The Story of a Top Shops Workpiece, Conference

Our Top Shops benchmarking program will be represented in big ways in our IMTS booth. It’s there where we’ll make a big announcement about the program, too.


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It was time. Given that our magazine’s annual Top Shops benchmarking survey is on its sixth year, the time was right to freshen its logo, which we did a couple months ago.

That said, we didn’t want to simply revamp it. We also wanted to find a shop to machine it once the design was finalized. Being that contract shop Applied Engineering, located in Yankton, South Dakota, was last year’s Top Shops Honors Program winner in the machining technology category, it made sense to first approach those folks to see if they’d be willing to take on that job.

Thankfully, but not unexpectedly, shop projects manager Brad Bohnet agreed to help us with this, putting programmer Chad Harris in charge of the endeavor. After our magazine’s creative director, Jeff Norgord, and art director, Heather McClain Francis, completed the new 2D logo design in Adobe Illustrator, Heather exported a .dxf (drawing interchange format) file to simplify the creation of a 3D CAD model.

I sent Chad the .dxf file on Tuesday, July 5, so he could start building the model. Less than 24 hours later, he sent me screen captures of what he had created based on his perception of what the machined 3D logo might look like, adding depth and dimension to various individual elements, such as the Modern Machine Shop logo and the banner that wraps around the shield. What you see on this month’s cover, underneath all the toolpath imagery, is what he designed.

Knowing this workpiece cut from aluminum plate was roughly 2 feet tall and nearly 2 feet wide, we wanted to have an idea as to how much it would weigh so we could consider options for mounting it. After CAM programming, including the removal of a good deal of material from the back side of the part to lighten it, Chad used SolidWorks to approximate the final weight at just a little more than 45 pounds.

As you see in the image gallery above, the machined logo looks fantastic, and we’ll certainly get our use out of it moving forward. For one, it’ll be on display in our IMTS Booth W-10 located at the entrance to the West Hall as part of the “Top Shops Event,” a collaborative display presented by Gardner Business Media (publisher of this magazine) and the sponsors of IMTS. The goals of this event are to highlight the types of new machining technologies, shopfloor practices and business strategies that leading shops are applying; look at some disruptive technologies that might impact manufacturing in the future; and enable shops to benchmark themselves against other successful U.S. operations.

However, there’s another way we’ll get use out of the new logo. Next fall, Modern Machine Shop is holding its inaugural Top Shops Conference, which, moving forward, will be held each non-IMTS year. We don’t want this conference simply to focus on uber-conceptual, sounds-good-on-paper “bleeding-edge” concepts. Instead, we want to offer presentations about very advanced yet practical tactics, processes, machining approaches and so on that people could readily apply once back at their shops. This might include leveraging additive manufacturing in a shop setting, machine tool monitoring and data collection, cutting tool management, and best practices in areas such as business strategies, workforce development and human resources.

Just like we hope you feel that Modern Machine Shop is your magazine, we want you to feel that the Top Shops Conference is your conference. For this, we welcome your input as to the types of topics you’d like to learn more about in next fall’s inaugural edition. Email me with any thoughts or ideas you might have. Although we’ve narrowed down potential conference dates and locations, they have yet to be finalized. Know that we’ll provide you with all event details as soon as they’re nailed down, though.