The Self-Programming Shop

The March 2018 digital edition of Modern Machine Shop covers topics such as software automation, tool monitoring and robotic inspection.


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The principal barriers to quick turnaround aren’t the costs associated with keeping the lights on, nor with buying or maintaining equipment. In many machine shops, the primary expenses are human. Yet, at start-up machine shop Plethora, there are no robot arms or other obvious forms of automation reducing labor on the shop floor. It’s all behind the scenes—programming machines.

This shop created automation that consists, in part, of complex software algorithms that choose and apply tool paths to solid models automatically. This back-end system is linked directly to front-end automation at the interface between the customer and the digital factory. The software analyzes designs and provides instant feedback on manufacturability and price. Plethora’s end-to-end software automation is designed to free human minds, both from CAM programming and from front-end tasks associated with quoting and negotiating design issues.

Also in this issue of Modern Machine Shop:

  • The music industry provides a part-cautionary tale for the manufacturing industry about file sharing. Only when the industry found platforms for sharing data but also keeping that data secure (think Spotify), did its sales begin to grow. Identify3D aims to bring that same kind of data security to manufacturing.
  • Many aerospace machinists compromise their feeds and speeds to play it safe, assuming the worst potential machining conditions. Caron Engineering has discovered a way to “learn” a tool’s optimum power load and adaptively control its feed rate.
  • Learn how a 3D white-light scanning sensor mounted to an industrial robot enables accurate, unattended part inspection.
  • Traditional quoting processes are being replaced by automated systems that do not rely on guesswork. These web-based systems leverage the cloud to integrate the process for faster, more accurate quotes.