MMS Blog

This year marks the eight edition of our annual Top Shops benchmarking survey. The survey enables you to see how your technology, equipment, and machining and business key-performance indicators compare to other participating shops.

The online survey will remain open through the end of this month. This article explains more about the survey and includes a link for you to participate.

By: Eli Plaskett 31. January 2018

Shop Hits Home Run with Toolpath Simulation Software

Competing as a small job shop means running as efficiently as possible, but the investments Wolcott Design Services of Newberg, Oregon, made to improve its production process also made it vulnerable. Adding a high-end horizontal machining center meant risking expensive repairs if a tool were to crash, and further investments in software seemed like a gamble. However, after using toolpath simulation software from CGTech (Irvine, California), Wolcott found ways to streamline its production and safeguard its new investments.

Bob Wolcott, a former pitcher for the “refuse-to-lose” 1995 Seattle Mariners, founded Wolcott Design Services in 2005 with a single vertical machining center, performing prototype research and development for the high-tech industry. Making complex parts necessitated the addition of a trunnion-style, five-axis table for the VMC. He carefully grew his high-mix, low-volume business with the addition of a second VMC with five-axis capabilities. But as the business grew, he realized the limitations of his equipment. “We just weren’t running as efficiently as we needed to be,” he says. “Jumping from job to job with such short production numbers was a challenge, so I bought a high-end HMC, which gave us a lot more flexibility.”

By: Timothy W. Simpson 30. January 2018

Lightweighting with Lattices

In the last two columns, we’ve explored two “speed plays” enabled by additive manufacturing (AM): direct part replacement and functional prototyping. In both cases, we also saw the related challenges of additively manufacturing parts that were not designed to be fabricated layer by layer. Namely, these challenges involved extensive post-processing to remove support structures and finish the parts so that they would be comparable to traditionally machined parts. 

We used the example of a piston crown to show how adapting a design for AM can help avoid some of the challenges. But if you had the freedom to design and develop a completely new geometry for additive manufacturing, could you improve part quality and performance, and reduce costs? I have mentioned techniques like topology optimization and conformal cooling before, but here I’d like to discuss lattice structures, which AM can produce much more easily than conventional manufacturing.

Plante Moran and the Reshoring Initiative are soliciting the participation of businesses in a U.S. manufacturing reshoring study. Survey responses will provide insights into how much manufacturers offshore, what drives them to do so and what U.S. policy changes could motivate them to reshore.

According to the Reshoring Initiative, more manufacturing jobs are returning to the United States than are going offshore for the first time in decades. However, about 4 million manufacturing jobs have still been offshored over the last decades, based on the $500 billion U.S. trade deficit. The Reshoring Initiative concludes that about 25 percent of these jobs are reshorable at current levels of U.S. competitiveness. The survey will look at the mix of policy changes needed to reshore the other 75 percent.

Subscribers to Modern Machine Shop magazine recently noticed, with the arrival of the January issue, that the magazine has changed. It fits in their hands a different way. Starting with this month’s issue, we debuted a new design for the look of the magazine’s contents, and that design leverages an even more fundamental change: We increased the book’s physical size, adding about ½ inch apiece to both its height and width.

Many people I’ve met would express surprise at this choice, investing in a print publication. When someone I meet for the first time learns I work for a magazine, frequently they ask, “How are you dealing with readers moving away from print?”

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