Click on the collage above to view a slideshow of products featured in our April issue’s Modern Equipment Review Spotlight.
Our April print issue’s Modern Equipment Review Spotlight highlights machines for turning parts, with an interesting influx of vertical turning centers as well as multitasking machines, such as Heller’s CP 4000 horizontal machining center which can turn parts using the A and B axes, or the S206 LaserSwiss from Tsugami/Rem Sales which combines Swiss-type turning and laser cutting for small medical parts.
Click the college above to view the slideshow featuring these and other turning machine products with links to more information.
Mechanical engineer Dakota Bass is seen here with one of the machining centers used to manufacture satellite launchers at CubeSat.
Employers and industry groups have struggled with the question of how best to reach out to young people who might fill the so-called “skills gap” in manufacturing, and fill the need for talent in CNC machining in particular. Dakota Bass thinks this last part of the question answers itself. For him, machining was the outreach. He became fascinated with machining the first time he had a chance to make a machined component as part of his mechanical engineering coursework at California Polytechnic State University. He bought his own small CNC machine and began to experiment with machining in his own time.
He has worked with or near CNC machine tools at each stop in his career since, which so far has involved manufacturing positions with Apple and CubeSat. He recently accepted a position with SpaceX and will begin working there soon.
“Among younger people who are looking at manufacturing, I think the ones who can fill the opportunities in machining will be self-selecting,” he says. Modern CNC machining is fast, automated, and amenable to innovation in a way that is not quite like any other manufacturing process. If continued automation of machining processes leads to an industry in need of fewer employees, but demanding high engagement from the employees who do oversee the work of machining, then it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the work being carried out by a corps of self-selected enthusiasts like Mr. Bass.
In fact, I first heard from him because of an idea that developed from his enthusiasm. Ballnose tools are not the only end mills than can do 3D surface milling, he realized. Recently, he has been experimenting with using much larger, flat-bottom tools to machine smooth, curving surfaces. The key to using the square tools in this way is small stepover increments, he says. The nose rest of the sunglass form below was machined with a 3-inch-diameter face mill—and he says it was machined faster than a ballnose tool could have produced the same form.
The external contours of the nose piece were milled using a 3-inch-diameter flat-bottom tool. Mr. Bass wrote a white paper about surface with large, square tools.
One of the challenges to this approach is that the programmer has to draw the spline defining the tool path for this cutter, because CAM systems don’t automatically generate contouring routines using a tool such as this. Partly for this reason, the technique so far remains his own thought experiment and has yet to find a production application. Even so, you can download the paper Mr. Bass wrote about surfacing with a flat-bottom tool.
“Machinery’s Handbook” is a classic reference volume that first appeared more than 100 years ago. The 30th edition, published by Industrial Press, is now out and is available for the first time in a large-print version. For those of us who have aging eyesight (like me) the 2,896 pages in this latest edition are more readable, but as useful as ever.
The new edition contains major revisions of existing content, plus a lot of new material. The new stuff includes an expanded metrology section including v-blocks and micrometers, vernier and dial calipers; a powder metallurgy section including additive manufacturing; information on sheet metal, presses and press working; and many new specs on drilling, reamers, grit sizes and more.
In addition, the metric content has been expanded throughout the book. Metric units are shown adjacent to the U.S. customary units in the text. Many formulas are now given with equivalent metric expressions, and metric examples have been added.
The large-print edition measures 7 by 10 inches. It weighs close to 6 pounds.
Is there a conflict between additive manufacturing and CNC machining? Robert Chiari, a regional sales manager with Renishaw, says no—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. He points out that many manufacturers use both subtractive and additive processes to arrive at a finished part. In the video above, Mr. Chiari discusses the complementary technologies in a conversation with Senior Editor Peter Zelinski.
(This video is one of a series of interviews filmed during the most recent Additive Manufacturing Conference. View the complete list of videos on the Additive Manufacturing website.)
When I called Chris Marchand of East Coast Precision Manufacturing to ask about the secret to machining small, complex plastic parts like the one shown above, I was somewhat surprised by his answer: a calm, patient mindset; a solid setup; a careful, light touch; and a deep understanding of machining fundamentals.
I’m not sure what I expected to hear, exactly. I suppose I expected something that small to require some special strategy or equipment beyond just being careful and patient. In fact, aside from two Swiss-type lathes, the machines at the 5,600-square-foot, Connecticut shop would be at home in virtually any other manufacturing operation, even though the shop specializes in this work. According to Mr. Marchand, cutting such small geometries is, in many ways, an exercise in applying the same principles used for conventionally sized work, just at a smaller scale and a great deal more carefully.
That’s not to say that small parts don’t involve any unique considerations. Yet, the fact that fundamentals were the first thing that came to Mr. Marchand’s mind illustrates just how far fundamentals can go. That’s a lesson any manufacturer can take to heart.
In fact, many of the challenges this shop deals with relate more to material than size. “The more I think about it,” Mr. Marchand said after further questioning, “the more I realize just how focused we are on controlling chips.” This article details a few of the shop’s go-to strategies for ensuring clean, burr-free cutting of some of the softest materials in the industry.