Here are a few examples of custom-engineered cutters from Seco Tools.
Both cutting tool suppliers and the manufacturers they serve have plenty to gain from deeper collaboration. That was an overriding message of the recent Custom Products media event hosted by Seco Tools, which focused on custom-engineered tooling as well as consulting services provided by the Troy, Michigan, cutting tool manufacturer. Takeaways from the event include:
As a relatively small portion of production costs, tool cost should never be considered outside the context of potential productivity gains;
Manufacturers stand to benefit more than ever from outside expertise;
Cutting tool suppliers have particular incentive to provide that expertise;
Seco has made significant strides in improving value-added services; and
Value-added services go beyond custom tooling and direct consultations with customers.
Attendees line up at the opening of the Amerimold Show. A minor glitch—a power outage that slightly delayed the opening—didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits.
Walking out of the Amerimold show at closing time on the first day, I was struck by the fact that plenty of conversations were still happening at booths in all corners of the hall. As a veteran of plenty of trade shows, I’d have expected traffic to drop far more markedly and far more quickly in the waning hours of the event, even on the first day.
Perhaps everyone was simply waiting around for the subsequent MoldMaking Technology “Leadtime Leader” awards presentation and overview of the always-humorous “Top 10 Reasons to be a Moldmaker,” not to mention the Casino-themed after-party. Regardless, the mood was overwhelmingly positive among the attendees and exhibitors that I had a chance to engage at the Amerimold 2016, hosted June 15-16 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan. And, there were more of both compared to last year’s edition of the show, with 3,000 registrants versus 2,700 and a record 197 exhibitors.
Somewhat unusually for the manufacturing trade show landscape, those exhibitors include not just technology suppliers, but also a large number of end-user shops (28, to be exact). Many of these mold manufacturers indicated that tool programs they’ve been waiting for, particularly in the automotive industry, have already or will soon be released, and that they expect at least steady business through 2017.
Highlighting just how competitive this sector is, capability to build quality tooling doesn’t seem to be enough for some of these shops. Across the sector, recent years have seen many add to design/engineering services on the front end of build, and, particularly, tool sampling on the back end. The Amerimold show has transitioned right along with them. This year, the technical conference program added an injection molding-focused track to the typical engineer, build and maintain topics. The show was also co-located with the Thermoplastic Composites Conference for Automotive (TCC Auto), which focuses on automotive light-weighting.
Still, this expanded focus did nothing to diminish Amerimold’s role as a showcase of technology that moldmakers rely on to cut cores and cavities from hardened steel—technology with potential applications that go far beyond moldmaking. This slideshow features a number of examples, including modular, quick-change workholding, cutting tools for long reaches and other difficult conditions, non-contact metrology and more.
Relatively few shops perform frequency response measurements (like the one shown in the photo) to determine the optimal, chatter-free spindle speeds and depths of cut for their machines.
However, a much larger share of shops do run at something like these optimal parameters, because they eventually arrive at these parameters through the trial-and-error process of adjusting a machine’s speed until the chatter stops, and then cutting as deep as they can at that speed. The difference is: Measuring to find these parameters can get the shop to the optimal process faster, without so many parts being cut inefficiently along the way.
Jerry Halley of Tech Manufacturing experienced this. He was looking for a machining center that would perform well in heavy cutting of aluminum using a ¾-inch or 1-inch tool. For each of the machine models he considered, he went to where that machine was in use so he could measure to find the machine’s chatter-free milling speeds with these tools. (That measurement is often called a “tap test.”) A machine from SNK gave him the best performance he measured with the tools he wanted to use.
He shared this information with the machine’s user, the shop he was visiting to measure the machine. That is, he told team members at this shop the exact spindle speed at which they could run the machine to get the best efficiency with a 1-inch tool.
They said, essentially, “That sounds right.” The staff here had already figured out that this particular speed was best.
Mr. Halley nevertheless says there is an important point here that illustrates the value of the frequency response evaluation. In questioning the staff members further, he learned that they had fine-tuned the machine’s cutting parameters over the course of several months before coming to the correct findings that they did. By contrast, he came to the same correct conclusion with a measurement that took 15 minutes. Measurement and experience arrived at the same place, but measurement made it there much more quickly.
Learn more about measuring machine tools to find chatter-free cutting conditions here and here.
Surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee is a complex procedure that demands precision and control. In order to repair or replace an ACL, the surgeon removes any remnants of the natural ACL and then attaches a replacement ligament (a graft usually taken from elsewhere in the patient’s body) to the tibia and femur. The positioning of the grafted ligament is critical, as it should accurately mimic that of the natural ACL.
To help make this precise surgery easier, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Dana Piasecki designed a two-part system consisting of a flexible pin (drill) and a guide for positioning the pin inside the knee. This guide is the key to a less invasive surgery, as it allows the surgeon to move and hold the pin without opening the knee or contorting it to place the new ligament.
Though 95 percent of the guide is made up of a simple shaft, the end of the device is the critical part. The shape of the neck is intended to follow the ligament’s normal path to ensure that it is placed at the right location and angle, and the tip is precisely sized to hold the 2.2-mm pin.
To machine this guide tool from a block would have required many setups with multiple angles and undercuts. Instead, Dr. Piasecki and his business partner Jim Duncan of DanaMed worked with Stratasys Direct Manufacturing to have the device manufactured with direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). This powder-bed additive process allowed the device to be built at the correct angle and build orientation to accommodate the critical features, without any machining necessary. Producing the guide additively also saved on material and reduced its overall cost, while enabling ongoing design changes.
Learn more about this device—including its design, manufacture and postprocessing—in this article from Additive Manufacturing magazine.
Metrology holds a clue to how the story of manufacturing can be retold along bold new lines, says Ole Rollén, president and CEO of Hexagon. In his keynote address at the recent HxGN Live event, he made the point that, in manufacturing, dimensional measurement data have to be part of the total process narrative—from beginning to end.
In manufacturing, the single source of truth is metrology, he said. That’s because the only way to verify that a manufacturing process is producing parts that meet specifications is to measure the parts. Good parts get shipped. Bad parts get scrapped. And that, he said, is how most manufacturing stories end. He insisted that this has to change. This kind of story is incomplete.
The new, complete narrative for manufacturing processes must include a feedback loop in which measurement data, the “truth” about manufactured parts, flows back to the design model in CAD, to the simulation and optimization results from CAE (computer-aided engineering) and to the plan and control decisions made in CAM. The new storyline in manufacturing must be about self-improving, auto-correcting systems. “We have to leverage the lessons learned from metrology. It has to tell us what to do and what to avoid— at every step along the way,” he said, noting that the gaps that now exist can be bridged by metrology data.
This data is the missing link in the story of how most products, from gears and bone screws to automobiles and airplanes, are manufactured. For example, metrology data can and should be used to adjust or refine CNC programs in CAM software to update files being executed on the shop floor—seamlessly and automatically.
Mr. Rollén explained that manufacturers have been missing this link because the connections needed to close the loop have not existed before or were not fully utilized. All this has changed as the Industrial Internet of Things has emerged. In this context, metrology can bring new levels of automation, conductivity and intelligence to the manufacturing story. These three elements are the key enablers that make the new narrative possible.
He concluded this part of his keynote by focusing on the worldwide automotive industry and how it is being reshaped. You can find his keynote address here. (Suggestion: fast forward to 0:13:00 to jump to remarks most pertinent to manufacturers.)
Other events, presentations and product demos during Hxgn Live fleshed out how Hexagon is positioned to provide these solutions to manufacturers through Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, one of Hexagon’s primary businesses. Significantly, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence is a 2015 rebranding of Hexagon Metrology. This change reflects how this business has moved beyond its core competence in dimensional metrology to include statistical process control and CAD/CAM software.