MMS Blog

The image gallery above, based on Modern Machine Shop magazine’s Modern Equipment Review Spotlight, features a selection of the product releases we have recently published about machining centers—powerful milling machines with advanced CNCs, enclosures, automatic toolchangers and other peripheral technologies.

Find more items in the product page of the MMS Online Zones dedicated to Vertical, Horizontal and Five-Axis Machining Centers.

Founded in 1943, Ira Green Inc. (IGI), headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, is a full-service manufacturer and distributor of nearly 40,000 different accoutrements for military uniforms. IGI’s tool shop is focused, therefore, on manufacturing coining and blanking dies. It also produces small fixtures for welding and polishing.

With high demand for IGI products, new fixtures are required every day. However, each job had to wait in a queue for several days before it could begin, resulting in bottlenecks. Lead times between job requests and fixture delivery ranged from several days to weeks. Moreover, each fixture required eight hours of CNC programming, either for setup of pockets or contour electrodes for tool steel and wire EDM flat pockets. IGI was spending $300 for every fixture.

Having spent many years training and consulting on lean concepts, I have responded to many questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked ones:

In simple terms, lean manufacturing is a process that operates effectively through the elimination or reduction of waste. There are proven tools to address waste, such as the 5S system to improve workplace organization, quick change-over to reduce machine setup times, total productive maintenance to reduce equipment downtime, one-piece flow to keep things moving until finished, standard work to discover the best way to do a job and ensure everyone follows the same protocol, and more.

Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding has been the traditional method for building-up worn or damaged mold and die surfaces prior to subsequent hand finishing or CNC machining to complete a repair. However, pulsed laser welding technology, which has been popular in Germany for decades, is gaining acceptance here in the United States as an option for mold repair (as well as other welding applications).

These welders fire a laser beam in 5- to 10-millisecond pulses that melts the base workpiece metal and filler wire that is deposited and then re-solidifies the weld pool before the next pulse. It offers high peak power, but low heat input into the base metal compared to continuous TIG and other welding operations. In fact, most workpieces are said to be cool to the touch immediately after welding.

Jim Goerges is in the eyeglasses business. He could see from a long way off what was coming.

His shop, Precision Tool Technologies of Brainerd, Minnesota, makes tooling that is used in manufacturing eyeglass lenses. Serving this specialty has enabled the shop to thrive and grow off the ongoing business of two major customers that account for much of its optical-industry business. But more than a decade ago, Mr. Goerges recognized the vulnerability in this. That is, the possibility that these two large customers might one day come together. He saw how logical it would be for them to merge, leaving his shop significantly beholden to just one customer. To prepare for this, he decided that Precision Tool had to diversify.

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