MMS Blog

I have a dual role – I am Editor-in-Chief of both Modern Machine Shop and Additive Manufacturing magazine, yet sometimes this feels like one big role. Manufacturing overall is changing, and an important part of the change is found in the way machining and 3D printing are affecting one another. Additive manufacturing (AM) needs machining and serves machining, and AM’s advance into production might redefine the role the machine shop plays.

The video here addresses that last point. Additive Manufacturing and Gardner Intelligence (the research arm of our publisher, Gardner Business Media) recently surveyed manufacturers using AM to ask how they are using it, and in particular to learn the extent to which AM has been adopted for full-scale production. Though the sample size was too small to be conclusive, an intriguing finding emerged. Notably, the findings suggest that most of the production AM being done in machine shops involves production of plastic parts instead of metal.

Few shops begin their lives dedicated to micromachining. Instead, many that have found their niche in micromachining have done so by taking on jobs here and there that have slowly led them down the path toward micro-parts production. Many also might stumble and falter at times on this journey as they slowly learn the skills necessary to become efficient operating at the micro level. To help those of you who are new to micromachining, I sat down with Jeff Davis, Vice President of Engineering for Harvey Performance, to discuss the differences in approach that make this process not only possible, but profitable. He suggests you should:

While shops tend to focus on the classic duo of speeds and feeds to minimize cycle time for conventional applications, it may not be best to focus on process optimization. Micro-tools break much more easily than larger ones, which means getting the optimal feed rate is much more difficult and time consuming, as the window of optimization is so much smaller. As in larger applications, choosing the right coating can improve tool life and tool performance, something Harvey Performance specializes in, but in micro applications the shop must make special considerations for the tool. After all, the time and money a shop loses replacing cutting tools negates any benefit that it might gain by optimizing the feed rate for micromachining.  

Researchers at the University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNCC) searching for a reliable means of breaking chips might have broken something else as well: the physical limits on productivity in turning. “Modulated turning,” their chip breaking technique involving oscillations in the tool path, has shown promise as a means of enabling a higher metal removal rate in turning without introducing any other change to the process.

Professor Tony Schmitz leads this research at UNCC. Working with him is mechanical engineering graduate student Ryan Copenhaver. The intended beneficiary of the work is the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the U.S. Department of Energy manufacturing facility involved with nuclear weapons. Because Y-12 machines radioactive material, chip breaking is a vital concern — perhaps the most vital concern in the machining process. Owing to the danger of exposure, an operator can’t interact with the process to clear chips or change a tool as easily as these steps could be performed for another machining process. For a turning operation aimed at machining radioactive workpieces into hemispherical forms, Y-12 was looking for a means of breaking chips that was even more consistent and reliable than the use of cutting tools’ chipbreaker forms. Enabling the tool to repeatedly leave the cut — literally breaking contact over and over — was seen as the key to this.

Additive Manufacturing — More Than Metal: How Vat Photopolymerization Started It All

Powder-bed fusion (PBF). Directed energy deposition (DED). Binder jetting. How many additive manufacturing (AM) processes are there?

ASTM/ISO standards define seven basic AM processes, which include the three that I have discussed in previous columns as well as vat photopolymerization, material extrusion, material jetting and sheet lamination. While PBF and DED are the most prominent methods for metal AM right now, we are going to take a quick dive into each one of these other processes so that you are aware of their capabilities and potential for use in your company.

Speakers and sessions have been announced for Modern Machine Shop’s Top Shops Conference, which runs September 9-11 in Cincinnati. The program features general sessions, panel discussions and breakout presentations that provide an in-depth look at tools, technologies and strategies for running and growing a manufacturing business.

The program includes current and previous Top Shops Award nominees. The awards are given every year to shops that excel in one of the four core categories: machining technology, business strategies, shopfloor practices and human resources. The 2019 winners will be announced during the grand reception at this year’s event. The winners will bo on hand for a Q&A with the audience during the 2019 Top Shops winners panel discussion.

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