Matt joined the MMS team in 2006 after graduating from Ohio University (Bobcats, not Buckeyes!) with a B.S. degree in Journalism. Over the years, his duties at MMS have included editing product releases, managing the case study section and writing short technical pieces. As of early 2013, he’s been fully focused on feature writing. Matt enjoys traveling the country—and the world—to see manufacturing technology in action and to learn as much as possible from those who design and use it.
Mitutoyo America’s open house event last week marked a new beginning for the metrology sales, service and support organization, both literally and figuratively. The company moved into its new corporate headquarters in Aurora, Illinois just in time for its 50th anniversary, an occasion it commemorated with two days of facility tours, new product introductions and seminars, and a gala celebration for customers, distributors and other guests.
While the anniversary provided an opportunity to reflect on the company’s past, tours of the new headquarters revealed a great deal about its future commitments, particularly in education and customer service. Departments previously housed in separate buildings have been consolidated into the single, 159,000-square-foot facility to improve teamwork and communication. The new M3 solution center—the eighth in the U.S.—provides interactive product demonstrations and application assistance, while various laboratories enhance the Mitutoyo Institute of Metrology’s training curriculum with hands-on exposure to metrology instruments and software. An on-site repair facility services all the company’s precision measuring tools and instruments. Additionally, moving the ADLA-acccredited calibration lab from its previous location in Elk Grove Village, Illinois provides the opportunity to expand capacity and to improve temperature and vibration control.
The official title of the event, “Building the Foundation for the Next 50,” also applied to the technology displayed in the facility’s showroom. Here are three things that caught my eye:
* Dust-resistant Calipers. The company got its start with micrometers and calipers in Japan in 1934, and it continues to refine its designs today. One recent example is the AOS Digimatic Caliper, the latest iteration of what one company representative said is its most popular caliper. The device an electromagnetic inductive sensor, which, unlike electrostatic equipment, can read the scale despite the presence of dust, dirt, water and oil. The unit also features a redesigned IC chip that more than doubles battery life. It is scheduled for broad release this spring.
*Robot-integrated CMM. Company representatives noted that the Mitutoyo Solutions Group is increasingly helping customers integrate metrology systems with shop-floor automation. This demonstration of a robot-tended MACH Ko-Ga-Me CMM is just one example. Designed for production runs of small parts, compact, 3D measuring system is a fully functional CMM that doesn’t require a master, and it is among the newer additions to the company’s product offering. Sealed linear guides, temperature compensation via sensors that monitor the part and the ambient environment are among the features that make it practical for shopfloor use, as is the fact that it doesn’t rely on traditional air bearings that require a clean environment.
*Multiple sensors, single platform. Automation wasn’t the only trend in evidence at the open house. Manufacturers also increasingly seek to combine different operations on one platform. This demonstration showcased one of Mitutoyo’s Crysta-Apex CMMs switching between a touch probe, scanning probe, laser probe, vision probe, and, perhaps most notably, the company’s SurfTest surface finish probe. This probe-changing capability enables users to avoid multiple setups and use the same system to perform different measurements on different parts.
Inserts on tools like Horn’s DAH 62 series cutters, shown here,
combine low lead angels and large edge radii to maximize chip thinning.
Given the increasing popularity of light, fast passes for hogging out lots of material in a hurry, manufacturers have no shortage of choices when it comes to high-feed milling tool designs. At some level, however, virtually all high-feed inserts derive their advantages from similar geometry. This examination of Horn USA’s latest offering, the DAH62 series, provides an overview of these common features as well as advantages specific to that line.
Despite a long history of helping manufacturers reduce setups, the angle head might seem like little more than a relic in an era characterized by increasingly sophisticated multi-axis machine tools. According to Big Kaiser Precision Tooling, however, that’s not the case at all. In fact, manufacturers are finding that this tried-and-true can help double-down on the setup-reducing capabilities of four- and five-axis machines, particularly in the aerospace and energy industries. That said, they do come with inherent limitations that any potential user should keep in mind. Learn more here.
These tiny parts were machined on a Makino UPV-3 wire EDM.
Although the official unveiling of a new series of wire EDMs was the most newsworthy aspect of my recent excursion to Makino’s tech center in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the back-to-back events there last week had a great deal more to offer. The wealth of technical information conveyed during the Micromachining Conference September 10th and the subsequent Technology Expo September 11th and 12th reinforced my belief that these types of expositions are well-worth the time and expense for any manufacturer interested in staying competitive. Although many of the presentations and demonstrations would lend themselves quite well to online videos or webinars, the opportunity to ask questions and to interact face-to-face with both technology developers and industry peers is invaluable. There’s nothing quite like being there.
If you weren’t, I’ll do my best to cover some of the highlights here. First, the new wire EDMs, which were a major focus of the Technology Expo. The line consists of four offerings: the U3 and the larger U6, as well as the U3 and U6 “HEAT” (High Energy Applied Technology), a variation on the standard models designed for greater horsepower, speed and flushing capability.
The new U3 and U6 EDMs feature a stacked-axes configuration that ensures support throughout the entire range of travel. Other features contributing to rigidity and accuracy include large, dual-anchored ballscrews, large linear guideways, and both rotary encoder and glass scale feedback.
The machines are the first equipped with the company’s Hypercut Technology, which produces surface finishes as fine as 3 µm Rz (15 µin Ra) on standard tool steels in three passes. This is said to reduce cycle time by 20 percent and wire consumption by 14 percent. Also notable is the new Hyper-i CNC. With a 24-inch touchscreen interface that works just like a typical smartphone or tablet, the CNC provides fingertip access to manuals and instructional videos to help navigate the machine’s functionality. Other key features include the Pro-Tech anti-electrolysis circuit, which protects the entire workpiece (as opposed to just the cutting zone) against rust without chemical additives; a choice of round or V-shaped wire guides that can be indexed without disassembly and changed without re-referencing; and a robust construction in which the dielectric reservoir is built into the casting to save space.
As always, the company’s five-axis offerings also drew large crowds at the Technology Expo, particularly a demonstration of how five-axis machines can reduce roughing time by making the most of multi-flute cutting tools. Both that event and the previous days’ Micromachining Conference also offered plenty in the way of equipment designed for precision measured in microns—what one company representative called the “Ferraris” of its offering. Demonstrations covered direct milling of carbide, the value of robust machine construction in micromachining applications, complementary measurement technologies, and more. Click here for a brief overview of what I saw.
A critical goal of Manufacturing Day is to educate young people with aptitudes for science, mathematics and technology about what a manufacturing career really entails. Such efforts are the primary focus of MMS’ Next Generation Zone, which offers a series of articles and videos about this issue as well as links to resources making the case for manufacturing careers.
Individual manufacturers need not feel helpless in the face of a nationwide shortage of skilled workers and rampant misconceptions about the industry. By opening their doors to the public in a coordinated series of open houses October 4, even small shops with limited resources can make a difference.
That’s the message behind “Manufacturing Day,” an event coordinated by a group of prominent industry sponsors designed to amplify the voices of individual manufacturers with common concerns and challenges. October 4 might seem a ways out at this point, but now is the time to start thinking about it—organizers stress that the more shops that participate, the greater the impact is likely to be. After all, members of the general public will likely have a hard time clinging to outdated notions about manufacturing once they get a first-hand look at the computerized, automated technology that characterizes today’s operations.
A straightforward plant tour isn’t the only way to get involved. During the first Manufacturing Day event last year, various small groups of nearby manufacturers pooled resources to offer successive tours at each of their facilities. Organizers report such events proved particularly successful. In some cases, they even drew attention from local schools and political leaders. Shops that don’t want to play host at all can still provide video or written testimonials about their operations to the Manufacturing Day website, among various other ways to contribute.
For more information, including ways to get involved, tips for hosting a plant tour or submitting a testimonial, and news about sponsors and other participating companies, visit mfgday.com.