MMS Blog

Posted by: Mark Albert 14. October 2016

Next Big Show: JIMTOF

We will report on our findings at JIMTOF in upcoming Modern Machine Shop content. For more details about attending JIMTOF, go to

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Unattended machining has myriad benefits: increased production capacity, greater machine uptime, optimized setup times and quicker deliveries, to name a few. However, the thought of walking in the next day to bad parts or a crashed machine makes some shops hesitant to dive right in to lights-out production.

For these companies, starting slow might be the best answer. In fact, there are some strategies that can be put in practice right away, at the beginning of the journey toward unattended machining. For example, ensuring your tool holders do not interfere with your part, probing the tool to ensure there are no problems, and double-checking your clamping system against your CAM cutter path.

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There are many factors to be considered before acquiring a new machine tool, and a lot of questions have to be asked and answered prior to selecting the right CNC machine. Some good first questions are “Why buy the machine in the first place?” and “What is the buyer trying to accomplish in making the purchase?” Answering these big-picture questions will help ensure a successful installation once a machine is purchased, but there are more important factors to consider, including what parts will be made on the machine.

Once the reason for purchasing the machine has been established, but before machine type or model selection can begin, the technical aspects of the machine come into play, and the most basic but critical questions that must be addressed are:

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Although my reasons for visiting Oakley Die & Mold had nothing to do with the shop’s new portable measuring arm, my host, Jim Goddard, wasn’t about to let me get away without hearing about it. Judging from the results the shop has seen so far from this technology, his excitement was more than understandable.

The obvious use for this kind of technology is large parts, and there are plenty of those at Oakley. Although the shop only recently became part of a broader organization, the Velocity Group, it has always specialized in large plastic injection molds such as the one shown below. Big molds mean big parts, parts that are often easier to measure with a portable arm or that simply won’t fit on a CMM table.

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Denver-area machining business Tag Team Manufacturing has historically focused on prototyping and short-run work. When the shop had the opportunity to take on a large-quantity job, it wasn’t sure how it would deliver the parts with its current capacity and staffing. The margin between order date and ship date seemed to tight produce all the parts.

According to CEO Terry Taggart in this video, the solution the company found was a “Sawyer” robot from Rethink Robotics. This collaborative robot is easy to program, easy to relocate, and works safely on the shop floor alongside employees without any need for guarding, because the force-sensing robot stops in the event of any contact with an obstacle that might be a human. With this robot feeding the machine through the night and through weekends, Tag Team now has the capacity to fill this large order—and other large-quantity jobs that may come.

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