With a reading of 54.2, Gardner’s metalworking business index for January showed that conditions in the metalworking industry have improved dramatically. The industry has grown three of the last four months, but January’s rate of growth was the fastest since April 2012. The index was 9.1 percent higher than it was one year ago, the fifth straight month that has happened.
New orders grew for the fourth consecutive month, reaching their highest level since March 2012. Production also has grown for four straight months, reaching its highest level since April 2012. Importantly, the backlog index grew for the first time in nearly two years, and the trend indicates that capacity utilization in the metalworking industry should increase in 2014. Employment is growing at its fastest rate since summer 2012. Exports continued to contract, and at a faster rate in January, likely due to the start of tapering by the Federal Reserve and its effect on many world currencies. Supplier deliveries continue to lengthen at a rate consistent with the last year.
Material prices increased at a notably faster rate in January than they did throughout 2013. Prices received grew significantly faster as well, however not as fast as material prices. Future business expectations have soared since last August and are now at their highest since March 2012.
For the first time since March 2012, plants of all sizes grew. Facilities with more than 50 employees saw their rate of growth jump significantly, while plants with 20-49 employees grew for the first time since last July. Facilities with fewer than 20 workers grew for the first time since March 2012.
Future capital spending plans reached their highest level since February 2013, but they fell just slightly from last January. The annual rate of change of future spending plans has grown for three straight months, indicating that actual capital spending should grow faster in upcoming months.
Hyphen is a Toronto company making prototypes. It has extensive 3D printing capability, but as this video produced by Haas Automation shows, the company considers CNC machining to be an effective prototyping resource.
Another prototype house that frequently chooses CNC machining over 3D printing is Designcraft.
Five-axis machines enable two types of multi-axis machining operations: full contouring and positioning (a.k.a. 3 + 2 machining). Thought of as siblings, contouring would be the alluring one and 3 + 2 would be more on the homely side. This is because contouring operations feature complex simultaneous motion of all five axes during a cut while 3 + 2 only uses the rotary axes to position and then lock the tool and/or workpiece at different angles outside of the cut.
That said, many shops find great value in 3 + 2. One is Canada’s Moulexpert. It now leverages 3 + 2 to manufacture more reliable and effective molds for thin-walled containers. Among other benefits, this capability has enabled it to reduce setups of mold inserts from as many as 25 to two, as detailed in this story.
Hoosier Pattern made this likeness of a classic foundryman. The figurine was 3D printed in sand.
Through 3D printing, the Decatur, Indiana, maker of foundry patterns is reinventing the way it serves its customers. Typically in casting, sand is packed around the pattern and packed into a core box to create the components of the mold that will shape the metal. Today, Hoosier Pattern can skip the pattern and skip the core box by directly printing these sand components. Going straight to sand in this way is such a big change (and provides such big freedoms) that many of the pattern maker’s customers are only starting to grasp the potential. Read more here.
The 3D printed figurine is essentially a side effect. The ExOne machine performing the sand printing is large enough that a number of simultaneous jobs can be nested within its work volume. With unfused sand providing vertical separation, that nesting can even be three dimensional. All that is needed for this nesting of parts-over-parts is for spacers to be added to the collection of CAD models to ensure the vertical separation.
Initially, Hoosier Pattern’s team members added simple blocks to provide the spacing. But why be so plain? In 3D printing, a complex form is just as easy to generate as a simple one. Therefore, the company began using the geometry of this foundry industry symbol as a spacer instead. When the engineer needs to vertically separate two jobs, he pulls in this figurine’s geometry and positions it between the different CAD models. That means numerous figurines might be produced in the course of running any batch of parts. The result has been an abundance of the figures, which the company gives away at trade shows and other events.
The photo below gives a sense of this nesting inside the sand printing machine. The document in the foreground is a map of the nesting for the build of parts that has just been completed. Clearing away the unfused sand will reveal various customer cores and other casting mold components, as well as various spacers.
(PS: The photo of the figurine above is a close-up inside the display case in the office area where Modern Machine Shop’s editors work. We added this case to display interesting parts our readers have produced, and because we just got it, it’s nowhere near full yet. There is still plenty of room to add other cool parts supplied by our readers. Hint, hint.)
The Bloodhound SSC is hunting for a new land speed record that surpasses 1,000 mph. This video from Delcam, incidentally, also marks a record for the company. The Delcam Advanced Manufacturing Solutions YouTube Channel now contains more than 1,000 videos. This channel includes product demonstrations, tutorials on new features in recent software releases, and testimonials from customers and technology partners.
To make the “hunt” for the right video in this collection faster and easier, the videos are now grouped into sections by product. There are separate playlists for each of Delcam’s CAM products, PowerMill for high-speed and five-axis machining, FeatureCAM for feature-based programming, PartMaker for programming turn-mill equipment, Swiss-type lathes and bar-fed mills, and the Delcam for SolidWorks integrated CAM system, and for the PowerShape CAD system and PowerInspect inspection software. Similarly, the customer testimonials are separated by industry, with individual playlists for applications such as automotive, aerospace and medical.