Writers and Part Makers Need to Get a Grip

(This dovetail fixture exemplifies the principle that getting a good grip on the workpiece is essential.


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(This dovetail fixture exemplifies the principle that getting a good grip on the workpiece is essential. Writers follow a similar principle—an article has to grip the reader’s interest and hold it.)

A recent issue of ESPRIT de Corps, the e-mail newsletter from DP technology Corp., developers of Esprit, the CAM software for CNC machining and wire EDM, was of special interest to me because the feature article was about Vanderhorst Brothers Inc., a shop in Simi Valley, California that I had also written about just a couple of years ago. So here was a chance to get an update on the shop, compare how another writer approached a software application story and, along the way, review a key aspect of five-axis machining. (In this case, it's fixturing that grips the workpiece securely and provides room for the cutting tool to maneuver.)

Writers are also concerned about gripping their readers. We look for a "hook"—statements early in an article or story that will grab and hold the reader's interest. A good hook also provides a motif or suggests some imagery that can be woven into the article to give it unity and coherence. In the Esprit article, author Stacey Wiebe opens with Delrin, the cat. A cat is a rather unusual feature of a machine shop but appropriate for this story because her theme is how automation, and the Esprit CAM software that supports it, also set this shop apart. Delrin is not the "gripper" I would have thought of as a writer, but it works fine. (I fell back on the theme of "big picture" to snag readers and create a theme, in comparison.)

Interestingly, Stacey’s article talks about the shop's dovetail fixturing system as part of its innovative approach to automation. It’s now a product line called Raptor Workholding Products. (This system was still in development when I met the shop owners on my visit two years ago, but we talked about its promising benefits.) But like an article hook that serves multiple purposes, an effective fixturing system for five-axis machining has to do several things at once, too. Holding the part securely to resist machining forces is one. Getting the part away from the worktable surface so that the cutting tool has room to maneuver and reach all sides of the part from different angles is also critical. This dovetail fixturing is designed to meet these requirements. Finally, a good fixturing system must lend itself to holding a variety of workpiece shapes and sizes. That's an advantage we writers don't usually have when developing a hook. A hook that works in one article or story can rarely be reused in another.

See a video of this workholding system here.

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