MMS Blog

Additive Manufacturing with Sheet Lamination


The first class that I ever taught at Penn State University was the senior capstone design course in which students work on real-world design problems. During the course, students worked in Penn State’s Learning Factory, a hands-on facility that housed a variety of 3D printers for rapid prototyping, one of the early monikers for additive manufacturing (AM).

“Walnuts are cool,” Shawn Wentzel says with a shrug when asked why he decided to plant 7,000 walnut trees on his property in Lodi, California. Now two years old, the orchard is a growing side business. Surrounded by rolling plains and vineyards, it begins at the back door of his primary source of income: an old horse-barn-turned-machine-shop with plenty of space for additional milling and turning equipment to complement the current stable of six machine tools.

He named the shop Wenteq, and with revenue growing at approximately 10 percent per year, prospects for filling the rest of the 15,000-square-foot space seem bright. The newest technology addition is a robot to load and unload various parts for automotive and agricultural equipment from a turning center. With Mr. Wentzel opting to do much of the legwork, integrating the robot is a work in progress. No matter. As was the case with the walnut trees, he sees no barrier in his lack of automation-integration experience. “There’s nothing like doing it yourself,” the 36-year-old says, articulating the independent spirit that first led him to turn his machining hobby into a business nearly 15 years ago. “What can anyone learn in school that they can’t learn on the shop floor?”

“Spirituality is the common ground shared by many religions,” says Aneesa Muthana, president and co-owner of Pioneer Service, a contract manufacturer in Addison, Illinois.

Ms. Muthana offered this comment while she and I were exchanging messages about the importance of spirituality in manufacturing. I initiated this dialogue after reading this column she wrote for Modern Machine Shop. Her topic was teaching her grandchildren about the value and importance of being involved in manufacturing, especially in the context of a family-owned and -managed business. I found this column not only strong-minded, but also deeply touching at times. The entire piece had a distinct spirituality about it that appealed strongly to me. At the time, I was preparing a presentation on the spirituality of manufacturing to be given at Idea Week, a conference on innovation and technology sponsored by the University of Notre Dame during the first week of April 2019. From Ms. Muthana’s column, it seemed clear to me that Pioneer Service was a fine example of spirituality as a positive value and a benefit to a manufacturing company.

November 2019 Product Spotlight: 5-Axis Machining

This month’s product spotlight, based on Modern Machine Shop magazine’s Modern Equipment Review Spotlight, features a selection of the product releases we have recently published pertaining to five-axis machining technologies, including machines and CAD/CAM software. More product releases can be found in our Zone dedicated to five-axis machine tools.

The Chiron Variocell Pallet automation cell enables the company’s FZ/DZ 16 five-axis VMC to produce small batches of a variety of workpieces productively and flexibly. Different raw parts can be clamped in one of 10 pallets mounted on a rotary table. The handling system guides one raw part after another to the machining center and removes the machined workpieces together with the pallet after the machining process is complete. A palletized part can also be machined while another is loaded. Read more.

Our successful, third annual Top Shop Conference held in Cincinnati this past September opened with a keynote presentation from Steven Kline, Jr. Steven is the chief data officer for Gardner Intelligence, and I’ve worked with him on our Top Shops benchmarking program since its inception nearly a decade ago. The primary point he made at this year’s conference is that a shop’s investment in its employees has a bigger impact on profit margin than its investment in equipment.

Data from our nine benchmarking surveys supports this. Those shops in the top quartile of survey scores (what we refer to as the “Top Shops”) pay their employees a higher hourly wage. They also are much more likely to offer benefits such as bonuses, profit sharing, 401(k) plans, educational reimbursements, health insurance, leadership training and more.