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.
A shop running two 10-hour shifts has just about all of the day covered. That was the case with Aztalan Engineering. Using a horizontal machining center—with parts loaded on one pallet while they are being machined on the other pallet—offered a way to keep production going throughout all of the staffed hours. However, for a manifold part needed in relatively high volume, the shop went even farther than this. It added a Fastems pallet system so it could keep on feeding the machine even through the unattended hours. Capturing this seemingly small number of additional hours had a significant impact on capacity. The additional 4 hours per day, plus an extra 6 hours over the weekend, increases the weekly output of this machine by more than 25 percent over what a standalone HMC could do, even an HMC staffed by an operator for 20 hours per day.
Vickers Engineering President and CEO Matt Tyler says that automation has not replaced people in his shop, but instead has expanded the workforce. Without robotic automation, he says, this New Troy, Michigan, supplier of precision machined parts would have maybe 80 to 90 employees today, instead of the much larger number it currently employes. Because of the way robots have made the shop more competitive and increased the value of each of employee, the shop now employs around 200. Learn more about Vickers’s experience with robots in this video produced by FANUC America.
Airbus says it is expanding its use of additive manufacturing in aircraft part production. The reasons why are the ones typically cited: less lead time, less material, less environmental impact. However, a statement from the company gives numbers for some of the savings its expects to see. The company says parts produced additively (such as the bracket in the photo) will be 30 to 55 percent lighter than the parts they replace, will use 90 percent less raw material, and will decrease energy used in production by as much as 90 percent. Read more here.
The Additive Manufacturing Workshop is a new event debuting at IMTS this year. The half-day workshop to be held September 9 will focus on the use of 3D printing technologies to make functional components and end-use parts. Speakers scheduled to appear include various people and companies we’ve covered in the Additive Manufacturing supplement to Modern Machine Shop. They include:
Craig Blue of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, speaking on the latest developments in additive at Oak Ridge. (It was Ryan Dehoff, who works with him at Oak Ridge, who was quoted in this article.)
Jon Baklund of Baklund R&D, speaking on additive manufacturing in the job shop.
Lou Young of Linear Mold, speaking on additive manufacturing for mold making.
Michael Hayes of Boeing, speaking on polymeric additive manufacturing in aerospace.
GE Aviation has announced that the LEAP jet engine fuel nozzle—the nozzle (shown) with a design made possible by additive manufacturing—will be mass-produced in Auburn, Alabama, starting next year. Up to 10 additive manufacturing machines will be installed at the company’s plant in Auburn, which was opened last year.
Additive manufacturing capacity will increase from there, the company says. Production demand for the new fuel nozzle is scheduled to ascend steeply, growing from an initial rate of 1,000 units per year to 40,000 per year by 2020. GE says the Auburn site could ultimately have more than 50 additive manufacturing machines, with nozzle production expanding to occupy a third of the facility.
Those nozzles will be sent to an even newer engine production plant in Lafayette, Indiana, that is scheduled to open next year. This $100 million plant, which will include both CNC machining and assembly, will be the seventh new U.S. manufacturing site in seven years for GE Aviation.