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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 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. 

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 26. May 2015

The Evolution of Automotive Automation

Back in the days when kitchen refrigerators were loaded with ice instead of making it, and stoves were heated with wood or coal rather than gas and electricity, the Ford Motor Co. made automobiles by hand. That was a long time ago, and just as we now dispense ice through the doors or our fridges and own home ovens worthy of a bakery, cars are pieced together on an assembly line by increasingly complex articulated robots. Here’s a slideshow of how robots have progressed over the years on the Ford assembly line. As remarkable as the progress of autonomy has been in robotics, a recent development is called the “collaborative” robot, meaning it is designed and built to share space and work near human beings. The CR-35iA robot from FANUC, for instance, is ideal for assembly and transferring various parts. In addition, the new M-2000iA/1700L super-heavy payload robot transports completed cars from one position to another high above the factory floor.

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 19. May 2015

Liebherr Gear Seminar to be Co-Hosted by Ingersoll Cutting Tools

I recently spent an informative day in Saline, Michigan, meeting with Peter Wiedemann, president of Liebherr Automation Systems, Co./Liebherr Gear Technology Inc., along with Scott Yoders, vice president of gearing sales, and Kevin Heise, vice president of automation sales. Mr. Wiedemann provided an overview of the company’s global structure and a tour of its U.S. headquarters (pictured), which offers sales and support services for its aerospace and machine tool product divisions. U.S. manufacturing operations are located at its plant in Newport News, Virginia. Parent company Liebherr Verzahntechik GmbH is based in Kempten, Germany.

While in Michigan, I learned of the upcoming Liebherr 2015 Gear Seminar, which will take place June 23-24. It will be co-hosted by Ingersoll Cutting Tools at its technical center in Rockford, Illinois. An annual event for the past 20 years, the seminar offers technical presentations on the latest developments in gear cutting and inspection technology made by experts from Liebherr Gear Technology, Liebherr Automation Systems, Ingersoll Cutting Tools, the Saacke Group and the Wenzel Group. Qualified guests will have the opportunity to tour the Ingersoll shop floor and to witness a hobbing demonstration on Liebherr’s LC 500. Those interested in attending can contact Liebherr at 734-944-6369 or info.lgt@liebherr.com. I hope to see you there!

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 5. May 2015

Lightweight Gears for Robots

Photo courtesy of Harmonic Drive AG

Gearing specialist Harmonic Drive UK has launched a new series of extremely lightweight and compact gears for the next generation of robots. Targeting the semiconductor electronics market, the new CSD Component Set is equipped with a heavy-duty cross roller bearing to deliver high payload performance in environments with limited space.

The CSD Series delivers the required high power to weight ratio in a compact form factor, and is available in two variants. The CSD-2UH range boasts the smallest outside diameter, and the CSD-2UF has the shortest overall length. “We’ve designed the CSD range to be compatible with existing systems,” says Graham Mackrell, managing director. “While it’s primarily targeted at the robotic and semiconductor market, it will perform equally as well in other demanding high precision applications such as broadcast, aerospace and machine tools.”

This news put me in mind of a couple of things. One, lower costs and increased ease of use will spur significant growth in industrial robotics over the next decade, according to a study conducted by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). And while automation isn’t necessarily the first market that springs to mind when thinking of gears—that’s usually automotive and aerospace—it’s a good indication of how evolving technologies and designs create new markets for manufacturers. These same improvements are being made in other areas, such as marine drives, mining and construction vehicles, hand tools, motorcycles and various industrial mechanisms such as machine tools, just to name a few. If you can train yourself to identify new design trends, you’ll be ready to take advantage of a new revenue stream once it starts to flow.

Posted by: Russ Willcutt 24. April 2015

FANUC Open House 2015

The CR-35iA collaborative robot on display during FANUC's open house has a soft green cover to protect human coworkers in case of a collision. Click the image for a slideshow from the event.

During the second week of April—and with snowcapped Mt. Fuji looming in the near distance—FANUC opened the doors of its corporate campus in Oshino, Japan, to customers, integrators, collaborative partners and select members of the trade press. As a showcase for its new equipment and technologies, FANUC’s Open House 2015 also included tours of its milling, robot, servomotor and repair factories.

The star of the show was the CR-35iA collaborative robot, which made its debut at IMTS 2014 as a prototype. Scheduled to be available to the North American market starting this summer, the distinctive green robot eliminates the need for guarding around in its workspace by automatically stopping when it touches, or is touched by, a human operator. The robot is covered with a soft surface to prevent injuries, and the green color is meant to signal approachability. Working in cooperation with its operator, the CR-35iA is ideal for assembly and heavy parts transfer.

Additional launches included the M-2000iA/1700L (long arm) and 2300 super-heavy payload robots; Zero Down Time (ZDT) preventive and diagnostic technology for scheduling maintenance and avoiding shutdowns; new RoboDrill, RoboShot, RoboCut and RoboNano models; and the 30i-B series CNC with a newly designed human machine interface (HMI). Go here for a slideshow of these and additional FANUC technologies, and be looking for a post focusing on my conversation with Rick Schneider, president and CEO of FANUC America, on the company’s academic outreach efforts—including a new CNC simulator for classroom training purposes—in the coming weeks.

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