MMS Blog

Shop Doubles Production Capacity with Robotic Machine Tending

In a time when concern about robots replacing human labor is common, it’s less common to hear stories about shop employees advocating for robots to their managers. That is Fusion OEM’s story. An effort led by employees resulted in the adoption of multiple Universal Robots with end effectors from Robotiq, lowering job costs.

Always looking for inspiration from his peers in the industry, Fusion’s head machinist, Davin Erickson, had been following CNC machining channels on Instagram and YouTube for years. He was impressed when he first saw a robot operating a machine without caging. Given the shop’s difficulties finding and hiring new employees as well as its past experiences with bulky industrial robots, Mr. Erickson’s interest remained piqued.

Machine monitoring technology can be easy to justify, but shops can lose faith when data-driven efficiencies never materialize. Josh Davids, CEO of monitoring system developer Scytec, says many of these shops move too fast and expect too much too soon. “When you’re blind to everything, the knee jerk-reaction is to want all the data, but it can become overwhelming,” he explains. “People stop believing in the data, and the system becomes worthless.”

Instead, he says CNC machining businesses should “grow with their data.” That is, they should adopt a deliberately incremental approach, expanding their monitoring and analysis capabilities as they expand their understanding of what data to collect and what do with it. Based on a recent conversation with Mr. Davids, shops hoping to grow with their data should keep the following principles in mind:

Additive Manufacturing Via Material Extrusion

If you recall from last month’s column, ASTM/ISO define seven different types of processes for additive manufacturing (AM): powder-bed fusion, directed energy deposition, binder jetting, vat photopolymerization, material extrusion, material jetting and sheet lamination. This month we will focus on material extrusion, the second AM process to reach the market and see commercial success. Thanks to material advancements and a diverse array of start-ups and applications, material extrusion is still driving a lot of excitement three decades after its introduction.

Material extrusion was invented and patented by Scott Crump in 1989 and introduced to the market as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) by Stratasys, the company Mr. Crump co-founded. Stratasys popularized the use of FDM in a variety of industries. Given FDM’s capability of additively manufacturing prototypes, concept models, tooling/fixtures/jigs and more in a variety of different plastics, Stratasys, at the time, became the dominant player for material extrusion systems (much like 3D Systems did for vat photopolymerization as discussed last month). In fact, FDM became synonymous with material extrusion the same way many people ask for a Kleenex instead of a facial tissue.

Reshoring News: August 2019

The Reshoring Initiative tracks news related to the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States. Here are recent news items the Reshoring Initiative has shared:

This news originally appeared in the Reshoring Initiative’s e-newsletter, sent about six times per year. For more news like this, subscribe here.

The image gallery above, based on Modern Machine Shop magazine’s Modern Equipment Review Spotlight, features a selection of the product releases we have recently published pertaining to robots and automation in the machine shop. More can be found in our Zone dedicated to robotics and automation technologies.

Swipe through the gallery for details about each product, and follow the caption links for more information. Products featured in this month’s spotlight come from the following companies:

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