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.
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.
A good machinist is somewhat like a soothsayer, except the tools of the trade in this case are metal chips rather than bones or tea leaves. Yet according to Seco Tools’ Todd Miller, even those who understand the wealth of knowledge that can be gained from examining the shavings left over from a milling operation often overlook one key factor: the importance of average chip thickness.
As indicated by the video above, the results of attaining the correct average chip thickness for a particular insert speak for themselves. The first cut is a full slotting application—that is, 100 percent of the tool diameter is engaged. Each subsequent cut reduces the tool’s engagement. Note that the sound generated by the cutting action is virtually indistinguishable at every level below 100 percent. That’s because cutting parameters have been set with the goal of maintaining the same average chip thickness regardless of radial engagement.
Mr. Miller says aiming for that goal can go a long way toward alleviating problems with premature insert failure, poor surface finish, work hardening, vibration or deflection. Here’s why.
Every second counts at an operation that depends on seven flexible machining cells that run nearly 140 hours per week. Shown here is the company’s latest, consisting of four Makino A51 HMCs serviced by a rail-guided pallet shuttle.
Virtually any shop visit can reveal small insights or tidbits of information that readers might find useful, yet don’t make the resulting article. That was the case when I visited Applied Engineering to explore how tight control of cutting tool inventory facilitates tight control of manufacturing processes. Courtesy of project manager Brad Bohnet, here are a few examples of small process changes that have made an outsized impact at this Yankton, South Dakota aerospace manufacturer—and might do the same for your shop, too.
- Don’t wait to rapid. For a long time, standard procedure for any of the company’s 29 HMCs was to fully stop the spindle, then rapid over to the in-machine probe to check for tool breakage or wear. Now, that move starts immediately, and it is timed so that the spindle stops revolving just prior to reaching the probe. This saves only about 2 seconds, but given that such moves occur approximately 20 times per hour per machine, and each machine runs at least 100 hours per week year-round, the accumulated time savings are substantial.
- Don’t stop the drip. Broken tool alarms are sometimes triggered not by an actual breakage, but by an anomaly, such as shaving stuck on the end of a tap. Until recently, such incidents would stop the “drip feed” of programs into the machine. This could result in anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes of downtime as the operator searched for the appropriate tool to restart the program. In response, the company developed a “soft” tool alarm that stops the machine, but allows he operator to check, clean and re-check the tool without ending the drip feed. This has increased machine availability throughout the shop floor by more than 1,500 hours per year.
- Don’t overblow it. Each machine is equipped with a fan that blows chips and coolant off of tombstones at the end of a machining cycle. Given that any given tombstone might hold a variety of different parts, each with its own program, this often resulted in running the fan cycle multiple times before the tombstone cycled out of the machine. Now, the company employs a macro that runs the fan cycle only once for every tombstone. The resulting time savings of 1 to 3 minutes per tombstone adds up to approximately 750 machining hours per year.