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Posted by: Derek Korn 2. April 2014

Hydraulic or Pneumatic Actuation for Collet Blocks?

Grouping collet blocks together enables machine tools to machine multiple parts unattended. Collet blocks can be configured in a number of ways, including on tombstones and trunnion tables.
 

Collet-style workholding devices, such as collet blocks, offer a number of benefits. Collets automatically center parts to their center points known locations, they provide equal gripping pressure around a part’s circumference and expanding collet systems enable effective internal gripping of thin-wall parts. Grouping collet blocks together enables machine tools to machine multiple workpieces unattended over long stretches of time. However, should you go with pneumatics or hydraulics to actuate them? This article based on input from Hardinge offers advice.

Posted by: Stephanie Monsanty 1. April 2014

An Eye on the Inside

The lens shown in the upper right corner of the image has an RFID tag for monitoring and sending data to the operator of the TruLaser 3030 laser cutting machine seen below. 
 

Radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags are tiny wireless devices that work like smarter UPC barcodes. Like a barcode, an RFID tag records information about a product or other item to which it is attached. However, unlike a barcode, the RFID tag can track information about its subject over time and does not need to be scanned to be read—it can send its data wirelessly to a reader via radio waves.

The applications for manufacturing are endless—process traceability, tool use monitoring and more. Here’s another: Trumpf’s TruLaser 3000 series laser cutting machines now feature an RFID-equipped lens to record important maintenance information. The RFID chip monitors the lens’s degree of contamination and tracks when it is cleaned. Having this information on hand means that operators only intervene when needed and visual inspections of the lens aren’t necessary. According to Trumpf, leveraging the RFID technology can reduce cleaning times by as much as 40 percent.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 31. March 2014

Video: 3D Printing with Carbon Fiber

To my knowledge, it’s not possible to print metal parts on a desktop machine. But MarkForged says it will soon be possible to print parts as strong as metal on a desktop machine.

The company will soon begin shipping its new “Mark One” desktop machine, which 3D prints with carbon fiber. This promotional video produced by the company gives a sense of how the machine applies strands of carbon to build rigid 3D forms.

Posted by: Mark Albert 28. March 2014

Discover More—And I Did

I happened to be in the Chicago area in time to take in part of a day at the Discover More with Mazak Midwest event at the company's Technology Center in Schaumburg, Ill. Designed to help attendees “discover new tools and techniques for staying ahead of the manufacturing curve,” the event brought several good ideas to my attention. Here are four that particularly stand out.

  1. Mazak is big on MTConnect, the open communication protocol that provides “interconnectability” among CNC machines, shopfloor devices and software applications from different suppliers. Mazak has helped more than 173 customers to implement MTConnect-enabled applications, involving more than 800 machines. In fact, Mazak uses MTConnect for machine monitoring in its own factory in Florence, Ky.
     
  2. Per Matt Gimbel, production manager at Penske Racing, the Penske team uses its Mazak five-axis e410 Integrex machine to produce critical parts such as steering knuckles. With the latest changes in NASCAR regulations, the new top priority for racing teams is not squeezing in a little more horsepower, but rather squeezing out a few pounds. Instead of having separate parts welded together, the steering knuckle is now produced as a more compact, lighter-weight, one-piece casting. The Integrex enables Penske to do the complex machining that this casting requires.
     
  3. Do done-in-one when you can, but if multiple setups are unavoidable to complete a part, Dan Skulan from Renishaw made the point that today’s advanced probing systems can greatly reduce the risk of introducing errors when refixturing workpieces, changing tools or working lights out. Probing technology makes new machining strategies possible.
     
  4. Cloud-based manufacturing resources are a harbinger of sunnier days for machining companies that program CNC machines. Reps from Esprit, for example, were showing how their CAM software tapped into the Kennametal's cloud-based NOVO system to incorporate the latest tooling recommendations, matching machining data and process knowledge. 
     
Posted by: Peter Zelinski 27. March 2014

The Case for VTLs

Joe Thole, applications engineer with machine tool distributor Hartwig, says the VTL (vertical turning lathe, vertical turret lathe or vertical table lathe—take your pick) offers advantages that go beyond the main advantage most people see.

That main advantage is that a VTL offers a practical way to turn large and heavy parts. The part sits atop the spindle like it is resting on a table.

But there are other advantages, he says. A VTL is inherently rigid, because cutting force is directed down into the base of the machine. Also, this lathe type is more floorspace-efficient than a horizontal lathe, because in the case of the vertical, the machine’s volume extends upward instead of being spread out across the floor.

Then there are the myths. VTLs are not more difficult to program, he says—programming is essentially the same as for a horizontal lathe. More significantly, VTLs are not dependent on large parts. Shops question whether they have enough large-part machining work to justify a vertical lathe, but the question really should be whether they have enough work in general. When there are no large parts to be run, the VTL can still deliver value by running average-sized workpieces.

Read more of what Mr. Thole has to say about VTLs in this article.  

Photo courtesy of Okuma.

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