Russ Willcutt

Russ Willcutt joined Gardner Business Media as associate editor of Modern Machine Shop in January of 2014. He began his publishing career at his alma mater, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where he produced magazines for the Schools of Engineering, Business, and Medicine, among others. After working as group managing editor for the HealthSouth Corp. he joined Media Solutions Inc., where he was founding editor of Gear Solutions, Wind Systems, and Venture magazines before heading up the Health Care Division for Cahaba Media Group.

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 27. November 2015

A New Tool for School

The LR Mate 200iD/4S fenceless CERT cart is designed for classroom use in helping students gain the skills they’ll need to succeed in today’s advanced manufacturing environment.

When I met Paul Aiello, director of CERT (certified education training) with FANUC at the company’s open house in Oshino, Japan, last April, we discussed our mutual interest in making students aware of the many career paths available in modern manufacturing. So I was pleased to learn about the introduction of the LR Mate 200iD/4S fenceless CERT cart for use in classroom settings.

The unit was developed by combining FANUC DCS Position and Speed Check software with an Allen Bradley SafeZone Mini Safety Laser Scanner mounted to a cart with heavy duty, locking casters that will fit through a standard doorway and runs off of 110 volts. The cart comes with gripper fingers and an embedded laser pointer. It features a 180+ degree work envelope with space on the worktable for Project Based Learning (PBL) kits such as Shapes. Options include multi end-of-arm tooling with suction cups and an integrated robot-mounted 2D iRVision camera.

This development supports the FANUC America Certified Education CNC Training (CERT) program, which works with the academic community to help students gain knowledge and skills that will help them to succeed in today’s high-tech manufacturing environment. See a video of the FANUC Cert cart here.

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 18. November 2015

Hot Chips in Ohio

Metal chips fly off a workpiece at Karlstadt Machining, while cow chips enrich the surrounding fields at the family farm in Bryan, Ohio.

While raising cattle and running a machine shop may seem to have little in common at first glance, a closer look reveals certain similarities. Both are hands-on occupations, requiring careful tending, and the quality of the end product dictates whether or not the operation is successful. Oh, and they both produce a ton of chips.

That’s what Dave Karlstadt has found since launching Karlstadt Machining on the same property as his family’s longtime beef cattle ranch in Bryan, Ohio, about six years ago. Having grown up working on the farm, he found that he was drawn to working with machinery and spent nearly two decades after graduating from high school in manufacturing. His last position was as manager of a production machine shop that primarily ran Okuma machine tools. Impressed by their strength and reliability, he purchased remanufactured Okumas when he opened his own machine shop—for cash. Once the business was established, he was able to begin investing in new machine tools, most recently an Okuma Genos M560-V vertical machining center purchased from Gosiger.

Read about Karlstadt Machining here, and watch the brief video below about the company’s founding, growth and capabilities. 

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 4. November 2015

Growing Great Employees

Amanda Raney joined Whelen Engineering after working in administration at a local hospital. Less than a year later she is already in charge of managing the company’s tool crib, which is a sophisticated and critical operation. Workers with backgrounds outside of manufacturing can provide fresh and interesting perspectives.

If you take a look at the resumes of those hired by Whelen Engineering—based in Chester, Connecticut, with an additional facility in Charlestown, New Hampshire—you’ll find they come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some were teachers, while others worked in retail or stocking shelves at supermarkets. This can be seen in a number of ways. One is that manufacturing is an attractive alternative to many types of employment, paying good wages with benefits including health care and retirement plans and allowing workers to learn valuable skills. Another is in line with the philosophy of John Olson, former president of Whelen Engineering, who says “it’s not easy to find good employees, you have to grow them.” This is evident in the training provided to all of the company’s employees, which is conducted on-site by an instructor from a local community tech center. Topics include controls, programming, writing G code and metrology. At the same time, the company believes it’s best to provide hands-on learning activities from the very beginning.

“If someone was hired to become a machine operator and has no experience with CNC machining, we’ll start them off doing basic operations as simple as loading the machine, hitting the green button, and then unloading it at the end of the cycle,” says Jeff Kochis, production machine shop manager. “We believe that it’s important for them to be comfortable with the machine and not afraid of it. That way they’ll be eager to learn more.”

Whelen is also thinking strategically, offering an “Intro to Manufacturing” course to area middle-school students to give them a taste of everything from design manufacturing and machining to working with sheet metal and injection molding. By planting this seed of an idea early, the company hopes students will consider manufacturing as a career once they’ve graduated high school. “One of the reasons we keep the shop floor so clean is that we never know when there will be a tour coming through,” Mr. Kochis says with a laugh.

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 29. October 2015

Motor City Mojo

Delta Research shows its pride in being the winner in the machining technology category of the 2014 Top Shops benchmarking competition by Modern Machine Shop, during Gear Expo 2015.

While Columbus and Indianapolis certainly have their charms—as does Cincinnati, where Modern Machine Shop is based—there’s something particularly fitting about the years when Gear Expo is located in Detroit: The Motor City. That was definitely the case Oct. 20-22 at the Cobo Center, where the American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA) hosted Gear Expo 2015, which was co-located with the ASM Heat Treating Society’s Conference & Exposition.

In addition to touring the show floor—the AGMA reports at least a 7-percent surge in attendance over the last Gear Expo—visitors took advantage of educational sessions at the Solutions Center about scroll-free turning (Emag), generating grinding (Kapp Niles), grinding automotive gears (Gleason) and gear machining on multitasking machines (DMG MORI), among many other topics.

Trends that I detected include the continued advancement of scudding (GMTA/Star SU) and skiving (Gleason, Mitsubishi, etc.), new service/maintenance packages (“repowering” machine tools by Koepfer, for instance, and a new spindle rebuild program from Cincinnati Gearing Systems) and gear-specific automation systems from companies such as ABB. Go here for a slideshow of the event.

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 21. October 2015

Robotic Cell for Handling Gears

The IRB360 FlexPicker high-speed material handling robot is at the center of the gear cell, replacing manual handling and minimizing cycle times.

Anytime you can automate a process and at the same time increase safety on the shop floor, you’re on the right track toward increasing productivity. With gear manufacturers specifically in mind, ABB Robotics has developed robotic cell technology to transfer gears between alloy racks and baskets during heat treatment, replacing the need for manual handling of the workpiece. The cell is capable of handling multiple gear styles and sizes, and it is suited for a variety of power transmission operations ranging from large commercial, military and industrial vehicles to automobiles, marine craft, recreational vehicles and lawn and garden equipment. Components of the cell include:

  • An IRB360 FlexPicker high-speed material handling robot to minimize cycle time;
  • A Flexible Servo Gripper that enables handling multiple gear sizes and styles with a single gripper;
  • A Vision Guidance System to capture accurate gear and alloy locations for transfer of gears between alloy trays and baskets;
  • ABB SoftMove technology, which adds compliance to the robot gripper during picking or placing of gears to compensate for warped or bent alloy trays.

Make sure to visit ABB Robotics at booth #1039 during Gear Expo 2015, October 20-22 at the Cobo Center in Detroit.

The ABB Flexible Servo Gripper allows the handling of multiple gear sizes and styles, all with a single gripper.

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