MMS Blog

There are various B-axis turn-mill machines that have automatic toolchangers (ATCs) to tend their milling heads. Hwacheon now offers its C1 series CNC lathes with Y-axis motion and an ATC that tends its “three-stack” turret. In addition to tool stations that can be used to perform operations on either the main or subspindle, the turret has six stations with Capto toolholder interfaces to accommodate automatic tool change-out, like on a B-axis turn-mill, VMC or HMC (see video above). This offers increased flexibility to job shops that encounter a diverse array of workpieces and small batch sizes. 

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Not only are metalworking businesses changing, they’re changing significantly and for the better. What’s more, the pace of that change shows no sign of slowing, even in the face of an unpredictable future that’s rife with significant challenges.

That’s the picture painted by a recent survey commissioned by Grainger, an industrial supply company, and Practical Machinist, an online metalworking community. Worries cited by the survey's 360 respondents included the result of the election (unknown at the time of the survey), overseas competition, regulation, taxes, U.S. and global economic volatility, and, above all, difficulties with finding talent. Nonetheless, among those respondents, all of whom hail from businesses using CNC or other metalworking machinery, the number who expected business to improve next year more than doubled the number who expected it to decline (42 percent versus 20 percent, with 10 percent unsure and 29 expecting no change).

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Responses from our 2016 Top Shops benchmarking survey show that leading shops are more likely to offer design for manufacturability (DFM) advice to their customers than poorer-performing shops. Suggesting ways to simplify machining work can lead to lower part costs and faster delivery times. Xometry, which has in-house machining and additive manufacturing capacity and maintains a manufacturing partner network, is an example of a company that does this. 

1. Avoid thin, vertical walls. In general, thin walls are tough to handle. However, they become more of a burden when they are oriented vertically (or perpendicular to the machine’s work table). Walls that are less than 0.0625-inch thick are likely to deflect during machining and result in tool chatter that can leave behind unappealing scars and surface blemishes. For high-quality surface finishes, wall thicknesses should be 0.0625-inch thick or greater.

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Read how one shop doesn’t emphasize lights-out production so much as leveraging automation while the lights are still on. One key to this is a wage and compensation plan that rewards employees for maximizing automation’s impact. Read the full story on page 76.

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Posted by: Steven Kline, Jr. 7. November 2016

GBI: Metalworking October 2016 – 48.4

With a reading of 48.4, the Gardner Business Index showed that the metalworking industry contracted in October at the same rate as the previous month, remaining virtually unchanged for the third month in a row. Other than a spike this past March, the index is noticeably higher than it has been since February 2015.

The new orders subindex contracted rather slowly for the second straight month, and production was flat after growing the previous two months. The backlog subindex has contracted since April 2014, but it bottomed in November 2015 and has trended up ever since, indicating that capacity utilization at machine shops should begin improving very soon if it has not already. Employment increased for the first time since July 2015. While exports continued to contract, this subindex reached its highest level since November 2014. Supplier deliveries lengthened for the eighth consecutive month, although at a somewhat slower rate.

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