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Peter Zelinski

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.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 22. April 2014

Aerospace Manufacturer’s Connection to “Gravity”

Egon Jaeggin’s attention wasn’t always on the acting when he and his wife went to see the film, Gravity. During certain crucial scenes, he says he thought the star of the show was the pistol-grip cordless drill being used by Sandra Bullock’s character. Mr. Jaeggin’s shop, Numerical Precision, built that tool for NASA in 2009.

The tool was designed for that year’s mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. According to Mr. Jaeggin, the “Mini Power Tool” incorporates an extra-large trigger, thumb release and “wrist kickout” to stabilize the tool in one hand. “Performing a Hubble upgrade is like opening a computer and replacing a board while wearing thick gloves and a fishbowl over your head,” he says. Along with the awkwardness, tight quarters and time restrictions faced by the astronauts, NASA’s design of the tool also had to consider temperature swings of 500 degrees from direct sun to “frigid shade,” as well as the potential peril to the telescope if a fastener got loose and found its way in.

While it was fun to see the tool in the movie, what was truly gratifying was to see the tool used successfully in television feeds of the 2009 Hubble mission, he says.  

The shop machined components and performed the assembly for seven of these power tools, six of which went to NASA. The seventh is displayed in Numerical Precision’s lobby.

Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 15. April 2014

Beginning Guide to Metals

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.)

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 9. April 2014

Experiences with ERP

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:

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 4. April 2014

RedEye to Join with Other Additive Manufacturing Companies

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.
 

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 31. March 2014

Video: 3D Printing with Carbon Fiber

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.

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