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.
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.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently toured Cardinal Manufacturing, the Eleva-Strum High School manufacturing program that operates as a commercial manufacturing business. Read about Cardinal Manufacturing here. Todd Schuett of Creative Technology captured photos of Governor Walker’s visit as well as video footage. In this video, the governor lays out some of the numbers that account for why he advises children to view manufacturing as not just a job but a potential career.
Renishaw has collaborated with the UK’s Empire Cycles to produce what the two companies say is the world’s first 3D printed metal bike frame. The titanium frame, manufactured using Renishaw’s additive manufacturing machine, is 33 percent lighter than the original frame that Empire started with.
Components were built simultaneously within a single additive build,
then assembled to create the frame.
However, the benefits from additive manufacturing go well beyond weight savings. In an article about its work with Empire, Renishaw offered a list of the many advantages the bike maker realizes by growing the bike frame through 3D printing. Those advantages include:
1. Rapid iterations, and the flexibility to make design improvements right up to production.
2. The ability to derive shapes from topological optimization, using software analysis to place material only where it is needed for the strength and performance of the part.
3. Customization, because one-offs can be made as easily as production batches.
4. The freedom to grow hollow structures for weight and material savings.
5. The option to produce complex shapes that include internal strengthening features.
6. The ability to build in special features, such as the rider's name.
I might have thought that NC simulation software was a mature market. CGTech’s Vericut software, which accurately models CNC machine tools in order simulate the postprocessed version of an NC program, has been available for years—long enough for shops able to benefit from this simulation to have found it. Yet when I recently spoke with a CGTech representative, he said that in fact new business is surging. Shops that have never considered simulation software before are opting for it now.
The company points to various reasons for this. They include:
1. Solid models. In past decades, it wasn’t necessarily true that shops were programming with solid models. Today, the use of solid models is commonplace. Broader availability of solid models for workpieces, cutting tools and machines makes program simulation easier to implement.
2. Higher value work. Particularly for U.S. manufacturers, some of the most lucrative machining opportunities involve parts that are geometrically challenging and/or made from a challenging material. Where the part value is higher, the value of avoiding an error or collision that could damage the part becomes that much higher as well.
3. Capacity constraints. Many shops today have enough work that they are challenged to schedule it all. Performing program prove-out on the machine, therefore, becomes a costly use of machine capacity. Better to prove out the program with software instead.
4. Five axis machining. This is the big one that CGTech sees. Many shops installing their first five-axis machine tool are justifiably cautious about the complexity of this machine’s movements. Simulating the five-axis job before it runs offers a way to safeguard this sophisticated machine.
This view inside the Hamuel Reichenbacher machine (seen in full below)
shows it performing a laser cladding operation on a turbine blade part.
I know of four companies supplying additive manufacturing machines that also incorporate CNC machining for “subtractive” operations. They are: DMG Mori, Fabrisonic, Matsuura and Hamuel Reichenbacher. The last of these is distinctive because it incorporates a system for add-on additive manufacturing capability that could also be added to an existing machine tool via retrofit.
Jason Jones, who helped to develop this technology—now marketed through Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies—says one of the promises of his system is that an existing, older machine in a shop could be made new by making it an additive manufacturing machine. Read more here.