MMS Blog

What should Congress and the president do to strengthen U.S. manufacturing? The National Council for Advanced Manufacturing (NACFAM) recently announced its manufacturing-related policy priorities as recommendations to the country’s elected leaders. If enacted and signed into law, NACFAM says these policies will go a long way to strengthening the nation’s advanced manufacturing sector by stimulating greater innovation, increasing productivity and expanding the competitiveness of American companies in ever-changing markets.

Topology optimization aims to selectively place material in the locations required by a part's function, a process that tends to increase its geometric complexity. This fact makes topology optimization a natural pair with additive manufacturing, which is capable of building almost any such complex shape. Additive powder-bed processes such as selective laser melting (SLM) can create high-resolution, optimized features that would be difficult or impossible to machine. By the same token, topology optimization helps designers remove constraints and take better advantage of the design freedom additive manufacturing offers.

The diesel engine support pictured above is one example of a design made possible by the combination of additive manufacturing and topology optimization.  Conventionally machined out of a metal block (left), the engine support connects the powertrain and chassis and supports a cooling system tensioner pulley. To optimize this part, researchers fed data about the support's load and other demands into a finite element model to come up with a lightweight, material-saving form (right) that would be difficult to achieve without additive manufacturing.

John Lucier says he doesn’t spend nearly as much time touting the general benefits of part-handling robotic arms as he used to. “Machinists and machine tool people get it; we’re over the hump,” explains the national automation manager for machine tool distributor Methods Machine Tools Inc. (Sudbury, Massachusetts). “Recently, it’s been more about coming up with that perfect mousetrap.”

Before that work can begin, a manufacturer must understand that the proverbial better mousetrap can cover far more than just loading and unloading machine tools. To overlook processes like cleaning, marking, inspection and particularly deburring is to risk missing out on the full breadth of the opportunity afforded by robotic automation, Mr. Lucier says.

It’s not easy to get excited about barstock. As flashy and interesting as the How-It’s-Made-style computer animation of the metallurgy process is, at the end of the day what you’re left looking at is an inert cylinder of duplex stainless steel. Except it has a hole in it. Which is where it gets interesting, because according to Sandvik Materials Technologies, starting off with a bore in the barstock can double or even triple productivity for turning certain hollow workpieces.

The company’s line of hollow bar is offered as part of the latest iteration of its Sanmac stainless steel material. The material is available in a range of grades said to be machinable at similar rates to carbon steel. Bars can be ordered with varying dimensions, ranging from as small as an OD of 1¼ inches and an ID of ¾ inch (32 and 20 mm, respectively), to as large as an OD of 10.83 inches and an ID of 7¾ inches (275 and 200 mm, respectively).

Learn how the right mindset, the right five-axis technology, and an intuitive approach to palletization have helped one mold shop extend automated control to the majority of its high-mix work. Read the full story on page 70.