MMS Blog


In addition to consolidating operations from four facilities to one, Tool-Flo’s new 88,000-square-foot indexable cutting tool manufacturing plant in Houston, Texas offers room to grow. More specifically, it offers room to automate.

By: George Schuetz 15. March 2019

Measurement for True Surface Analysis

When an engineer includes a surface finish specification on a print, the intent is usually not just for aesthetics. Surface finish affects how a part will fit, wear, reflect light, transmit heat, distribute lubrication and accept coatings. The finish should be determined by the part's function: A surface should fulfill the engineering requirements of the application without wasting time and effort on a higher quality finish than necessary. In fact, many applications do better with a certain amount of "texture," and too fine of a finish can be just as bad as too coarse of a finish.

In the 1940s, the surface finish measurement upgraded from visually comparing patch reference standards to moving a fine stylus across a part’s surface via a transducer and amplifier. This provided part measurement data that could be recorded and analyzed against various surface parameters to evaluate its roughness, profile and waviness.

To be truly collaborative, robots must be capable of more than working safely alongside human beings. Russell Toris, director of robotics at Fetch Robotics, says robots also need to act (and “think”) more like people.

This is particularly true of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) like those manufactured by Fetch. Typically employed for material transport and data collection (such as counting inventory), these wheeled systems use vision sensors and navigation software to dynamically adapt to new environments and situations. Increasingly common in warehouses and distribution centers, this technology is likely to spread to other applications and industries, including our own. In fact, our January issue’s coverage of JIMTOF in Japan touched on the promise of machine-tending robot arms on wheels. Whatever the application, ensuring that a robot can safely occupy the same spaces as humans is an entirely different proposition than ensuring that its behavior neither hinders implementation nor wastes resources by making humans uncomfortable.

Orbex, a U.K.-based spaceflight company, has introduced what is being called the world’s largest metal rocket engine to be 3D printed in a single piece using the SLM Solutions SLM800.

Orbex develops small satellite launch vehicles, and the 3D-printed engine part was produced specifically for Prime, a supposedly environmentally friendly rocket. The launcher uses only 100-percent renewable fuel to cut carbon emissions by 90 percent. A zero-shock staging and payload separation eliminates orbital debris. The launcher was design-optimized for selective laser melting, an additive manufacturing (AM) process, producing a structure 30 percent lighter and 20 percent more efficient than other launch vehicles in its category. Orbex aerospace engineers partnered closely with the applications engineering team at SLM Solutions headquarters in Lübeck, Germany, to ensure success transferring the design into selective laser melting production—a feat that required the partnership of the equipment provider due to the complexity and size of the component. Read More.

By: Wayne Chaneski 13. March 2019

The End-of-Shift Cleanup

I started my career in a manufacturing company with many different departments spread over a five-story facility. (The elevator was the most important piece of equipment we had.) In those days, production always stopped 10 minutes before the end of each shift, and all employees were required to clean their work areas during that final part of the workday. This included wiping down machines and equipment, cleaning off workbenches, putting tools and supplies away, and sweeping the floor. Nobody complained about doing this, and everyone took part because it was expected. The message was clear: Leave the area in the condition in which you would like to find it the next day. Unfortunately, over time, this 10-minute, end-of-shift cleanup became: Wash your hands and stand by the time clock. Expectations had changed, and this was the new norm.

I look back at those days and wonder why this valuable use of time was no longer deemed important. It was replaced by “lost” time. The benefits of the end-of-shift cleanup disappeared, never to return to that company.

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