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 19. August 2016

Video: Plain Talk about Data-Driven Manufacturing

Much of the talk about the Industrial Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 and data-driven manufacturing can be confusing. In this video, I try to make it clear that for most shops, installing an Internet-enabled machine monitoring system will be the obvious and practical way to take the leap toward these concepts. The motivation behind this is simple—getting better data from networked machines will help shops make better decisions. That’s what makes data-driven manufacturing so compelling. 

Posted by: Mark Albert 12. August 2016

Vision System Versus Optical Comparator

Making informed decisions about the choice of manufacturing technology requires giving careful consideration to the proponents of various competing alternatives. In this blog post, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence makes the case for an "all-in-one" vision system for part measurement versus the traditional optical comparator.

Although this article presents only one side of a many-sided discussion, it raises many of the issues that must be addressed and resolved when judging the relative merits of different approaches to part measurement. These include the need for quantitative data, adequate resolution, environmental influences, traceability and provisions for automation.

Despite the apparent bias against optical comparators, the article's perspective is a useful reference when evaluating other points of view on the most appropriate technology for part measurement.

Posted by: Mark Albert 5. August 2016

IMTS Has Multiple Facets Worth Exploring

The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) is more than a trade show, it is the best exhibition of manufacturing and machine tool technology of the year. It is also a networking event on a massive scale, a celebration of human creativity, an intense educational experience and even a place to rethink personal values and priorities. Mark Albert makes the case for seeing IMTS in all of these dimensions in this recent commentary. Read it here.

Posted by: Mark Albert 22. July 2016

A Cybersecurity Assurance Program to Help Protect the IIoT

cyber security graphic

UL, a global safety science organization, has announced what it calls a Cybersecurity Assurance Program (UL CAP) for industrial control systems. Using the new UL 2900-2-2 standard, UL CAP for industrial control systems is designed to provide testable cybersecurity criteria to help assess software vulnerabilities and weaknesses, minimize exploitation, address known malware, review security controls and increase security awareness. UL CAP is intended for control system manufacturers who need support in assessing security risks while they continue to focus on product innovation to help build safer, more secure products. These steps will help protect the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The program should benefit OEMs, machine tool builders, system integrators, and retrofitters who want to mitigate risks by sourcing products assessed by an expert third party.

Network-connected products and systems offer capabilities that promise significant boosts in productivity to manufacturing companies. Industrial control systems, for example, are becoming more interconnected, connectable and networkable, thus making data-driven manufacturing a practical reality on the factory floor. However, there are growing risks that threaten the security, performance and financial return on these control systems and the equipment they run.

“We’re aiming to support and underpin the innovative, rapidly iterating technologies that make up the Industrial Internet of Things with a security program,” says Rachna Stegall, director of connected technologies at UL. “The more industrial control systems become interconnected with other devices, the greater the potential security risks. The Cybersecurity Assurance Program’s purpose is to help manufacturers, purchasers and end-users mitigate those risks via methodical risk assessments and evaluations.”

Developers of UL CAP solicited input from major stakeholders representing the Federal government, academia and industry to elevate the security measures deployed by companies, and agencies who may have equipment and devices connected to digital networks. For example, automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers, along with the many job shops and manufacturing subcontractors that support them, make up a critical supply chain that must have cybersecurity measures as a priority. UL CAP is being presented as a means for evaluating the security provisions of control systems with these supply chains.

UL’s evaluation of industrial control system security uses UL 2900-2-2, which is within the UL 2900 series of standards. This series outlines technical criteria for testing and evaluating the security of products and systems that are network-connectable. These standards form a basic set of requirements to measure, and then improve, the fitness of products and systems from a network security standpoint. UL 2900 is designed to incorporate additional technical criteria as the security needs in the marketplace evolve.

UL CAP can help vendors identify security risks in their products and systems, and it suggests methods for mitigating those risks. The UL 2900-2-2 standard can be applied to industrial control system components such as:

  • Programmable logic controllers (PLCs)
  • Remote network terminals
  • Human-machine Interfaces (HMIs)
  • Input/output (I/O) servers
  • Machine tool control units
  • Intelligent devices such as sensors
  • Fieldbus connections

Industrial control systems that meet the requirements outlined in the standard enables them
to be certified by UL as “UL 2900-2-2 compliant.” Additionally, since security is an ever-
changing challenge, UL 2900-2-2 can be used to evaluate a vendor’s processes for design, development and maintenance of secure products and systems.

Click here for more information on UL CAP, or visit Booth E-4135 at IMTS, To register for a free webinar about this program on October 11 at 10:00am CST, click here

Posted by: Mark Albert 15. July 2016

Making History with the Right Technology

The USS Pampanito, a famous WWII submarine, is being restored and refurbished in an effort to return it to its original condition.

A passion for historical accuracy and authenticity is essential to individuals devoted to preserving important pieces of our national heritage. The donation of an Acu-Rite digital readout (DRO) to the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Association is aiding in this effort. The DRO, a gift of the Heidenhain Corp. and corporate parent of the Acu-Rite brand, has made an old Bridgeport milling machine capable of producing accurate copies of missing parts needed in the restoration of the USS Pampanito, a World War II submarine preserved by the Maritime Park Association.

The milling machine will also be used to repair original historic artifacts—items that embody the significance and authenticity of this unique museum display. In this case, the preserved submarine is also a memorial to the men and women of the armed forces who served in World War II. The Pampanito was well known as having made six patrols in the Pacific during the war. It is currently undergoing important restoration and replication projects to bring it as reasonably close to its original operational condition as when it sailed in the summer of 1945.

The submarine has been docked and open to the public at Fisherman’s Wharf since 1981, where it educates approximately 4,000 students in day and overnight programs annually, and 100,000 visitors a year who tour the boat. Maintaining the submarine as a non-profit is a huge challenge, and the Maritime Park Association relies heavily on donations to further its goals of bringing maritime history to life, offer future generations its important teachings, as well as honor the men that served there. To that end, when Heidenhain staff learned that the project received an old Bridgeport mill from a local machine shop as a donation, and that the 1980 digital readout on it was broken and obsolete, they approved the donation of an Acu-Rite VUE 2 digital readout kit. The VUE came with two SENC 150 scales and accompanying brackets.

With a new DRO and accompanying scales, this milling machine will be "making history" as it produces historically accurate copies of parts for the USS Pampanito.

 “We were very happy that someone at Heidenhain/Acu-Rite took the time to understand our mission and donate this DRO,” says Rich Pekelney, one of the Maritime Park Association’s trustees and volunteers. “I’ve been doing hands-on restoration like this for 23 years, and our small machine shop is a vital part of our project.

“With our refurbished mill, we expect to be able to do many things ourselves now,” Mr. Pekelney explains. “For example, we recently acquired an old five-inch deck gun that would have been used here during WWII but is missing parts. Now we can make them so that this piece can be showcased appropriately. Or we can also make the mounting brackets that are needed so that we can hang the bunk beds as they were in 1945, and so on.”

The well-used Bridgeport mill received by the Maritime Park Association is a classic 42-inch table type, not unlike many of the legacy machines that shops want to save for one-offs or utility applications such as repair work or fixture making.

“We know that DROs have great value on any manual milling machine in order to do accurate work, particularly on older ones which might have a little more side-play or backlash, so this DRO is very much appreciated,” Mr. Pekelney says. “We were familiar with Acu-Rite DROs and our machinists have experience with them. We know they are easy to use and reliable products.

“We found the DRO quite easy to retrofit onto the machine, and were thrilled that the mounting brackets and all were included in the kit. Overall, we are very grateful that Acu-Rite recognized the importance of and for participating in this project to preserve this part of our national history.”

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