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:
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.
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.
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.
Paulson Training Programs provides training content and services for the plastics industry, but much of what it has to say in this knowledge center is relevant to CNC machining facilities as well. The company points out that there is a bias among manufacturers toward investing in machines rather than investing in employee training. Why? One reason is the possibility that the trained employee might leave. However, another reason is the fact that the ROI for new equipment purchases is much easier to calculate. The costs of not training are hard to see. However, as Paulson points out, the facility that is not paying for training is probably paying for the lack of training, because those costs are very real.
For example, how much income is lost by accepting inefficient production as normal? Or by frequently scrapping parts or making corrections because of recurring mistakes? Paulson created these charts to illustrate the cost of unnecessary cycle time, downtime and rejects (again, tailored to the plastics industry, but still relevant). These are the ongoing costs that an investment in training can overcome.
After registering for the event, attendees gathered in the lobby of Ingersoll Cutting Tools in Rockford, Illinois, where a sampling of the company’s products are on display.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Liebherr Gear Seminar held at Ingersoll Cutting Tools’ U.S. headquarters in Rockford, Illinois. The two-day event was well attended, with representatives of many of the country’s top gear manufacturers on hand as well as industry giants such as Caterpillar, John Deere and 3M.
Nine presentations were made during the course of the event. I particularly enjoyed “Liebherr Automation Solutions” by Kevin Heise, who presented case studies of installations he’s managed in manufacturing and assembly operations around the world. When Mr. Heise and his team are involved in the planning stages of a new cell or production line, they tailor their proposals to meet the company’s specific needs, resulting in increased efficiency and throughput.
Additional presentations included “Innovative Gear Cutting Concepts and Technologies” by Markus Grebe of Ingersoll, “Metrology Choices for Gear Makers” by Andy Woodward of Wenzel America, “Current Trends in Gear Shaping—Efficient Machining of Gears with an Interference Contour” by Scott Yoders of Liebherr Gear Technology and Higher Efficiency and Quality by Hob Design” and “Higher Efficiency and Quality by Hob Design” by Juergen Friedrich of Gebr. Saacke GmbH & Co. KG. A tour of the Ingersoll facility was also provided, along with a hobbing demo featuring the Liebherr LC 500.
The presentations were quite informative, and the schedule allowed for plenty of time to ask follow-up questions, of which attendees took full advantage. I would encourage anyone interested in networking with colleagues and learning from a wide variety of gearing experts to be sure and attend this event the next time it’s being held.
Chuck Elder, president of Ingersoll Cutting Tools, gave a keynote address opening the two-day session attended by many of the country’s top gear manufacturers.