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.
Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council under the President, gives this 60-second explanation of the importance of manufacturing and the value of the new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes. Mr. Sperling says manufacturing “punches above its weight” in terms of the jobs and innovation it produces. He says the manufacturing innovation hubs will bring together businesses and universities for cooperative investment and research that neither side would do alone. The first such institute is the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute recently opened in Youngstown, Ohio.
In Saint Paul, Minnesota, machine tool builder Matsuura officially opened its new U.S. headquarters with a ribbon cutting yesterday. The new 38,000-square-foot site houses a demonstration area for various vertical, horizontal and five-axis machining centers, along with service and engineering staff, conference and training facilities, and a dedicated spindle repair area.
Leading the team at the new site is Matsuura Machinery USA president John Schwartz, who appears at the far left (partially obscured) in this photo. Fully visible in the photo, from left to right, are Saint Paul mayor Chris Coleman, Matsuura Worldwide president Katsutoshi Matsuura, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development commissioner Katie Clark Sieben and Saint Paul Port Authority president Louis Jambois, all of whom spoke at yesterday’s event.
Would your shop purchase a CNC machine tool that would never be used to make a sellable end-use part? Russell Riddiford says he has seen a steady increase in the number of machining facilities choosing to do this very thing. He is the president of the U.S. business unit for ANCA. The machine tool in question is a CNC tool grinder.
Traditionally, these machines are sold to cutting tool manufacturers and regrinding services, and these companies still make up the largest market. Yet several factors have made in-house CNC tool grinding increasingly attractive for manufacturers that use a sizable volume of tooling. The machines have become less expensive over the years, and ANCA (like other tool grinder makers) has steadily improved its control interface to make the machine easier to use—to the point that a sophisticated understanding of cutting tool design is no longer needed, because that knowledge is built into the machine’s software. What’s more, the pressure to reduce inventories has led many manufacturers to take control of their tool inventory by controlling their own regrinding.
The shop that considers adding in-house tool grinding typically faces an investment decision unlike that of any machine tool the shop has purchased before, Mr. Riddiford says. A machine tool is usually purchased because the production demand directly justifies it. Either there is a new job demanding a new machine, or some existing job needs to be produced at a higher rate. By contrast, the tool grinder makes an indirect contribution to the plant’s machining. It does not directly produce any part number the shop is tasked with delivering. As a result, just figuring out which area of the shop will give up floor space for this machine can be a challenge.
Invariably, he says, any resistance or hesitation about the tool grinder fades. Usually this is because the machine provides the shop with a freedom it never had before—the freedom to quickly produce and experiment with custom tool geometries. By tailoring tools to its jobs, the shop is able to improve the effectiveness of its processes in ways that it might never have previously considered.
Mr. Riddiford notes that in-house tool grinding is actually one of two non-traditional markets for tool grinders that have grown more active recently. The other is manufacturing medical implants. The precise multi-axis grinding platform that is effective for producing drill and end mill geometries also happens to be effective for producing the complex geometries of artificial knees, heart valves and other implanted components. Here, he says, it is his company that is challenged to think differently about the machine. The company continues to allocate engineering resources to this market as the medical machining demand grows. For ANCA, the significant difference in this application is that, in this case, the machine is being used to make a finished, end-use part.
Arguably the congressman most closely connected to additive manufacturing is Tim Ryan. There are 435 voting members of the House of Representatives, but he alone has the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) in his district.
Mr. Ryan recently spoke with me about both additive manufacturing and the skills gap affecting manufacturing in general. Partnerships are key to both, he says. A pre-existing partnership among local engineering institutions is a major reason he cites for why his region was chosen as the location for NAMII. And partnerships between manufacturers and learning institutions will allow the former to shape school curricula so that students develop the very skills that manufacturers will increasingly need. Read the interview here.
Haas Automation produced this digital book to commemorate its 30-year anniversary. I found the spread on pages 16 and 17 particularly interesting. Comparing the VF-1 machining center of 1988 with the same model today, it illustrates how far the technology of this staple machining center has come. The original 1988 version offered speeds ranging to 5,000 rpm, a 7.5-hp spindle motor and 128K of program memory. Today, those same specs are speeds ranging to 8,100 rpm, 30 hp and 1 MB of memory. Meanwhile, the price is half as much. When the 1988 model was introduced at IMTS that year, it had a price equivalent to $98,000 in today’s dollars. The modern VF-1 is $48,995.