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Posted by: Mark Albert 8. August 2014

Advanced Technology Drives 40 Years of Manufacturing

Automated machining systems and cells exemplify the evolving role of advanced manufacturing at Mazak’s Florence, Kentucky machine tool factory.

Mazak has been manufacturing machine tools in Florence, Kentucky, for 40 years. The growth and development of the production technology deployed in this plant reflect the most important advances in manufacturing during this span.

One example of the evolving role of advanced manufacturing technology can be seen in how FMS technology has changed and improved, with a corresponding boost in overall factory output.

When the company opened this factory in 1974, its first official machining operations were performed by a flexible machining system (FMS) that incorporated four of its own machining centers and a wire guided vehicle. The launch of this FMS also marked the introduction of the company's production-on-demand concept. Output stood at 20 to 25 machines per month.

In 1990, the company replaced the original FMS with one that consisted of eight H800s, which were then its most advanced HMCs. This FMS incorporated 30 pallets within a Mazak-developed Palletech manufacturing system. Pallets moved on a rail-guided vehicle rather than on a wire-guided one. The capacity of the system was eventually expanded to handle 144 pallets. Capacity reached about 100 machines per month in the factory.

Mazak once again revamped its FMS technology in 2000 by replacing the eight HMCs with four FH-8800 HMCs. The increased power and speed of these machines enabled this FMS to significantly boost output with fewer machines. Total production moved up to 130 machines per month.

In 2006, an Integrex e-1060V Multi-Tasking Machine was added to this FMS. The enlarged system now incorporated the work formally performed on a VTL. The same 144 pallets were now handling large-diameter parts and bringing them to the additional advanced machine for turning operations as well as five-axis milling.

As this FMS was evolving and growing, the company was adding other FMSs and cells elsewhere in the expanding factory areas. For example, its most recent cell processes the company’s machine tool headstocks. Built around a Palletech system, this cell consists of two Horizontal Center Nexus (HNC) 8800 HMCs, an Orbitech 20 large-part machining center and an Integrex e1060V Multi-Tasking Machine.

Today, Mazak’s manufacturing operations occupy an 800,000 square-foot, five-building complex with the capacity to produce 200 machines per month, including many models for export. In addition, it has the resources to design new machines from the ground up.

Read this story for a detailed history of how Mazak has enlarged and improved its Florence, Kentucky, manufacturing operations with advanced technology.


Posted by: Emily Probst 7. August 2014

August 2014 MMS Digital Issue Now Available

MMS's August digital edition is available online.

Every two years, we do something special with our August issue and devote it entirely to promoting the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS). This year is no different. With 1,900 companies exhibiting in 1,240,863 square feet of space at Chicago’s McCormick Place, this show is worth the extra attention we provide in both print and online editorial.

The feature story, “Five Trends to Watch at IMTS 2014,” goes beyond the products that will be on display at the show and delves into five “Big Ideas,” trends, patterns and emerging developments. These ideas cover additive manufacturing, automation, data-driven manufacturing, benchmarking for optimization and automotive.

Of course, this wouldn’t be our biennial show issue without hundreds of pages of the magazine being devoted to new products and technology that will be on display. 

Be sure to check out our August digital edition today.


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.


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