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The Wide World of Machining

Alan Rooks
By Alan Rooks Editor in Chief, Manufacturing Engineering

I’m always amazed by the wide range of technologies that go into the process of machining. At EASTEC 2019, I saw the latest and greatest technology from machine tool builders, cutting tool manufacturers, measurement providers, software developers, and many more. It was a great demonstration of the jigsaw puzzle that is machining. Part manufacturers and their suppliers must orchestrate these increasingly complex technologies into a productive manufacturing process.

This issue of Manufacturing Engineering focuses on machining centers, but our feature lineup is a great illustration of how several advanced technologies—not just machine tools—create the value chain that is machining.

For example, before you even start up a machine, it must be carefully calibrated. Ed Sinkora’s feature on calibration and optimization on page 60 explains how, if your machine isn’t calibrated and you produce out-of-tolerance parts, the machine has to go out of production and requires quality checks before it can be used again.

New technology can help: advanced error compensation can keep small errors from causing big problems. But while new calibration technology is great, the basics of knowing about when, by whom, and how it should be done are equally important.

Then, of course, there are the machine tools. Jim Lorincz’s feature on vertical machining centers on page 42 explains how VMCs with advanced features and functions are becoming more productive parts of the machining process. VMCs have traditionally been lower priced compared with horizontal machining centers, but without the production capability. Recent additions of advanced technology have enabled VMCs to close the productivity gap and gain a competitive edge in high-speed, high-precision applications.

Not the Same Old Grind

Another type of machine tool, grinders, is a highly effective option where metalcutting is less effective or not appropriate, as Kip Hanson’s feature on page 52 discusses. Grinding, or abrasive machining, has improved markedly, with new bonded and superabrasive wheels, rigid and powerful machines that can effectively use those advanced abrasives, and smart features like automation, remote monitoring and intelligent software systems.

Of course, machine tools need cutting tools well matched to their capabilities, and our final feature (page 68), by Ilene Wolff, focuses on how drill selection, geometry, and parameters, are key success factors. It also offers advice on solving perennial problems like breakage, unbroken chips, runout, poor hole edges and poor tool life.

So, the good news for manufacturers is that lots of technologies that are greatly improved or brand new are available to dramatically improve their operations, as you will discover in this issue. But those manufacturers must be good at assembling the jigsaw puzzle that is machining.

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