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Posted by: Emily Probst 17. April 2014

Hands-On Experience Helps Autodesk Innovate

Inside the Pier 9 facility in San Francisco, Calif.

During a recent trip to San Francisco, Calif., Senior Editor Chris Felix from sister publication Production Machining got a chance to visit Autodesk’s new Pier 9 facility. The 27,000 square foot workshop includes a digital fabrication lab, laser cutting and printing capabilities, an electronics workshop, smaller specialty project areas, and more.

Employees and artists-in-residence are encouraged to use the facility to further the understanding of the interface between the software and hardware by pushing the boundaries of each.

While at Pier 9, Carl White, senior director of manufacturing engineering at Autodesk, and Anthony Graves, CAM product manager, announced the commercial availability of Inventor HSM, an integrated CAM solution for Inventor users. The software is designed to help machinists, designers and engineers turn their Inventor designs into manufacturable parts by generating machining toolpaths directly inside Inventor. Other features include simulation tools to help users verify the machining process before CNC programs are run on the machine, customizable postprocessors, and flexible 2.5D, 3D and 3+2 toolpath options and settings.

Read more about Chris's trip, and view a slideshow from his visit.

Posted by: Derek Korn 16. April 2014

The Various Styles of Mechanical Indexers

This five-axis mechanical indexer enables 3 + 2 machining.​

Mechanical rotary indexers can be installed on machine quickly and take up less table real estate compared to motorized indexers. In some cases, those lightweight indexers require just half the table area than conventional motorized indexers, which can also make it possible to install multiple indexers on one machine table.

But how do they work and what types of styles are available? Learn more in this article based on input from Japanese workholding device manufacturer Kawata, represented in the U.S. by Tecnara Tooling Systems.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 15. April 2014

Beginning Guide to Metals

Richard Malek, president of Tech-Max Machine (the shop featured in this article), periodically hosts a local group of Cub Scouts at his facility. The kids (third through fifth grade) are given the chance to learn about manufacturing in the hope that some of them might picture themselves doing this work in the future. For these visits, Mr. Malek devises displays and object lessons to help the kids experience what manufacturing is all about.

To prepare for one such visit, he had his shop machine blocks from various different metals—aluminum, bronze, steel, titanium and others—so that he could give a set of the blocks to each of the kids to take home. The insight he wanted to convey is that metals have very different properties, and that manufacturers master these properties so they can choose the right metal for the need at hand and work with that material in the right way. The different appearances and hefts of the different blocks helped make this lesson tangible.

Each scout also received a basic one-page guide to these different metals written by Mr. Malek. Download a PDF version.

(The shop president says he also expects to host a group of sixth- through eighth-grade Boy Scouts later this spring. He is in the process now of thinking about the best way to engage this older group.)

Posted by: Steve Kline, Jr. 14. April 2014

March MBI Shows Fastest Growth in Two Years

 

With a reading of 55.9, Gardner’s metalworking business index showed that conditions in the industry expanded in March for the third straight month and the fourth time in five months. This was the fastest rate of growth since March 2012. Since August, the metalworking industry has been on a steady and significant uptrend. The March index was 10.9 percent higher than it was in March 2013, which is the seventh straight month of year-over-year growth. Also, March was the fastest rate of month-over-month growth so far this year. The annual rate of change grew for the first time since September 2011.

New orders and production grew for the sixth consecutive month, both at significantly faster rates than the first two months of the year and at their fastest rates since March 2012. The backlog index also grew for the second time in three months, indicating that capacity utilization and capital spending at metalworking facilities should increase significantly this year. Employment has grown at a consistently high rate in each of the first three months of the year, similar to the rates of growth at the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012. Exports were flat, the first time they have not contracted since September 2011. Supplier deliveries continue to lengthen at a steadily increasing rate as they have done since last June.

Material prices continued to increase, but they did so at the slowest rate of the first quarter. Prices received increased for the fourth straight month, but the increase was minimal in February and March. Future business expectations remain strong and have been very stable throughout the quarter.

After contracting the first two months of 2014, future capital spending plans improved 2.7 percent in March compared to one year earlier. Despite this improvement, however, the annual rate of change contracted at a faster rate for the second consecutive month. 

Posted by: Mark Albert 11. April 2014

Clemson U. Grad Student Wins MTConnect Challenge

Valerie Pezzullo explains her prize-winning application to MMS Editor-in-Chief Mark Albert at this week’s [MC2] Conference in Orlando Florida.

Winning $100,000 in a national engineering contest is a remarkable feat, especially for a 24-year-old graduate student like Valerie Pezzullo, who is completing her master’s in mechanical engineering at Clemson University. Her application, Machining Process Monitoring to Aid in Chatter Identification, was voted the top entry in the MTConnect Challenge 2 contest this week at the [MC2] 2014 MTConnect: Connecting Manufacturing Conference in Orlando, Fla.

Attendees at the conference voted on the five finalists to choose the top three winners. In addition to the $100,000 first prize, a $75,000 second prize and a 50,000 third prize were also awarded. All of the finalists demonstrated the value of the MTConnect standard as a key enabler of creative, yet practical, applications that promised to have far-reaching benefits for manufacturers in the United States.

After the results were announced and the cash prizes awarded, I had a chance to find out a little more about Valerie’s interest in engineering, and discovered what I think is important clue in her background that might account for her unique ability to develop a winning entry. She told me that before she settled on engineering as her college program, she was drawn to creative pursuits such as music and theater. Her natural interest in and talent for math and the sciences, however, proved a stronger attraction.

Valerie explained that one of her first engineering courses included an introduction to CNC machining. That really got her hooked on the engineering aspects of manufacturing. Noting her earlier artistic interests, I ask Valerie if she found an outlet for that inclination in engineering. She agreed that there were many opportunities to be creative and inventive in her chosen path. Conceiving, designing and constructing the test equipment and related experiments proved this many times, she said.

It would be great if she can carry that message to other young women and men who might be considering careers and engineering, science or manufacturing. She can show them that these are fields in which the creative spark can certainly catch fire.

For more details about the MTConnect Challenge 2 and information about the finalists, click here.

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