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 22. September 2015

Lessons in Grinding

This photo taken of the Blohm Profimat MT608 creep-feed grinding machine at the event seems dark, but that was appropriate ambiance giving the “universe of grinding” theme. In fact, the event featured a speech from Story Musgrave, NASA astronaut that was part of the team that repaired the Hubble telescope in 1993, who noted how the strategies and solutions required to carry out such a repair mirror those needed by today’s advanced manufacturers.

Last week, I attended the United Grinding Universe event at the company’s headquarters in Miamisburg, Ohio, where 400+ attendees were presented with new technologies and strategies for challenging ID/OD, match, centerless, radius, universal and creep-feed grinding applications. The event featured 11 machine demonstrations/presentations on the company’s showroom for its Studer, Blohm, Walter and Ewag brands and additional presentations in its training rooms.

One of the showroom presentations featured the new Studer S151 universal internal cylindrical grinding machine for large-diameter components. This machine line offers a swing above table of 21.6 inches and is available in versions that can accept part lengths of 27.5 inches or 51.1 inches. It features the company’s StuderGuide technology that has a hybrid guideway design incorporating the advantages of both hydrostatic and hydrodynamic guides. When combined with precision drives, 0.1-micron resolution accuracy is possible.

Another demonstrated the advantages of continuous-dress, creep-feed grinding for difficult new materials using the Blohm Profimat MT608. Compared to typical reciprocal grinding operations that take light, fast cuts, creep-feed grinding takes deeper cuts with a slow feed motion. Benefits include increased accuracy and form holding capability, less thermal damage, higher material removal rates, burr reduction and ability to machine heat-treated alloys. Constant in-feed of the diamond dressing roll into the wheel enables the wheel to maintain its form and sharpness throughout the operation.

Still another highlighted the advantages of gaging for match-grinding components such as plungers. This station featured a Studer S110 internal grinding machine with programmable B axis and compact Studer S11cylindrical grinding machine with integrated automation. (The latter, which I saw unveiled last year, is highlighted in this blog post.) Combining machines and measurement feedback in such a way offers a more productive, automated alternative to conventional match grinding approach that typically called for ID grinding of one of the components, inspection and sorting, OD grinding of the mating components, and then size adjustment to match or pair with ID-ground parts. 

Posted by: Derek Korn 16. September 2015

The Potential for Wider Use of Ceramic Inserts

When you think ceramic inserts you commonly envision high-speed machining of hard metals and super alloys. That said, Greenleaf has developed a new phase-toughened ceramic insert technology that could bridge the gap between conventional carbide and ceramic inserts for exotic materials, as well as more conventional metals such as mild and stainless steels. Learn more.

Posted by: Derek Korn 2. September 2015

Using an App to Adopt CNC Technology Faster

This story I wrote about Moser Engineering is interesting, albeit a bit different from the norm.

Most often, each shop I profile is already experienced with CNC machine tools, and the article I create highlights a way it has leveraged some new technology, process or approach to become more efficient at the process.

But in this case, Moser Engineering, manufacturer of racing axles and related components, had no prior experience with CNC equipment. It realized, though, that CNC would enable it to more effectively produce its custom axles in the guaranteed two-day turnaround it was known for.

Although it considered options for what type of machine it might purchase, what ultimately sold the company on the Okuma lathe it chose was a custom machine-operating/program-generating app created by Aaron King, applications engineer for machine tool distributor Gosiger Inc. In short, the app enables a person with no CNC experience to input a handful of specs for a given custom axle order via the machine’s THINC touchscreen control and then hit a button to automatically generate the machining code for that job. After that, it’s just a matter of fixturing an axle core in the machine and hitting cycle start. (It’s also interesting that the live-tool lathe performs no turning work.)

This type of operating- and automated-program-generating solution is not appropriate for all machine shop scenarios. For example, it likely wouldn’t make sense for a job shop to create apps for every small-batch job it runs. However, it might be an option for manufacturers such as Moser that have standard product lines and run high volumes of the same parts, or perhaps a manufacturer that has parts that share a common geometry but are available in a number of variations (like Moser’s axles). It might also be suitable for a contract shop that sees a lot of repeat work. An operating option using an app could enable any of those manufacturers to have less experienced machine operators tend to those jobs while more experienced personnel can be deployed to handle more complex work. It’ll be interesting to see how this technology impacts our industry moving forward.

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.

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