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 23. June 2015

Comau Introduces Racer3 Robot

Comau’s Racer3 is introduced to members of the international trade press during an advance event near company headquarters in Turin, Italy. 

Known for heavy payload robots primarily found in the automotive industry, Comau recently introduced the Racer3 at a launch event in Turin, Italy, where it is headquartered. The Racer3 represents a new design for the company, in that it is a cost-effective model targeting small- to medium-size companies and those found in emerging economies.

Made of high-strength aluminum, the Racer3 is a high-speed, six-axis articulated robot with a payload of 3 kg and a reach of 600 mm. It weighs 30 kg, allowing for a variety of mounting options, including benches, walls, ceilings and inclined supports. While the Racer3 was designed for industries such as food and beverage, electronics, plastics and metalworking, its speed, light weight and flexibility make it an attractive choice for a wide variety of applications. See the new robot in action in this video.

The launch—held at the Castello di Rivoli—was followed by a visit to Maserati’s AVV Giovanni Agnelli plant in Grugliasco, on the outskirts of Turin, which features 85 Comau robots in its chassis assembly operation alone. The Maserati facility produces the well-known Quattroporte and Ghibli luxury sedans.

The Racer3 is lightweight, extremely fast, and an attractive option for small- to medium-size manufacturing and assembly operations.  

Some 85 Comau robots are found at the heart of the Maserati AVV Giovanni Agnelli plant in Grugliasco, on the outskirts of Turin.

The Maserati plant in Turin produces the Quattroporte and Ghibli models, the latter of which is shown here. 

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 18. June 2015

When the Chips Are Down

Every machine shop has developed its own procedure for chip disposal. This is necessitated by concerns such as the configuration of the facility, the metalworking fluids in use, the materials being machined and the type of chips being produced.

Whatever type of system a company has developed, I generally encounter a desire for a better process, or for certain improvements, during the shop visits I make. For example, one company would like to automate the process to the greatest extent possible, while another is interested in environmental compliance. Others want to reclaim fluids from chips to lower new coolant costs. Whatever the situation, the basic steps involve:

  • Transport: Getting the chips from the machine tool to the processing system can be accomplished in many ways, either manually or via conveyors.

  • Size: Grinding or sorting chips to a uniform size.

  • Separation: Once the chip size is relatively standard, and tramp metals such as bolts, etc., have been removed, the chips are introduced into a centrifugal spinning device, sending coolant to a filtration system and dry chips to a bin.

  • Disposal: Dry chips are transported to a bin and handled by a disposal company. In the example photographed above, the dry, uniform chips are driven by air through overhead piping to the bin, which can automatically send emails to both the machine shop’s general manager and the disposal company that the bin is full and ready for pickup. 

One of the most efficient systems I’ve seen first-hand was during a visit to Brek Manufacturing, which had recently installed a leading-edge system with another one soon to be installed. 

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 11. June 2015

Mechanical Mockups for Maintenance Training

This Pratt & Whitney F135 engine mockup, made by Clinkenbeard, is used for maintenance training at the Eglin Air Force Base.

Clinkenbeard, a company that I wrote about in this article, specializes in the rapid production of complex metal castings and machined parts that are meant to excel in real-world applications. It is also known for its rapid prototyping capabilities. That was the impetus behind launching its new Mechanical Prototypes Division. Its first project? A full-scale fighter jet engine, but one that will never see the sky. That’s because it’s a Pratt & Whitney F135 engine mockup to be used for maintenance training purposes.

It makes perfect sense, when you think about it. “Creating a full size mockup is much more cost effective for the customer than producing an entire engine solely for training purposes,” says Matt Gustafson, director of innovation for Clinkenbeard. “By combining engineered and machined prototypes with available production parts, we were able to replicate an entire engine assembly that allows mechanics to simulate actual maintenance tasks and manipulate the modular components of the engine.”

The project took 15 months from start to finish. It included several phases of development and extensive scheduled inspections by military partners. The project culminated with representatives from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corp, Royal Air Force, Royal Netherlands Air Force, the F-35 Joint Program Office, and Pratt & Whitney gathering for final testing at Clinkenbeard’s facility in Rockford, Illinois. The mock engine is now in use at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. 

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 3. June 2015

C.R. Onsrud Partners with Pinnacle

C.R. Onsrud is known for its custom-built routers. This six-spindle version provides each column with its own tool changer. 

C.R. Onsrud of Troutman, North Carolina, has long been known for its sturdy woodworking machines. A fifth-generation company established in 1915, its first design was a swing-arm router that is still in production. In addition, the success of its line of custom-built routers and heavy milling machines for metalworking applications is gaining momentum—a fact that was evident during a recent conference and tour of the facility. To keep that momentum surging ahead, C.R. Onsrud has developed a new relationship with Pinnacle Machine Tools, a longtime distributor that is based in Knoxville, Tennessee, with customers throughout the Southeast.

According to the company, it’s a winning proposition for everyone involved. It should be noted that Pinnacle, which distributes an extensive line of Mazak multitasking, five-axis, milling and turning machines, has entered into this relationship with Mazak’s blessing, says Matt Jenkins, marketing director. Pinnacle is already established in the very markets C.R. Onsrud is growing into, such as aerospace and automotive. For Pinnacle, this means the company can now provide its customers with a wider range of solutions, including both stock and custom machine tool designs.

The tone board of a Steinway piano—historically machined in Germany, but soon coming to the United States thanks to C.R. Onsrud’s custom design. 

Dealers and distributors from around the country spent a relaxed week at C.R. Onsrud, learning directly from staff engineers and building new business relationships. 

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 28. May 2015

Okuma Supports Aerospace Excellence

Okuma has invested in nine machines worth $6.5 million to fill the 10,000 square-foot space, designed for aerospace manufacturers to test the latest CNC machining processes.

A recent visit with Okuma America at U.S. headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, allowed me to take a tour of the company’s new Aerospace Center of Excellence. Okuma has invested in nine machines worth $6.5 million to fill the 10,000 square-foot space. This space enables aerospace manufacturers to test cuts, check accuracies, determine effectiveness and prove out the latest Okuma CNC machining processes.

The center also includes a fully operational metrology room with CMM equipment and other quality measurement devices, as well as a conference room for group discussions. Visitors also have access to the Partners in THINC facility, housing an additional 16 machines ranging from entry-level CNC lathes to machining centers and grinders.

Aerospace manufacturers are invited to contact Okuma America to schedule a visit to the new center, and to collaborate with its experienced engineers in discovering the most accurate and productive means of machining the next generation of aerospace components. Watch the video tour of the new Aerospace Center of Excellence. 

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