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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 12. December 2014

The Man behind the Strati 3D-Printed Car to Be Keynote Speaker

When industry innovators partnered to create the world’s first 3D-printed, electric car on-site during IMTS 2014, they made manufacturing history. Some say the remarkable collaborative process that created this car is the real history-maker in this scenario. Such collaboration may be the key to success in all manufacturing in the years ahead—and thus a most appropriate topic for the keynote address at The MFG Meeting (Manufacturing for Growth) March 4-7, 2015 at the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida.

No one may know more about this collaborative process than Jay Rogers, CEO and co-founder of Local Motors, the man and the company behind the “Strati,” the name given to this revolutionary automobile. Rogers, in fact, will deliver this keynote address, which will introduce MFG attendees to the third industrial revolution and explain the implications of large-scale and subtractive manufacturing processes. He will detail the collaborative process—from conception to test drive—that made this innovative idea a reality.

Registration for The MFG Meeting will open soon, but booking a hotel room for the event is urgent—the cut-off date for the group discount is January 30, 2015.

Posted by: Mark Albert 5. December 2014

Video: Tailstock Fundamentals

Haas Automation has produced an excellent video on the fundamentals of tailstocks for lathes. Although the video depicts a Haas lathe, this video is 100-percent about tailstocks and is a valuable intro for trainees as well as a worthwhile refresher for veteran turning operators.

 

Posted by: Mark Albert 21. November 2014

A Vision of the Data-Driven Factory

Mazak’s implementation of the iSmart Factory concept in Florence. Kentucky, includes an MTConnect-enabled machine monitoring system on this Palletech flexible machining system.

Yamazaki Mazak headquarters in Aichi, Japan, has announced an all-encompassing manufacturing vision called the Mazak iSmart Factory concept. According to the company, it will eventually designate all ten of its manufacturing operations as iSmart Factories, the first being the Oguchi factory at Mazak’s headquarters in Japan and now the North American factory in Florence, Kentucky.

The concept calls for advanced manufacturing cells and systems together with full digital integration to achieve free-flow data sharing for process control and operation monitoring. Also announced is that the MTConnect open communications protocol is being used with process support software to provide connectivity and the capability to monitor, then harvest, data from different production-floor machines, cells, devices and processes.

Through PCs and portable electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets, both management and manufacturing personnel will access the same real-time manufacturing data to improve overall productivity efficiency and responsiveness to customer/market changes, the company says.

Brian Papke, president of Mazak Corporation, explains that for Mazak, “iSmart Factory is a vision—the complete digital integration of the factory with state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, automation and advanced manufacturing practices. The name establishes a philosophy—a credo of sorts for Mazak that is unique to our operations but symbolizes our commitment toward the ultimate smart factory.” He says that while the name is new, “our U.S. factory has long demonstrated a commitment to growth and technological advancement, with a critical part of that strategy being such factors as plant-wide connectivity, automation and optimized production flow.” Mr. Papke also says that benefits include significant increases in machine utilization, shorter throughput times, elimination of non-value added operations, production-on-demand capability and more efficient part machining.

Simultaneous five-axis capability, multitasking machining and advanced automation that integrates different machines within the same cell are highlights of Mazak’s North American iSmart Factory operations. Also under the iSmart Factory umbrella in Kentucky is a fully automated paint line that will be digitally monitored through the same technology. The systems utilize the MTConnect standard for factory floor data, which will be incorporated into Mazak’s ERP system as the next step in 2015.

For an earlier summary of Mazak’s progress in data-driven manufacturing, click here

Posted by: Mark Albert 14. November 2014

The Genetic Code for Manufacturing Success

JIMTOF is a “big sight” at the Tokyo Big Sight exhibit and conference center. There is always a lot of great new technology to see at this show.

The theme for the Japan International Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF) 2014 was “Monozukuri DNA.” Translated, this means that craftsmanship along with the latest technology are the best predictors that a manufacturing company will have the traits to succeed in a competitive environment. This slideshow presents a sample of the technology offered at Japan’s biggest and most important machine tool show. 

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.

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