Posted by: Peter Zelinski 3. April 2015

3D Printing and the Promise of Custom Fit

On a trip to buy new shoes several years ago, I lucked into getting what proved to be the best-fitting pair of shoes I’ve ever owned. I wish I had bought two pair. The shoes are wearing out now, and the company that made them has long since abandoned this shoe design that proved to fit so well to my (apparently distinctive) foot geometry.

I don’t know how long it will be until 3D printing solves this problem for me, in the form of some company able to generate economical custom shoes tailored to individual feet. But news from EOS describes a step in that direction. For elite runners, shoe maker New Balance collects biometric data to design runner-specific shoe spike plates that are produced through 3D printing.

For ear buds, at least, the challenge of achieving custom fit has been solved. Read how this company can use 3D printing to tailor a pair of ear buds to the unique shape of your ear.

Posted by: Derek Korn 2. April 2015

Improving Lighting Quality, Lowering Lighting Costs

These before and after shots show the difference in lighting quality at Kenwal’s production facility since adding an intelligent LED lighting system.

Kenwal Steel Corp. in Dearborn, Michigan, isn’t a company we’d profile in the magazine. It’s a flat-rolled steel distributor, not a machine shop. However, the concepts it is applying in terms of improving lighting conditions in its facility and lowering lighting costs could be leveraged by a machine shop.

When Kenwal management was confronted with the need to replace aging 1,000-watt metal halide fixtures within its production facility, they reached out to Total Source LED to evaluate their options. The team initially evaluated both T5 fluorescent and LED lighting options. However, they were reluctant to replace the facility’s 369 metal halide fixtures with 6-lamp T5 fluorescents, which would result in more than 2,200 lamps to maintain. Instead, the team turned their attention toward high-efficiency, maintenance-free LED lighting alternatives, deciding to install an Intelligent LED Lighting System from Digital Lumens. This system resulted in a 93-percent savings in annual lighting-related energy costs, an investment payback period of less than one year with a return on investment (ROI) of more than 124 percent, reduced fixture counts by more than 60 percent, and higher lighting quality and illumination levels throughout the facility.

The team also recognized that intelligent LEDs (with integrated controls, wireless networking and sensors in every fixture) would have a significant impact on their budgets in a rising utility rate environment. This is because, in addition to wattage-based savings, the Intelligent Lighting System would enable them to:

  • Automatically turn off lighting within its massive steel storage area when overhead crane operators were not actively picking stock for its pickling operations and instantly back on when needed.
  • Leverage the independently rotatable and dimmable light bars within each fixture to direct lighting to work surfaces within the production area, eliminating the need to over-light space while providing better lighting for inspection operations.
  • Dim aisle lighting to 20 percent in lower-traffic areas when employees were not present, reducing energy usage while providing background and security lighting.
  • Leverage daylight from open bay doors in the facility’s shipping and receiving areas via integrated daylight-harvesting sensors in each fixture.
  • Schedule automatic changes to lighting behaviors, such as shorter timeout settings and increased dimming factors during weekends and holidays when employees typically aren’t present within the facility.

For any timeframe needed, the Kenwal team now also has access to a wide range of energy usage and occupancy data, which is accessed through the system’s LightRules lighting management software. Data that are visually depicted on interactive maps of the mill facility that can also be used to change fixture settings and behaviors enables management to:

  • Quickly report, down to the kWh, how much energy is used by fixture, zone or facility, and document the efficiency savings.
  • Observe when peak usage occurs in different areas of the facility and change settings such as fixture timeout delays to match actual operating conditions.
  • Track occupancy patterns, enabling the optimization of lighting to support high-transit, -occupancy or -usage areas, and vice versa.
  • Collect other energy management and operational efficiency metrics.

“Tracking a wide variety of decision-making metrics surrounding lighting and energy use is the secret to achieving upwards of 90 percent energy savings over T5 and metal halide fixtures,” said Ron Cimino, CEO of Total Source LED.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 1. April 2015

Video: Additive Manufacturing and the Gun Fallacy

Adrian Bowyer makes an excellent point in this video. One of the more sensational objections to the spread of additive manufacturing technology is the fact that it can be used to print guns. However, CNC machine tools can be used to make guns, too, and they are actually better at it. The video above is part of a series of videos from the Science Museum debunking misconceptions about 3D printing.


Posted by: Russ Willcutt 31. March 2015

Getting into Gearing?

Are you a machine shop that is considering getting into gear manufacturing as a new revenue stream, or has already purchased the necessary equipment to do so and wants to learn more? If so, Gear Production—the quarterly supplement to Modern Machine Shop—is for you. And you’ll also want to know about a valuable training opportunity that’s coming up soon. For nearly four decades engineers, technicians and others have gained an understanding of the mechanisms of gear noise generation, measurement and reduction by attending the Gear Dynamics and Gear Noise Short Course at The Ohio State University (OSU).

Beginning with the fundamentals of gearing, gear dynamics, noise analysis and measurements, the four-day course blends lectures with demonstrations, all powered by data compiled by OSU’s Gear and Power Transmission Research Laboratory. Attendees will learn why gears make noise, how the source can be identified, and methods for addressing gear noise challenges. Lecturers will also concentrate on gear system dynamics and acoustics, transmission error calculations and advanced signal processing. Real-world case studies will be presented, along with laboratory demonstrations and problem-solving exercises.

The course organizers are Dr. Donald Houser, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at OSU and founder of the Gear Dynamics and Gear Noise Research Laboratory, and Dr. Rajendra Singh, director of the university’s Acoustics and Dynamics Laboratory. All gear manufacturers will benefit from attending, but especially those targeting automotive, aerospace, process machinery and wind energy markets. The event will be held September 28 through October 1, 2015, on the OSU campus in Columbus, Ohio. Learn more by visiting

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 30. March 2015

6 Things You Might Not Know about Making Metal Parts through Additive Manufacturing

Support structures are part of the engineering of an additive build. The support structure for this part accounted for half of the build time.

Let go of the notion of simply “printing” a part. That is, let go of the notion that you can just press a button and the part will be created—additive manufacturing is not like that. Instead, AM is a process with important process considerations all its own. Particularly where metal parts are concerned, these considerations need to be understood in order to realize the benefits that AM can deliver.

I recently spoke about this with AM researchers at Penn State University’s CIMP-3D facility. Find a detailed article at the link below. Here are important points worth knowing if you are considering AM for metal part production:

  1. New design tools might be needed. Metal parts being made today were designed for casting, forging and/or machining. Additive manufacturing opens the way to complex, mathematically streamlined component forms that a CAD designer’s typical tools would not be able to create. Software for topology optimization becomes important.
  2. There is still plenty of scrap. Support structures are part of the engineering of an additive build. These structures (see photo) consume not only a share of material, but also perhaps a large share of the cycle time for the part.
  3. Orientation has an impact. Do you build a given part so that it lies on its side? Sticks up vertically? Leans at a 45-degree angle? This decision—how to orient the part for its AM build—has a significant effect on part accuracy, cycle time and where the support structure is needed.
  4. Residual stress is the hidden challenge. Internal forces can deform an additive part as layers are added and the part cools. Sometimes, trial-and-error is needed to find the process for a given part that will overcome this effect.
  5. Material changes with use. Some particles melt before others. As a result, powder left over from a build has slightly different particle distribution from the powder that began it, and thus different properties. AM powder changes over time to a much greater extent than other manufacturing material stock.
  6. Your new lightweight metal might be titanium. Titanium alloys are well-understood in additive manufacturing and therefore easy to apply. This tends to make titanium the AM metal of choice. Indeed, because of its high strength-to-weight ratio, a part redesigned for weight savings through AM might be lighter in titanium than it was when it had been a thick, solid part in aluminum that was designed for a more conventional process.

Read more detail about all of the points above.  

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