MMS Blog

When Simon Oreskovic established his Zelos Zerspanung machine shop in 2017, he knew automation would be key to success. The 30-year-old managing director’s goal was to leverage quick-change workholding and robotic machine tending to establish an effective process for high-mix/low-volume work. For this to happen, he had to identify the type of automation technology that would enable his three-person startup shop, located in Bessenbach, Germany, to machine a wide range of parts. 

Mr. Oreskovic believes some robotic machine-tending solutions can be intimidating to small job shops. This can cause them to delay their transition to automated manufacturing because they think they need to invest in complex, expensive, process-specific systems that rely on highly trained specialists. “That’s not true,” he says. “You need to automate your job shop to remain competitive, but you can start small and adjust your level of automation to your future needs.”

At Autodesk University (AU) last November, it was not surprising that several speakers representing the company, including CEO Andrew Anagnost, discussed the convergence of design and manufacturing. This has been a theme at several prior sessions of the annual AU event. However, another convergence was suggested—that of construction and manufacturing.

At first mention, this convergence might seem unlikely. Building buildings and producing products do not seem to have very much in common. Rarely is the construction industry cited in manufacturing circles as a model or comparative case for the direction in which manufacturing ought to move. However, that construction might adopt some of the concepts and technology that are transforming manufacturing is more than speculation, Autodesk spokespersons say. The trend is already underway.

The Gardner Business Index (GBI): Metalworking registered 54.9 in January, indicating that the Index’s latest expansion rate is on par with the strong growth levels experienced earlier in the current business cycle. However, compared to the same month one year ago, the Index is 7 percent lower. This is largely due to the run-up in the Index last year, which culminated in a February 2018 all-time-high reading of more than 61.0. Since the start of the current business cycle’s expansionary phase (which began in early 2017), the Index has averaged 56.7.

Gardner Intelligence’s review of the underlying data for the month indicates that the Index—calculated as an average—was supported by production, supplier deliveries and new orders. The components that lowered the Index include employment, backlog and exports. Only exports reported a contractionary reading during the month. For the first time since April 2018, production expanded faster than supplier deliveries. This intersecting of the two readings may be an early indicator that supply chains are close to becoming balanced with current levels of production. This change comes after supplier delivery readings spent most of 2018 attempting to catch up with the usually strong rise in new orders, which peaked in early 2018, yet has been highly elevated by historical standards since early 2017.

Last December, I spent four days visiting seven CNC machine shops in and around Minneapolis, Minnesota. Something I found interesting is six of them are using 3D-printing equipment in some way.

One of those six shops is Monticello’s Ultra Machining Company (UMC), which primarily serves the aerospace and medical markets. UMC purchased its 3D printer in 2014, a Stratasys Fortus, that prints parts in acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) polymer.

The call for speakers has opened for the 2019 Additive Manufacturing Conference, taking place August 27-29 in Austin, Texas. The newly expanded event focuses on industrial applications of 3D-printing technologies for making functional components and end-use parts.

“Our growth has come in large part because of the knowledge, quality and insight of our speakers and presenters,” says Peter Zelinski, content director for the conference. “As we expand the conference this year, we’ll keep our focus on carefully building a valuable conference program addressing important aspects of AM.”

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