MMS Blog

While speed is often linked to production-environment success, adding new tools to increase efficiency can also present challenges. Mainly, the ever-changing technology landscape does not make it easy for manufacturers and machine shops to choose technology that is both reliable and cost-effective. With these requirements in mind, A&M Tool and Design recently added a polymer 3D printer to its toolset. Offering a precise, fast means of making prototypes and other parts, this 3D printer has helped expedite workflows and increase the shop’s capacity for affordably producing parts in house.

Established in 1948, A&M Tool and Design started as a family-owned, single-source precision machine shop in Southbridge, Massachusetts. Today, alongside highly skilled operators running classic Bridgeport CNC mills stand eight-sided tombstones for a Mazak Palletech system that can run unattended 24/7.

When it comes to additive manufacturing (AM), the U.S. Marine Corps confronts extreme versions of the opportunity and the dilemmas that many machine shops face.

The opportunity: AM—particularly in metal—offers a promising way to obtain short-run parts in a hurry. For a business, the benefit is merely filling the order rapidly. But for the Marines, the benefit might be winning the battle by replacing a broken component to restore a crippled piece of equipment to use.

By: Mike Lynch 2. February 2019

External Input for Programmed Values

Standard CNC programs lack intelligence. They are executed sequentially, commands result in predetermined action/s and words for each command are fixed.

Parametric programming provides additional capabilities, and various compensation types such as fixture offsets, tool length and cutter radius compensation allow programs to reference data from outside the program. These data are typically stored in offset registers and affect the way a CNC program performs.

Sponsored Content 1. February 2019

Hybrid Manufacturing Requires In-Process Measurement

With additive manufacturing (AM) growing more prevalent, some machine shops are beginning to invest in hybrid machining centers with both additive and subtractive manufacturing capabilities. This enables them to benefit from both the design freedom of AM machines and the precision and accuracy of a machine tool. While many machines benefit from in-process verification, they are a must for hybrid machines. Because hybrids print the forms that must be machined, there are multiple steps in which the machine must pause to verify results. The manufacturer must be able to verify that enough stock has been produced before a machining process begins, then verify that enough material has been removed before moving to the next step.

To take full advantage of the opportunities that in-process probing provides, shops need to be able to process and adapt the information that the touch probe provides. PowerInspect from Autodesk, for example, can automatically process information from inspection and make necessary adjustments to the tool path. The software can generate and simulate inspection paths, then transfer those paths to the machine tool. PowerInspect enables users to align workpieces, measure complex geometric features, calculate alignments and verify the tolerance of complex shapes, all without having to transfer the workpiece from the machine. The time savings can be significant, its five-axis inspection capabilities are especially useful for probing complex geometries and deep holes.

Data hold the promise to transform manufacturing. And with that one word, “data,” I am referring to a lot. I mean the increasing ease and advancing capabilities for interconnecting machines, sensing and gathering useful information, guiding machines automatically, and finding insights in the data flowing out of manufacturing systems. How all of this capability will affect manufacturing is unclear, and much of the promise in these areas is still in the future, but it is the near future. For machine shops, though, there is an obvious starting point. The first step is to monitor CNC machines—networking CNCs to report data into a single, unified system for analyzing machining performance. Just this step is transformative, as many shops have discovered.

Indeed, the step is emotional. Machine tool data monitoring is an analytical step with emotional implications. Shop leaders must be prepared emotionally to face the data and act on what the data reveal.

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