MMS Blog

Sponsored Content 9. November 2018

High Efficiency or High-Feed Milling?

There’s some good news for those of you looking to boost the productivity of your existing machining centers. Enabled by new cutting tool and CAD/CAM technology, the cutting strategies of high-efficiency and high-feed milling are now within reach of any shop. Each can dramatically increase roughing metal removal rates yet provide significantly longer tool life.

High-efficiency milling uses solid carbide end mills with small stepovers, but faster feed rates and deeper depths of cut. High-feed milling is pretty much the opposite. It uses an indexable cutter with a shallow depth of cut, high feed rates and larger stepovers. Both provide a means to cut faster than conventional roughing, and CAM systems can now generate the toolpaths to get the most from each strategy.

Chipbreakers are a frequently misunderstood aspect of cutting tools. Many assume a chipbreaker is a chipbreaker, and that they all work the same. In fact, different chipbreaker designs are engineered for different applications. They lose their effectiveness outside the parameters for which they were intended.

I had a chance to talk about this at TechSolve, the machining consulting firm based in Cincinnati, Ohio. We filmed some machining passes there to show the difference in effectiveness between chipbreakers used in the right and the wrong applications.

By: Timothy W. Simpson 7. November 2018

Can My Machine Tool Access My Support Structures?

Support structures are a pain for metal parts additively manufactured with laser powder-bed fusion. As much as you would like to redesign or orient your part in a way that avoids needing support structures altogether, invariably, you are going to have deal with them at some point. Wouldn’t it be nice to know how easy they are to access for machining and finishing operations? It would also be nice to know if your available machine tools are not going to be able to access them through that intricate geometry that you are additively manufacturing.

Luckily, I had the good fortune of reconnecting with Dr. Matthew Frank, a Penn State alumni who is now an associate professor at Iowa State University. Dr. Frank’s graduate work focused on using CNC machining for rapid prototyping, specifically, automating subtractive manufacturing processes to compete directly with additive manufacturing. You can find several of his papers online (for example, “Rapid Planning for CNC Machining” and “Subtractive Rapid Prototyping”), but that is not what I want to share this month. It is how he and Dr. Niechen Chen, his former PhD student who is now an assistant professor at Northern Illinois University, adapted those algorithms to analyze the machinability of support structures for AM parts. As you might guess, this opens a whole new way of thinking about optimal build orientation.

6. November 2018

Solving the Education Gap

Lack of labor and talent is the number one growth inhibitor for American manufacturers, according to the 2018 National Manufacturing Outlook and Insights report compiled by EKS&H and the Leading Edge Alliance. In fact, I know manufacturers who have turned down orders due to lack of skilled workers. Here in Colorado, where the unemployment rate is hovering around 2 percent, many manufacturers have resorted to poaching talent from neighboring manufacturers or hiring from out of state. Both practices are inflationary and detrimental to our industry. Management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. reports that recruiting, hiring and training cost Colorado businesses $24,000 for each in-state employee, a price that is expected to escalate at the rate of 21 percent over the next five years.

Workforce problems are compounded because our current system of career, technical education and middle-skills training has a sustainability problem. Schools rarely have the funding to acquire the state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment used by our industry today. Moreover, they often stuggle to keep curiculucm current with the rapid pace at which new technologies are adopted in the workplace.

Aside from equipment and people, there is nothing more common in machine shops than a job traveler. There is also nothing so rare as one that is up-to-date. This classic packet of paper documentation that follows a work order through the various stages of design, machining and inspection can be a mishmash of instructions, with clear and accurate documentation sometimes lost in the clutter of older part designs that have been revised and cryptic notes scrawled in indecipherable shorthand. Further, a shop’s most experienced machinists might leave behind half-written instructions, as the intuitive understanding they have developed over decades of work can make unwritten steps seem obvious. This can be unfortunate when less-experienced shopfloor personnel are left to follow those incomplete directions.

In light of these problems, as well as the simple cost of paper, some shops have started working to establish a digital, paperless workplace. A digital workplace offers numerous advantages, as it provides both office and shopfloor personnel with access to the same information from every screen, monitor or display in the shop. Management can quote new work faster by knowing precisely what machines are running, what parts are available and what jobs are scheduled by looking at a single application. On the other hand, machine operators can have instant updates to to schedules and up-to-date CAD files.

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