MMS Blog

The commercial aerospace industry is poised for some exciting changes. As the industry prepares for a new round of major program launches, including a potential Boeing NMA (New Midsize Airplane), the question of which technologies, processes and materials will be used to accelerate aerospace manufacturing throughput and increase scalability for industrial suppliers is at the top of the entire industry’s mind.

MMS recently released a special edition, in collaboration with sister publications Additive Manufacturing and CompositesWorld, dedicated to the advanced materials and process that will likely play a role in Next-Gen Aerospace.

Through the years, I have employed various brainstorming techniques for the purpose of obtaining employee input on key issues facing different organizations. There are certainly many techniques to choose from, and some have worked quite well, while others have left me unsure of whether I really got the information I was seeking.

Recently, I learned of a technique that engages participants and prevents domination of the conversation by a few, which always tends to sway the ideas of others. I have employed this structured brainstorming technique in a number of instances with some pretty impressive results. I am not sure if the technique goes by a specific name, but I liken it to speed dating. The technique works as follows:

I recently used this space to report on a “factory operating system” that developers describe as “Google Maps for manufacturing.” Driven by artificial intelligence (AI), this computerized assistant predicts how different options for, say, sequencing manufacturing operations or scheduling jobs might play out. Based on both user priorities and historical data, the system suggests changes that are implemented automatically once approved.

This predictive analytic capability—this use of simulated “what-if” scenarios to guide decision-making and make manufacturing proactive rather than reactive—is the kind of thing that thought leaders envision when they describe the “smart” factories and shops of the future. However, it seems to me that many shops are not yet ready to take full advantage of predictive analytics, regardless of whether AI is involved.

According to the American Foundry Society, metal castings can be found in 90% of all durable goods, and you are seldom more than 10 feet away from a casting. I didn’t believe it at first, but if nearly every car, truck, train, tractor or construction vehicle has a casting in it, not to mention all the castings found in our infrastructure (buildings, pipelines, etc.), then you understand why that number is so high.

So how is additive manufacturing (AM), one of the newest manufacturing methods, disrupting metal casting, the oldest manufacturing method? It is pretty simple actually, and it goes along the lines of what we have been discussing recently, namely, hybrid manufacturing approaches in which AM is being used to create the fixtures, jigs, and/or tools (in this case, sand molds and cores) that are then used to manufacture parts by conventional means (in this case, metal casting). In fact, 3D sand printing is probably one of the easiest and least risk ways of integrating AM into production. We know how casting works; all we are doing is finding a faster and cheaper way to make the molds for them, and then we cast and finish components like we have been doing for hundreds of years.

By: George Schuetz 6/13/2019

There’s a Micrometer for That

A micrometer consists of two opposing surfaces, a stationary anvil and a moveable spindle. On most micrometers, these hardened steel or carbide-tipped contact surfaces are flat. However, micrometers can also be equipped with contact tips with unique forms for measuring special part characteristics.

Convenience is one of the reasons the micrometer is often the tool of choice for length/diameter measurements. The basic micrometer provides direct size information quickly, has high resolution and is easily adaptable to many different measurement applications. In addition, today’s electronic technology provides fast, easy readings and the potential to collect the results. Beyond the basic flat anvil micrometer, there are a variety of micrometer types that extend these advantages to many special measurement applications.

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