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.
If a robot can load and unload parts, why can’t it do the same for workholding? VersaBuilt creates robot systems in which the vise jaws that hold a given part inside the machining center also serve as the grippers enabling the robot to load and unload that part. Changing vise jaws as needed enables the robot to shift parts from operation to operation. If there are different jaws on the shelf for different part numbers, then this same jaw change can let the robot switch seamlessly from job to job.
VersaBuilt filmed this video of continuous unattended 3-op machining on a VMC using this system, with the robot switching jaws for the different operations.
Having twin-spindle/twin turret lathe technology in-house lets Comp Cams produce billet racing camshafts more quickly than when it outsourced camshaft machining.
Effort Foundry used to send castings away for machining, but the company recently invested to create a new, in-house CNC machine shop. Quality control was a big part of the reason for taking ownership of this operation. See the link below for more detail.
This is just one of the potential benefits of retaining control of machining. The reasons why companies have brought or kept machining in-house includes all of the following:
This robot cell used by an oil-industry manufacturer produces various parts in batch sizes of less than 100. Read more.
“This is an extremely exciting time to be involved in the robotics industry,” says Jeff Burnstein, president of the Robotic Industries Association (RIA). His group reports that 2014 was the strongest year yet for robot demand in North America, with 27,685 robots valued at $1.6 billion ordered from North American companies. That was an increase of 28 percent in units and 19 percent in dollars over 2013.
The most significant industry driving this demand is automotive manufacturing, which increased its orders for robots by 45 percent over 2013. The most important application is arc welding or spot welding, each of which increased its demand for robots by around 57 percent over the previous year.
My own observations suggest that machine tending for unattended CNC machining—in many industries, not just automotive—must also be feeding the robot demand. And perhaps in 2015 this application will feed it to an even greater extent. Most shops I’ve spoken with lately are at least seriously considering an investment in robotic automation. One shop owner recently told me that his lender is more inclined to provide financing if the capital investment aims at lights-out machining. He is liable to buy a robot with his next new VMC for this reason.
Read more detail about robot demand in the RIA report. And for more on robots, robot-related products and successful applications of robotic automation in machining, visit our Robots & Automation Zone.
The surge in shale gas production is not just a game changer for the energy industry, but also a major positive development for U.S. manufacturing. That is the message of a PricewaterhouseCoopers report that says the “shale effect,” the increase in U.S. natural gas production, is likely to achieve annual cost savings for U.S. manufacturers of $22.3 billion per year by 2030. Read more.