We talk an awful lot about technology in this magazine. It is, after all, what we do. But sometimes we might inadvertently leave a wrong impression about what's really going on out there. More specifically, we might give the casual reader the idea that a new technology is more broadly applicable than it really is, or at least is for right now.
If so, these impressions stem almost entirely from what we believe is our obligation to explain new metalworking technology as it becomes commercially available. As the new stuff hits the market, there is always a group of shops that want to know—indeed, need to know—not only how it works, but how it might affect their businesses.
But leading edge technology is never for everyone. And in many cases it only directly addresses a limited range of applications. A good example is our cover story in October on curve interpolation—a new technology that holds great promise for letting shops contour accurately at exceptionally high feed rates. If you are cutting mold cavities with high speed machining, then I'd strongly suggest that you keep an eye on this technology. But if you are doing 3D work more conventionally, then it's probably best to get a leg up on the general concept of high speed machining first. (In fact, we'd suggest you do that very soon.) If you only do two-and-a-half-axis work, then curve interpolation probably doesn't matter much at all.
What's the message here? It is this: While this magazine can go a long way toward keeping shops apprised of what technological tools are available and how other shops are putting those tools to work, no one can really judge what's best for any given shop but the people who work there, and who understand their business.
So don't believe anyone with the message that you need something just because it appears to be what cool manufacturers these days do. If it doesn't make sense in your existing environment, or the environment you seek to achieve, then it is probably never going to be the tool you hoped it would be.
But don't kid yourself, either, that something isn't important because it's a departure from how you're comfortable doing business. Shops that stay on top may be confident, but they are seldom comfortable. Above all, they trust no one but themselves to ultimately decide what's best for their shop floor.