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.
Last week, I attended an open house at GF Machining Solutions’ newest “Center of Competence” in Irvine, California, part of a 106,000-square-foot Georg Fischer facility shared with sister company GF Piping Systems. Established to strengthen support for West Coast customers, many of which serve the aerospace industry, the Center includes a machine demonstration area with high-speed machining centers and wire and sinker EDM equipment as well as solutions for laser texturing and automation. It also includes customer training rooms, resources for sales, service and applications staff, and an extensive spare parts and consumables warehouse.
Here are a few shots I took while touring the facility:
This Form 30 features an ATC design whereby the 26-position tool carousel wraps around the machine column unlike a conventional ATC that would consume additional floor space.
Note the removable access panel on the left side of the System 3R Workpartner automated pallet system serving a Form 200 SP wire EDM unit. This enables the easy addition of another EDM unit to share the automated pallet system.
The company suggests that the precursor to automation is establishing a common part reference plane, which is possible using workpiece palletizing systems such as those offered by System 3R.
Toyota Racing Development in Southern California now uses five-axis machining equipment from GF Machining Solutions to enable faster, more accurate milling of cylinder head ports.
LED cameras enable principals at Quality Tooling, located in Corydon, Kentucky, to see if a tool or EDM wire has broken. Select shop personnel can access camera views via their home computer or smart phone to check on equipment during off hours.
Today’s camera, computer, tablet and smartphone technologies (not to mention Google Glass) make taking and accessing video a snap, even on the shop floor. Here are a few ways shops can leverage this capability to become more efficient and effective.
You might know “dengeln” to be a peening method of smoothing and sharpening the blades of scythes or sickles via manual hammering. Starrag says it has developed on-machine dengeln technology that uses an electrically powered tool to finish turbine blades after machining to a roughness value of just 0.2 micron Ra.
The process uses a tungsten tool with a spherical tip pulsed to 600 Hz that repeatedly impacts the blade surface and changes the original structures of surface boundary layers to a depth of 10 mm. This capability offers the possibility to eliminate secondary polishing, grinding and shot peening to finish blades. It can also eliminate manual polishing for dies and molds.
The video above shows one of the company’s five-axis LX 051 machines performing the dengeln process to finish a typical turbine blade after machining.
The draw was the technology. This year, exhibitors didn’t employ as many “gimmicks”—non-manufacturing-technology attention grabbers to attract attendees to their booths (racecars, celebrities, etc.). It seems exhibitors instead chose to leverage their new technology to entice visitors to stop in. You know, the stuff they need to make their operation more productive and the reason why they’re there in the first place. Given how busy booths were across the board, I’d say the concept worked. In fact, we applied a similar approach to our company’s IMTS booth design where we highlighted our strengths…the original content, data and manufacturing information we provide.
Five-axis equipment. 44 percent of the shops in this year’s Top Shops benchmarking group perform five-axis positioning or full-five-axis contouring work. Five-axis machines as well as indexing equipment to enable five-axis machining were evident throughout the show. And while contouring is the more alluring of the two five-axis operations, many shops find positioning workpieces in five axes to access nearly every side of a part in one fixturing exceedingly advantageous.
Machine looks. Equipment OEMs continue to develop more stylish machine tools. It costs more to make enclosures with rounded features instead of sharp corners. However, it’s appropriate that the advanced technology inside machines be wrapped in a more modern look. These certainly are not your father’s machine tools in terms of form or function.
Automotive. The automotive industry is hot these days, and this means a healthy amount of gear production. Technology for gear production was on hand in the show’s gear pavilion as well as McCormick’s South Hall, which featured multitasking machining centers that could also perform gear machining.
Automation (again). Pete mentioned the wealth of robots at the show. He’s right; you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting one. But there was also an increased presence of collaborative robots, robots designed to work alongside humans sans protective safety fences. These types of robots have the potential to change what a shopfloor looks like and how shopfloor processes are developed, and it will be interesting to see the degree to which industry accepts this alternate automation option moving forward.
Nothing beats a wild, live cutting demo on the show floor. Iscar delivers in Booth W-1800, with two extreme attention-getting part-off operations.
Iscar released its Do-Grip part-off system in 1993 featuring a proprietary twisted design. The company says the Do-Grip was the first to enable a depth of cut deeper than the length of the insert. At IMTS 1994, Iscar demonstrated the system’s performance under extreme conditions by chucking a railroad rail in a lathe and parting off slices of it throughout the show. The rail material is challenging to cut because it work hardens, the interruption is severe and the workpiece cross-sectional area varies, creating difficult cutting conditions that would cause most tools to fail. The Do-Grip tooling showed little sign of wear or damage.
Iscar revisits this live demo at this year’s show, using its latest Tang-Grip part-off system, a single-sided insert with pocketing technology to improve insert security and tool rigidity. In addition to the rail demo, this system also performs another challenging part-off demo using a sledgehammer head as the workpiece. Like the rail, the sledgehammer head material work hardens and the cut is interrupted.
Hourly demos are viewable on the LED monitors in Iscar’s booth in the West Hall. See—and hear—these impressive part-off operations for yourself.