Posted by: Mark Albert 26. June 2015

Getting Acquainted with Scott Fosdick

Scott Fosdick is the new head of Market Region Americas for GF Machining Solutions, which is headquartered in Lincolnshire (Chicagoland), Illinois. Scott was appointed to this position in March 2015, taking over for former region president Glynn Fletcher. I had the opportunity to meet Scott and get acquainted at the company’s “Solutions Days” open house June 17-19. He hosted a breakfast for visiting members of the metalworking press on the first day of the event. 

Although this was my first time to meet Scott, I am familiar with the GF Machining Solutions brand and the technology labels it represents. These include Agie Charmilles (EDM and laser texturing), Mikron (high-performance milling), System 3R (automation and workholding), Leichti (five-axis milling machines designed to produce blades and blisks for aircract engines and power generating turbines) and Step-Tec (machine tool spindles for moldmaking, production and aerospace). Scott, I learned, certainly knows these products, especially the Agie Charmilles line, from his long stint with Agie Charmilles in technical service in Japan, and then as head service manager for Asia. He also served as president of Agie Charmilles South China for a number of years. Starting in May 2013, he was Market Segment Manager for Aerospace and Automotive in Asia, before his recent promotion to the top position in the Americas region. It is safe to say he understands GF Machining Solutions’ technology from the inside out.

Scott briefly discussed his vision for the direction GF Machining Solutions is taking as manufacturing evolves in this region, particularly in the United States. For example, the growing shortage of skilled machinists and moldmakers is creating a demand for a technical partnership in which his company can provide a comprehensive solution, not simply supply machine tools. The company is stepping up its involvement with training programs at schools and universities, he said. Likewise, there is growing interest in complete solutions for specific, dedicated applications such as turbine blade machining with EDM and tire mold production. Service and support remains a high priority. Manufacturers with production facilities located around the world want service and support at an equally high level everywhere so that local operations such as moldmaking are consistently supported across the board. Scott also noted that the emerging industrial internet of things and trend to data-driven manufacturing are accelerating the company’s development of intelligent sensors, tracking and monitoring software and MTConnect-enabled capabilities.

Of course, breakfast with Scott was only the beginning of my visit to the Lincolnshire headquarters. The day also included a thorough tour of the company’s showroom and demo area, where the range of machining solutions was well represented. The slideshow presents the highlights of this tour, at least the ones I was able to catch with my camera.

Some key things that were reinforced during my tour are worth mentioning. The company's line of high-performance Mikron milling machines is remarkably broad and likely deserves more attention for high-end applications. This is tough because the wire and sinker EDMs, and now the laser texturing machines, can steal the show when exhibited alongside the milling machines. 

However, seeing them together is important because these are complementary technologies, especially for mold makers. Nonetheless, the Mikron milling machines are stars in their own right, serving demanding applications in aerospace, medical, dental and electronics where proficiency in five-axis machining is required. No doubt the most specialized of the offerings demonstrated during this customer event was the technology from Leichti Engineering, the Swiss firm that GF Machining Solutions acquired in 2014. Leichti Engineering is a leading developer of five-axis milling machine for the blades and blisks relied on by manufacturers of aircraft engines and power generating turbines.

I'm glad to know Scott now, and glad to know GF Machining Solutions even better.

Posted by: Steve Kline, Jr. 25. June 2015

May MBI at 47.8, the Contraction Continues

With a reading of 47.8, Gardner’s Metalworking Business Index showed that the industry contracted in May for the second straight month, at virtually the same rate as in April, after 15 consecutive months of growth. The industry last contracted at this rate in April and May of 2013, but at that time, the industry had mostly been contracting for the previous year. At least this year’s contraction came from a much better starting point.

After surging in March, new orders contracted the following two months, and production contracted for the first time since September 2013. Since the beginning of 2014, production has grown at a faster rate than new orders, therefore the backlog index has steadily fallen over that same time period. While the backlog index improved somewhat from April, it remained on the down trend it began in early 2014. Compared with one year earlier, backlogs have contracted more than 10 percent for five months in a row. Current trends in backlogs indicate that growth in capacity utilization will continue to decelerate. Employment increased very slightly in April to the lowest point since it last contracted in September 2013. Exports have not expanded since August 2011, and they have contracted at a consistent rate in 2015. Supplier deliveries continued to lengthen but at a much slower rate than at any time since January 2014.

Material prices increased over April, but the rate of increase was still less than that for the last six years. Prices received increased after decreasing in April, but future business expectations have fallen rather significantly in both months to their lowest level since September 2013. The current level is about 5 percent below the historical average.

Future capital spending plans continued to be hit hard in May, contracting at the fastest rate since June 2012. The annual rate has contracted at an accelerating pace for six months in a row. 

Posted by: Derek Korn 24. June 2015

Want to Test Drive Cryogenic Technology?

Low-temperature liquid nitrogen flowing through a cutting tool has the effect of turning the cutting tool into a heat sink, expanding its capacity to absorb energy while improving tool life.

Okuma and 5ME have formed a partnership to establish two cryogenic machining demonstration centers, one at 5ME’s Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, and the other at Okuma’s Aerospace Center of Excellence in Charlotte, North Carolina. Visitors can test various machining processes using Okuma machines equipped with 5ME’s cryogenic machining technology. Pete Tecos, 5ME executive vice president, says the partnership will continue the development of cryogenic machining applications in in difficult-to-machine materials such as titanium, Inconel, hardened steel and compacted graphite iron (CGI).

In short, cryogenic machining technology flows liquid nitrogen at -321°F through the cutting tool, improving tool life. The nitrogen evaporates upon contact with the air. This article explains more about the technology.

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 23. June 2015

Comau Introduces Racer3 Robot

Comau’s Racer3 is introduced to members of the international trade press during an advance event near company headquarters in Turin, Italy. 

Known for heavy payload robots primarily found in the automotive industry, Comau recently introduced the Racer3 at a launch event in Turin, Italy, where it is headquartered. The Racer3 represents a new design for the company, in that it is a cost-effective model targeting small- to medium-size companies and those found in emerging economies.

Made of high-strength aluminum, the Racer3 is a high-speed, six-axis articulated robot with a payload of 3 kg and a reach of 600 mm. It weighs 30 kg, allowing for a variety of mounting options, including benches, walls, ceilings and inclined supports. While the Racer3 was designed for industries such as food and beverage, electronics, plastics and metalworking, its speed, light weight and flexibility make it an attractive choice for a wide variety of applications. See the new robot in action in this video.

The launch—held at the Castello di Rivoli—was followed by a visit to Maserati’s AVV Giovanni Agnelli plant in Grugliasco, on the outskirts of Turin, which features 85 Comau robots in its chassis assembly operation alone. The Maserati facility produces the well-known Quattroporte and Ghibli luxury sedans.

The Racer3 is lightweight, extremely fast, and an attractive option for small- to medium-size manufacturing and assembly operations.  

Some 85 Comau robots are found at the heart of the Maserati AVV Giovanni Agnelli plant in Grugliasco, on the outskirts of Turin.

The Maserati plant in Turin produces the Quattroporte and Ghibli models, the latter of which is shown here. 

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 22. June 2015

Video: Robot Gripping by Granular Compression

A typical industrial robot has a form and function suggestive of a human arm. Does that mean the robot gripper ought to work like human fingers or a human hand?

This video demonstrates an alternate concept for robot gripping. The “Versaball” from Empire Robotics uses the compression of granular material to achieve its gripping force. This demonstration of the gripper on a robot arm from Universal Robots illustrates the strength, precision and control of the grip, not to mention its versatility, by lifting and relocating objects including a weight, a brick and a light bulb.

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