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.
Mazak’s recent Midwest Technology Center Event at its Schaumburg, Illinois, tech center gave attendees access to about 22 different milling, turning and multitasking machine tools. It also showcased various ideas related to deploying those machines effectively. Some of this involved technology particular to Mazak but some also involved technology broadly available throughout the industry.
An example of the former is Mazak’s idea of the “levels” of multitasking. The company has gone beyond helping customers identify whether or not multitask machining (turning, milling, and drilling in a single setup on a single machine) makes sense for a given job, and now instead looks to identify the different applications that are suited to each of the five levels of multitasking machines. Signage at the event identified multitasking machine tools according to what level each machine represented.
Machines and machined parts were labeled according to the multitasking levels they represent.
Smooth Technology was also on display. This is the company’s term for its system of control unit, machine hardware, and programming and processing software that combined achieve both efficient machine motion and an efficient experience for the machine user. Various machines at the event were shown equipped with Smooth Technology—a reminder that the unseen engineering of the control system is liable to be just as great a factor in the effectiveness of the machine as the kind of hardware engineering that is more obviously visible at an open house event like this.
Another idea that was on display was the promise of leveraging MTConnect, the broad-industry standard for sharing machine tool data. Mazak has used the information available through MTConnect to improve machine utilization within its own production in Kentucky. A presentation at the event by company vice president of manufacturing Ben Schawe detailed this, while on the event floor, a real-time display showed the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) in real-time for Kentucky production machine tools. On this display, the bars were not all green. Yellow and red bars also appeared, indicating where a machine has dipped into a low level of OEE for any of a number of possible reasons, perhaps routine or perhaps noteworthy, just like in any production shop. The point of the display was not to boast about Kentucky’s productivity, but instead to illustrate the kind of intelligence that is now possible in the pursuit of greater efficiency.
A prominent display also detailed the company’s new hybrid additive manufacturing machine—combining CNC machining with additive manufacturing. I spoke about additive manufacturing at this event. That presentation gave me the chance to ask the audience, “If, in addition to subtracting material, you are now free to add material within the same cycle, then how does this change your sense of how to make the part?”
The hybrid machine is so new for the company that it did not have one available to show at this event. The company says its National Technology Center in Florence, Kentucky, will soon receive the machine, and will soon begin to experiment with it in cooperation with customers.
The additive manufacturing demo part included Inconel features grown onto a steel turned part.
Machining is so important to DW Drums’ latest pedal design that machining is part of the product’s name. In this video, Rich Sikra, the company’s vice president of manufacturing, discusses the production of the Machined Direct Drive pedal, the advantages of having that production in-house, and how the company has saved cost by using extrusions instead of machining from rectangular blanks.
I visited DW Drums 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.
Hybrid Manufacturing Technologies makes an award-winning head that enables additive manufacturing capability to be added to a standard machine tool. Far from being competing capabilities, Hybrid cofounder Jason Jones, Ph.D., says “subtractive” CNC machining and additive manufacturing complement one another. Additive makes sense on machine tools, he says, for three reasons:
1. Setup reduction. A production metal part made through additive manufacturing is probably going to need machining before it is complete. Mating surfaces and threaded holes, for example, need to be machined. Therefore, why not perform the additive build on the machine tool, where this finish machining can be performed as part of the same cycle?
2. Energy expense. Additive manufacturing requires a heat source intense enough to melt metal. If you are going to invest in the power needed for this melting, then why limit the capability to the small build volume typical of a stand-alone additive machine? Bringing additive manufacturing to a big machine tool permits the use of that machine’s travels.
3. Less dramatic shift. Cultural inertia impedes the adoption of additive manufacturing. Longtime manufacturing professionals are familiar with CNC machine tools, but the additive machines are strange to them. Adding the additive capability to the machine tool provides an easier path to adoption.
Rekluse is the motorcycle clutch maker that spun off a new company, VersaBuilt, after its own challenges with fluctuating production demand led to the development of a system for robotically loading not just the machined part but the part and workholding together. We described the significance of this approach to machine loading in a recent feature article. Now, ABB Robotics has produced this video describing Rekluse and VersaBuilt’s story, and showing the robot in action. Note also in the video how the robot, shelving system and controller all are wheeled as a single unit up to the face of the machining center.
In what Thane Russell of Absolute Completion Technologies describes as “the most advanced manufacturing cell in Alberta,” a level of automation not typically associated with oilfield manufacturing is being applied to downhole parts. Absolute makes well completion tools for the oil and gas industry. Mr. Russell says the company’s new robot-loaded cell applies production techniques from automotive manufacturers elsewhere in Canada. He spoke in this video report about the new cell from the Edmonton Journal.
Another place robot loading is being used for manufacturing downhole components is Louisiana.