MMS Blog

Modern Machine Shop’s July issue cover story takes a look at the big picture. So big, in fact, that it details how one shop has gained the machining expertise necessary to manufacture parts for the world’s largest digital camera, which will be installed inside the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. This telescope will one day be installed on a mountaintop in Chile and survey the entire southern sky once every other night. The enormity of the project makes the camera difficult to design, build and integrate. With limited access for repair, accuracy in machining these large parts is crucial for this project.

Aside from their record-breaking uses, cameras are becoming a more common sight in machine shops. For instance, they can enable managers to remotely check in on machines running unattended or to take photos and video during new job setups to digitally document proper setup procedures. In this story, a shop installed cameras in the spindles of Swiss-type lathes to simplify the alignment of tools to the spindles’ centerlines.

An important question circling around manufacturing right now is how job shops and other producers will address the skills gap that is expected to hit the industry with a shortage of two million workers in the next ten years. Two proposed answers, not mutually exclusive, are robots and education.

At a recent seminar on robotization in manufacturing, hosted by TechSolve, Suzy Teele, head of marketing and communications at the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute (ARM), said, “We’ve got a real challenge in the United States where young people don’t really consider manufacturing as a viable career at the scale that we need it in order for us to grow the manufacturing sector in the United States.” This problem has led to the mission of ARM, which is to advance the use of robots in the manufacturing industry.

Representatives from machine shops and automation integrators recently gathered at TechSolve Inc., a Cincinnati, Ohio-based manufacturing consultant with expertise in advanced machining for a half-day seminar on the Robotization of Manufacturing. It was the second in a series of seminars by TechSolve on robots, and the event included live demonstrations from presenters as well as a facility tour to see the company’s automation test bed.

Speakers shared their perspectives of robotics and automation in the industry, from workforce training concerns and personal success stories, to forecasts for the future of robotization and advice for shops looking to get started.

While not as common as conventional milling and drilling, slitting is also another operation performed with driven stations. To allow for an indexable approach, ISCAR has introduced the narrowest indexable slitting line available.

The company’s SlimSlit line offers an indexable slitting line down to 0.024" wide. Previously, it was only possible to perform a slitting operation under 0.040" with HSS or solid carbide slitting saws that required regrinding. Regrinding changes the diameter, thus the potential need for slight programming changes or offsets.

Over time, machine tool motion has become more intricate. Precise control of five-axis machining centers allows for elaborate tool paths. Over time as well, CAM software has become more sophisticated, increasing the ease and effectiveness with which complex machines can be programmed.

Meanwhile, cutting tool forms have remained simple. Standard milling tools come in basic forms that would have been recognizable even well before the age of programmable machining. We take this for granted, but do cutting tools require simple shapes? As it turns out, not at all. Complex machines can mill complex forms using complex tools—and this last item is the piece that has now arrived and begun to find its place.

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