MMS Blog

Officially unveiled in Whitestown, Indiana, during a May 5th ribbon-cutting ceremony, Rego-Fix’s new U.S. headquarters facility includes all the usual—office space,  a storage area, space for training and machining demonstrations, and so forth. It also includes some of the not-so-usual, such as workout facilities for employees. There’s plenty of space left over, too, as the company continues efforts to expand sales, service and support on this side of the Atlantic. The Swiss company had certainly outgrown its previous location here in the states, but at 20,000 square feet, this one is more than twice the size. It can reportedly accommodate more than twice the inventory of the previous location, even prior to the potential addition of a mezzanine level later. The lot has space to expand the building by another third if needed as well. 

Rego-Fix is perhaps most renowned for its 1972 invention of the ER collet, which has since become a staple in shops around the world. Other notable tool clamping milestones include the development of the PowRgrip, a clamping system that works mechanically rather than hydraulically or via heat, as well as the reCool system, which is designed to add coolant-through capability to existing turning tool stations. However, talking to representatives also clarified the importance of continued innovation during the time between major releases—that is, improvements to or novel applications of already established products and technologies.

By: Russell Waddell 15. May 2017

Standards Close the Loop

Artificial intelligence is an up-and-coming application enabled by the Industrial Internet of Things. More specifically, the notion of self-aware machines or systems that can learn from their own environment and adapt on the fly is gaining wider acceptance as a feasible and desirable possibility. However, the seemingly mundane world of communication standards and protocols is playing a key part in this technology development, because it promises to fill gaps in the critical infrastructure that are still missing.

To begin, it’s important to grasp the value of self-aware machines by looking at some real-world cases. Machine tools already have, in fact, some capability for self-awareness. They operate as a collection of systems, subsystems, components and sensors that are linked together and centrally controlled. For example, a feature such as backlash compensation takes advantage of input from one component to calculate an adjustment that is fed back to the control of the component to eliminate an unwanted result. Likewise, the technology to make a real-time feedback loop for cutting tools is also in development. Vibration sensors feed data to a toolholder that can automatically make slight adjustments to avoid undesirable harmonics, which in turn reduces chatter, improves surface finish and increases insert life.

The automotive industry is among the largest manufacturing sectors, but there is a notion that additive manufacturing isn’t applicable there. Medical and aerospace, two sectors where AM is succeeding, involve relatively low-quantity production. By contrast, automotive production entails the kinds of large part quantities that processes such as machining and molding are very good at delivering. For AM to be relevant to automotive, it would need to print parts at dramatically greater speeds than what is possible today. Or so goes the widely-held view.

Yet that view, which is true as far as it goes, is incomplete.

Machine-tending automation solutions vary in sophistication and price points. In any case, many machine tool builders report an increased interest in automated systems. For example, Franz-Xaver Bernhard, member of the board at Hermle AG in Gosheim, Germany, says the company has been offering both advanced pallet changers and robotic handling systems for many years. It currently sells approximately 20 percent of its milling machines with automation, and the demand is increasing. However, he notes that there are many shops that don’t require such a high-end solution. Some might only need automated machining from time to time and don’t have the budget for an expensive robotic system.

According to Mr. Bernhard, Hermle, known for precise three- and five-axis milling machines, talked to many existing and prospective customers and saw a market for a part-handling system that is competitive with lower-priced systems from third-party suppliers. “There are many advantages to buying automation solutions and machine tools from one source,” he explains. “One of the reasons is safety. If a shop acquires a machine from one supplier and connects an automation system from another, then neither supplier is responsible for the safe operation and compatibility of the two systems. It is the user who has to make sure that all emergency stop systems and so on work.”

Allied Machine & Engineering (AME) has opened its new engineering training department, which provides comprehensive, hands-on education programs for new employees, end users and distributors from around the world. The training department instructs new associates in the proper use and application of the company’s tooling in all phases of holemaking solutions in metal. Trainees participate in a three-month technical and hands-on training program focusing on how the tools work and where to apply them in various applications.

For end users and the distributors who support them, the company offers an intense two-and-a-half-day technical educational seminar (TES) featuring classroom and metalcutting demonstrations. These seminars, limited to groups of 15 to 30 attendees, are designed to keep participants abreast of the latest industry trends and the technology offered.

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