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 18. May 2016

Three Technology Takeaways from FANUC Tour

Demonstrations at the event showed applications for the FANUC Intelligent Edge Link and Drive (FIELD) system, an open IoT platform that connects CNC machine tools and robots as well as peripheral devices and sensors.

I recently got the chance to visit FANUC’s manufacturing campus (on 1.2 million square meters of land) located near Mount Fuji in Oshino-mura, Yamanashi, Japan. This was my third visit there, where the company offered new technology demonstrations and tours of its servo-motor, milling, repair and robot factories to me and various U.S. manufacturing representatives. It’s pretty cool to see production cells in which robots build robots. It also remains impressive to me that FANUC produces 5,000 robots per month and 125,000 servo motors per month, and repairs customer circuit boards, servo motors, etc. that are sometimes more than 30 years old.

As I walked through the company’s new-product demonstration area, the following three technologies stood out to me, and their descriptions will give you a sense as to what the company will be presenting at IMTS:

• FIELD IoT technology—A collaboration with FANUC, Cisco, Rockwell Automation and Preferred Networks (a provider of artificial intelligence solutions) has resulted in the development of the FANUC Intelligent Edge Link and Drive (FIELD) system, a platform that connects CNC machine tools and robots as well as peripheral devices and sensors to deliver analytics that can optimize manufacturing production. Because this is an open platform, application developers, sensor and peripheral device makers, system integrators and others can build and integrate custom solutions that improve equipment efficiency, manufacturing output and quality.

The FIELD system extends the capabilities of the existing FANUC Zero Downtime (ZDT) connected-robots project that uses Cisco’s cloud-data-collection software. ZDT is said to proactively detect and then inform users of potential equipment or process problems before unexpected downtime occurs, enabling the maintenance issue to be addressed in a planned outage timeframe. FIELD takes this further by combining both artificial intelligence and edge-computing technologies to provide distributed learning. Data generated by robots and machines are processed in real time at the edge of the network so those devices can intelligently coordinate and collaborate in a flexible manner for applications such as bin-picking robots, anomaly detection, and failure prediction (the company refers to this as “deep learning”).

FANUC’s first collaborative robot offered 35-kg payload capacity. It has introduced more compact models with 4- and 7-kg capacity.

• Expanded collaborative robot line—FANUC took an interesting approach when it entered the collaborative robot market a few years ago (collaborative robots use sensing technology to enable them to safely work together with humans in a shared space). While some manufacturers started with light-payload models and are developing units with increased payloads, FANUC’s first model, the CR-35iA, was designed to be a high-payload model offering 35-kg capacity. It also has hand-guided, direct-teaching capability available. The company has since introduced three additional, more compact models. One offers 4-kg payload and 550-mm reach, and two others offer 7-kg capacity and 717- and 911-mm reach, respectively. All of these feature the company’s now-signature “collaborative green” soft finish to further reduce impact force.

Mike Cicco, who recently became President and COO of FANUC America (with Rick Schneider remaining as Chairman and CEO), notes that FANUC was also involved in collaborating to create the recently published ISO/TS 15066 technical specification, which serves as a supplemental document to the existing ISO 10218 industrial robot standards to facilitate collaborative robot integration. What’s key is that it offers guidance for robot integrators and manufacturing personnel to conduct more sophisticated preliminary risk assessments of both the collaborative robot system and the environment it will share with humans. Although Mr. Cicco admits ISO/TS 15066 is a bit complicated to follow, and that refinement of the risk-assessment guidance it provides is expected, it is a good first step to facilitate the integration of this automation technology.

He also says the company’s robotic automation business has seen growth in automotive and electronics industries. However, Mr. Cicco notes that there remains significant opportunity for robotic automation in machine shops, despite the fact that this is perhaps one of oldest applications for robotic technology. (Similarly, during my visit to FANUC in 2014, Mr. Schneider noted these reasons why robots will become more commonplace in U.S. manufacturing facilities.)

This model of the new iHMI series has a 19-inch touchscreen display and looks different than other FANUC controls you’ve likely encountered.

• New CNC look/interface—FANUC’s iHMI series of CNCs with flat panel design (including the Series 30i Model B shown above offering a 19-inch touchscreen display) represents a departure from the FANUC control you’re used to using. It’s also likely to offer a comfort level to the next generation of shopfloor employees who have grown accustomed to working with tablets and smart phones. This new series also complements FANUC’s FIELD technology, offering new maintenance and data logger functions required for IoT and smart-factory applications.

Posted by: Derek Korn 12. May 2016

Launching an Apprenticeship Program for $130

Paul Harbath, director of quality and continuous improvement for LeanWerks, has been key to helping develop the lessons for the shop’s Technical Excellence Training (TExT) program and administrating it.

LeanWerks calls it “TeXT.” TeXT stands for Technical Excellence Training program, an in-house apprenticeship program the shop developed to cultivate its own talent and provide new hires with a clear pathway leading to a machining career.

To manage it, the shop used WordPress to create a TExT “training website,” and then purchased a plug-in called LearnDash, which effectively turns WordPress into an online learning management system. The one-time cost for the LearnDash license was a mere $130.

As described in this article, many training lessons in the TeXT program include instructional video taken of actual LeanWerks shopfloor processes and practices to clearly outline the steps required to complete a given task safely and effectively. To date, the shop has produced more than 130 such videos for its TExT program. The article mentioned above includes an example of a training video LeanWerks produced explaining how to properly fill out first- and final-article inspection reports for a given job. 

Posted by: Derek Korn 25. April 2016

Mass Finishing in a Less Frenetic Fashion

The vast majority of mass finishing processes I’ve encountered in shops use a large vibratory tumbler inside of which a mishmash of workpieces and finishing media swirl around in contact with one another, serving to smooth, deburr, radius or polish the workpieces.

While this might be perfectly fine for some applications, what about parts that have complex shapes or delicate features that could become damaged if they were to bump into each other during such a frenetic finishing process? For these, an alternate method of introducing parts to finishing media might be required to prevent potential damage from occurring.

In fact, Rösler Metal Finishing suggests three automated options to completely finish workpieces such as these or to perform targeted finishing of specific surfaces in a high-production environment, leveraging the advantages of robotic handling.

The first is shown above. Called Surf Finisher, it uses one or two robots with custom grippers to pick workpieces from a conveyor, immerse them into a rotating work bowl filled with the appropriate grinding or polishing media, then return them to an outbound conveyor. The work bowl is available in different sizes to enable the finishing of a single, large parts or the simultaneous finishing of multiple smaller parts. The robot can guide the workpieces through the processing media in pre-programmed movements including defined treatment angles, different immersion depths and rotary motion to enable the targeted finishing of specific surface areas.

The work bowl with processing media is also rotating at a speed of up to 80 rpm (actual speed is determined by the types of workpieces and finish requirements). The robotic movement combined with the work bowl rotation creates a “surfing” effect with very high pressure between workpiece and media. This concurrent, intensive pressure is said to create a surface smoothing effect in a relatively short amount of time, achieving Ra finishes to 0.04 micron.

The second, shown above, also uses one or more robots that perform two functions: material handling and programmed movement of workpieces through the processing media. For this system, which is called High-Frequency-Finisher (HFF), the media for wet or dry processing within the work bowl are agitated by vibration with a speed as high as 3,000 rpm. The robot with custom gripper immerses the workpieces into the agitated media, and the dual movement of the robot and media results in a high-pressure, highly intensive treatment of the parts completed in fast cycle times.

The third, shown above, is a new version of Rösler’s Drag Finishing system that includes automatic workpiece loading/unloading. In fact, this automated system was developed for Walter AG, multinational cutting tool manufacturer, to enable the company to automatically deburr a variety of different sized tool bodies instead of having its employees do that manually. 

The system uses two interlinked drag finishing machines each having six working spindles served by a robot that automatically installs and removes tool bodies in and out of the spindles. The finishing process for these tools requires a safety load system that combines workpiece surface modeling and load pattern simulation. To ensure that handling errors do not occur, electronic sensors continuously monitor the pneumatic coupling system to ensure tool bodies remain safely fixtured in the spindles.

Once loaded, the tool bodies are then “dragged” through the stationary wet or dry processing media. Process parameters such as carousel and spindle speeds, immersion depth and treatment times are stored in pre-set programs in the system’s PLC.  After completion of the finishing cycle, the robot removes the tool bodies, moves them to a rinse and cleaning station, and then places them onto a tray. 

The company says this system can also be used to perform effective, repeatable surface finishing for items such as orthopedic implants, geared components, and aerospace and automotive components.

Posted by: Derek Korn 4. April 2016

Lean No Less Important

Whiteboard shows flow chart for an insert Kaizen Cell

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), additive manufacturing and collaborative robotics are emerging technologies that will change the nature of how manufacturers make parts. In a growing number of instances, they already are changing the nature of how manufacturers make parts. That’s why it is important that we cover these topics in our magazine, this blog, our various social media channels and so on.

That said, the concept of lean manufacturing should remain at top of mind for all parts producers out there. In fact, I plan to revisit this topic in a story for our July issue, describing how a shop’s efforts in cultivating a lean culture is enabling it to grow and win a greater amount of aerospace work.

The title of this article might be something like “What Comes After 5S?” Many shops start their lean journey by implementing 5S workplace organization tactics, as did the shop I’m hoping to profile. However, I’d like this article to describe the next steps after 5S as it worked to establish its lean-manufacturing mindset and culture of continuous improvement.

In addition to appearing in our magazine, the story will be added to our website’s Lean Manufacturing Zone, which contains stories about other machining facilities that have made a lean transformation. For example:

  • This one explains how a contract shop leveraged lean as a means to help it manageably control growth.
  • This one describes how a job shop can integrate lean manufacturing into its DNA.
  • This one describes what an A3 problem-solving process is all about and how an industrial equipment manufacturer uses it.
  • And this one offers an overview of what 5S is all about.
Posted by: Derek Korn 22. March 2016

Like Playing Air Hockey on Your CMM

In “Working Toward Lights-Out Inspection,” I explain how contract shop PDQ Corp. had been developing a process to enable its new CMM to inspect multiple parts unattended. A key element of this strategy is a modular, quick-change CMM fixture system developed by Phillips Precision called Inspection Arsenal. This system uses standard plates that magnetically interlock like puzzle pieces to enable parts fixtured on the plates to be easily removed and replaced to speed change-overs for new inspection jobs.

Recently, air-assist fixture plates have been developed for this system to enable a CMM operator to easily maneuver heavy workpieces across the CMM table as necessary. The plate glides over the CMM bed with minimal effort even for workpieces weighing as much as an anvil. See how in the video above.

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