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 6. August 2015

The Lasting Appeal of Paper and Ink

collage of MMS covers

Despite the value and popularity of our digital media channels (such as this blog!), the print edition of Modern Machine Shop has proven its staying power. One reason: A magazine that supports its readers won’t lose the support of its readers

My monthly column for the August 2015 print edition of Modern Machine Shop analyzes this and other reasons why not all traditional media have gone away. I make the point that a magazine has to create a valuable reader experience that is anchored in high-quality content.

To help us in that pursuit, we recently started an email campaign to our subscribers asking them to share their thoughts and opinions on what we put in the magazine. If you’re a subscriber and received the message about this survey, please be sure to respond if you haven't already done so.

Want the MMS print experience each month? Qualified individuals can subscribe here.


Posted by: Mark Albert 31. July 2015

Surprises Uncovered at a Groundbreaking

The honor of moving the first shovelful of earth at Hydrotech's groundbreaking belonged to CEO/Owner Pete Jones as other Hydrotech executives stand beside him.

Companies customarily mark new construction with a groundbreaking ceremony. Such an event to celebrate Hydrotech Inc.’s expansion of its suburban Cincinnati headquarters, however, revealed some unexpected facets to this diverse fluid power and automation solutions provider.

Because Hydrotech is a local company, taking in its recent groundbreaking was a convenient way for me to get to know the company better. I was partly motivated by the fact that, as the company has expanded, it is branching into areas of growing interest to metalworking companies. These include minimum quantity lubrication systems for environmentally friendly machining and a soon-to-be announced Internet of Things approach to preventive maintenance, for example.

These developments build on Hydrotech’s 48-year history of providing solutions to the hydraulic, pneumatic, lubrication, machining and automation industries.

The groundbreaking marks the commencement of the company’s 23,000 square-foot expansion to its headquarters in West Chester, a northern suburb of Cincinnati. Company officials explained that the expansion is necessary because the firm has grown 14 percent per year since 2010, has hired 35 people in the past five years (with 10 more positions to be added this year), and needs more room for offices and additional factory/warehouse space.

At least three other news items about the company caught my attention because they are not so typical of other groundbreaking events I have covered.

  1. As a family-owned company, Hydrotech actively supports the Goering Center at the University of Cincinnati. This center offers programs to help family and private companies meet the challenges that can keep them from growing and prospering. Hydrotech benefited from these programs and now mentors other companies that work with the Goering Center.
  2. Philanthropy is important to Hydrotech, as it often is for family companies who naturally feel compelled to give back to the community and the industry they serve. For example, at the ceremony, the company announced a donation of four new hydraulic training stands to Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. The stands represent a total value of $120,000. This marks the second major donation to this program. Last year, similar pneumatic training stands were also donated.
    Three hydraulic training stands like this one are going to Cincinnati State's Electro-Mechanical Engineering program to help train technicians in the fluid power industry.

    Four hydraulic training stands like this one are going to Cincinnati State's Electro-Mechanical Engineering program to help train technicians in the fluid power industry.

  3. Hydrotech has a sideline in educational, therapeutic and practical life products for children and teens living with autism. Called Got-Autism LLC, this business sprang out of an employee’s experience with finding resources for her son, who has a form of autism. With the parent firm’s support and investment, Got-Autism develops and distributes products that encourage individuals with various forms of this disorder to grow, learn and enjoy life. Proceeds go back to local and national autism charities.
    Although it may a seem sideline unrelated to industrial hydraulics, company backing has put Got-Autism LLC into the mainstream of providing products and resources that help youngsters with autism.

    Although it may a seem sideline unrelated to industrial hydraulics, company backing has put Got-Autism LLC into the mainstream of providing products and resources that help youngsters with autism.

It didn’t take much digging for me to discover these aspects at the event, but I would probably have missed them otherwise. Unfortunately, I am not able to get to many events like this. I was pleased by what turned up at this one.

Posted by: Mark Albert 24. July 2015

Tips on Breaking Chips When Turning Transmission Parts

Components for automotive transmissions are typically made of ductile steels such as SAE 1018, 1020 and 8620. Turning these parts is often plagued by problems with chip control, especially the tendency for these materials to produce long, stringy chips that interfere with efficient operation and/or automated production. This article from Sandvik Coromant addresses the complex variables and strategic trade-offs that must be considered in designing the most effective insert for this application. The insights into the problem and its solution will help anyone think more clearly about vexing chip control issues.

Posted by: Mark Albert 17. July 2015

A Really, Really Big Boring Bar

the world's largest anti-vibration boring bar

The developers are calling it the world’s largest anti-vibration boring bar—one that is capable of machining a bore 12 inches in diameter and as long as 165 inches. The bar itself is 240 inches long and is designed for a lathe that is 66 feet long. Sandvik Coromant designed and manufactured this record-breaking boring bar in cooperation with lathe builder Gurutzpe Turning Solutions.

Gurutzpe, headquartered in Itziar-Deba in the Basque region of northern Spain, is one of the largest manufacturers of heavy horizontal lathes in Europe. When a customer ordered the 66-foot lathe, specifications called for an integrated boring capacity of unprecedented dimensions. To meet this requirement, the lathe builder turned to Sandvik Coromant Ibérica, the division of Sandvik Coromant serving that territory.

These two entities entered into an agreement guaranteeing the customer technical support for the lathe and the operation of the boring bar as a comprehensive solution. Another unit of Sandvik Coromant in Teeness, Norway, handled the final design and construction of the anti-vibration boring bar. Cooperation between Teeness and Gurutzpe also encompassed the design of the clamp for the machine.

Production time for the bar was four months; total project time from order to delivery was eight months.

Here are the facts and figures about the anti-vibration boring bar:

  • Length: 240 inches
  • Capacity of the bore: 165 inches
  • Overhang: 14 times the diameter
  • Biggest challenge: Being able to machine lengths of up to four meters without having problems with vibrations and maintaining good surface quality
  • Diameter: 12 inches

For a more detailed account of this remarkable boring bar, click here.  

Posted by: Mark Albert 10. July 2015

Under a Wing

school under airplane wing

The inspiration for this column came to me in the parking lot behind an extraordinary high school, where I learned about an extraordinary teaching lab.

In the photo above, you can see the wing of the 747 that made finding a parking space an unusual, but enlightening, experience as my introduction to Raisbeck Aviation High School, which is right next door to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. The school occupies the building in the background, with its clean white walls on one side, and sky blue and dark sky blue glass panels on the other side.

Inside the school is the Prototyping Lab described in the column. The centerpiece of this lab is the Maxiem 1515 waterjet cutting machine from Omax, which is shown below.

omax at school

This lab and this waterjet machine are especially important to Robert Steele, who is standing alongside the machine. Robert, a physics and engineering teacher at the school, is head coach of the school's Skunk Works Robotics Team.

The school's robotics team relies on this machine to produce many of the parts that the students design and assemble to create winning entries in robotics competitions. And Robert relies on the experiences students have in the lab to reinforce essential lessons about manufacturability, keeping design and engineering practical, and the physics pertaining to real-world objects.

Meanwhile, the 747 is waiting for a new home which is being constructed during the next year adjacent to the school.  This construction project will finally give the plane, and many other historical aircraft from the Museum of Flight’s collection, a roof that will protect them as well as improve the visitor's experience. No doubt having historic aircraft such as this jumbo jet nearby will continue to inspire and energize the 400 or so students enrolled at this extraordinary high school.

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