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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 7. November 2014

The Decision Not to Automate Fully

Pointe Precision's move into long-running, high-volume production was a bold decision. Best known for low-volume, high-complexity aerospace and medical parts, this shop in Plover, Wisconsin, seized the opportunity to diversify its operations by becoming a major supplier of critical parts to a well-known manufacturer of recreational products. When the demand for these products soared, the manufacturer turned to Pointe Precision to duplicate its original, maxed-out production line to keep up with sales.

Buying and installing several Makino a51nx HMCs at a time, Pointe Precision eventually had 32 of these machines arranged in cells dedicated to this family of stainless steel parts. "Very early, we decided not to invest in automation, although a pallet delivery system with robots would have been feasible," says company owner Joe Kinsella.

His reasons not to automate were clear:

  • Automation would have added to the cost and complexity of the system.
  • It would have been difficult to grow the automation as more machines were added, especially since the final configuration of the cells hinged on an expansion to the existing shop building.
  • A customized, dedicated system of automation would restrict the flexibility of the line, a key factor if the machines needed to be repurposed if and when the current status of this job changed.

Mr. Kinsella’s reasons to develop a workforce of specially trained hires to staff this line were equally clear:

  • The size of the staff could be flexed as the production line grew.
  • Suitable candidates for these positions were available in the central Wisconsin area, although special training would be needed.
  • With proper training, people can be the most flexible and capable asset in a production setting.
  • Creating jobs in manufacturing is a good thing for the community.

However, careful planning, the right level of on-machine automation and numerous accommodations to ensure the productivity and reliability of the strategy where required for success. You can read the full story here.

Posted by: Mark Albert 24. October 2014

The Joy of CNC Machining

James A. Harvey's new book, “CNC Trade Secrets, A Guide to CNC Machine Shop Practices,” offers great advice and oodles of practical tips and checklists for shop personnel newly introduced to CNC machining. What makes the book readable and appealing is that the author clearly enjoys working with CNC technology.

This book bridges the gap between the skilled manual machinist and the CNC machining technologist. Both should read this book to understand one another better. Shop managers and manufacturing engineers ought to read it, too, to understand how they can work with CNC machinists more effectively.

However, the main purpose (and value) of this book is to ease the transition from conventional machining to CNC operations. Even if the reader made this transition years ago, revisiting this experience will provide refreshing and useful insights into the basics. This type of reader is also bound to find numerous tips or “tricks” that prove handy and beneficial. Of course, machining trainees and apprentices can learn much from this book as well.

It is well-written, well-illustrated and well-organized. In short, it’s a fun and useful book on entry-level CNC.

CNC Trade Secrets is available from Industrial Press Inc. or from Amazon.

Posted by: Mark Albert 20. October 2014

Centerline Issues for Turning Inserts

Photos of sample inserts such as this one illustrate wear patterns that help diagnose cutting tool misalignments in turning.

Tooling expert Mike Fagan suspects that many programmers and machinists could use a refresher on the importance and effects of insert alignment in turning operations. This short, amply-illustrated paper is his effort to clear up some of the misunderstanding. 

It covers signs of misalignment and suggests ways to fix problems, with additional tips and advice to improve turning operations. To find the paper, click here.

Posted by: Mark Albert 10. October 2014

Air in Your Favor

Blasting coolant through the spindle and out the end of the cutting tool is a great way to clear chips. Haas Automation’s Through-Tool Air Blast option can be an advantageous alternative. This system provides high-pressure/high-flow air through the cutting tool to clear chips and keep the cutting zone cooler. This option is valuable when doing “dry machining.”

Dry machining is possible because many of today’s cutting tools use carbide inserts with advanced coatings that no longer need coolant to lower the temperature of the cutting edge and lubricate the cut area to prolong tool life. The primary cause of tool wear and damage for these cutting tools is re-cutting chips. Blasting the chips out with air addresses this problem. This is particularly beneficial when machining pockets and other internal features, where chips can collect

The Through-Tool Air Blast can also be used to blow chips and coolant from workpieces at the end of a machining cycle. The user simply programs a cutting tool with holes for through-tool air to move over the workpiece–blowing chips and coolant from holes and pockets–before the operator removes the workpiece from the machine. This saves the operator from having to blow off the workpiece manually, with an arm inside the machine and the door open.

The air blast option requires the Haas Through-Spindle Coolant (TSC) option. Because both options use the same internal channels and piping, the operator can switch between the two systems, based upon machining requirements.

Posted by: Mark Albert 26. September 2014

JIMTOF 2014: Our Industry’s Next Big Show

Tokyo’s Big Sight, home to JIMTOF, is truly an eyeful, with the dramatic architecture of its Conference Tower dominating the exhibit hall entrance area. 

As a global leader in machine tool design and construction, Japan plays a key role in developing and promoting new metalworking technology. The Japan International Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF), packs a lot of product introductions and educational events in a compact, intense event running October 30 through November 4, 2014. Look for daringly imaginative designs in machine tools and related products at Tokyo’s eye-catching Big Sight exhibition center.

Plan to attend now starting here.    

The theme for this year’s show is Mono-Zukuri DNA. Loosely translated, that phrase means “an inspired approach to the art and science of making things should be at the core of our beings.”

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