Additive Manufacturing Follows the Footsteps of EDM

When a new technology comes into the machining industry, there are always worries that it will render other technologies inferior. It happened back when Computer Numerical Control Electrical Discharge Machining or CNC EDM equipment was introduced in the 1970’s.

It was thought by many that it would mean sure death for traditional chip-making processes for part production. Instead, the wire, sinker, and hole-drilling versions of EDM discovered and settled into their own niche. This allowed conventional milling and turning to remain useful. Although it has made developmental advancements since its beginning, EDM still complements conventional machining instead of putting it on the back burner.

Now, additive technology is going through the same process as EDM. Some people worry additive machining technology could collapse subtractive machining. Still being a fairly new technology, it has many kinks to work out before it can find its niche like EDM did.

That being said, additive will have an impact on part production and how designers think and create. In the end, it will likely settle into a niche and complement subtractive machining. Some shops have already brought in additive manufacturing, and are making it work right alongside their conventional machining.

Additive manufacturing can do things traditional machining can’t, or would require additional steps to complete. Conversely, some parts might need a more conventional process, or to be finished after being made by an additive machine.

With many shops already figuring out how to create a synergy between additive and conventional, there’s little chance that the design freedom and capabilities of additive manufacturing will lead to the demise of subtractive machining.

For all of your conventional turning and milling, EDM, waterjet machine needs and more, contact Brooks Associates. They can help find the perfect machining center for every need.

Posted in EDM, Machine Tools, Manufacturing, Milling Machine, Water Jet Cutting, Waterjet Cutting Machines | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hurco, Submarines, and the U.S. Navy

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Recently several Hurco employees were invited to a local function to meet the command staff of a newly commissioned Virginia Class Nuclear Submarine, for the U.S. Navy, the USS INDIANA…and, as it was written on the picture below, by the skipper of the Indiana, Commander Jesse Zimbauer, this submarine is “Hurco made”.

The reason CDR Zimbauer says that this next-generation attack submarine is “Hurco made”, is because Virginia class submarines are built under an arrangement between General Dynamics Electric Boat, and Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, VA. Both of these companies are Hurco customers, and have many Hurco machines in their shop.

With a length of 377 feet, a beam width of 34 feet, and weighing in at 7,800 tons, the USS INDIANA will be capable of steaming at more than 25 knots while submerged, and is designed with a reactor plant that will not require refueling for the next 32 years. The skipper stated that the USS INDIANA will be the most advanced warship in the world, and with the average age of the 135 man crew only 22-25 years old, the last couple of crews who will man this submarine “haven’t even been born yet”…something difficult to wrap your mind around!

Commander Zimbauer told us that the USS INDIANA will provide the US Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation’s underwater supremacy at sea. She will also provide the capability to attack shore based targets with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles, and conduct covert long-term surveillance of any land areas, littoral waters, or other sea-based naval forces.

If you would like to learn more about the USS INDIANA, you can visit this link: http://www.ussindiana.org

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A Misconception of Manufacturing

Today’s manufacturing jobs look vastly different than they did 50 or 75 years ago, but that message does not seem to be getting passed on to today’s young people.  In a recent study conducted by ORC International on behalf of Proto Labs, a digital manufacturer, they found that the majority of Americans (71%) still do not perceive manufacturing jobs as high-tech occupations.  Although many of today’s manufacturing jobs involve software development, or the operation of computer controlled high-tech equipment, that reality is not being shared with the younger generations.  This could be a major issue for the U.S. manufacturing industry in the future as baby boomers continue to retire in large numbers and an anticipated 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will need to be filled in the next decade.  Current predictions show that without a major change in thinking among young people, nearly 2 million of these jobs will go unfilled.

Parents who do their homework will realize that there are going to be many high-paying, promising jobs available in manufacturing in the future and steering kids towards math, engineering and the sciences in school could be a huge asset for them.  The research study found that many of these jobs are paying $100,000 annually or higher with incredible potential for internal growth within larger companies. Unfortunately 1/3 of the people interviewed answered just the opposite, stating that manufacturing jobs are low-paying or entry level only.  This has created a massive chasm between perception and reality that must be overcome.

While the digital manufacturing revolution is taking over the industry, 55% of survey respondents still described dated images of manufacturing workers in dirty shops running old machines as their image for what it looks like to work in today’s manufacturing.  A mere 10% of respondents associated an image of someone working in front of a computer as a job in manufacturing.  The reality is that many of the manufacturing jobs are front-end software development jobs that allow machinery to run more efficiently.  As more machinery is used to automate manufacturing the man power is being transferred more and more to the software development side.

Tech schools, colleges, parents and employers will be key in making sure the future of manufacturing in the U.S. looks bright.  Without a rapid change in our view of manufacturing employment, one of the bedrocks of our economy could be in serious jeopardy.

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Benefits of Attending a Trade Show in 2017

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As companies review the budget for the upcoming year and make plans on whether to attend a trade show, and if so which one, often managers will ask, “What are the benefits to our organization of taking time away from the office to attend a trade show?”  Years ago attending a show was the only way to see new technology and compare manufacturer’s equipment, but with everyone posting videos online of their equipment, has it made trade shows obsolete?  Definitely not!  There are still countless benefits to attending a tradeshow.

  1. Finding Solutions – have a difficult job or application that you’re not sure how best to tackle? A tradeshow can be perfect for finding a solution.  By bringing that problem to a show there’s an opportunity to look at multiple possible solutions, talk to experts in the field, and often even run software or machinery and immediately determine if it’s a viable option.  Generally this can be a great way of crossing ideas off the list quickly and zeroing in on the right answer.
  2. Networking – by attending a show local to the area, such as the EASTEC show in Springfield, MA, there are hundreds of people to meet – all of whom are interested in keeping manufacturing strong in New England. This can be a great way to connect with potential vendors and customers.  Keeping work local can save everyone money and keep everyone’s business going strong.
  3. Education – many equipment manufacturers still present their newest products to the market via trade shows. Visiting machine manufacturer’s booths for the equipment already in your shop is a great way of checking in with them to learn about new upgrades or products that might enhance your operation and provide for improved efficiency.  Experts in the field make informative presentations about new developments and plans for the future.
  4. Purchasing Power – most of the manufacturer’s bring equipment in from all over the country to display at the show but are not anxious to ship it back, this can be the perfect chance to get a great deal on machines. This can be somewhat limiting in terms of various options that may come on the machine. However, if you know prior to the show that you’re going to be looking to make a purchase, contact the manufacturer.  Generally, they’re willing to modify the machine going to a show to fit your needs if they know they have a buyer, however these decisions need to be made at least 60-90 days prior to the show, so call early.

While most buyers come to trade shows more educated than ever before, thanks to the incredible depth of information available online, there are still many benefits to actually attending a show in person.  So gather information and come prepared to have focused discussions about your specific needs with industry leaders capable of providing answers.

Posted in Advanced Manufacturing, EASTEC, Hurco, Machine Tools, Machining Applications, Machining Trade Show, Manufacturing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tips for Hiring Qualified Manufacturing Help in 2017

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Will your company be looking to hire in 2017?  Recent reports are showing many companies continue to slowly but steadily add manufacturing positions but the issue is becoming finding qualified workers.  As manufacturing began to decline in the early 2000’s and then dramatically with the recession in 2009 the majority of those laid off were the lowest level, least skilled workers.  As companies moved out of the recession many moved towards more automated equipment requiring more skilled workers to operate them.  This has created a chasm between jobs that need filled and the quality of worker currently available.

Many companies are having to go beyond the traditional method of simply posting a job opening and then reviewing the applications or resumes submitted.  One Cleveland based company stated that of the 3600 applications they received last year only 47 applicants passed a basic skills test showing they could read and do math at a 9th grade level.  This resulted in an incredibly frustrating amount of wasted hours sorting through applications from people unqualified for the job available.

There are some specific places that many companies are having success finding qualified workers quickly, and may be the best place to start with your next job posting.

  1. Technical or Trade Schools – contact your local tech or trade school with the job posting you have available. Many schools have staff members who work with local businesses to help find the right students to fill the open position.  They may have students looking to work opposite shifts from their schooling such as 2nd or 3rd shift, or they may have students looking for internship and apprenticeship opportunities.  This can often be a great way for companies to get higher educated workers at a lower initial cost.  Many of these students are eager to learn new equipment or skills are get brought in for long term employment upon graduation.  They often come with the right mind set to learn.
  2. Veterans Associations – contact a Veterans Employment Representative at an American Job Center. This organization will be able to help match up a qualified veteran for the job opening you have available.  You could also list your job opening on your state job bank  There are many hard working veterans looking to utilize their current military skills as well as develop new areas to make them more employable.  There are also countless non-profit organizations ready to help business owners find qualified veterans as well, such as www.hireherosusa.org. In addition to getting a great worker you may also qualify for some additional tax benefits from hiring a veteran.  It’s also been found that employee turnover rates are lower amongst veterans which can help protect your investment in time spent training a new employee.

Certainly there are many applicants likely to knock on your door when you post a job opening but being able to quickly narrow down your search to those most qualified and most motivated can be worth the additional effort up front.  Taking the time to pursue other methods of employee recruitment could save you substantial money in the long run.

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$2 Billion Investment in Manufacturing R&D in Cambridge, MA

The Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, recently announced a new manufacturing initiative to bring textile manufacturing back to the USA.  As part of that initiative the government will be investing $2 Billion in research and development to be done through a partnership of 89 manufacturers, universities and non-profit organizations all of which will be spearheaded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  The goal of this project being to re-establish the United States as a leader in revolutionary fibers and textiles manufacturing.

This research will be coordinated at the new Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Cambridge, MA.  The days of basic fibers and textiles are way behind us with these new products being designed to contain electronic sensors, be extremely lightweight, or resistant to even the highest temperatures.  Some of the intended uses for these new textiles, according to Ash Carter, are having a textile that can detect when a soldier is wounded and needs to be treated with an antimicrobial compression bandage, or having the sensing capabilities of a smart watch built right into the lightweight fabric.  The protection these fibers and textiles could offer to our armed forces, firefighters and police would be invaluable.  One great example is the record numbers of forest fires we saw last year. Having uniforms that could protect from even the hottest temperatures would certainly be a benefit.

Although the American textile industry had seen steady declines for years the innovation of new products brought growth of about 14% from 2009 to 2015 and a 39% increase in exports.  This caught the attention of the Obama administration and made this industry an area worth investing in.  The ultimate goal being not only these incredible new products but also an increase in new manufacturing jobs.  The intellectual properties of these new fabrics mean jobs will be available at all levels of these companies, many of which should end up staying in the New England area.

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New Uses For Wearable Technology

Most of us have seen or used the “cloud” at some point but likely it’s been for storing pictures of the kids or backing up data from your office computer.  While certainly there’s value in having important documents stored safely and available anywhere, the future holds many more uses for cloud technology in manufacturing. As more and more equipment is becoming smart technology with integrated system monitoring, sensors and usage tracking, all of this information is being gathered in the cloud and if applied properly, could save business owners time and money in the future.  Seeing all of the data in one place would allow business owners to know instantly which machines in their shop are being used, which are down for maintenance, the percentage of utilization for each machine, what production is coming from various shifts, whether efficiency of a piece of machinery has declined with wear and of course hundreds of other useful pieces of information.

An interesting new facet of cloud computing is wearable technology which looks to be a promising wave of the future.  For example special glasses can be worn to provide training to new employees, provide real time data to shop workers, and increase workplace safety.  Imagine if the employee on the shop floor had immediate access via wearable technology to current inventory.  How much faster could they get a new job on a machine if they were told exactly where the material they needed was located and how much was on hand or if a remnant was available that would work for their next job.  Or think of the scenario where the forklift driver can’t see someone in their blind spot but the sensor in their glasses goes off to warn them that someone is there.  Many shops have been unable to adopt bar code scanners and readers because of the high cost of entry barrier, but wearable technology will likely make that problem a relic of the past. These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg for the future of this type of technology.

If all of this data was then integrated with a cloud based ERP system the benefits increase further.  Being able to track purchase orders, sales orders, and inventory as well as track scheduling and capacity all in real time would greatly improve overall shop performance and reduce costs.  Every shop owner wants to know where their weak points are – which machines fail frequently or have high costs for replacement parts, or which machines are simply underutilized – because at the end of the day it’s all about finding ways to trim the fat to cut costs and increase revenue.  Finally if all of this carefully collected data were then viewed from a mobile device it becomes even more accessible.  Many companies are integrating tablets, phones, and other mobile devices into their shops.  The Aberdeen Group found that companies that have integrated some type of mobile software into their operations have seen a 44% increase in efficiency.  More and more it seems growth is going to be at a more nominal pace which means every dollar will count and every inefficiency will be magnified, making it critical for forward thinking business owners to find ways to take full advantage of every technology platform.

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