Posted by: Stephanie Monsanty 16. October 2014

A Square Hole for a Square Peg

This interior shot of AutoCrib’s TX750 tool vending system shows its vertical columns of adjustable shelves. To the left, you can see the inside of the system’s rolling dual-tambour door, capable of opening 2" to 60" to correspond with the selected bin.

Many industrial vending systems on the market today are based on pie-like trays divided into wedges. An operator calls up a tool or other expendable, and round carousels rotate until the appropriate wedge faces out. The operator can then open the door and remove the drill, insert or whatever it may be.

The system has its advantages, but according to Stephen Pixley, founder of AutoCrib, the wedge-shaped spaces also pose a dilemma. “Things come in rectangular boxes,” he points out, which means that in stocking the wedges, companies must waste either time (unpacking the boxes) or space (storing a square or rectangular box in a wedge-shaped hole).

Rather than pie-shaped trays system, AutoCrib’s TX750 vending system uses a carousel with slots more accommodating to box-shaped contents. The vending system features columns with adjustable shelving to accommodate boxes—as well as other objects of varying shapes and sizes. The slots can be adjusted to hold everything from a tiny insert to a 2-foot-plus fluorescent light bulb. The customizability of the slots reduces vertical bin height waste and increases the capacity that can be stored within a compact footprint. As many as 900 bins can be packed into the unit, which occupies 9.8 square feet of floor space.

The TX750 has another advantage that enables it to provide just the right product at the right time: rolling dual-tambour doors. When an operator calls for a product in a particular slot, the two doors rotate to the appropriate shelf and open only that slot. The doors can open to anywhere from 2" to 60" in half-inch increments.

The vending system is controlled by AutoCrib’s user interface with 19" touchscreen, and a native bin assignment process simplifies stocking the unit on the fly. Operators can identify themselves with an ID card or a fingerprint and search the system to retrieve items.  

Posted by: Derek Korn 15. October 2014

GF Machining Solutions Opens New “Center of Competence” Facility in Southern California

Last week, I attended an open house at GF Machining Solutions’ newest “Center of Competence” in Irvine, California, part of a 106,000-square-foot Georg Fischer facility shared with sister company GF Piping Systems. Established to strengthen support for West Coast customers, many of which serve the aerospace industry, the Center includes a machine demonstration area with high-speed machining centers and wire and sinker EDM equipment as well as solutions for laser texturing and automation. It also includes customer training rooms, resources for sales, service and applications staff, and an extensive spare parts and consumables warehouse.

Here are a few shots I took while touring the facility:

This Form 30 features an ATC design whereby the 26-position tool carousel wraps around the machine column unlike a conventional ATC that would consume additional floor space.


Note the removable access panel on the left side of the System 3R Workpartner automated pallet system serving a Form 200 SP wire EDM unit. This enables the easy addition of another EDM unit to share the automated pallet system. 


The company suggests that the precursor to automation is establishing a common part reference plane, which is possible using workpiece palletizing systems such as those offered by System 3R.


Toyota Racing Development in Southern California now uses five-axis machining equipment from GF Machining Solutions to enable faster, more accurate milling of cylinder head ports.

Posted by: Steve Kline, Jr. 14. October 2014

September 2014 MBI Shows Slowed Expansion


Go here for more economic news from Gardner Business Media.

With a reading of 50.9, Gardner’s Metalworking Business Index showed that the industry grew in September for the ninth consecutive month and the 11th time in 12 months, although the rate of expansion was the slowest of 2014. While the index was still 5.8 percent higher than it was one year earlier, this was also the slowest rate of month-over-month growth since October 2013. The annual rate of growth in the metalworking industry continued to accelerate, however, at its fastest rate since March 2011.

Both new orders and production increased for the 12th month in a row, although in both cases, the rate of expansion was the slowest of the year. Backlogs have contracted noticeably faster since June. However, the month-over-month rate of change was still growing, and the annual rate of growth was at its fastest rate since March 2011. This indicates that capacity utilization should increase rapidly in the upcoming months. Given the trend in backlogs, it is likely that capacity utilization will average more than 80 percent in 2015. Employment expanded at its fastest rate since June, while exports remain mired in contraction. Supplier deliveries continued to lengthen in September but appeared to break the trend of increasing lengthening.

Material prices have increased at a slower rate since June, at a rate similar to the first four months of the year. Prices received have increased the previous five months, the strongest period of sustained price increases by metalworking facilities since the summer of 2012. Future business expectations improved in September, with the index reaching its highest level since June.

Future capital spending plans increased 4.3 percent compared to last September. This was the second month in a row of growth. The annual rate of growth accelerated to 6.1 percent, which was its second fastest rate since March 2013. 

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 13. October 2014

Video: Miniature Jet Engine Made through Additive Manufacturing

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GE produced this video about a working jet engine model that was created through additive manufacturing and run in a GE Aviation test cell. The video briefly documents the manufacturing process that produced in this engine, a process that illustrates at least two significant points related to additive manufacturing. They are:

1. Design freedom. Because it makes parts that machining can’t produce, additive manufacturing offers the opportunity to reengineer parts and assemblies for greater performance. GE’s engineers started with a radio-controlled aircraft engine, but then they improved its components for additive manufacturing. (They also further improved them by making them from high-temperature alloys a radio-controlled engine wouldn’t normally use.)

2. Secondary operations. Additive manufacturing makes intricate parts, but it does not necessarily make finished parts. The video shows this. The parts that were produced additively (on an EOS M270 machine) went on to receive secondary machining and finishing steps. The same will almost certainly be true of any production metal part made through additive manufacturing.

Posted by: Mark Albert 10. October 2014

Air in Your Favor

Blasting coolant through the spindle and out the end of the cutting tool is a great way to clear chips. Haas Automation’s Through-Tool Air Blast option can be an advantageous alternative. This system provides high-pressure/high-flow air through the cutting tool to clear chips and keep the cutting zone cooler. This option is valuable when doing “dry machining.”

Dry machining is possible because many of today’s cutting tools use carbide inserts with advanced coatings that no longer need coolant to lower the temperature of the cutting edge and lubricate the cut area to prolong tool life. The primary cause of tool wear and damage for these cutting tools is re-cutting chips. Blasting the chips out with air addresses this problem. This is particularly beneficial when machining pockets and other internal features, where chips can collect

The Through-Tool Air Blast can also be used to blow chips and coolant from workpieces at the end of a machining cycle. The user simply programs a cutting tool with holes for through-tool air to move over the workpiece–blowing chips and coolant from holes and pockets–before the operator removes the workpiece from the machine. This saves the operator from having to blow off the workpiece manually, with an arm inside the machine and the door open.

The air blast option requires the Haas Through-Spindle Coolant (TSC) option. Because both options use the same internal channels and piping, the operator can switch between the two systems, based upon machining requirements.

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