Matthew Danford

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.

Posted by: Matthew Danford 19. June 2013

Event Highlights Growing, Diverse Tool Supplier

My trip to Tubingen included a guided tour of Horn’s entire manufacturing operation, which, among other processes, employs injection molding and extrusion to shape indexable inserts. Click here for highlights of what I saw.


Although Horn initially built its reputation on grooving and part-off technology, pigeonholing the tooling manufacturer as a specialist in those areas alone would be a huge disservice to the company and any potential customers. Moreover, a broader product line isn’t the only factor in Horn’s becoming a bigger contender during the past few decades. The company itself has grown steadily as well, a trend that management expects to continue throughout 2013 and beyond. 

These were two major takeaways from “Technology Days,” a biennial event at the company’s headquarters in picturesque Tubingen, Germany. Along with more than 2,000 customers and dealers from around the world—a reportedly larger crowd than in previous years—press members including me and Chris Koepfer, editor-and-chief of MMS sister publication Production Machining, enjoyed a busy three days of demonstrations, tours and technical presentations.

Although Horn’s grooving expertise was evident from the get-go, demos and placards also showcased products that ran the gamut from milling and turning to broaching, reaming and thread-whirling. Notably, not all of these offerings were selections from the company’s 20,000-strong line of standard tools. Many were custom-designed models—which represent more than 50 percent of the company’s total annual turnover. The merits of custom tooling was also the topic of a particularly interesting technical presentation, while others focused on high-feed-rate machining, cutting with ultra-hard diamond and CBN materials, and performing broaching on CNC machines. (Watch for in-depth coverage of these topics in upcoming issues of both MMS and PM.)

In the United States, standard and custom tools alike are manufactured at Horn USA’s facility in Franklin, Tennessee. The U.S. market’s strength and growth potential has spurred plans to more than double the size of that facility beginning this year.  The overall company is growing, too. With annual turnover expected to rise by € 5 million this year over the € 220 million reported in 2012, the company is constructing a new building at the Tubingen campus for additional capacity. That project is slated for completion in 2015.

These expansions follow close on the heels of the 2012 completion of another new facility in Tubingen: a 16,000-square-meter factory for Horn Hartstoffe, the company’s carbide manufacturing operation. Here, powdered carbide mixes are shaped into “green” inserts via three different processes: axial pressing, and, perhaps more notably, extrusion and injection molding. This aspect of Horn’s manufacturing process, as well as the custom machines it uses to grind inserts after sintering, were among the most fascinating aspects of my trip. Click here for a brief virtual tour.  

Posted by: Matthew Danford 11. June 2013

Spindle Maintenance for Smaller Shops

Although they don’t provide the full analysis capability of a data collector with dedicated software, vibration pens provide an affordable and effective means of trending spindle performance.


Vibration monitoring is a key tool in the arsenal of any professional spindle service provider, but the means to bring this task in-house are more accessible than many shops may realize. Rick Thompson, senior spindle product engineer at Gilman Precision, says vibration pens can provide an economical way for small and medium operations without the resources for more advanced equipment to adopt a proactive approach to spindle maintenance. This can help avoid scrapped parts, machine crashes, unexpected downtime and worse. Click here to learn more about these products, as well as some simple steps shops can take to keep spindles spinning.  

Posted by: Matthew Danford 3. June 2013

Probe Enables Finish Measurement on CMMs

Along with the option for straight or cranked stylus configurations (the latter is shown here), the SFP1’s passive C axis and the infinite positioning of the Revo head enable users to orient the diamond-tipped stylus to virtually any angle.


Although moving parts requires additional labor and introduces potential for error, many aerospace and automotive manufacturers have no other option for verifying surface finish. The CMMs these manufacturers often employ for dimensional measurement would require additional axes of motion and increased resolution to employ a pointed stylus small enough to measure peaks and valleys measured by the nanometer.

Renishaw says the SFP1 probe option for its Revo measuring head alleviates both issues, thereby enabling manufacturers to avoid relying on dedicated machinery or hand-held gages for finish measurements. The five-axis Revo interfaces with an additional, passive axis on the probe itself to facilitate the necessary motion, while laser tip-sensing technology provides the required level of precision.

Two videos produced by the company showcase each of these capabilities, and this article explores the technology behind the Revo and SFP1 probe in more detail.

Posted by: Matthew Danford 23. May 2013

Major Tool & Machine Continues Major Upgrades

The DSI machine project is the latest in an extensive series of retrofits at Major Tool & Machine. Here, Scott Elder of Indiana Automation installs wiring at the electrical enclosure of one of the previously upgraded machines, a Cincinnati U5.  


Major Tool & Machine (MTM) is no stranger to extensive retrofit projects, and the company’s latest order is no exception. Set for completion in 2015, the job involves equipping a DSI (Dorries Scharmann) turn-mill gantry machine with not only a new Siemens CNC and drive system, but also a new cross-saddle, ram, and five interchangeable cutting heads, among other components. This work follows close on the heels of a series of similar projects that the shop began to undertake in 2010, and it can be similarly informative for manufacturers considering their own rebuilds.

As detailed in this article from our May issue, these previous projects demonstrate that retrofits provide the opportunity to not just restore machines to like-new condition, but also to add new capabilities. Just as importantly, the article describes why rebuilding MTM’s old machines would have been a complicated, involved process even if the company had less lofty goals. In fact, anything less than a total motion system upgrade wouldn’t even have been an option.

The DSI machine rebuild also demonstrates the need to plan around downtime. The project is part of a multi-million dollar order from MAG IAS that also includes two new machine tools: A VTC 2500 and a U5 XL 2500 universal portal mill with turning capabilities. The rail-type U5 XL 2500, the newest and largest model of the U5 portal mill series, will initially replace production capacity during the rebuild the DSI machine. “This is an extremely complex project that involves much more than simply adding machine tools, because it is critical that we maintain our large-part mill/turn capacity when the DSI machine goes offline,” says Steve Weyreter, chairman and CEO of MTM. “Part of our reputation is based on the depth of our capacity, so coordination and timing are vital when we take a critical machine offline.”

Here are more specific details on the new machines and what the DSI machine retrofit project will entail.


Posted by: Matthew Danford 17. May 2013

Event Highlights Automotive Production Solutions

One demo involved machining of a cast iron engine block, shown here in the pallet station of the Makino A81 HMC. Demonstrated processes included closed-loop boring and finish-honing operations.

As the North American automotive industry moves from recession to recovery, manufacturers are contending with not only increased volumes, but also increasingly compressed lead times, a range of new product designs and more stringent quality-control requirements. “Automotive and Part Production Day,” a May 8 event at Makino’s headquarters facility in Mason, Ohio, revealed steps the machine tool builder has taken to keep itself—and by extension, its customers—ahead of these trends.

North American light-duty vehicle production moved from 8.6 to 15.4 million between 2011 and 2012 and is expected to continue to increase, a result of reshoring, OEMs moving to global platforms, and increasing quality standards, among other forces. Equipment demand has followed suit, and Makino has increased inventories to ensure quick deliveries of production resources suited for the smaller, lighter components used in today’s increasingly efficient engine designs. Chief among such equipment is horizontal machining centers with 400- to 500-mm pallets, such as the company’s a51nx and a61nx models, of which it sold more than 300 last year.

Likewise, the company is boosting stocks of automation accessories that it deems critical to extract the most efficiency from these machines. Specific examples include robot interfaces, continuous pressure hydraulic fixture control, automatic stacker doors, tool-break detection functions, machine monitoring software and more.

The company has also ramped up its service and support offerings by increasing regional staffing of field service engineers and applications specialists. This is especially critical in an era when automotive suppliers depend on automated production systems that are tailor-made to fit their specific needs. It also marks a departure from the model in place about a decade ago, when most support functions were handled directly from the Mason office.

Click here for more specific information on the various Makino technology and support offerings that were the focus of presentations and product demos throughout the day.

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