Posted by: Derek Korn 8. July 2015

Metal Alloy Analysis Made Affordable

handheld XRF metal alloy analyzer

This handheld XRF metal alloy analyzer uses a process similar to static electricity to generate x-rays, bringing the price point down to a level that’s attractive to a wider range of manufacturers.

Traceability is becoming a bigger issue for shops, especially those serving the aerospace and medical industries. Handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometers are commonly used to identify, analyze and tests a broad range of metal alloys for positive materials identification (PMI). Such analysis is commonly performed on raw material as well as finished parts prior to customer delivery to confirm alloy grade. That said, the price point for these devices hasn’t been all that attractive.

Tribogenics says it is the first company to offer an XRF analyzer for less than $10,000. Its Watson XRF device uses a process similar to static electricity (known as the triboelectric effect) to generate X-rays. The company says conventional XRF devices use technology originally developed in the 1800s that relies on bulky, expensive high-voltage transformers to generate X-rays. Tribogenics-effect technology is said to lower both the cost and size for an XRF device using a small (less than 250cc) battery-operated source. Watson also uses replaceable, interchangeable X-ray sources that function much like inkjet cartridges. These cartridges are available in different power levels to address different analyzing needs. They are said to last one to two months and cost $300 to $400. 

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 7. July 2015

RAMTEC Ramps up Academic Outreach

Students are exposed to manufacturing career opportunities beginning in the 7th grade, with Vex Robotics summer camps and events at one of nine RAMTEC sites located across Ohio.

I met Chuck Speelman, superintendent of the Tri-Rivers Career Center in Marion, Ohio, during FANUC’s Open House in Oshino, Japan, last April. FANUC is a major partner in the Robotics Advanced Manufacturing Technical Education Collaboration (RAMTEC) that Mr. Speelman helped launch. My colleague, Derek Korn, wrote about the program here. Thanks to a grant from the Ohio Department of Education’s “Straight A Fund,” RAMTEC has established nine facilities across the state filled with manufacturing tools from automation and robotics suppliers including Yaskawa Motoman, Allen-Bradley, Mitsubishi, Parker Hydraulics and Vex Robotics. Students from 256 school districts are eligible to join educators, manufacturers and OEMs in certified training programs providing firsthand experience with the very equipment they’ll encounter on the job. A recent blog post by Ritch Ramey, RAMTEC coordinator at Tri-Rivers, presents a nice snapshot of the program, its varied offerings, current activities and its expanding efforts to help introduce students—as well as adults seeking new skillsets—to automation and robotics in manufacturing as a solid and rewarding career choice. 

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 6. July 2015

What Does Your Shop’s Website Say in 0.05 Second?

Machine shops are accustomed to thinking in terms of thousandths of an inch, but what about thousandths of a second? This blog post from manufacturing marketing firm Krixis Consulting claims that visitors to a website form an impression about it (and the company behind it) in 50 thousandths of a second.

That is not fair. In an ideal world, a machine shop would be judged entirely on its machining performance, not the design of its website. But, of course, life isn’t fair. Arguably, marketing isn’t fair, either.

In making the case for why a machining business needs a strong website, that same blog post summarizes the impression that good and bad websites make. The website that is flat, dated, confusing or difficult to understand says that the company behind that website is:

  • Technologically backwards.
  • Oblivious to what others think.
  • Content to advertise itself poorly (so imagine what its product is like).

Meanwhile, the website that is up-to-date, engaging and interesting says that the company is:

  • Striving to stay ahead of changing times.
  • Willing to put extra effort into something others avoid (so imagine what it will do for a customer).
  • Proud of its brand, and not inclined to cut corners when the impression of that brand is at stake.

Here are a few more thoughts on machine shop marketing.

Posted by: Mark Albert 3. July 2015

A CNC Machine with Nine Controls

One obstacle to training the next generation of machine operators and engineers is exposing them to the variety of machine types and controls they are likely to encounter when they are hired. A community college in Illinois has the answer—training machines from Emco Maier with exchangeable control panels.

One of the newest models installed at the school, a ConceptMill 250, offers as many as nine different exchangeable CNC operator panels, including FANUC and Siemens versions. “Once our students are out of school, they could be in a shop that runs either CNC system,” Jack Adwell says. He is the dean of the Business Technology Division at the school. “This feature allows our students to become proficient with both controllers, and they will be prepared to operate effectively in either environment.”

Richland’s CNC lab also includes on-machine training with 10 offline computer stations using Emco control keyboards.

Learn how students and their potential employers benefit from these advanced training machines.

Posted by: Stephanie Hendrixson 2. July 2015

Print & Assemble—the Future of AM?

The IR3 3D printer pauses printing to place a wheel assembly into the remote-controlled car it is building in this image, taken from a promotional video on the project’s Kickstarter page. 

Remember the Strati car from IMTS? The car chassis and body were 3D printed on the show floor with a Cincinnati Incorporated Big Area Additive Manufacturing Machine (BAAM) out of carbon-reinforced ABS plastic. The printing phase took 44 hours over the first two days of the show, and was followed by a day of milling to refine the print. A team led by Local Motors then spent several more days integrating the non-printed mechanical components such as the motor and battery to make the car drivable.

Those mechanical components probably won’t be produced by a 3D printer in the near future, but what if they could be installed by the printer? That would eliminate the need for a human assembly stage, possibly saving time, and open the door for integrating components into areas that may be inaccessible in the final print. Furthermore, it would mean the ability to produce a fully functional product in one setup.

That was the idea behind Buzz Technology UK’s Industrial Revolution III (IR3) 3D printer, which picks and places non-printable components such as wheels, motors and rechargeable battery packs within a 3D-printed build. Development of the printer itself was shelved following a Kickstarter campaign that went unfunded earlier this year, but the company now plans to offer its pick-and-place technology as a retrofit kit for new and existing 3D printers. Though intended mainly for consumer use, it’s easy to see how this print-and-assemble concept might also be applied for production additive applications, such as building wiring into a prosthetic hand or audio speaker components into custom headphones.

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