There’s an old saw that if bumblebees were aeronautical engineers they would know they can’t fly. Quite apart from the miracle of their flight, bees also happen to make a lightweight structure of surprising strength, just the sort of thing you’d want if you were building aircraft: honeycomb.
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Automation in manufacturing is more important than ever, reducing costs and improving quality. While it is important in assembling cars, machining engines, or drilling holes in airframes, is it important to metrology operations as well? “Absolutely,” explained Michael Kleemann, engineering manager VRSI (Plymouth, MI).
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has begun, and there is wide agreement this revolution will involve cyber-physical systems with human-machine interaction and lots of data. But many still wonder what the revolution is about and what to expect as consumers and manufacturers.
To compete in the fast-paced world of manufacturing, machinists look for no-compromise machine controls offering fast, precision programming of machine tools. The latest CNC systems from machine control developers include a new dual-function milling and turning control and several updated controls with embedded software routines that can significantly speed up CNC programming.
Lightweighting is so established it’s now part of marketing for new vehicles. Automakers routinely detail how much less models weigh than their predecessors. General Motors Co., for example, has said a range of its vehicles is anywhere from almost 250 lb (112.5 kg) to 700 lb (315 kg) lighter.
Cutting tool developments are a key driving force in manufacturing productivity, accuracy, and quality. At Sandvik Coromant (Fairlawn, NJ) one of the main trends influencing cutting tool design is developing cutting tools for small-part manufacturing, particularly the medical industry, which is seeing a phenomenal growth of 10 – 20% annually.
Keeping products clean is becoming a more significant part of manufacturing as standards for cleanliness, deburring, and finish grow more stringent.
Robotic machining technology has advanced to where it poses a serious alternative to metalcutting applications on more traditional machining centers. With the latest robotics equipment and related software, automation suppliers and robotic system integrators are gaining some traction using robots in many material-removal applications previously done only with machine tools.
One of the most cost-effective ways to obtain the benefits of automation is by adding a bar feeder to a CNC lathe or other bar machine. Costing anywhere from about $10,000 to $40,000 depending on configuration, the devices can add hours of untended operating time for part volumes of a few hundred to tens of thousands.
Edge finishing is a relatively new term in manufacturing. It’s a new and deeper focus on what many used to call deburring, edge honing, edge preparation, edge prepping, burring, chamfering, or edge blending. Edge finishing goes beyond any of those definitions. Deburring, which is often considered wasted effort by managers, wrongly carries a negative connotation. In reality, deburring and edge-finishing processes add many benefits to parts—they create highly desirable edge quality—the quality most products need.