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Posted by: Peter Zelinski 4. August 2014

Video: Automation Adds Jobs at Vickers Engineering

Vickers Engineering President and CEO Matt Tyler says that automation has not replaced people in his shop, but instead has expanded the workforce. Without robotic automation, he says, this New Troy, Michigan, supplier of precision machined parts would have maybe 80 to 90 employees today, instead of the much larger number it currently employes. Because of the way robots have made the shop more competitive and increased the value of each of employee, the shop now employs around 200. Learn more about Vickers’s experience with robots in this video produced by FANUC America.


Posted by: Mark Albert 1. August 2014

Still Thinking about a Summer Vacation?

In a column that I wrote some years ago, I described my idea for a very different sort of "vacation spot" that appeals to me strongly.  I don't know if such a place exists, but I like to imagine that it does and that I might retreat there once a year to be made new and whole again.

The place is run by a very strict order of monks, but they welcome guests who come to experience their lifestyle for a week or two. The monastery/retreat house is located in hilly country somewhere, far from the city.

This is a place of contemplation, prayer—and work. The institution is self-sufficient, to keep the world at a distance. Excess earnings help support several charitable missions.

The monks and their guests arise at 6 a.m., with chapel at 6:15 a.m. (There's hardly time to dress or shave—no wonder the good brothers wear simple robes and beards!) Thirty minutes of chanting and meditation wake not only the body but also the mind and spirit.

Breakfast is plain but hearty like all of the meals here. Lots of cheese, eggs, fish and fresh fruits and vegetables. We eat quietly, each morning one of us taking turns reading scripture to the rest.

Work, which starts a little after seven, is "animal, mineral or vegetable," as they say. Guests are assigned in rotation to the dairy barn, the machine shed or the bakery. I would always want to be in the machine shed, of course, but duty in the other buildings teaches lessons about the blessings of a bountiful earth.

The machine "shed," it turns out, is actually a well-equipped little shop, with a mixture of manual and older CNC equipment. Brother Ted, a journeyman machinist who had his own job shop for 10 years, runs the place efficiently and calmly. The seven monks who work here full time are busy with several long-running contracts for a bank of automatic lathes, but they also manufacture a line of mostly hand-crafted antique reproductions for the gift shop and catalog sales. Guests help out in housekeeping, packing and shipping, or at the deburring bench or hand assembling some pieces.

Lunch is ample, but quick, followed by another chapel service. We return to the shop and work until 6 p.m., when the bells call us back to chapel for hymns and a silent period of scripture study. Dinner is light. I take the hiking trail during my hour of free time as the sun goes down. We sleep on cots in small rooms, hardly more than cubicles, with the windows open and the whippoorwills calling from the woods nearby.

At the end of the stay, I vow to return next summer, but in the meantime, I will often think of those who have vowed never to leave.


Posted by: Peter Zelinski 31. July 2014

Numbers Describe Additive Manufacturing’s Advantage

Airbus says it is expanding its use of additive manufacturing in aircraft part production. The reasons why are the ones typically cited: less lead time, less material, less environmental impact. However, a statement from the company gives numbers for some of the savings its expects to see. The company says parts produced additively (such as the bracket in the photo) will be 30 to 55 percent lighter than the parts they replace, will use 90 percent less raw material, and will decrease energy used in production by as much as 90 percent. Read more here.


Posted by: Derek Korn 30. July 2014

Chat with the Young People at IMTS

The organizers of IMTS have traditionally offered “student summits” to enable students, parents, educators and the like to be introduced to advanced manufacturing technology. Beyond that, students can also benefit from tapping the knowledge of seasoned IMTS attendees. If that group includes you, consider engaging students when the opportunities arise as I suggest here.


Posted by: Peter Zelinski 29. July 2014

Speakers at the Upcoming Additive Manufacturing Workshop

The Additive Manufacturing Workshop is a new event debuting at IMTS this year. The half-day workshop to be held September 9 will focus on the use of 3D printing technologies to make functional components and end-use parts. Speakers scheduled to appear include various people and companies we’ve covered in the Additive Manufacturing supplement to Modern Machine Shop. They include:

  • Craig Blue of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, speaking on the latest developments in additive at Oak Ridge. (It was Ryan Dehoff, who works with him at Oak Ridge, who was quoted in this article.)
  • Jon Baklund of Baklund R&D, speaking on additive manufacturing in the job shop.
  • Lou Young of Linear Mold, speaking on additive manufacturing for mold making.
  • Michael Hayes of Boeing, speaking on polymeric additive manufacturing in aerospace.
  • Greg Morris (pictured), formerly an additive manufacturing business owner and now Additive Technologies Leader with GE. He will answer questions about the promise and practicality of additive manufacturing.

For more about the Additive Manufacturing Workshop—and to register—go here.


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