Matt Danford joined the MMS team in 2006 straight out of college as a true neophyte, with a B.S. degree in Journalism from Ohio University (Bobcats, not Buckeyes!) and limited knowledge of metalworking technology. He’s come a long way since then, with a number of bylined case studies and a few feature articles under his belt. Matt also uses his skills to copy edit other staffers’ work and prepare submitted articles and news releases for publication.
The thing Matt enjoys most about working at MMS is using his writing ability to boil down and communicate complicated technical information in an easily understandable way. He looks forward to learning more about machine tool technology and completing his transition from an editing-based role to generating more original content.
Charlie Mauer (left), co-owner of Wire Specialists, looks on as fellow co-owner John Mueller adjusts a fixture in the shop’s new MV2400R EDM.
When I first set out to write about Wire Specialists, a contract manufacturer in Brookfield, Wisconsin that specializes in wire EDM operations, I figured the shop’s newest piece of equipment would be a major focus of the article. I was right about that, but the piece still took a somewhat unexpected turn.
Delivered just a few months before my visit, the new addition is a representative of Mitsubishi EDM’s MV series, a line of wire machines with a type of motion system that, to date hasn’t been used on any other machine tool. Having attended the unveiling of the new line earlier that year, I naturally assumed this much-touted innovation was a key factor in the shop’s decision to order a second MV2400R within months of installing the first.
To my surprise, however, the shop’s co-owners had a lot more to say about other design improvements that, from a purely engineering standpoint, might be considered more incremental: a redesigned wire threader; power supply enhancements that reduce wire consumption; new canned cycles in the CNC; and a power feed contact designed for easy indexing. Go here to learn more.
While ushering in a new era of efficiency, advances in automation technology are also limiting job opportunities as ever-more-sophisticated machines continue to take over structured, routine tasks once performed by people. That’s the main thrust of “March of the Machines,” an aptly titled segment from CBS news program “60 Minutes” that explores the transformational effect of robots and other automation technologies on the workplace, from banks to airports to manufacturing facilities. Two MIT professors quoted in the piece say this phenomenon is part of the reason why unemployment remains stubbornly high despite the rebound in investment and corporate profits.
However, the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a trade group representing the automation industry, says the program’s focus on automation as a job-killer is wrong-headed and one-sided. “We provided ’60 Minutes’ producers with several examples of innovative American companies that have used automation to become stronger global competitors, saving and creating more jobs … rather than closing up shop or sending jobs overseas,” says Jeff Burnstein, the group’s president, in a recently issued statement. “They unfortunately chose not to include these companies in their segment.”
In fairness, the “60 Minutes” piece takes a broad view, and it does single out manufacturing as “an early casualty of automation that is making a comeback because of it.” Likewise, the two MIT professors mention the issue of companies not being able to find employees with the right skills, even though they need fewer people as a whole. Still, in my view, there’s more reason for optimism than the segment indicates. While manufacturing may never return to the employment levels of past decades, even a quick browse through this website is sufficient to find numerous concrete examples of automation playing a key role in keeping work—and the jobs associated with it—in the United States. The media and the general public need to understand that there are opportunities here as well as challenges, and for that, it’s critical that associations like A3 and other industry representatives continue to make their voices heard.
One of N.C.E.’s Kaiser series 310 EWN finish-boring heads goes to work on a medical industry motor mount in 6061-T6 aluminum. The 73.1-mm-diameter bore is held to a tolerance of +0.015/-0 mm.
When out-of-tolerance bores started relegating valuable parts to the scrap heap, personnel at N.C. Engineering naturally faulted the one thing in the process that had changed: the machine tool. Even more frustrating than the scrapped parts was the fact that a new machine representing and investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars had to be relegated to low-tolerance parts, which wasn't exactly what the company had in mind.
However, on closer examination, it turned out that the boring head the shop had been using simply wasn't rigid enough to withstand the force of the tool-change cycle, an understandable oversight given that the machine was the company's first 50-taper. This article describes how a new boring head from Big Kaiser Precision Tooling got the machine back on-target.
This story could just as easily involved a cutting tool, workholding device or any other piece of equipment. Regardless, the lesson remains the same: When a new production resource doesn't work out as planned, it's often worth delving a little deeper to find the real problem.
Mazak Corporation recently completed the second of three major expansions that will ultimately increase total floor space at its Florence, Kentucky, campus to 800,000 square feet. According to the company, the expansions will position the collection of Florence facilities as one of the largest machine tool manufacturing operations in the country.
The fact that so many technology suppliers seem to be on the same page is worth remembering when confronted with data showing recent contraction in the manufacturing industry. It’s encouraging that these companies all seem to view the United States as a good bet for the long term.
Amid all the excitement of watching open-wheeled racecars scream by at speeds exceeding 200 mph, it can be easy to forget that performance on the track depends on more than just the skill of the driver. Behind every race team is a shop tasked with designing and manufacturing new parts needed to fine-tune these powerful machines between every event, often at very short notice.
This article, supplied by BIG Kaiser Precision Tooling, speaks to the importance of manufacturing technology for any race team’s success. For Andretti Autosport, 2012 has been an especially challenging year because the team completely redesigned its vehicles, from the body to the engine to the chassis. Among the products the team cites as critical to its operations are the Mega E collet chuck and a Speroni tool presetter, both from Big Kaiser—thus demonstrating that speed and precision become important long before the wheels hit the track.