MMS Blog

According to Gardner Intelligence, while July was the fourth consecutive month of slowing growth after reaching an all-time high in February, June’s reading of 57.5 was still exceptionally high when compared to the index’s historical average reading of 51.0. The positive drivers of July’s index were supplier deliveries and production. Readings for employment, new orders, backlog and exports lowered the index’s average-based calculation. This is the third consecutive month in which new orders weighed down the overall index result. 

Strong expansion in supplier deliveries suggest that the metalworking supply chain has and continues to grow to handle the robust demand for products, while the slowing growth of new orders and production suggests that we are well along the growth side of the business cycle.  However, regular backlog growth since February of 2017 suggests that the industry should be well situated overall to handle temporary obstacles that would slow the industry’s expansion.

In a joint statement recently made with Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, machine tool builder DMG MORI announced its intention to relocate its headquarters from its current site in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, to Chicago’s South Side. No specific site has yet been chosen for the new building, but the company expects to locate its new headquarters and showroom on or near the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). DMG MORI USA President James Nudo says a temporary office will be established on IIT’s campus before the end of the year, and the new facility will likely be completed in 2021. I had the chance to speak with him about this move, the main reason for which can be stated in a single word: “Talent,” he says.

Ensuring a supply of engineering talent ready to meet the demand the company foresees is an ongoing concern. “We will need to hire at least 100 more application engineers in the next three years. Our customers want more automation and process engineering, and we want to give it to them.” But this need places DMG MORI in direct competition with other industrial employers facing similar needs. Taking up residence on-site or in proximity to IIT will offer a way essentially to move to the front of the line, becoming a daily presence in the lives of soon-to-be engineers. Among the staff at the new location will be an engineering recruiter ready to extend opportunities to promising candidates the company discovers through its interaction with students.

Collaborative robots or “cobots” have an advantage in being able to work safely alongside humans. Some achieve this using sensor technology to slow and/or stop their motion when a person approaches them. Others feature built-in sensors that immediately stop cobot motion when they detect unexpected contact with an object or person. An increasing amount of attention is being paid to grippers and the role they play in cobot safety. According to Schunk Automation Group Manager Markus Walderich, these grippers are becoming safer, more trustworthy, stronger, more intelligent and easier to implement and use. He points to four trends that are shaping the design and development of cobot grippers:

Mr. Walderich says that while there is still uncertainty about the risks of human-robot collaboration in the market, ISO technical reports and standards that cover collaborative robots and grippers have become available to provide guidance for integrators and end users. ISO released the TS 15066 technical specification in 2016, which supplements previous safety requirements for collaborative robot systems. This report offers guidance to perform more sophisticated risk assessments for given applications. It also sets basic safety standards for cobot grippers, including the elimination of sharp corners and potential pinch points. It limits the gripping force to less than 140 Newtons so that if the gripper pinches someone, it will not cause injury. Schunk has developed a set of grippers, the Co-act line, which Mr. Walderich describes as “inherently safe” based on these standards. They have a soft housing with no sharp corners or pinch points, and their maximum gripping force is less than 140 Newtons.

By: Timothy W. Simpson 2. August 2018

Reuniting Manufacturing and Design for Effective AM

As a machining professional or manufacturing expert, how many times do product designers or engineers tell you how to make a part? I am guessing rarely, if at all, just like you do not tell them how to design or engineer their parts.

Instead, they specify geometric dimensions and tolerances for each component that they want you to manufacture, and then you tell them the best way to make it to meet those specifications. Once they realize how expensive the components are to make with the current specifications, they tweak the tolerances and iterate until both parties reach a compromise.

Lean manufacturing as it is traditionally practiced is of benefit to machine shops, but the extent of its benefit is often limited. The Toyota Production System on which lean manufacturing is based was designed for assembly plants that produce automobiles by the thousands. While an assembly plant focuses on low-mix, high-volume production, a typical machine shop focuses on high-mix low-volume production. A machine shop and assembly plant cannot expect to realize the same lean benefits with the same lean tools.

What tools are those? Today, many machine shops have realized the gains from implementing one or more of the methods listed in the “Lean Tools to Use” list below. In contrast, the lean tools in the “Lean Tools to Avoid” list are ineffective or inapplicable in a machine shop. They cannot handle the complexity of a high-mix low-volume shop, especially if it is a job shop!

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