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 25. December 2013

Searching for the Machine Tool

Model trains and Christmas have gone together since the early days of Lionel train sets. The classic holiday scene of the household Christmas tree almost always included a circle of track underneath with an old-fashioned steam engine racing around it. Elaborate model train displays are still popular parts of holiday decorations in store windows, shopping malls, building lobbies and other public spaces. And sometimes, a model train display includes a scaled-down version of a machine tool, I’m happy to say.

I discovered this on a recent holiday visit to Entertrainment Junction, a popular year-round model train attraction in the Greater Cincinnati area. I was there with my brother, who’s shared my interest in model trains since we were kids growing up together. The model train “layout” at this attraction is enormous and very well done. The museum-quality models of trains in different eras of American history operate in highly realistic and detailed scenes depicting the growth and development of railroads, from the days before the Civil War to the latest trends in intermodal shipping and unitized trains of bulk commodities that distinguish railroads today.

A popular activity when enjoying this layout is to search for items or features on lists prepared by the Entertrainment Junction staff. It’s a great way to get kids (and adults, too) to focus their attention and explore the historically accurate scenes through which the trains are running. Of course, I have my own informal list of things to look for on any train display, and my list always includes stuff related to machine tools and manufacturing. I like to see whether manufacturing is included in the story of our country’s growth and how well the machining equipment is rendered in miniature.

Sure enough, among the various scale models of typical trackside railroad structures, warehouses and factories, I found a machine shop with a number of machine tools clearly visible inside. In this case, the one inside the front double doors appeared to be some sort of WWII-era turning machine, a VTL perhaps. It was a small but gratifying Ah-Ha! moment.

The holidays are often a time of searching, whether it is to find that perfect present for a loved one, or to find the meaning behind our religious beliefs, family traditions or ethnic connections. Finding what you are looking can be a kind of gift, too. May all your searches be fulfilled this season, and throughout the coming New Year.


Posted by: Mark Albert 20. December 2013

Students Cast for a Better Understanding of Part Processing


How manufacturing processes are interrelated is an important lesson for students pursuing their preparation for careers in manufacturing engineering. Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, teaches this vital connection by linking the quality of CNC programming with parts cast in machined dies.

Students studying for an Engineering Technology degree have the opportunity to gain this insight by going beyond traditional metalworking curricula to explore the process of metal casting. Following a course in manual machining, they are introduced to automated machining where they have access to forty seats of Mastercam for programming CNC machine tools, such as milling centers and an abrasive water jet cutting system. According to Assistant Professor Jacob Lehman, after the students learn programming for 2D work for the CNC mills and waterjet system, they get into the more complex programming of 3D tool paths for the tooling used in PSU’s metal casting program.

This metal casting program is nationally known for its quality. In fact, every spring, PSU hosts the Investment Casting Institute’s International Training Session for industry certification. The program offers experience with multiple ways to melt metal, including resistance electric, gas fired and induction furnaces. Mr. Lehman says that using Mastercam software results in precise tool paths needed to take advantage of the benefits of investment castings. For example, these tool paths enable intricate forms with undercuts to be cast. Likewise; a very smooth surface on the cast part reflects the superior finish that results from smooth milling passes. Precise tool paths ensure that there is no parting line, and the dimensions of the cast part will be highly accurate.

PSU has a record of placing 100 percent of the students completing the Engineering Technology program. The school reports that these students go on to great jobs in the metal casting industry, as well as in manufacturing companies of all sizes. According to Mr. Lehman, this program, which includes training in Mastercam for CNC programming, fosters a good work ethic and gives the students the tools they need to succeed in automated manufacturing.

Posted by: Mark Albert 22. November 2013

MDays Showcases DMG Mori Seiki’s Davis Campus

The machine tool factory in Davis produces NHX series machines as well as the DuraVertical 5100. This is a view of the machine assembly line.

DMG Mori Seiki’s Manufacturing Days 2013 (November 12-15) gave customers, press and other guests a close look at the company’s Digital Technology Laboratory (DTL) and Manufacturing Factory, plus presentations on many facets of today’s advanced manufacturing. These two facilities make up the company’s Davis, California, campus. Both buildings are quite different, but equally remarkable. They were open for tours throughout the event.

DTL provides much of the company’s engineering analysis capability and R&D to support machine tool design and manufacturing operations around the world. The building also houses a sizable showroom of machine tools and related products. At MDays, one of the highlights in this area was an interactive exhibit of CELOS, DMG Mori Seiki’s “app system” that integrates the machining process from original part idea to CNC programming to finished machining in a fully digitized, paperless flow that connects the shop floor with higher level business activities. Aerospace machines and high-performance, entry level machines were demoed here. Opened in 2009, DTL is a model of green, employee-friendly architecture and workspace.

The newer Manufacturing Factory, opened in July, 2012, covers 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space and an expansive showroom. The manufacturing space is about equally divided into production and assembly areas. The production area features three main automated machining cells. The assembly area enables HMCs and VMCs to be assembled, tested and prepared for shipment to customers in North America. In addition to machine building, the two areas provide an opportunity for the company to study and validate production concepts, often in collaboration with the R&D activities of DTL. For MDays, the factory showroom focused on machining solutions for automotive and contract machining. More than 40 technology partners, such as cutting tool suppliers, software developers, providers of workholding and other accessories added to the displays and demos there.

Three and a half days of technical presentations from a variety of manufacturing experts were offered to attendees. Particularly well received on the first day was Dr. Greg Hyatt’s review of the company’s recently announced concept for combining additive manufacturing and milling capability on one machine platform. This development underscores the strong complementary nature of additive processes and traditional machine, Dr. Hyatt said.

A personal high point for me was moderating a session about MTConnect on the second morning. The panel consisted of David Edstrom, president of the MTConnect Institute, and two representatives from shops that are prominent users of this communication protocol. Joel Neidig from ITAMCO showed a video of MTConnect-enabled applications for Google Glass, which wowed the audience. Then Shannon Sweatman from Southern Manufacturing Technologies brought things down to earth with an impressive glimpse of how MTConnect machine monitoring with DMG Mori Messenger provided vital and timely insights into shop floor effectiveness.

In DTL’s showroom, a large exhibit of the CELOS app-based software system epitomized DMG Mori Seiki’s theme of advanced, integrated manufacturing, which was the central focus of the Manufacturing Days event.

Greg Hyatt’s lecture about “a hybrid machine which adds or removes metal with equal finesse” was one of the most talked-about technical presentations at MDays.

Posted by: Mark Albert 14. November 2013

This Blog is about Vlogs

Vlogs? That's the common name for video-blogs. Okuma America Corporation has launched a series of these educational videos on its YouTube channel that covers timely topics and practical tips for improving shop floor productivity. The company believes these vlogs will help shops and plants bridge the skills gap by passing on the sort of “tribal knowledge” that often gets lost as a workforce transitions from generation to generation.

Vlog content is based on the company’s experience implementing Okuma-exclusive technology as well as the collective wisdom of the more than 40 members of Partners in THINC.

Posted by: Mark Albert 4. November 2013

EMO Hannover 2013 Recap

VDW, the organization representing Germany’s machine tool builders, has issued its technical closing report on the EMO Hannover 2013 show from September 16 to 21, 2013. The report summarizes the new technology and trends evident at the show. Click here for the full report.

I like this quote from the opening paragraph: “One general trend is the incorporation of styling and operator-friendliness. Emulating the smartphones, numerous machinery control systems now feature a touch-screen. In conjunction with the design of other equipment, this combines to produce an attractive visual appearance.”

We agree. Here’s my take on these trends.

And here a similar view from Chris Koepfer, editor-in-chief of our sister publication, Production Machining, who also attended the show.


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