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Welding with Robots? Why Not? 

From flipping hamburgers to helping Grandma around the house, it’s no secret that robots are getting good at tasks that have long been considered off-limits. Nowhere is this truer than in the manufacturing industry, where a chronic labour shortage is forcing machine shops, plastic injection moulding houses, and sheet metal fabricators to automate like never before.  Machine tending, deburring, assembly, and packaging: these are just a few of the typical manufacturing processes where robots and their collaborative cousins have begun playing a leading role over recent years. And despite its relative difficulty and need for nearly flawless hand-eye coordination, welding is quickly becoming another operation where robots (almost) rule.  Checking… Read More »Welding with Robots? Why Not? 

Meet Your New Apprentice

Jimmy was a crusty old machinist and part-time farmer from Belle Plaine, Minn. He knew more about cutting metal than anyone I’ve ever met. He was also my friend. I was 17 years old and starting a new job as a handscrew operator in nearby Chaska when Jimmy took me under his wing, showed me the ropes and corrected my many mistakes. I was fortunate to have a mentor. Many of my generation did not. And in the years since then, many more young people were told that the trades are dirty and the best way to succeed in life is with a college education. As a result, tuition rates… Read More »Meet Your New Apprentice

Friends in Fusion

Got a great idea? The local university might be the place to give it legs. Such was the case with insulin in 1921, when Dr. Frederick Banting and medical student Charles Best of the University of Toronto experimented with secretions from the pancreatic islets of Langerhans in dogs. Their work has since saved the lives of many millions of people. Checking out at the grocery store would be far more laborious had Bernard Silver, a graduate student at Drexel Institute of Technology, not teamed up with classmate Norman Joseph Woodland in 1948 to develop the barcode. Other examples of universities being a hotbed of collaborative innovation led to everything from… Read More »Friends in Fusion

Learning by Doing with Wire EDM

Gabe Lipscomb didn’t plan a career in education. He once told his high school geometry teacher that the class was stupid and that he would never use any of what he learned there. “Then I went and became a machinist, where I needed those math skills each and every day,” he said, laughing. “Now I tell my students to be careful what they say to people; it might just come back to bite you.” Lipscomb joined the manufacturing industry a few years after graduation and worked there for several decades, producing parts and tooling for some of Kentucky’s many aerospace and automotive businesses and their Tier suppliers, including Toyota, Ford,… Read More »Learning by Doing with Wire EDM

Electric Vehicles: Machining in a World Made of (High-Strength) Steels

First, the facts: Electric vehicles require only a fraction of the roughly 1,400 machined components used in internal combustion vehicles. And the 200 components that are needed are smaller, lighter and must therefore withstand higher levels of torque. Together, those developments have led to a gradual shift from traditional mild steels and cast irons to stronger alloy steels like 4340 and 8620, as well as increased use of advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) for chassis and body components. Such metals are a bit tougher, slightly more abrasive, and where machining is concerned, produce longer, stringier chips than their traditional automotive alternatives. Industry specialists at Sandvik Coromant “expect this shift to include a continued increase in… Read More »Electric Vehicles: Machining in a World Made of (High-Strength) Steels

One Beautiful Butterfly

From midwives to cardiologists, ER physicians to family care practitioners, Butterfly says it offers a cost-effective portable alternative to traditional ultrasound devices. Image courtesy of Butterfly. Sanchez has nothing but good things to say about Cadence and its suite of design tools, but admits that none of this was possible until fairly recently. He explains that semiconductor quality and performance alike have improved exponentially over the past few decades, bringing significant changes to almost every industry. Because of this, devices of all kinds are smaller, less expensive, more energy efficient, and above all, more powerful.  “Semiconductors have made it possible for us to carry around iPhones, Androids and other portable… Read More »One Beautiful Butterfly

3D-Printed Casts Improve Patient Outcomes

Additively manufactured casts offer numerous advantages over ‘smelly, itchy’ plaster ones ActivArmor’s 3D printing process allows production of a wide range of custom-fit casts and splints for people of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Images: ActivArmor Fans of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars football team will be happy to learn that there’s a new and improved way to treat the broken bones and sprains players occasionally suffer. Northern Florida high school and college athletes who hurt themselves while playing sports will be similarly pleased, as will anyone else with a broken bone who visits Dr. Kevin Kaplan, an orthopedic surgeon with the Jacksonville (Fla.) Orthopaedic Institute and the Jaguar’s head team physician. “I was… Read More »3D-Printed Casts Improve Patient Outcomes

Gaging Success

CMMs and other multifunctional metrology devices are becoming faster and more sophisticated, but top-quality gages and measuring tools still have an important place As coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), vision systems, and ultra-fast probing heads gain market share, it might seem that traditional measuring tools such as bore gages and dial calipers should be approaching retirement. After all, the vernier caliper has been around since 1631, when French mathematician Pierre Vernier realized that using two overlapping scales—one fixed, the other sliding—would bring greater precision to his surveying measurements. The micrometer came along a few years later, after astronomer William Gascoigne developed a vernier screw for use in the telescope. Granted, the… Read More »Gaging Success

Turning Away From (Some) Tooling Conventions

The Dewey Decimal system allows librarians to find and categorize books quickly. The SWIFT and IBAN codes enable bankers to safely conduct electronic transactions with financial institutions in other countries. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is what makes the internet navigable for all. Standards are designed to help the world work more efficiently. This has long been true for manufacturing. Beginning with Henry Maudslay’s invention of the screw-cutting lathe and the resulting standardization of screw threads, industry has strived for interchangeability, predictability, consistent quality, and reduced waste, all of which are made possible through widely accepted, well-documented standards. So it is with indexable cutting tools. Whether it’s ANSI B212.4-2002 in the… Read More »Turning Away From (Some) Tooling Conventions

Mirroring the World

From SimCity to Universe in a Shoebox—the growth of digital twins and what they mean to small- and medium-sized manufacturers Video game developer Maxis released its hit product SimCity in 1989. In it, players constructed digital replicas of streets, buildings, and cities, virtually funding their computer creations through tax levies and income from public works. It was perhaps the first commercial attempt at digitally replicating not only physical objects, but also their non-physical attributes. As you’ll see, they were on to something big. Back to The Future Unfortunately, the technology needed to make truly comprehensive computer models was not yet available in 1989. The High Performance Computing Act that funded… Read More »Mirroring the World