MMS Blog

By: George Schuetz 20. January 2018

A Short Course in Surface Finish Measurement

Surface texture, or finish, can be looked at from two points of view. For the machinist, texture is a result of the manufacturing process. By altering the process, the texture can be changed. From the designer’s point of view, surface finish is a condition that affects the functionality of the part. By changing the surface finish specification, the part’s functionality can be altered.

Between the two is the viewpoint of the manufacturing engineer, who determines how the machinist is to produce the surface finish specified by the design engineer. The method chosen to measure surface finish depends on who needs to be satisfied.

Compared to conventional processes, additive manufacturing (AM) lacks the years—and in some cases, centuries—of knowledge building that makes machining or casting predictable. But it’s not just about age. AM also has a greater number of variables that can affect the final outcome of a part. To give just one example, a powder-bed process such as selective laser melting (SLM) depends on variables ranging from laser power and speed to material composition to the pressure of the shielding gas.

Early gains in additive manufacturing were made through trial and error, relying heavily on human judgment and experimentation. But the diversity and number of variables involved in 3D printing makes AM a good match for another emerging technology: machine learning, or the application of computer algorithms to identify patterns in data. When coupled with human judgement, machine learning has the potential to accelerate additive manufacturing’s advance.

The manufacturing industry is changing, and machine shops recognize that a dedication to education plays a critical role in keeping up. As new and disruptive technology emerges, so does the need for a skilled workforce to manage it. The result is an increased demand for opportunities to learn how to integrate new technology into a company’s existing operations.

The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) not only introduces you to new technology but also provides the resources necessary to implement what you see on the show floor and what you learn in the conferences. Read more.

The January issue of Modern Machine Shop describes R&D Manco’s ongoing shift from machining castings to greater machining of hogouts. This shop’s success teaches valuable lessons in consolidating more of a customer’s supply chain into a single shop. The article focuses on the company culture and digital systems, such as machine monitoring, for realizing the potential cost and lead-time savings from the consolidated work.

However, it’s also worthwhile to consider the hardware of making those hogouts. Five-axis machining is a vital capability for hogout machining. Milling precise contours permits the machining of complex aircraft-fuel-system parts from a bar or block that were once made via casting. The combination of careful attention given to CAM programming and expert machinists proposing refinements to machining programs based on performance at the machine enables intricate forms to be hogged out both rapidly and precisely.

The image gallery above, based on Modern Machine Shop magazine’s Modern Equipment Review Spotlight, features coolant filtration and disposal systems, chip management tools and more.

Swipe through the gallery for details, and follow the caption links for more information about each item.

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