Metal chips fly off a workpiece at Karlstadt Machining, while cow chips enrich the surrounding fields at the family farm in Bryan, Ohio.
While raising cattle and running a machine shop may seem to have little in common at first glance, a closer look reveals certain similarities. Both are hands-on occupations, requiring careful tending, and the quality of the end product dictates whether or not the operation is successful. Oh, and they both produce a ton of chips.
That’s what Dave Karlstadt has found since launching Karlstadt Machining on the same property as his family’s longtime beef cattle ranch in Bryan, Ohio, about six years ago. Having grown up working on the farm, he found that he was drawn to working with machinery and spent nearly two decades after graduating from high school in manufacturing. His last position was as manager of a production machine shop that primarily ran Okuma machine tools. Impressed by their strength and reliability, he purchased remanufactured Okumas when he opened his own machine shop—for cash. Once the business was established, he was able to begin investing in new machine tools, most recently an Okuma Genos M560-V vertical machining center purchased from Gosiger.
Hosted by CompositesWorld, the conference examines the expanding role of carbon fiber in the composites industry.
Working with composite parts is a tricky business, because a composite by definition is a combination of more than one material. The properties of any given part depend on a range of factors including how layers are oriented as well as the matrix and reinforcement materials used. Carbon fiber is among the most common reinforcement materials used in composites—which is one of the reasons why our sister publication, CompositesWorld, is hosting a conference devoted to understanding the properties, benefits and applications of this material.
Bar-fed rotary transfer machines combine multiple cutting stations around the periphery of a round, indexing table. (These tables are commonly oriented horizontally, but “trunnion-style” versions in which the table is oriented vertically are also available.) Fixured or collet-held workpiece blanks arranged around the table are indexed from one machining station to the next until all operations are completed. (Some stations are used to invert the workpiece to enable back-side machining at subsequent stations.) A finished part(s) is ejected with every index of the table.
The Hydromat open house event I attended last month at its U.S. headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, was timely because I was able to see a few rotary transfer machines in build that demonstrate the degree to which they can be tailored to specific high-volume applications. Although what’s shown below is a random sampling, it represents varying levels of rotary transfer sophistication engineered to meet a user’s particular production needs. For example (in the order of basic to complex):
This Epic R/T 25-12 collet-style machine with a single bar feeder and no vertical machining stations represents a basic rotary transfer system. It’s similar to original Hydromat designs that were hydraulically driven, but it’s CNC-controlled. As for the model number identification, “25” indicates the diameter of the barstock material it is designed to accommodate (25 mm) and “12” is the number of available machining stations.
This Epic R/T 32/45-16 machine (16 stations can be set up for 32- or 45-mm maximum barstock diameters) has two opposing bar feeders delivering stock into stations 180-degrees from each other. The operations performed are the same around each side, and two finished parts are dropped with each index. (It’s basically doing the work of two machines simultaneously.) So around each side, stock is fed into the first station, machining is performed on the next three, the part is inverted on the following one, back-side machining is performed on the next two, and the completed part is ejected on the last. Note that this setup also has four vertical machining spindles.
This Epic R/T 25-12 machine also has two bar feeders. However, instead of opposing each other as in the previous example, they feed small-diameter barstock into adjoining stations. Plus, each has been modified to feed two bars apiece into custom workholding collets designed to hold two parts (not just one as you might expect). As a result, four parts are dropped complete with each 3.4-second table index, helping the customer to meet its very-high-production volume goal.
This Epic HS 16 indexing chuck shows the extent to which ancillary equipment can be added to offer a complete parts manufacturing solution, including robotic part handling, part gaging and part cleaning.
At the open house, Hydromat also offered a sneak peek at its Epic Gen II rotary transfer machine platform, which will be officially introduced at IMTS 2016. This next-generation version of the company’s flagship rotary transfer machine line (shown below) includes a number of advancements related to servomotor, process feedback, programming software, reporting software and other technologies.
Acquiring new equipment can be a challenging proposition. One important consideration is timing the acquisition to maximize the tax benefits. Some of these benefits may require action before the end of a calendar year. Financing options such as a tax lease give shops a variety of strategies for making crucial decisions late in the game. This article by a finance professional highlights key aspects of these options and shows why the fourth quarter is an ideal time to acquire new equipment.
With a reading of 43.2, Gardner’s Metalworking Business Index showed that the industry contracted in October for the seventh month in a row. While the index was slightly lower than it was in September, it has remained at virtually the same level for three months in a row.
The new orders index also contracted for the seventh month in a row, falling below 40 in two of the previous three months. Production contracted at an accelerating rate for the fourth month in a row, although this index remained above the new orders index. The backlog index, therefore, also contracted once again, reaching its lowest level since August 2013. Since March 2014, the backlog index has been in a fairly steady downward trend, indicating falling capacity utilization at metalworking facilities. Employment contracted for the third straight month, and the export index contracted for the 19th month in a row, although its rate of contraction slowed in September and October. Supplier deliveries lengthened after shortening in September for the first time since June 2013. Shorter delivery times indicate that suppliers aren’t as busy and can more easily meet the demands of customers.
Virtually all commodities have fallen in price throughout 2015, and, as a result, the material prices index reflected that material prices decreased in October for the second month in a row. This index has declined consistently since June 2014. Prices received contracted for the fifth month in a row, the longest sustained stretch of contracting prices since early 2010. Future business expectations improved somewhat in the month.
Future capital spending plans contracted 15.3 percent in October compared with one year earlier. This is the first time since February that spending plans contracted at a rate slower than 20 percent.