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. September 2014

Where Were the Counters of Cutting Tools?

Cutting tool manufacturers such as Sandvik Coromant made room in their IMTS booths to focus on the importance of data about cutting tools.

At IMTS 2014, I almost didn't recognize the Sandvik Coromant booth in the Cutting Tool Pavilion. There were only a few counters and tabletop exhibits of new cutting tool products on display. The focus of the booth was clearly on presentations about new ways to gather, apply and leverage data about cutting tools. Wide, open spaces were needed for these presentations.

I did a similar double-take in the Kennametal booth. Kiosks with computer screens outnumbered the shiny counters with a raise of new cutting tool products. The main focus in this booth was clearly on cloud-based resources for accessing critical cutting tool data.

No doubt the booth displays of other cutting tool manufactures may have had indicated a similar shift in their marketing strategy as well.

This shift is significant because it is clear evidence that the concept of data-driven manufacturing is becoming a reality. It also signifies that cutting tool data will be at the center of this revolution.

This development is entirely logical and compelling, for the simple reason that the physical cutting tool is the center point around which every metal removal process revolves. How well the cutting tool performs ultimately determines the success or failure of every machining operation.

This reality makes information about the cutting tool of extreme importance. The cutting tool manufacturers know this. The means to convey the best, latest and most complete information about cutting tools to manufacturers in a readily deployable format promises to unlock the potential for higher productivity, cost-effectiveness and improved quality across the board.

For example, cutting tool data is the key to better CNC tool paths in CAM programming and simulation. Data about cutting tool performance is critical to effective machine monitoring and measurements of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). Cutting tool data integrates the tool supplier, the tool crib, the tool presetter, the CNC and the ERP system.

Key developments are making the value of cutting tool data prominent. These include the development of cloud-based networking, new standards such as ISO 13399 and MTConnect that promote interoperability and connectivity for cutting tool data applications, Big Data analytics, sensor technology and Wi-Fi capability, to name a few.

If the essence of data-driven manufacturing is a move away from decision-making based on guesswork, wishful thinking, unproven theories or emotion, to decision-making based on facts and figures, measurements and monitoring, mathematical calculations and scientific analysis, then the cutting manufacturers are clearly leading the way.

Posted by: Mark Albert 12. September 2014

Off-Centerline Milling, Drilling and Tapping Take Center Stage

The C-axis head provides ±45 degrees rotation, creating a machining range of Y-axis features of ±1,000mm or 3,500mm the VTC table radius, depending on the model. The continuous power 22-kW (29-hp) attachment has a maximum spindle speed of 2200 rpm, and continuous torque of 875 Nm (645 ft-lb), and can be loaded manually or automatically via the machine’s automatic tool changer.

Fives brings off-centerline turning, drilling, milling and tapping capabilities to its Giddings & Lewis vertical turning centers with a new Y-axis attachment that combines a C-axis head with table and X- and Z-axes motions. The attachment, available fully integrated on new VTCs or as a retrofit, enables single-setup processing of flanged parts, pumps, compressors, motor housings, fluid routing parts, intakes and exhausts, among others. The Y-axis attachment is on display in the company’s booth at N-7018.

“The Y-axis attachment is a powerful package, with a wide range of motion,” says Pete Beyer, Director of Product Strategy and Development at Fives Giddings & Lewis. “Its power and torque are equal to our standard, heavy-duty right-angle heads, with no limits in cutting performance relative to speed. This is an affordable way to reduce setups and free up machine time on horizontal machining centers and boring mills that used to be required to produce these same features on turned parts.”

But this attachment probably won’t be the center of attention on Wednesday between 1 and 3 p.m. That’s when John Force and Robert Hight of the NHRA Champion John Force Racing Team will be in the booth to meet and greet visitors and sign autographs. John Force, owner and renowned 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion of the Castrol GTX team, and Robert Hight current NHRA Funny Car points leader and 2009 NHRA Funny Car champion of the Auto Club Team, rely on machining technology from Fives when speed and accuracy count in their racing facilities.

Other displays in the booth feature machines from G&L, Cincinnati, Liné Machines, Forest Liné, Cinetic, Citco and Gardner Abrasives.

Posted by: Mark Albert 29. August 2014

Visualizing a Record-Breaking Contribution

Cutting tool manufacturer Sandvik Coromant is planning to set a new Guinness World Record at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS). The record will represent the impact of manufacturing on the U.S. economy. Specifically, the company says that the manufacturing industry contributes more than $65,000 to the U.S. economy every second.  

On September 10, the world’s largest coin mosaic will be unveiled to help raise public awareness of the importance of manufacturing and show that manufacturing is a viable career option for present and future generations. The world record-breaking mosaic is intended to visually represent this amount in both design and total value of the coins.

The mosaic will be constructed in Soldier Field’s South Parking Lot A-2, located outside the East Building of McCormick Place at the IMTS Show. The mosaic will be available for viewing starting Tuesday, September 9 and will continue until the grand unveiling ceremony Wednesday, September 10 at 10 a.m.

“We want people to understand just how much money manufacturing contributes to the U.S. economy every second and this mosaic will be a fun way to visually bring that to life,” says Eduardo Martin, President Market Area Americas Sandvik Coromant. “It also helps the next generation of workers realize the vast opportunity that exists within our industry and see manufacturing as an advantageous career choice.”

To provide additional opportunities for students interested in careers in manufacturing, Sandvik Coromant, with help from several industry sponsors, will make a large donation to The Manufacturing Institute. This donation will help students take advantage of STEM education and help fund its summer camps, as well as other initiatives including “Dream It. Do It.” and “STEP Ahead,” a women-in-manufacturing initiative.

“We were excited when Sandvik Coromant approached us with their idea and we encourage all show attendees and anyone in the area to stop by to learn more about the wide variety of career opportunities in manufacturing,” says Jennifer McNelly, president of The Manufacturing Institute. “We hope this effort will help future generations to see the manufacturing industry as a great career path and encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities that STEM-education provides.”

Following the unveiling ceremony, Sandvik Coromant and event sponsors Amazon, Haas Automation, Gene Haas Foundation, Okuma, Doosan, Blackhawk Industrial and Quality Mill Supply will present a check to The Manufacturing Institute to support its mission.

To donate to the cause, click here.

Posted by: Mark Albert 22. August 2014

Prepare to Be Wowed

AMT’s Emerging Technology Center (ETC) at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) 2014 promises to “wow” visitors by giving them a glimpse of the most important “technologies of the future.”

“At IMTS 2004 we created the Emerging Technology Center to present manufacturing ‘technologies of the future’ from leading universities and government research labs,” Peter Eelman, Vice President – Exhibitions and Communications at AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, recalls. “This feature returned IMTS to its roots as a forum where the latest technologies are first seen. This year is no exception, and we are confident that this will be the most exciting ETC effort yet.”

Eelman says the number one “wow” factor in the ETC will be the construction of a 3D-printed electric car by IMTS partner Local Motors. The car builders will start from scratch using direct digital manufacturing techniques and technology integration to make the parts and assemble the vehicle on site.

Also part of the ETC will be the Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation that make up the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. They will show how regional hubs leverage public-private partnerships to strengthen the position of U.S. manufacturers. Each hub has a special focus, as presented at IMTS:

  • America Makes (additive manufacturing technologies)
  • Power America (energy efficiency)
  • Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (reducing the time and cost of manufacturing)
  • American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (new alloys that cut weight and promote automation)

To learn more about the ETC at IMTS and to register, visit  

Posted by: Mark Albert 15. August 2014

3DRV Road Tour Visits ITAMCO

This robotic deburring cell was one of the items that caught the attention of the 3DRV touring reporter.

Although we have written about ITAMCO in the past (read this article and this one), it’s good to see this precision machining company getting positive mention in a recent article posted online by Forbes. The author, TJ McCue, visited ITAMCO as part of his eight-month, cross country tour to investigate the impact of 3D digital technology and advanced manufacturing.

The article helps get an important message about advanced manufacturing and its challenges to a larger general audience that follows important developments in business. For example, one of the challenges reported by the author, who visited ITAMCO for a perspective on small to midsize manufacturers in America, is the difficulty of finding skilled employees locally to run advanced manufacturing equipment. Likewise, pointing to ITAMCO’s efforts to help structure and fund an innovative high school program is a good example of the radical solutions required. 

I spoke to Joel Neidig, the Technology Manager at ITAMCO about the visit by the 3DRV road tour. I’ve made several editorial visits to ITAMCO’s main plant in Plymouth, Indiana, so I was curious about how this visit was different from mine.

For one thing, TJ McCue arrived in his famous, distinctively decorated RV, which is serving as his home away from home during the tour. “He carries a 3D printer, 3D laser scanner and high-end camera and video gear with him,” Joel tells me. The RV tour is sponsored by Autodesk, Stratasys and other tech companies.

On the day-long tour, TJ asked the right questions about ITAMCO’s manufacturing operations and understood its significance, Joel says. “He was especially interested in the high school program and was eager to meet the students and instructor there.” Joel learned that, because TJ had taken shop classes himself as a student, he could easily see how different today’s programs have to be to meet today’s needs.

Now that the Forbes article has been posted, I asked Joel what kind of feedback he has received. All of it has been positive, he says, especially from the vendors working with ITAMCO. “Most of all, I'm glad to see manufacturing get this kind of positive attention. There’s definitely more interest from the public in manufacturing and how its image is changing,” he says.

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