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Posted by: Mark Albert 15. July 2016

Making History with the Right Technology

The USS Pampanito, a famous WWII submarine, is being restored and refurbished in an effort to return it to its original condition.

A passion for historical accuracy and authenticity is essential to individuals devoted to preserving important pieces of our national heritage. The donation of an Acu-Rite digital readout (DRO) to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Association is aiding in this effort. The DRO, a gift of the Heidenhain Corp. and corporate parent of the Acu-Rite brand, has made an old Bridgeport milling machine capable of producing accurate copies of missing parts needed in the restoration of the USS Pampanito, a World War II submarine preserved by the Maritime Park Association.

The milling machine will also be used to repair original historic artifacts—items that embody the significance and authenticity of this unique museum display. In this case, the preserved submarine is also a memorial to the men and women of the armed forces who served in World War II. The Pampanito was well known as having made six patrols in the Pacific during the war. It is currently undergoing important restoration and replication projects to bring it as reasonably close to its original operational condition as when it sailed in the summer of 1945.

The submarine has been docked and open to the public at Fisherman’s Wharf since 1981, where it educates approximately 4,000 students in day and overnight programs annually, and 100,000 visitors a year who tour the boat. Maintaining the submarine as a non-profit is a huge challenge, and the Maritime Park Association relies heavily on donations to further its goals of bringing maritime history to life, offer future generations its important teachings, as well as honor the men that served there. To that end, when Heidenhain staff learned that the project received an old Bridgeport mill from a local machine shop as a donation, and that the 1980 digital readout on it was broken and obsolete, they approved the donation of an Acu-Rite VUE 2 digital readout kit. The VUE came with two SENC 150 scales and accompanying brackets.

With a new DRO and accompanying scales, this milling machine will be "making history" as it produces historically accurate copies of parts for the USS Pampanito.

 “We were very happy that someone at Heidenhain/Acu-Rite took the time to understand our mission and donate this DRO,” says Rich Pekelney, one of the Maritime Park Association’s trustees and volunteers. “I’ve been doing hands-on restoration like this for 23 years, and our small machine shop is a vital part of our project.

“With our refurbished mill, we expect to be able to do many things ourselves now,” Mr. Pekelney explains. “For example, we recently acquired an old five-inch deck gun that would have been used here during WWII but is missing parts. Now we can make them so that this piece can be showcased appropriately. Or we can also make the mounting brackets that are needed so that we can hang the bunk beds as they were in 1945, and so on.”

The well-used Bridgeport mill received by the Maritime Park Association is a classic 42-inch table type, not unlike many of the legacy machines that shops want to save for one-offs or utility applications such as repair work or fixture making.

“We know that DROs have great value on any manual milling machine in order to do accurate work, particularly on older ones which might have a little more side-play or backlash, so this DRO is very much appreciated,” Mr. Pekelney says. “We were familiar with Acu-Rite DROs and our machinists have experience with them. We know they are easy to use and reliable products.

“We found the DRO quite easy to retrofit onto the machine, and were thrilled that the mounting brackets and all were included in the kit. Overall, we are very grateful that Acu-Rite recognized the importance of and for participating in this project to preserve this part of our national history.”


Posted by: Hannah Coombs 14. July 2016

Print, Like Manufacturing, Is Changing

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Last month, employees from Modern Machine Shop and other brands from our publisher, Gardner Business Media, attended a tour at Publishers Press, the company that prints Modern’s monthly issues. As we toured the expansive printing operation, located in Lebanon Junction, Kentucky, we were amazed.

The tour guides shared the history of the family business, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year having proved itself adaptable to a century of challenges in its industry.  

As with manufacturing, publishing has been affected by the unanticipated consequences of digital technology and publishers struggled to keep up. Businesses downsized, made major cuts and sought new forms of revenue. Several papers closed their doors.

Word got out that print was dying.

I thought back to some of my teachers and instructors who argued against pursuing a career in a dwindling industry. I was under the impression that because of increasingly essential digital media, print was doomed.

Coming from a small, family-owned manufacturing business, I also saw firsthand the struggles of keeping up with changing technology. Crippling recession and competition overseas threatened small businesses around the country, including the one that I had grown up with. Many did fail. But I also saw several companies emerge stronger than ever.

Getting up close with print last month exposed misconceptions some of us had about the current state of publishing. Walking around the facilities, to our surprise, print did not appear dead.

At Publishers Press, anywhere from 720,000 to 800,000 pounds of paper rushes through the machines every day. Thousands of titles produced there go out to an average of 155,000,000 people each month. Needless to say, a lot of people are reading print.

Similarly, manufacturing suffers from its own share of false perception. Contrary to these ideas, manufacturers are more advanced than ever before. Modern Machine Shop finds no shortage of businesses exceeding expectations and driving the metalworking industry with innovation and new technology.

What lies at the root of the misconceptions is that these industries are not dying; they are simply changing. With dramatic changes come new demands and threats to companies that cannot rise to meet them. The ones that do, however, never fail to surprise us and pave the way for future growth.


Posted by: Matt Danford 13. July 2016

Today’s Overkill May Be Tomorrow’s Competitive Edge

investing with eye

Dynamic Tool & Design has yet to realize the full capabilities of its new on-machine probes and software.

Although the future is always uncertain, Dynamic Tool & Design is a shop that knows where it wants to go, and it’s not afraid to invest in order to get there. At least, that’s the message I took from this plastic injection mold manufacturer’s recent addition of on-machine probing capabilities that exceed anything required on the floor right now.

That investment consisted of new probes and software for hard milling machines, graphite milling machines and sinker EDMs. As detailed in this June-issue feature article, this technology was required to move beyond just “indicating” workpieces (i.e., “finding zero”) and into full 3D part measurements. In turn, capability for these measurements has reduced downtime on individual machines and boosted the shop’s overall throughput.

However, the article quotes John Kemeny, hard milling department supervisor, as saying that the PC-DMIS software driving the probes is “overkill to some extent.” Purchased along with the new probes from Hexagon Metrology, this is the same system used to program the shop’s CMM, and it’s no less powerful. In fact, only a portion of the software’s capability is required for in-process inspections that are more about avoiding errors and keeping the process moving than passing final judgment on mold components and electrodes. Although these inspections could also be performed with the shop’s previous on-machine metrology software, or perhaps another less costly and less capable system, the investment in PC-DMIS was about more than what’s needed today. Leadership was also thinking about how the process might look tomorrow.

Currently, the 13 automated machines targeted for new probes stand alone with their carousel-style robots. Unlike the shop’s previous software, PC-DMIS could potentially enable these physically isolated workstations to automatically share offsets and other data gleaned from in-process measurements via standardized pallets with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. This capability could potentially also ease a transition toward multi-process cells that incorporate multiple machines of different types, should the shop choose to go that route. The software can also accommodate five-axis motion, were the shop to ever invest in that type of machine. And whatever the future holds, using the same software for both floor inspections and final quality control helps ensure no discrepencies with measurements taken on the CMM. 

First, of course, the rest of the 13 machines have to be fitted with probes (so far, only four have been equipped). Regardless, Dynamic Tool’s journey so far reveals a shop that’s anything but short-sighted when it comes to technology investment. After all, recognizing the benefits of on-machine verification in the first place can require an open mind and a willingness to challenge preconceived notions.  Learn more in the article.   


Posted by: Emily Probst 12. July 2016

Read the July 2016 Digital Edition

Read the July digital edition by clicking on the photo above.

Different tools and machining strategies have driven one shop to seek new efficiencies beyond its most demanding work and most capable machining center. Read the full story on page 72.

Also in this issue:

  • How bold moves put Carolina Precision Manufacturing on the road to data-driven manufacturing;
  • How moving up from a standard lathe to a Swiss-type machine helped Sussex Wire bid on making small, complex parts it wasn’t able to in the past (while also slashing cycle times on legacy parts); and
  • How various tooling considerations contribute to profitable light-out machining.

Access these stories and more in our July 2016 digital edition.


Posted by: Steve Kline, Jr. 11. July 2016

Gardner Business Index: Metalworking June 2016 – 44.4

chart of the GBI for June 2016

With a reading of 44.4, the Gardner Business Index showed that the metalworking industry contracted in June at its fastest rate since December 2015. The index showed a bit of a surge in the first quarter of 2016, but slowed down throughout the second quarter.

The new orders subindex has fallen off sharply since March, the one month of growth it had experienced in a year. In June, it fell to its lowest level since last October. The production subindex, which was virtually unchanged from May, is at its lowest level for the year, although it is still somewhat above its low from last year. Like new orders and production, the backlog subindex experienced a sharp spike in the first quarter of 2015, but it has since declined rather sharply, having generally contracted since April 2014. Employment also has contracted since August 2015, and, while the value of the dollar has moderated, exports also remain mired in contraction. Supplier deliveries lengthened in June at their fastest rate since June 2015.

The material prices subindex continued to increase at an accelerating rate, reaching its highest level since November 2014. Most of this surge was more likely due to the leveling off of the dollar than to a strengthening world economy. Prices received have decreased since June 2015, but the rate of decrease generally has decelerated since November. Future business expectations have declined since March, and in June were roughly at the level of the fourth quarter of 2015.

For the second month in a row, every geographic region contracted. While the Southeast had been the strongest region for a number of months, in June it ranked as the second weakest region. Although it continued to contract for the third straight month, the Northeast contracted at the slowest rate of all regions. It was followed by the North Central-West, West, North Central-East, Southeast and South Central.

While they are still well below the historical average, future capital spending plans have increased compared with one year ago for the third month in a row, therefore, the annual rate of change has contracted at a decelerating rate since February. In fact, this rate of contraction has been cut in half, which is a positive sign for capital equipment consumption.


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