MMS Blog

Effectively and thoughtfully writing about applied machining technology for Modern Machine Shop is tricky. I came to appreciate this when I joined the magazine 15 years ago with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology and seven years of public relations experience with manufacturing clients under my belt. Given those credentials, I still found the writing to be a bit tricky.

What do I mean by tricky? First, we write about a range of topics. Being a “horizontal” (not niche) magazine, we must stay on top of a variety of advancing machining technologies and trends. To that point, I will boldly speak for other writers here and say while we are continually learning about new machining processes and concepts; no one here is a machining expert. Second, there is an art to carefully crafting a story that describes how a shop applies and benefits from new machining technology. What we do is technical writing, but we are not “technical writers.”

No doubt there is more productive CNC machining technology coming to market every day. But how can you get more productivity with the machining centers and turning centers you already own?

By updating your machining strategies.

During wire electrical discharge machining (EDM) operations, effective spark monitoring is essential to ensure process control, maximize wire life and prevent wire breakage. In working to improve the capabilities of its wire machines to best monitor the state of the electrical discharges between the wire and workpiece, Mitsubishi EDM ran into an unexpected problem: The electrical signals feeding back to the control were too slow for the monitoring system to make timely, necessary adjustments to on/off time and current on its new machines to maintain consistent sparks.

One design goal for those new machines was to reduce wire wear. “Previous generations of the company’s machines had stronger sparks discharged at a lower frequency, which can be hard on the wire because of the relatively high voltage required,” says Mike Bystrek, applications manager for MC Machinery, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp. that sells and services Mitsubishi EDM units and other equipment. “The new machines can produce a higher number sparks per second with less intensity, which means we needed to improve our monitoring to differentiate between ‘good’ sparks and short circuits to maintain a uniform curve along the wire.” The “curve” Mr. Bystrek is referring to is the combined shape of the electrical arcs that form between the wire electrode and the workpiece. A wire produces more uniform electrical arcs when there are fewer short circuits that would increase wire wear and possibly create surface defects. To maintain uniform electrical arcs, the company needed to improve its spark-monitoring capabilities, but found that its older controls were not able to keep up with the pace of the new machines.

Bryce Ellis, previously associate publisher for Modern Machine Shop, has been promoted to publisher, taking on the role of business and sales leader for the multi-channel media brand.

“For over 90 years, Modern Machine Shop has been the voice for the metalworking industry. During that time, we have formed strong, lasting relationships with our audience and our advertisers,” says Mr. Ellis. “I look forward to working with the industry’s leading technology companies to help build their brands, solve their manufacturing challenges and introduce them to technologies that will help improve their businesses.”

Additive manufacturing (AM) is changing design. Along with expanding the range of designs that are possible to manufacture, it is changing how we think about design’s role, where design falls in the manufacturing process and what “design” actually entails.

That’s because the design in AM determines not just the end performance of a 3D-printed part, but also how it will build—whether it will warp, develop the right material properties or print within tolerance. Design is, likewise, beholden to what happens after the print. Can loose powder be fully evacuated? Can the support structures be removed without damaging critical features? Does this part need machining allowances or workholding features? When design is an integral and pervasive component of the additive manufacturing process, the result is a successful build that can be efficiently post processed and go on to serve its intended purpose.

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