Posted by: Emily Probst 20. January 2016

Searching for Good News in the Manufacturing Skills Gap

While the current employment outlook is seemingly bleak, with a high number of manufacturers reporting a moderate to severe shortage of available, qualified production workers, there does appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel concerning the future of American manufacturing over the next decade.

So says Jon Iverson, CEO of Optis, in an article written in correlation to the company’s new qualitative research report, which looks into the state of American manufacturing to examine the current mood and make predictions for the future.

In the article , Mr. Iverson mentions three ways the manufacturing industry can begin to bridge the skills gap, ensuring a sustainable future.

  1. Use model-based definition. Design parts and automatically embed tolerances in the model. By doing so, product development can be streamlined.
  2. Use automation. Automating routine tasks enables personnel to concentrate on more intricate, complex and individualized procedures. According to the report, this will become increasingly important as manufacturers reshore to the United States, bringing more demand for operators and further impacting the skills shortage.
  3. Design more intuitive machines. A certain amount of “tribal knowledge” will be lost when the baby boomers retire. This insight needs to be “trained” into machines so less human intervention is necessary to make the future machine tool self-sufficient.

Posted by: Derek Korn 19. January 2016

“Swiss Automatic” Grinder…Made in Jersey

The CAM.2 microgrinding machine from Glebar uses a hydrostatic bushing to offer support very near the area of contact between the part and the grinding wheel. There’s pretty much no limit to the length of wire to be ground, as shown in these demonstration parts with tiny ground flats, tapers, threads and so on.

Glebar, a New Jersey manufacturer of OD grinders, plunge grinders and other types of grinders, developed an interesting technology for grinding long, small-diameter parts. We’re talking workpiece stock as small as 0.005 inch in diameter and a minimum grinding diameter of 0.0005 inch for applications such as medical guidewires that can range to 16-feet long.

The way it does that is by applying a concept that’s similar to a sliding-headstock, Swiss-type lathe and its signature guide bushing. Learn more.

Posted by: Jedd Cole 18. January 2016

Robots Assist with Repetitive Tasks

Click above to view the slideshow of January’s Modern Equipment Review Spotlight.

While the topic of robots and automation continues to spur intense development, innovation and debate, there’s no denying that robotics shine when applied in situations with repetitive tasks, such as load handling in production runs. A few of this month’s curated robot and automation products suit this sort of implementation. A different sort of application is exemplified by Perceptron’s AutoScan Collaborative RoboGauge, which performs automated 3D scanning by combining a FANUC robot with Perceptron’s Helix scanner.

Click the image above for a slideshow featuring these and other automation products, with links to more information. 

Posted by: Mark Albert 15. January 2016

Winter Blahs Setting in? Watch this Video!

Andrew McAfee's presentation at the Opening General Session of Autodesk University in December made me feel pretty darn good. His message was simple: Technology, especially computer software, has done much to improve the human condition. The recording of his presentation is likely to lift your mood, too, if a dreary, post-holiday winter day is dragging you down.

McAfee, a research scientist at MIT and co-author of The Second Machine Age (Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time Of Brilliant Technologies), discusses how technological innovation is reducing resource consumption, returning land to nature and relieving poverty all over the world. His presentation is lively yet thoughtful, hopeful yet realistic. He clearly expects positive trends to continue, but he identifies two urgent challenges: finding ways to neutralize climate change and reinventing jobs so working people remain productive and engaged.

Autodesk University 2015 was all about digital collaboration and data-driven manufacturing. McAfee helped put these developments in the broader sweep of human history, which seems to him to have taken a dramatic turn for the better, thanks to computerization.

Posted by: Steve Kline, Jr. 14. January 2016

GBI: Metalworking for December 2015 – 44.0

With a reading of 44.0, the Gardner Business Index showed that the metalworking industry in December reached virtually its highest level since July 2015. This index has been contracting at a stable rate since August, indicating that the industry may have reached a bottom in this cycle.

New orders contracted for the ninth month in a row, but they have trended up somewhat the previous five months. Production contracted for the sixth month in a row, although in November that contraction was at a slower rate. The production index has not improved as much as the new orders index during the last five months, bringing the two into better balance. The backlog index, however, contracted once again in December. Although this index improved noticeably from November, it still indicates falling capacity utilization in the months ahead. Employment contracted for the fifth straight month, although this index has improved since August. The export index contracted for the 21st month in a row, however, its rate of contraction has slowed significantly since August as the strengthening of the dollar has moderated. Supplier deliveries shortened for the third time in four months. Shorter delivery times indicate that suppliers aren’t as busy and, therefore, can more easily meet the demands of customers.

The material prices index was unchanged in December, staying at its lowest level since May 2009. Prices received have decreased since June, although they decreased at a much slower rate in December. Material prices were falling faster than prices received. Future business expectations have been steady, but somewhat low, the last four months of 2015.

Future capital spending plans have remained relatively stable for five months, and in December they were about 33 percent below the historical average. While planned spending was still contracting compared with one year earlier, the rate of contraction has decelerated since June 2015.

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