Posted by: Stephanie Monsanty 28. November 2014

Build the Machine around the Workpiece

It makes sense to cut, mill, drill or tap a workpiece on the machine best-suited to the task, but sometimes it makes even more sense to assemble the machine tool specifically for the workpiece. Suhner Automation offers a range of machining units that can be combined into complete machining systems for large runs of specialized parts, especially those that are bulky or awkwardly shaped such as automotive and aerospace components.

The machining units, which can perform sawing, milling, drilling and tapping processes, can be arranged to operate simultaneously or in sequence. A display at the company’s IMTS booth, for example, showed how multiple drilling units could be arranged to drill multiple holes on the interior of a Corvette door in one pass (pictured above). Meanwhile, a separate demonstration featured a machining center consisting of four different types of machining units to demonstrate how workpieces could be machined complete in a single setup. Each time the machine indexed, it produced a finished part.

Each machining unit consists of a pneumatic spindle and toolholder with a durable cast iron body. The units are available in a range of different sizes with through-coolant variations and can be equipped with servomotors and ballscrews for greater accuracy. Suhner also provides the enclosures and systems necessary to form complete machining centers with the modular units.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 27. November 2014

Renishaw to Introduce Additive Manufacturing System Aimed at Production

Renishaw has announced that it is developing a new additive manufacturing system designed and engineered specifically for production manufacturing. The machine, which the company has provisionally named the “EVO Project,” includes a 500-W laser, high-capacity filtration and automated powder handling.

Renishaw became an additive manufacturing OEM through acquisition in 2011. Now, this new machine will be the first the company has designed and engineered in-house, drawing on its own knowledge and background in production manufacturing. The new machine does not replace the Renishaw AM250 system, the company says, as this existing machine remains better suited for flexible manufacturing and research applications in which changes between materials are a requirement.

The new machine, by contrast, is designed for single-material industrial production. Powder handling is said to be almost entirely hands-off, while powder recirculation, recycling and recovery are all carried out within the inert atmosphere of the system.

Renishaw plans for the new machine to be available during the second half of 2015. Learn more here

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 27. November 2014

3D Systems to Acquire CAD/CAM Company Cimatron

This photo from 3D Systems’ booth at EuroMold shows one of the company’s desktop 3D printers. The company also supplies additive manufacturing machines for metal parts as a result of an acquisition last year.

Additive manufacturing technology provider 3D Systems announced this week that it reached an agreement to acquire CAD/CAM software company Cimatron. Cimatron’s products include CimatronE software and GibbsCAM.

The move is the first example I can recall of a company with product lines aimed entirely at CNC machining being acquired by a company that grew up in the 3D printing space. (But see Arcam’s recent acquisition of machining supplier DiSanto.)

My colleague Matt Danford of MoldMaking Technology magazine is at the EuroMold show in Frankfurt, Germany, this week. In 3D Systems’ booth at this show, Matt had the chance to speak with Tom Charron, the company’s VP of product marketing, about this move.

3D Systems is “expanding beyond purely additive,” Mr. Charron says. He cites Cimatron in the context of other recent acquisitions by the company, including design and scanning software Geomagic. “It's all about the entire value proposition for manufacturing.”

He says, “The reality is that in five years additive will not be a novel technology off in the corner somewhere. It will be right in the middle of the production floor alongside CNC machines.” Cimatron therefore addresses the company’s ability to serve “the non-additive side of digital fabrication.”

Read 3D Systems’ announcement here.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 26. November 2014

Hiring Consultant Shares How to Evaluate Soft Skills

Tony Staub (left) has dramatically changed what he looks for in evaluating machine-shop employees. At the two links in the text below, find our original article describing the shop owner’s change, and also read some additional insights provided by the hiring consultant Mr. Staub works with.

Readers of our recent article describing Staub Machine’s change in hiring philosophy—the shop now hires for personal strengths instead of aiming for metalworking skills—asked about the role of the consultant mentioned in the article. The consultant, whom the article does not name, helps this shop evaluate prospective hires for attributes such as communication ability and the capacity to learn.

His name is Patrick Crotty. The firm he founded is PXC Associates in Orchard Park, New York. He works with various manufacturers on recruitment, and he says the place to evaluate candidates’ soft skills is in the interview. Most hiring managers dislike interviews and have too little experience with them, he says, so they end up doing most of the talking. I recently reached out to him, and he shared these thoughts on evaluating prospective manufacturing employees.

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 25. November 2014

Okuma’s Aim Is True

Okuma has released a series of videos demonstrating how its CNC machines are used in manufacturing gun parts. The six videos currently posted on YouTube demonstrate the machines and processes necessary to manufacture the following parts:

  • Rifle Stock Mold—In the video embedded above, a five-axis vertical machining center cuts a custom-designed rifle stock mold
  • AR15 Upper—A horizontal machining center machines an AR15 upper
  • Gun Barrel Extension—Cut on a horizontal lathe, the machining of this gun barrel extension uses a variety of cutting tools and operations
  • Commemorative Plaque—this video shows the CNC milling of a gun-shaped plaque for a firearms event
  • 1911 Trigger Housing—Machining of a 1911 trigger housing using a vertical machining center equipped with a rotary table
  • Gun Cylinder—A .50 caliber revolver cylinder is cut on a three-turret horizontal lathe 

There are clearly opportunities for growth in this market. According to the Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report compiled by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (U.S. Dept. of Justice), some 8,578,610 guns—including pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns and miscellaneous firearms—were manufactured in 2012, the last year for which complete figures are available. This is up from 6,541,886 in the same categories manufactured in 2011. Have you had success working in this particular market? Share your story here. 

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