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.
Local Motors released this video in conjunction with its announcement this week that it expects to have an electric car for sale to consumers next year, which will be made on-demand through additive manufacturing using the large-scale 3D printing system that has already been proven on previous 3D printed cars. Just one of the virtues of an additive approach to production is customizability within short lead times, and Local Motors says buyers of this new car will be able to customize it by choosing colors and trim.
Machine shops are accustomed to thinking in terms of thousandths of an inch, but what about thousandths of a second? This blog post from manufacturing marketing firm Krixis Consulting claims that visitors to a website form an impression about it (and the company behind it) in 50 thousandths of a second.
That is not fair. In an ideal world, a machine shop would be judged entirely on its machining performance, not the design of its website. But, of course, life isn’t fair. Arguably, marketing isn’t fair, either.
In making the case for why a machining business needs a strong website, that same blog post summarizes the impression that good and bad websites make. The website that is flat, dated, confusing or difficult to understand says that the company behind that website is:
Oblivious to what others think.
Content to advertise itself poorly (so imagine what its product is like).
Meanwhile, the website that is up-to-date, engaging and interesting says that the company is:
Striving to stay ahead of changing times.
Willing to put extra effort into something others avoid (so imagine what it will do for a customer).
Proud of its brand, and not inclined to cut corners when the impression of that brand is at stake.
Paulson Training Programs provides training content and services for the plastics industry, but much of what it has to say in this knowledge center is relevant to CNC machining facilities as well. The company points out that there is a bias among manufacturers toward investing in machines rather than investing in employee training. Why? One reason is the possibility that the trained employee might leave. However, another reason is the fact that the ROI for new equipment purchases is much easier to calculate. The costs of not training are hard to see. However, as Paulson points out, the facility that is not paying for training is probably paying for the lack of training, because those costs are very real.
For example, how much income is lost by accepting inefficient production as normal? Or by frequently scrapping parts or making corrections because of recurring mistakes? Paulson created these charts to illustrate the cost of unnecessary cycle time, downtime and rejects (again, tailored to the plastics industry, but still relevant). These are the ongoing costs that an investment in training can overcome.
A typical industrial robot has a form and function suggestive of a human arm. Does that mean the robot gripper ought to work like human fingers or a human hand?
This video demonstrates an alternate concept for robot gripping. The “Versaball” from Empire Robotics uses the compression of granular material to achieve its gripping force. This demonstration of the gripper on a robot arm from Universal Robots illustrates the strength, precision and control of the grip, not to mention its versatility, by lifting and relocating objects including a weight, a brick and a light bulb.
When I visited Taylor Guitars to learn about its manufacturing process, one of the manufacturing technologies I encountered was vertical machining centers. While some of the VMCs at the company’s factory in El Cajon, California, produce metal tooling for in-house use, most of these machines are carving wood to sculpt the guitars. In this video, factory neck department manager Julie Gardiner talks about this machining center application. Also, company founder Bob Taylor describes the challenge of making a product out of wood. An organic workpiece material, wood is very different from metal, in part because the quality of the material available is gradually in decline.
I visited Taylor as part of a film shoot for a forthcoming Edge Factor documentary on music-industry manufacturing. Find updates about the progress of this project at edgefactor.com.
On that same trip, we also shot this video at DW Drums.