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The owners of Global Machine Works (GMW) are enthusiastic about the company’s emphasis on the cellular machining concept. “It’s the only way to go,” says Brad Stuczynski, one of the shop’s two co-owners. In his cover story for Modern Machine Shop’s May issue, Mark Albert points out that as soon as Mr. Stuczynski praises machining cells, he’s quick to “flesh out,” so to speak, the company’s core beliefs about its approach to aerospace production: “You absolutely have to have a top-notch workforce.” After all, GMW’s new flexible machining cell wouldn’t be the success it is if not for the skilled people who developed, implement and now manage its palletized fixturing system.

Also in this issue of Modern Machine Shop:

With 61 years in the automation industry, FANUC is a company that practices what it preaches. Touring the campus of the company's world headquarters at the foot of Mount Fuji is impressive not just for the technology itself, but also for how it is applied in production. Within various buildings on the campus in Oshino, Japan, automated cells consisting of FANUC robots powered by FANUC servomotors are at work assembling more robots and servomotors, largely unattended by humans. The image sends a clear message about FANUC's philosophy with regard to the repeatability and productivity of its technology.

I had the opportunity to visit the 1.2-million-square-meter campus during FANUC's annual Private Show, hosted April 10-12, 2017. Nearly 70 FANUC customers and integrators traveled from North America to attend the first day of the event and take in new and existing technologies from the machine tool, robotics and factory automation divisions. Some of the highlights are detailed below.

The problem with calibrating linear axes on machine tools is that no error occurs in isolation. Linear displacement; vertical and horizontal straightness; roll, pitch and yaw—identifying just one as the culprit behind a misbehaving axis isn’t always easy. Michael Wilm, technical business director at Renishaw, says the most common methodologies unravel the complex interrelationships among the six degrees of freedom indirectly, whether through point clouds and sophisticated software algorithms or raw human labor and expertise. 

Renishaw now offers another option: a system that not only measures every potential axis error directly—including roll, which Mr. Wilm calls “the holy grail”—but does so after a single, software-guided setup of only two primary components. That means no need to set up optics in multiple configurations, and no need for extensive expertise. What’s more, feedback is near instantaneous, both on the degree of each individual error and on how one error might be influencing another at any point along the axis. This capability reportedly enables manufacturers to quickly zero in on suspected axis errors and fix them, mechanically rather than via CNC compensation if need be, without any uncertainty and without waiting for data on the entire machine envelope.

Reducing head count due to economic challenges is a response that often leads to longer-term challenges. This is particularly true in machining facilities, where skilled employees oversee sophisticated machines. If the facility is left with too few of the key people who are able to run the shop’s most complex equipment, then having just one or two of those critical employees resign or become sick could leave costly equipment sitting idle.

After a necessary downsize, a machining facility in Texas recently took stock of its own staffing to see how vulnerable it was to this danger. The resulting chart it created turned into a tool for improving staff members’ skills by advancing cross-training within the facility.

Eleva-Strum High School in Strum, Wisconsin, is about a two-hour drive from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and about three hours from Madison, Wisconsin. If you are interested in manufacturing education, the drive is worth it. This public high school is home to Cardinal Manufacturing, a manufacturing instruction program that pays for itself by functioning as a commercial business. Students perform job-shop work for local customers, thereby learning about not just machining and welding, but also winning business, meeting deliveries and serving customers. Learn about Cardinal Manufacturing in this article, and learn much more at an open house the school will be hosting next week.

The open house is May 3. Visitors will be able to meet the instructor, Craig Cegielski, and see the students’ shop. Returning visitors will be able to see how far the shop has progressed since the combination of commercial work and donations from supportive businesses has enabled Cardinal to steadily upgrade its equipment. Here is more about the open house.

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