Earlier this decade, the auto industry moved to lighten cars and trucks. It was supposed to be a competition between steel, long the dominant vehicle material, and aluminum. The latter got a boost when Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, Mich., bet big on aluminum, making aluminum bodies for its F-150 and Super Duty pickups.
Future challenges in the heavy-duty truck industry require continual evolution of materials and methods to give greater versatility in their manufacturing processes. This is due to advances in technology, the impact of regulations, demand fluctuation and competition, and customer expectations.
Perhaps the most common challenge in automotive machining these days is aluminum. “Even chassis components are transitioning to aluminum due to the higher strength properties achieved by forging aluminum,” explained Jeff Gimino, PCD and CBN product specialist for Walter USA, Waukesha, Wis.
If you’ve recently visited planet Earth after being away for several decades, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn how the steel industry, automakers and their suppliers have been working together collaboratively to develop steels that are stronger, lighter and able to meet stringent safety, emissions and fuel economy standards.
There are numerous alternatives to the now venerable coordinate measuring machine, or CMM. Sensors like video cameras, structured light systems and handheld laser scanners have come of age. These sensors collect data in ways far different than the traditional tactile probe-equipped CMM. Some see these as encroaching on its turf. Has the heyday of the CMM come and gone?
For decades, plant personnel have performed insulation resistance tests with handheld megohmmeters to prevent motor failures that lead to costly unplanned shutdowns, failure-to-produce penalties and rewinding repairs. However, these tests only provide a “snapshot” of motor health. In a matter of days, motor windings and cables exposed to moisture, chemicals, contaminants or vibration can be compromised and fail at startup.
Implementing five-axis machining can be an excellent strategy for efficiently producing accurate, complex parts. However, it takes more than the right machine tool to realize the full potential of a five-axis process. In addition to the right machine, tooling and fixturing options, CAM software must be selected carefully.
Western Precision Products and Open Mind Technologies
Three partners contributed their diverse manufacturing and machining experience—and their last initials—to found SPR Machine in Hamilton, Ohio in 2002. The machine shop has grown from a shop floor with 2,500 ft2 (232 m2) to one with 78,000 ft2 (7,246 m2) filled with 14 mills, lathes, and welding and inspection equipment. SPR produces high-quality work from 60″ (1.5 m) down to 0.0005″ (0.013 mm) for customers predominantly in the aerospace and medical industries.
When it comes to specialized machining, Milwaukee Broach tops a list all its own. Its flagship products meet unique needs with one-of-a-kind tools that has earned it a reputation for customer-centered quality backed by skillful engineering.
We in the U.S. manufacturing industry continually struggle with the skills gap, lack of available workers, image problems, or whatever else you want to call it. We do great work in battling this problem, as documented in the pages of Manufacturing Engineering and other publications, but it’s hard to make progress in this fight.
Alan Rooks - Editor in Chief, Manufacturing Engineering
How can a 3D printing service bureau become a manufacturer? Ask Corey and Donovan Weber, half-brothers who founded Forecast 3D in 1994. In 2018 their 60,000 ft2 (55,740 m2) manufacturing shop printed about two million parts on 45 industrial additive machines.
As manufacturing CFOs (chief financial officers) and CPOs (chief procurement officers) are tasked with greater responsibility, there are four major industry themes that are top-of-mind for them. Although cost reductions, increases in efficiency, and visibility into valuable data are still important, there are other strategic challenges that need to be addressed.
The future of the auto industry is interesting but uncertain. No one knows how quickly electric vehicles are going to replace gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles, how completely it will happen, and when it will occur in passenger cars as opposed to SUVs and heavy trucks.
Anthony Fettig - CEO, UNISIG Deep Hole Drilling Systems
Energy and the work it can do are fundamental to powering our world. Harnessing energy through its generation or conversion, transfer and storage is often accompanied by heat. SME’s 2019 Digital Manufacturing Challenge emphasized the thermal management or temperature control of systems, processes or devices that generate, convert and transfer or store energy.
Gitanjali Shanbhag, University of Waterloo, Lisa Brock, University of Waterloo
Some of the key trends in manufacturing are brought about by convergence of the design and manufacturing industries. With manufacturers under more pressure than ever to deliver better products faster and at lower cost, the need to connect and automate design and manufacturing processes to reduce iterations, errors, and delivery times is becoming critical.
Sanjay Thakore - Business Strategy Manager, Fusion 360 Go-to-Market Strategy, Autodesk Inc.
This fourth of July, I enjoyed a game at our regional Single-A affiliate stadium, with sun, beer, brats, and great baseball. We also had the pleasure of sitting next to two scouts who were clocking pitches and logging the stats and performance of every player on the field.
Having a plan for maintaining and improving the performance and reliability of every machine on a shop floor is vital to manufacturing operations. Reliable machines make short-notice production runs possible. And the more flexible a manufacturer is, the more new customers they’ll attract.
Louis Columbus - Principal, DELMIAWORKS
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