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 13. May 2014

Mobile Metrology

Mark Vance positions the Romer six-axis portable metrology arm above a part to be measured, allowing the laser to read the part’s surface and transfer the data to the computer monitor where a variety of tests and simulations can be run. 

When Clinkenbeard of Rockford, Illinois, decided to invest in a Romer six-axis portable metrology arm in the fall of 2013, they expected it to help ensure the quality of the parts they make for the aerospace, automotive, power generation, military and industrial markets. What they didn’t expect was the host of additional benefits the device would provide. “We’ve identified so many uses for the arm that it paid for itself much more quickly than we’d anticipated,” says Steve Helfer, general manager.

The Romer arm utilizes a 3D laser coordinate system to determine part accuracy. Lightweight, highly flexible and portable, the arm checks parts where they are being machined rather than requiring transport to the CMM lab. In addition, the arm can be used to measure parts of any size, with special software that automatically “knits” partial images of larger parts together onscreen. “You just take a series of images and let the software join them together,” says Kevin Knight, manufacturing engineering manager. “The Romer arm makes measuring both large and small parts equally simple to accomplish.”

The base can attach to magnetic, desktop and freestanding mounting systems. Aerospace-grade carbon fiber tubes and a “zero-G” counterbalance provide easy manipulation of the fully articulated arm, and patented Infinite Rotation allows a full range of movement, which is helpful in tight spaces and when working with complex parts. The ergonomic arm is so well-balanced, in fact, that its pistol grip is said to feel as if it is floating in the user’s hand.

In operation, the user scans the part on the machine, the shop floor or on a worktable. As the red laser reads the object its shape begins to appear on the attached computer monitor, eventually resulting in a 3D image that can be overlaid across the CAD original to check for accuracy. In addition, “color scans” can be run that assign differing tolerances to specific areas of the part, showing a color-coded representation of part accuracy. “Parts that might have once taken weeks to check against drawings can now be measured in a matter of minutes with an incredibly high degree of accuracy,” says Mark Vance, advanced technical specialist.

Mr. Helfer says that Clinkenbeard offers demonstrations to customers who are interested in learning about the technology, and it has even taken the Romer arm in its portable case to conduct on-site testing for other companies in the Rockford area. “Not only have we found more internal applications than we’d anticipated, but also external uses that we hadn’t even considered,” he says.  

Detail of a part being to be scanned for comparison against the original CAD design.


The resulting image of the scanned part, showing the “color coding” feature that represents different tolerances achieved and even “overlays” of scanned images on CAD drawings. 

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 7. April 2014

Searching for Skilled Workers? Here’s Part of the Solution

In recent years, manufacturers have found it increasingly difficult to find trained, skilled employees, especially in the metalworking industry. While there is no one answer to this dilemma, the solution may be found in a multi-pronged approach. One is to make students aware that their perception of manufacturing as a dirty and dangerous industry is outdated, and that a well-run job shop is a clean environment filled with high-tech equipment. Another solution is to provide individuals with disabilities with the tools they’ll need to enter the industrial workforce. In that same vein, employers must be informed that any preconceived notions they may have of massive difficulties associated with accommodating individuals with disabilities in the workplace are behind the times, as well.

My visit to Skills Inc.’s manufacturing/training facility in Auburn—one of four campuses in Washington State—was a revelation on many levels. First, I learned that the company is a not-for-profit entity that was established with the support of Boeing in the late ‘60s. The company now generates nearly 100 percent of its operating revenue, including purchasing its own equipment with little assistance from state and federal grants. In addition, its range of services is impressive. The company manufactures aerospace parts and provides chemical surface finishing. It also offers employee training, certification and job placement, and even technical and business consulting services. Central to both manufacturing and training is staying abreast of the latest technologies, such as Vericut CNC simulation software provided by CGTech. Vericut helps to avoid collisions and correct toolpath errors before programs are even loaded into the machine, the company says, eliminating the need for manual prove-outs and increasing overall process efficiency.

That same sense of efficiency permeates the operation. Based on their strengths, and taking their particular challenge into account, trainees and employees are guided toward positions in which they can succeed. An employee with a physical disability, for instance, may be drawn to positions requiring programming or CNC machine operations. And ergonomics dictate the arrangement of each workstation to suit that person’s particular needs, with all the tools and devices they require carefully arranged and within easy reach.

Every tool that an employee might conceivably require is carefully arranged at each workstation.

Dan Olson, plant manager, has witnessed many success stories. “Nicholas Podszus joined our Aerospace Internship Program (AIP) in September of 2010. When the idea of the program was presented to him by his teacher, he was relieved to hear there was an alternative to the traditional school setting that would still allow him to complete his high school education. Nicholas has always worked well with his hands and didn’t enjoy the long days spent in a classroom environment. As an alternative, he was able to hop on a school bus and spend half of his day at Skills Inc. where he gained exposure to areas in manufacturing such as milling, CNC, and shearing, finish—takedown, packaging, and receiving, etc.—and in an office setting.”

Mr. Podszus graduated from high school and the AIP in June of 2011, and he was one of two students to get a full-time permanent job offer. He has worked as a manual machinist for three years, and he has been promoted to a Level 2 machinist.

HarleyFay Johnson entered the AIP in her senior year of high school. She was able to gain exposure to many areas of the business including aerospace manufacturing, aerospace finish, and even some administrative functions throughout the duration of her time in the program. As a result, she regained control of her education and successfully graduated from high school.

“She was offered a three-month paid internship, where she communicated her desire and aspirations to become a machinist,” Mr. Olson says. “She began her summer by working primarily in the manual machine area, where she excelled. At the conclusion of her internship, she was offered a full-time permanent position as a manual machinist. Today, HarleyFay is also gaining experience and developing her skills in the CNC machine area. She is an example of an ambitious and motivated woman, and we are excited to see her continued growth,” he says.

“You would be hard-pressed to find more dedicated, hardworking individuals than those we train and employ here,” Mr. Olson says. “We take great pride in every single aspect of our operation, from the appearance of our facilities to the quality of our products.”

A clean, uncluttered shop floor denotes employee pride, impresses visiting customers, and makes moving machines and materials easier.  

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 24. March 2014

New Chicago Headquarters Improve Training, Customer Service

Dealers, end-users, and members of the trade press got their first glimpse of Hyundai Wia’s new headquarters and technical center in Itasca, Ill., Monday, March 17. Twenty active machines were on display and ready for demonstrations at the new facility.

The centralized location is designed to provide greater access for customers than the previous site in New Jersey, the company says, adding that the move has greatly enhanced training opportunities for both sales personnel and machine operators. The ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration enabled guests to mingle with Hyundai Wia executives and staff. Corporate representatives included Jun-Mo Yoon, president and CEO, and In-Sig Lee, senior vice president and CFO—both of the Hyundai Wia Corp.—and “Brad” Bok Sup Lim, CFO of the Hyundai Wia America Corp., among others.  

Confetti canons sent streamers soaring across the main hall as Hyundai Wia executives cut the ribbon introducing the new facility

Active machines representing the company’s complete line of equipment are on display at the Itasca, Ill., facility. They are available for training and process demonstrations. 




Posted by: Russ Willcutt 26. February 2014

New Machines Improve the Operator’s Experience

Trade press from around the world gather at the Deckel Maho manufacturing facility in Pfronten, Germany, which is currently undergoing expansion.

“Efficiency” and “optimization” are key words in the manufacturing world these days, and they were themes at DMG Mori Seiki’s Open House at the Deckel Maho facility in Pfronten, Germany, the week of February 17. Quite a few of the company’s 2014 world premieres were on display, and I was struck by the attention paid to simplify the user experience, allowing complex processes to be managed more easily.

For example, DMG Mori Seiki’s design seems to address far more than aesthetic concerns. With so much emphasis being placed on recruiting young students for careers in manufacturing, I couldn’t help but think about how much more appealing the streamlined appearance of the company’s new machines will be to the next generation of equipment operators.

According to the company, CELOS APPs provide the user with integrated, digitized management, documentation, and visualization of order, process, and machine data.

They will also find the CELOS operator interface familiar, having grown up with smartphones and tablet computers with similar graphics and functions. That’s certainly what I gathered from mingling with the groups of teenagers who were wandering the expo hall. The touchscreen monitor CELOS incorporates employs many of the same navigation techniques familiar to smartphone users. Eighteen machines currently offer CELOS as part of the company’s new common design, as will all future equipment.

In addition to CELOS—originally introduced at EMO 2013—new machines and/or designs were on display. The CTX beta 800 TC offers complete turn and mill machining with a new, ultra-compact spindle, and the fourth generation of duoBLOCK 80 machines provide increased precision during five-axis milling operations. The DMU 270 P is designed for large-envelope five-axis machining, and the DMU 70 ecoline opens the door to five-sided machining for entry-level operators. A concept study featuring Lasertec 65 additive manufacturing focused on the introduction of generative laser deposition welding into five-axis milling.

(Left) New machine designs, expansion plans, and growth markets were topics of discussion at DMG Mori Seiki’s Technical Press Conference. (Right) Some 6,000 members of the global trade press observed 66 machines in operation at the Deckel Maho manufacturing facility.  

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