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Posted by: Peter Zelinski 24. December 2014

Webinar: Choosing an ERP System

Implementing ERP is “probably the biggest change you’ll make in your business in your lifetime,” said Kevin Prouty of the Aberdeen Group in a recent webinar that made the case for ERP, and also detailed how to think about selecting such a system. Research by Aberdeen has identified top pressures facing manufacturers (illustration), as well as capabilities of manufacturers that are best-in-class. Modern ERP systems help companies address those pressures and realize those capabilities, Mr. Prouty says.

The webinar, which was sponsored by Epicor, discusses ERP in general without advocating a specific product. To view the webinar’s recorded version, go to this registration page.


Posted by: Derek Korn 23. December 2014

Through-Tool MQL Basics

MQL offers economical and environmental benefits because just a small amount of coolant is required during machining.

What’s involved in through-tool minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) delivery? What does a tool designed for through-tool MQL look like? Unist, designer and manufacturer of fluid application systems for industrial markets, sheds light in a white paper called “Single Channel MQL,” which you can access here.


Posted by: Peter Zelinski 22. December 2014

The Case for Off-Site Innovation

Okuma wants to help its customers succeed. Part of that is helping them fail.

According to Wade Anderson, the company’s manager of technology centers, providing customers with “a place to fail” is a large part of the reason why the machine tool builder this year opened a new technology center devoted to aerospace machining. The company’s initial development partners in this new aerospace-focused facility include Sandvik Coromant and 5ME.

The 10,000-square-foot space at Okuma’s Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. headquarters includes a range of machine tool types the makers of critical aircraft components are likely to employ, including large-travel five-axis machining centers and Y-axis live-tool lathes. For a manufacturer to commit its own in-house resources to developing and proving out a new machining process is often impractical, Mr. Anderson says, because no one can say how long the trial-and-error will take. This is particularly true in aerospace machining, which often involves materials that are difficult to cut and geometries that are difficult to achieve.

In fact, Mr. Anderson says it’s increasingly likely that the expertise for process innovation might not be available within a manufacturer’s own facility, either. The very nature of expertise has changed, he says. We see this at the level of our individual work and interests, where we no longer master information to the extent that someone might have done a generation ago, but instead we rely on online searches for the information we need as the need arises. Something similar is true at the level of manufacturing process innovation, he says. Technologies are advancing rapidly enough and interrelating to such an extent that, for a production manufacturer, trying to develop and maintain up-to-date manufacturing expertise might be a hopeless struggle. Better to rely on resources able to provide current knowledge as needed.

One of the center’s partners exemplifies this. 5ME is a manufacturing technology firm offering various tooling and shopfloor management technologies, as well as (­­perhaps most significantly) cryogenic machining. This is a technology still unknown or little known to many manufacturers, though it has the potential to benefit various processes involving machining aerospace alloys.

Meanwhile, Mr. Anderson observes that tooling technology has advanced to the point that previously accepted expectations about productive machining parameters are now in some cases far off-base. And machine tool capabilities have advanced to the point that even basic decisions such as whether a machining center or a turning machine is the right choice for a part might deserve to be reevaluated. Getting outside of the organization to encounter people thinking about these topics is valuable, particularly experts from different technology suppliers knowledgeable about different facets of these questions.

He says the aerospace center is a logical step forward for Okuma’s “Partners in THINC,” the affiliation of companies all offering technology complementary with Okuma’s THINC control. With 50 companies now part of Partners in THINC, the range of potential technology solutions is vast but potentially daunting. In the aerospace center, by contrast, engaging partners on a project-by-project basis is part of maintaining the sole-industry focus of the center. If this works well, he believes it is likely that other industry-focused centers will follow.

Photos of the new aerospace tech center were taken at a recent open house, where Wade Anderson (seen here) was one of the presenters.


Posted by: Mark Albert 19. December 2014

Get Smart about Manufacturing Intelligence

This white paper from Sandvik Coromant is a succinct, readable overview of the so-called fourth industrial revolution. The big message is: Get ready for it now because it is both a huge challenge and a fantastic opportunity.

The paper includes a timeline of the successive industrial revolutions and a discussion of the emerging Internet of Things. Finally, it recaps Sandvik Coromant’s substantial efforts to have products ready for its customers as they implement the manufacturing intelligence that participation in this new revolution demands.


Posted by: Peter Zelinski 18. December 2014

Additive Manufacturing of Brackets Saves 1 Kilogram per Satellite

Satellites and spacecraft components are excellent candidates for additive manufacturing. One reason is that weight is critical—every ounce saved is an ounce that does not have to be launched into space. Another reason is that these parts are typically made of materials that are hard to machine. Still another reason is that the parts are made in low quantities. Additive manufacturing is unfazed by any of these challenges—part complexity, the machinability of the metal and the smallness of the batch size all do not affect its cost or difficulty.

We recently wrote about how additive manufactured components are on their way to Jupiter in the Juno spacecraft. Another spacefaring success now comes from Airbus, which recently shifted the brackets that hold reflectors and other hardware on satellites to additive manufacturing. Redesigning the brackets for this additive production allowed Airbus to use less material, ultimately cutting nearly 1 kilogram per satellite.

Learn more about the application in this report from EOS.

(Brackets, by the way, are an underappreciated opportunity, says this additive manufacturing authority.)


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