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Mark Albert

Mark Albert is editor-in-chief of Modern Machine Shop Magazine, a position he has held since July 2000. He was associate editor and then executive editor of the magazine in prior years. Mark has been writing about metalworking for more than 30 years. Currently, his favorite topics are lean manufacturing and global competitiveness. Mark’s editorial activities have taken him to numerous countries in Europe and Asia as well as across the United States many times. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Indiana University (Bloomington, Indiana).

Posted by: Mark Albert 18. April 2014

Video: Keeping 3 + 2 Machining in the Clear

The 2014 R2 release of PowerMill CAM software from Delcam includes new utilities that enable the programmer to more quickly find the most advantageous workplane orientation, cutting tool tilt angle, and tool length. This speeds the process of optimizing the 3 + 2 program, and makes checking for collisions faster and more thorough. One of these utilities, Dynamic Machine Control, enables the programmer to simulate the motion of the tooltip dynamically and instantly evaluate the effects of program edits to avoid collisions in the tool path. The video above gives a step-by-step demo of the utility in action. 

When a toolpath simulation stops where it detects a potential collision, the  Dynamic Machine Control toolbar enables the user to adjust any axis position in an existing tool path in order to avoid the collision. The programmer can test and evaluate these adjustments instantly by dynamically moving the repositioned tooltip around that tool path while it remains in constant contact with each toolpath segment. If this movement of the tooltip detects further collision points, the programmer can click on graphical “grab handles” that enable the tool to be tilted and rotated manually into a new position that avoids the problem area. For each repositioning, the software can create a workplane that is aligned to the adjusted cutting tool axis and machine tool orientation.

When finished making whatever adjustments in the tilt and rotation of the cutting tool are necessary to avoid all potential collisions, the programmer simply updates the tool path and runs the simulation as an additional check.

Posted by: Mark Albert 11. April 2014

Clemson U. Grad Student Wins MTConnect Challenge

Valerie Pezzullo explains her prize-winning application to MMS Editor-in-Chief Mark Albert at this week’s [MC2] Conference in Orlando Florida.

Winning $100,000 in a national engineering contest is a remarkable feat, especially for a 24-year-old graduate student like Valerie Pezzullo, who is completing her master’s in mechanical engineering at Clemson University. Her application, Machining Process Monitoring to Aid in Chatter Identification, was voted the top entry in the MTConnect Challenge 2 contest this week at the [MC2] 2014 MTConnect: Connecting Manufacturing Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Attendees at the conference voted on the five finalists to choose the top three winners. In addition to the $100,000 first prize, a $75,000 second prize and a 50,000 third prize were also awarded. All of the finalists demonstrated the value of the MTConnect standard as a key enabler of creative, yet practical, applications that promised to have far-reaching benefits for manufacturers in the United States.

After the results were announced and the cash prizes awarded, I had a chance to find out a little more about Valerie’s interest in engineering, and discovered what I think is important clue in her background that might account for her unique ability to develop a winning entry. She told me that before she settled on engineering as her college program, she was drawn to creative pursuits such as music and theater. Her natural interest in and talent for math and the sciences, however, proved a stronger attraction.

Valerie explained that one of her first engineering courses included an introduction to CNC machining. That really got her hooked on the engineering aspects of manufacturing. Noting her earlier artistic interests, I ask Valerie if she found an outlet for that inclination in engineering. She agreed that there were many opportunities to be creative and inventive in her chosen path. Conceiving, designing and constructing the test equipment and related experiments proved this many times, she said.

It would be great if she can carry that message to other young women and men who might be considering careers and engineering, science or manufacturing. She can show them that these are fields in which the creative spark can certainly catch fire.

For more details about the MTConnect Challenge 2 and information about the finalists, click here.

Posted by: Mark Albert 3. April 2014

It’s Big! It’s Exciting! It Sends a Message

The IMTS balloon made a recent appearance during The MFG Meeting
at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.

 

These assertions apply equally well to the 2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) and the IMTS hot air balloon, which serves to promote this important industry event and this important message: Manufacturing is clearly on the rise in the Americas.

IMTS show management has announced that the IMTS balloon will appear at festivals across the country leading up to its appearance at IMTS, which takes place Sept. 8 to 13 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

“The IMTS balloon is an important visual object that supports our brand, big enough to be seen from a distance, and interesting enough to draw people closer,” says Peter R. Eelman, vice president – exhibition and communications at AMT – The Association for Manufacturing Technology. “As long-time IMTS visitors arrive at the South Building and see the balloon outside Chicago’s McCormick Place they break into smiles and say, ‘It's IMTS time!’ For new visitors it’s a visually striking and unexpected image.”

The balloon can be seen at:

Posted by: Mark Albert 28. March 2014

Discover More—And I Did

I happened to be in the Chicago area in time to take in part of a day at the Discover More with Mazak Midwest event at the company's Technology Center in Schaumburg, Ill. Designed to help attendees “discover new tools and techniques for staying ahead of the manufacturing curve,” the event brought several good ideas to my attention. Here are four that particularly stand out.

  1. Mazak is big on MTConnect, the open communication protocol that provides “interconnectability” among CNC machines, shopfloor devices and software applications from different suppliers. Mazak has helped more than 173 customers to implement MTConnect-enabled applications, involving more than 800 machines. In fact, Mazak uses MTConnect for machine monitoring in its own factory in Florence, Ky.
     
  2. Per Matt Gimbel, production manager at Penske Racing, the Penske team uses its Mazak five-axis e410 Integrex machine to produce critical parts such as steering knuckles. With the latest changes in NASCAR regulations, the new top priority for racing teams is not squeezing in a little more horsepower, but rather squeezing out a few pounds. Instead of having separate parts welded together, the steering knuckle is now produced as a more compact, lighter-weight, one-piece casting. The Integrex enables Penske to do the complex machining that this casting requires.
     
  3. Do done-in-one when you can, but if multiple setups are unavoidable to complete a part, Dan Skulan from Renishaw made the point that today’s advanced probing systems can greatly reduce the risk of introducing errors when refixturing workpieces, changing tools or working lights out. Probing technology makes new machining strategies possible.
     
  4. Cloud-based manufacturing resources are a harbinger of sunnier days for machining companies that program CNC machines. Reps from Esprit, for example, were showing how their CAM software tapped into the Kennametal's cloud-based NOVO system to incorporate the latest tooling recommendations, matching machining data and process knowledge. 
     
Posted by: Mark Albert 21. March 2014

How to Promote Careers in Precision Manufacturing

Step one: create a great manufacturing training program with good instructors and a well-equipped machining facility. Step two: create a compelling video that sells the program to high school seniors about to choose a career path. The ITAMCO Manufacturing Education Center at Plymouth High School in Plymouth, Indiana has both steps covered.

The video above describes the program through the voice and viewpoint of a student, which is a nice touch! Tom Felke at Plymouth High School filmed and produced the whole video.

The public/private partnership behind this program is a team effort by Plymouth High School, Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO). Especially commendable is the contribution from ITAMCO, which donated $100,000 worth of equipment in addition to technical assistance to the program. 

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