Derek Korn

Derek Korn joined Modern Machine Shop in 2004, but has been writing about manufacturing since 1997. His mechanical engineering degree from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Applied Science provides a solid foundation for understanding and explaining how innovative shops apply advanced machining technologies. As you might gather from this photo, he’s the car guy of the MMS bunch. But his ’55 Chevy isn’t as nice as the hotrod he’s standing next to. In fact, his car needs a right-front fender spear if you know anybody willing to part with one.

Posted by: Derek Korn 20. August 2015

ERP: The One Big Thing?

ERP software has enabled CNCPE to streamline scheduling and more accurately capture the true costs for jobs.

Late in 2012, I wrote this story about CNC Performance Engineering, a shop that decided to move into its main customer’s facility. While the story describes the benefits the shop and its customer have realized as a result of this close relationship, the story also describes the value that implementing an ERP system had for CNCPE.

Chris Nachtmann ran his shop for many years without ERP, but finally gave the software a go by first tracking the shop’s most commonly repeating jobs. After entering all information into the ERP software for two jobs with seemingly slim profit margins, he ultimately found that those jobs were actually his two biggest moneymakers. Conversely, a few other jobs that he believed were highly lucrative were found to be unprofitable when lot sizes were smaller than a certain amount.

In our recent Top Shops benchmarking survey, I asked shops to identify one new technology they have recently implemented and noticeably benefited from. As you’ll read here, many pointed to ERP software. 

Posted by: Derek Korn 14. August 2015

Access the 2015 Top Shops Benchmarking Executive Summary

This year marks the fifth edition of our Top Shops benchmarking survey. This 2015 Top Shops Executive Summary compares responses from the benchmarking group with the other shops that participated in the survey. We calculate the results by totaling the points assigned to select survey questions.

As you review this information, consider which practices the Top Shops are leveraging that might be appropriate to implement in your operation. Also, please consider being part of our next survey, which goes live in January 2016. Since 2011, approximately 1,700 shop owners or managers have participated in the survey. Thanks to all who have done so.

For more information about our Top Shops program, visit our Top Shops Zone.

Posted by: Derek Korn 11. August 2015

Getting Ramped up on Swiss-Types

unique challenges to Swiss machining

It’s one thing to train a person to operate a conventional CNC turning center. It’s another to get someone comfortable running a more complex Swiss-type lathe with its signature sliding-headstock design. So what specifically needs to be pointed out to a person who either has some experience with conventional turning centers or perhaps no machining knowledge whatsoever? I got some suggestions from folks at Vallorbs, a manufacturing operation in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, that has a wealth of experience with Swiss-types. Here’s what they had to say.

Posted by: Derek Korn 29. July 2015

Visiting Renishaw in the UK

Renishaw’s new Innovation Center

Renishaw’s new Innovation Center houses R&D and corporate services staff, as well as demonstration, training and conference areas.

I know Renishaw fairly well. I had been following and writing about its myriad metrology technologies even before joining Modern Machine Shop back in 2004, having worked seven years prior to that for a public relations agency that had Renishaw as a client.

Due to scheduling conflicts and various other circumstances, though, I hadn’t had the chance to visit the company’s operations in the U.K. Luckily, I got that opportunity last week, being the sole U.S. editor invited to a press event to tour Renishaw’s new Innovation Center located at the company’s headquarters near Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire and get a preview of the products the company is introducing at EMO this October.

The 153,000-square-foot Innovation Center represents a £20 million ($31 million) investment and is the first phase of a development that includes the approval for 77,000 square feet of additional space. The facility houses R&D and corporate services staff, as well as demonstration, training and conference areas, and is the first such demonstration center to house all of the company’s product lines, which includes spectroscopy, healthcare and laser calibration.

The Innovation Center is the first such demonstration center to house all of the company’s product lines, including metrology, spectroscopy additive manufacturing and health care.

The Innovation Center is the first such demonstration center to house all of the company’s product lines, including metrology, spectroscopy additive manufacturing and health care.

The energy-efficient building includes a number of machine tools and CMMs to demonstrate Renishaw’s latest probing, gaging, ballbar, laser calibration and software solutions, including the following that will be on display at EMO (which illustrate how the company is striving to make applying and using its technology easier and more affordable):

  • The Intuo gauging software for the company’s Equator inspection system is designed to simplify and automate the gaging of a wide variety of parts, removing dependence on the skill of manual gage users and offering an alternative to multiple devices such as Vernier or digital calipers, micrometers and plug gauges.  The software enables a programmer to create gaging routines using just a part with an engineering drawing. With the Feature Predict function activated, the programmer uses the Equator’s joystick to take points on each part feature, and the software predicts the type of feature, the nominal value and a possible tolerance band. 
  • The Modus 2 metrology software suite brings efficiency to the programming and operation of CMMs. Based on the existing Modus platform, and supporting Renishaw’s range of three- and five-axis CMM sensor technologies, Modus 2 includes an intuitive interface and faster programming. The user experience is designed to be identical whether the software is connected to a “live” CMM or is working offline environment where full simulation with speed control facilitates measurement sequence development and visualization.
  • The Primo twin-probe system (which includes the Primo Radio Part Setter, Primo Radio 3D Tool Setter, Primo interface and GoProbe training kit) is said to offer the advantages of automated setting with a “pay-as-you-go” credit token business model that combines minimal up-front costs, a free, comprehensive training package, and immediate parts replacement. The six-month credit token enables unlimited use of the Primo twin-probe system during that period. Once the credit expires, users can simply purchase an additional credit token to extend usage.
Machine tools of various brands and sizes are used to demonstrate Renishaw’s numerous probing and calibration solutions.

Machine tools of various brands and sizes are used to demonstrate Renishaw’s numerous probing and calibration solutions.

I was also invited to see two of Renishaw’s other facilities during this trip. One was the new Additive Manufacturing Products Division location in Stone, Staffordshire. (And as you might have heard, Clive Martell, former president and CEO of Delcam, is now Renishaw’s head of global additive manufacturing.) The company moved its additive division to this 90,000 square foot building back in March. The facility includes individual private “hot cells” the company will set up for manufacturers to privately test additive manufacturing equipment for their own products. This concept will be replicated in facilities in other countries. Another building at this site is home to Renishaw’s vacuum casting division. This technology involves encasing a master model in silicone rubber and applying a vacuum to make a mold. It is a bridge between additive manufacturing equipment and full production molds for quantities of 500 pieces or fewer.

Finally, I was finally able to visit Renishaw’s Stonehouse machine shop, where the company applies its RAMTIC (Renishaw’s Automated Milling, Turning and Inspection Center) concept. This machining approach was developed in the early ‘90s as a solution for effective process control during unattended production of components for the company’s metrology products. Through the use of standardized work fixtures and mobile carousels, master workpiece artifacts, and on-machine probing routines, RAMTIC enables machine tools to maintain control of precision machining processes on their own. Mark Albert, MMS editor-in-chief, wrote this article in 2007 about the approach, and I wrote this follow-up piece about it a couple years later.

Posted by: Derek Korn 22. July 2015

Large-Part Grinding: Two Key Technologies

Advances in steady rest and in-process measurement technologies enable large crankshafts to be ground complete in one setup.

Advances in steady rest and in-process measurement technologies enable large crankshafts to be ground complete in one setup.  

Junker, manufacturer of high-speed CBN grinding machines, has developed its new JuCrank series for cylindrical and non-cylindrical grinding for large crankshafts. The series offers a swing diameter of 470 mm and a part length capacity of up to 4.8 m, and can accommodate crankshafts that can weigh as much as 1,000 kg. Because these parts are so big and unwieldy, the company integrated two technologies to streamline setup and processing.

First, Junker developed its own steady rest system, believing that existing systems were too bulky and not rigid enough for high-speed grinding. These new steadies are CNC-controlled and have only one axis each, which is said to increase their stability and stiffness. A maximum of 11 steadies can be controlled individually and applied to a section at any time—even during the grinding process—to enable higher sequence flexibility.

Second, the company integrated an in-process measurement system. That’s because large crankshafts are mainly produced in small batches (in some cases as single pieces), and the forging and hardening costs are so high that scrapping a part is not an option.

To start the crankshaft grinding process, the machine’s two wheels, each mounted on a wheelhead with its own X and Z axis, pre-grind the main and pin bearings. Those diameters are measured during the process, and then the entire workpiece is measured after pre-grinding, including features such as the taper of each element, the bearing widths and lift heights.

Based on the measuring data, the machine completes the grinding process while using the WK axis whereby the grinding spindle swivels to compensate for tapers. The machine can also provide each main and pin bearing with its own profile shape with specific crowning. If necessary, the shaft ends can also be ground, which also often feature a taper. As a result, the crankshaft is ground complete in one setup.

Another application for the JuCrank machines is re-grinding of used crankshafts, whereby the crankshafts are ground based upon the measurements taken by the machine. This grinding platform also can be effective for other large-scale applications, such as printing rollers and electric motor shafts.

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