Posted by: Derek Korn 6. August 2014

What’s Rotary Broaching, and How Did It Help a Robotics Team?

Many external and internal shapes can be created via rotary broaching, as demonstrated in this “rotary broaching 101” video from Slater Tools, a designer and manufacturer of rotary broaching tools. A fast and efficient machining method, rotary broaching is used for making squares, hexes, serrations, keyways and a range of many other shapes into or onto a workpiece using any CNC lathe, mill or Swiss-type.

Recently, Slater Tools’ rotary broaching technology proved particularly helpful to High Tech Los Angeles (HTLA), a small, college-prep public charter school located in Southern California. Ranked as the state’s leading charter, HTLA uses technology to teach and inspire students. One way it accomplishes this is through after-school clubs such as the Robotics Team. This club teaches students the design and construction of robots, requiring teamwork and intellectual problem-solving skills. Students effectively operate a mini-corporation, running functional departments across multiple disciplines, including project management, design, machining and manufacturing, electronics, programming, business and finance, safety, logistics and media.

The HTLA Robotics Team, called Team4Element, participates in FIRST Robotics Competitions (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). Under strict rules, limited resources and time limits, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.

One of the biggest challenges HTLA Team4Element faced was in machining parts critical to the function and operation of their robot. Parts produced included drive wheels, gears, rotating components, sprockets and arms. The previous machining method was to hand broach parts using an arbor press, which was a very long and difficult process. That prompted Guy Chriqui, the team’s lead mentor, to reach out to Slater Tools for assistance.

When asked to assist in the robot building application for HTLA, the team at Slater Tools knew rotary broaching was the perfect answer to solve the students’ manufacturing problems. Unlike conventional hand broaching, in which a series of stepped polygon forms are pushed through a hole until the desired size and form is achieved, the rotary broach cuts the full form rapidly, one corner at a time.

With the tooling and guidance provided by Slater Tools, HTLA was able to successfully machine the parts it needed for its robot. Using a Haas VF2 VMC, they machined 30 to 40 parts with a ½-inch hex ID using a single Slater rotary broach and a 3700-1 tool holder. Parts were made in a single pass, maintaining good forms and precise tolerances. Given the significant stress placed on the actual components during use, students had to factor into their design the various moving parts, torque requirements, along with the need for tight fittings and secure connections.

The result of HTLA Team4Element’s efforts and collaboration with Slater Tools was a great success.  HTLA produced a robot that was 2 × 3 × 5 feet and 150 lbs. Competing in a 50 × 30-foot playing field, the robot traveled at speeds of 6 to 19 fps, picked up and hurled a 2-foot-diameter exercise ball, scored points for passing and getting the ball into the goal. The robot even ran a “pick and roll” maneuver. It met the requirement of running for two minutes controlled by the students, and 15 seconds autonomously. HTLA took fifth place out of 50 teams.

Posted by: Stephanie Monsanty 5. August 2014

“Covering” the Metalworking Industry

Modern Machine Shop is sporting a new look this month, with a custom cover depicting the Chicago skyline foregrounded by the Cloud Gate (also known as “the Bean”) and IMTS balloon. Artist Charla Steele created the collage from magazine pieces that she tore out of past MMS issues and glued to a 40" × 58" canvas. Her goal was to produce a complete, whole image while still honoring its various parts, which are representative of the equipment, companies and industries we cover each month. “As readers explore its details, I hope they will gain a new appreciation for what’s in Modern Machine Shop each month,” she says of the collage, which will be displayed in the Gardner Business Media booth (W-10) at IMTS 2014, happening September 8-13 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Charla will also be creating another collage on-site at IMTS. Stop by Booth W-10 Monday through Thursday during the show for a firsthand look at her creative process. 

Charla layered more than 500 magazine pieces onto the canvas to create the cover image.

Read more about the MMS cover here, and view more of Charla’s artwork on her website.  

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 4. August 2014

Video: Automation Adds Jobs at Vickers Engineering

Vickers Engineering President and CEO Matt Tyler says that automation has not replaced people in his shop, but instead has expanded the workforce. Without robotic automation, he says, this New Troy, Michigan, supplier of precision machined parts would have maybe 80 to 90 employees today, instead of the much larger number it currently employes. Because of the way robots have made the shop more competitive and increased the value of each of employee, the shop now employs around 200. Learn more about Vickers’s experience with robots in this video produced by FANUC America.

Posted by: Mark Albert 1. August 2014

Still Thinking about a Summer Vacation?

In a column that I wrote some years ago, I described my idea for a very different sort of "vacation spot" that appeals to me strongly.  I don't know if such a place exists, but I like to imagine that it does and that I might retreat there once a year to be made new and whole again.

The place is run by a very strict order of monks, but they welcome guests who come to experience their lifestyle for a week or two. The monastery/retreat house is located in hilly country somewhere, far from the city.

This is a place of contemplation, prayer—and work. The institution is self-sufficient, to keep the world at a distance. Excess earnings help support several charitable missions.

The monks and their guests arise at 6 a.m., with chapel at 6:15 a.m. (There's hardly time to dress or shave—no wonder the good brothers wear simple robes and beards!) Thirty minutes of chanting and meditation wake not only the body but also the mind and spirit.

Breakfast is plain but hearty like all of the meals here. Lots of cheese, eggs, fish and fresh fruits and vegetables. We eat quietly, each morning one of us taking turns reading scripture to the rest.

Work, which starts a little after seven, is "animal, mineral or vegetable," as they say. Guests are assigned in rotation to the dairy barn, the machine shed or the bakery. I would always want to be in the machine shed, of course, but duty in the other buildings teaches lessons about the blessings of a bountiful earth.

The machine "shed," it turns out, is actually a well-equipped little shop, with a mixture of manual and older CNC equipment. Brother Ted, a journeyman machinist who had his own job shop for 10 years, runs the place efficiently and calmly. The seven monks who work here full time are busy with several long-running contracts for a bank of automatic lathes, but they also manufacture a line of mostly hand-crafted antique reproductions for the gift shop and catalog sales. Guests help out in housekeeping, packing and shipping, or at the deburring bench or hand assembling some pieces.

Lunch is ample, but quick, followed by another chapel service. We return to the shop and work until 6 p.m., when the bells call us back to chapel for hymns and a silent period of scripture study. Dinner is light. I take the hiking trail during my hour of free time as the sun goes down. We sleep on cots in small rooms, hardly more than cubicles, with the windows open and the whippoorwills calling from the woods nearby.

At the end of the stay, I vow to return next summer, but in the meantime, I will often think of those who have vowed never to leave.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 31. July 2014

Numbers Describe Additive Manufacturing’s Advantage

Airbus says it is expanding its use of additive manufacturing in aircraft part production. The reasons why are the ones typically cited: less lead time, less material, less environmental impact. However, a statement from the company gives numbers for some of the savings its expects to see. The company says parts produced additively (such as the bracket in the photo) will be 30 to 55 percent lighter than the parts they replace, will use 90 percent less raw material, and will decrease energy used in production by as much as 90 percent. Read more here.

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