New Technology: Avoid or Embrace?

Originally titled 'Avoid or Embrace?'

When a new machining technology is introduced, are you hesitant or eager to learn more? However you tend to react, we’re here to report our real-world experiences so that you can make an informed decision.

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My grandfather was a shipbuilder. He worked at the Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilding Co. in Mobile, back before OSHA, CNC machining or robotic welding arms existed. Whenever I visit a machine shop to learn about the latest manufacturing technologies, I wish he were there with me, just so I could see the look of amazement in his eyes. I know he would’ve been absolutely fascinated.

For instance, in this issue you’ll read about a gear manufacturer learning to get the most out of its new CNC profile grinder. When I made the site visit for the story, I recall standing beside the machine programmer/operator and watching the monitor as an engineer in Germany accessed the controls to help calibrate the machine prior to grinding a huge gear, communicating via pop-up text boxes. I visited another shop not long ago to see how it was using a portable metrology arm. The operator “painted” a part with the arm’s laser scanner and, as I watched the image begin to appear on the computer screen, I wondered what men and women of my grandfather’s generation would’ve made of such a thing. I’m pretty certain that they would’ve been happy to have access to all the technologies that are available to us these days. 

So where do you stand on the technology spectrum—are you an “avoider” or an “embracer”? As you know, our editorial credo is all about producing original content, so we visit a lot of machine shops; from those that still have plenty of “old iron” to others that are veritable showrooms of new technologies. What strikes me is that those who’ve invested in the latest technologies are usually glad they did, often referring to them as “game changers.”

The shop that purchased the profile grinder can now reliably produce huge gears to AGMA 14 quality and can cut them straight from a blank. The company that invested in a portable metrology arm was able not only to streamline internal operations, but also to offer on-site measurement services to local companies, bolstering its bottom line. And the aerospace manufacturer that commissioned a chip-processing system is not only saving money on its scrap disposal costs, but also is in compliance with ISO 14001 environmental requirements.    

I can’t tell my grandfather about these things, but I can tell you. Have you avoided stepping up to five-axis CNC machining because you’re worried that the learning curve is too steep? I’ve met with plenty of programmer/operators who once felt the same way, went ahead and took the leap and found that today’s software and controls are more intuitive than ever before. Are you still selling wet chips to your recycler because that’s how you’ve always done it? You might be surprised by how quickly you get a return on your investment with an integrated chip processing/fluid disposal system. 

Do you have a similar story? Then I’d like to hear from you. Feel free to contact me.… I’m always interested in learning about your work! 

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An Alternate Method of Grinding Big Gears

New profile grinding technology is said to significantly improve productivity for big gears by grinding four tooth flanks simultaneously.