Peter Zelinski has been a writer and editor for Modern Machine Shop for more than a decade. One of the aspects of this work that he enjoys the most is visiting machining facilities to learn about the manufacturing technology, systems and strategies they have adopted, and the successes they’ve realized as a result. Pete earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and he first learned about machining by running and programming machine tools in a metalworking laboratory within GE Aircraft Engines. Follow Pete on Twitter at Z_Axis_MMS.
Richard Malek, president of Tech-Max Machine (the shop featured in this article), periodically hosts a local group of Cub Scouts at his facility. The kids (third through fifth grade) are given the chance to learn about manufacturing in the hope that some of them might picture themselves doing this work in the future. For these visits, Mr. Malek devises displays and object lessons to help the kids experience what manufacturing is all about.
To prepare for one such visit, he had his shop machine blocks from various different metals—aluminum, bronze, steel, titanium and others—so that he could give a set of the blocks to each of the kids to take home. The insight he wanted to convey is that metals have very different properties, and that manufacturers master these properties so they can choose the right metal for the need at hand and work with that material in the right way. The different appearances and hefts of the different blocks helped make this lesson tangible.
Each scout also received a basic one-page guide to these different metals written by Mr. Malek. Download a PDF version.
(The shop president says he also expects to host a group of sixth- through eighth-grade Boy Scouts later this spring. He is in the process now of thinking about the best way to engage this older group.)
Ergoseal’s production manager, George Lang, helped oversee the company’s ERP implementation. He says getting the entire staff into the habit of using the system took time, but it was worth it. Read more about Ergoseal by finding this company’s link in the list below.
Of all of the changes that Ergoseal put in place to prepare for its business to grow, implementing ERP was the most difficult. Badge-wearing, barcode-scanning, and interacting with a systemized approach to logging and accessing data became a part of the daily life of every employee.
But this change was arguably also the most necessary. The company had long since outgrown the point in which one company leader could keep tabs on all of the information vital to the shop’s daily efficiency. The company also recognized the risk of redundancy, error or lost time on the shop floor because of an employee not having easy access to needed information.
Job shops reach a point in their growth when they need to seriously consider ERP, says Dennis Gilhooley of Ultra Consultants. He wrote an article outlining what job shops should think about when evaluating these systems.
To get a glimpse of what other shops have done, see the list below. Each company name is a link to an article about that shop’s experience with ERP:
Stratasys, the supplier of additive manufacturing technology and also owner of additive manufacturing service provider RedEye, announced this week that it intends to acquire two other AM service providers: Solid Concepts and Harvest Technologies. The companies will be joined with RedEye to form a single business unit, Stratasys says. The result will be “one of the largest independent additive manufacturing parts providers in North America,” said Harvest president David K. Leigh in a letter to customers. (The photo above shows RedEye’s production floor.)
All three companies have seen additive processes move from prototyping into production of functional parts. Harvest calls this direct digital manufacturing; its additive manufacturing capabilities are qualified to produce flight-certified parts for both manned and unmanned aircraft, the company says. Solid Concepts recently demonstrated additive manufacturing’s effectiveness at making production-quality parts by growing the components of a working 3D-printed handgun. Meanwhile, Redeye has been thinking about the next step after 3D printing. To expand the range of potential production applications for its 3D printing capabilities, the company has been exploring finishing options.
For more detail about the acquisitions, read Stratasys’s announcement. For a clue to what this might mean, see this article quoting RedEye (long before the acquisitions) about the implications of a company being able to offer a large amount of additive production capacity.
To my knowledge, it’s not possible to print metal parts on a desktop machine. But MarkForged says it will soon be possible to print parts as strong as metal on a desktop machine.
The company will soon begin shipping its new “Mark One” desktop machine, which 3D prints with carbon fiber. This promotional video produced by the company gives a sense of how the machine applies strands of carbon to build rigid 3D forms.
Joe Thole, applications engineer with machine tool distributor Hartwig, says the VTL (vertical turning lathe, vertical turret lathe or vertical table lathe—take your pick) offers advantages that go beyond the main advantage most people see.
That main advantage is that a VTL offers a practical way to turn large and heavy parts. The part sits atop the spindle like it is resting on a table.
But there are other advantages, he says. A VTL is inherently rigid, because cutting force is directed down into the base of the machine. Also, this lathe type is more floorspace-efficient than a horizontal lathe, because in the case of the vertical, the machine’s volume extends upward instead of being spread out across the floor.
Then there are the myths. VTLs are not more difficult to program, he says—programming is essentially the same as for a horizontal lathe. More significantly, VTLs are not dependent on large parts. Shops question whether they have enough large-part machining work to justify a vertical lathe, but the question really should be whether they have enough work in general. When there are no large parts to be run, the VTL can still deliver value by running average-sized workpieces.
Read more of what Mr. Thole has to say about VTLs in this article.