tools, shafts, bearing rings and 3D parts. It is represented in the United States by Kapp Technologies, which also provides support, service and sales throughout North America. Watch a video of the system in action.
Two “Baxter” collaborative robots from Rethink Robotics are helping to disrupt what third-generation shop owner Bill Marcell describes as the previous “old school mentality” of Standby Screw Machine Products, the 76-year-old contract machining business in Berea, Ohio. Today, one of the new robots does packaging, freeing an employee from this work by packing two boxes at once, while another robot loads a milling machine in an automation application likely to save the company 1,000 person-hours per year.
Collaborative robots are easily redeployable robots that work safely close to people. Mr. Marcell and project manager Jess Horvath describe their experience with the new robots in this video produced by Rethink.