By: Christina M. Fuges 19. December 2014

Last-Minute Toy Shopping?

This is an inside peek at the Rodon Group facility with the inventor of K'NEX, Joel Glickman. I had a personal tour with him on Manufacturing Day this past October, but never did make it over to the K'NEX building to see those parts pumping out. I only had time to see the Rodon Group facility, which is the mold building arm of the operation. (But I did get a complementary tub of toys ... which my son will be getting from Santa next week). 


By: Christina M. Fuges 18. December 2014

Personality-Based Learning in the Shop

"Great employees are those who not only can learn fast, but can put what they learn to use fast, as well; quickly complete their projects and help others do the same; and, get along with others in the way that brings out the best of everyone. Being great is only part of the story, though," says Michelle LaBrosse, PMP, the founder of Cheetah Learning

What sets dream teams apart is their ability to work together and bring out the best in each other. A project management training program can help you develop your own dream team, and help your organization in three key ways: 

1. Employees who learn how to use their innate strengths based on their personalities learn faster, get their work done more efficiently, and get along with coworkers and supervisors better.

2. Companies with a core group of employees who know how to use their innate strengths in this way show measurable improvements in not just earnings, but also profits.

3. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can tell you if an employee has the capability to be one of these top performers. Developing a KPI that accounts for the degree to which each member is working in their areas of strength will help you develop a high-performing project team.

When developing a KPI to evaluate your employees’ effectiveness, consider creating a Balanced Scorecard (BSC) that includes these measures:

●      Internal business processes - How well does this team member communicate with coworkers, supervisors, clients, and other stakeholders?

●      Financial measures - How quickly is this team member able to move from acquiring new skills to implementing these skills in a way that creates value for your organization?

●      Organizational growth - How passionate is this team member about their work? How well does this team member collaborate with others to generate new business ideas?

By investing in project management training focused on developing the unique strengths of your team members - and then following through by using a KPI to evaluate employee performance - you can create a high-performing dream team.


By: Matthew Danford 17. December 2014

Die/Mold Event Reveals Company on the Move

The difference may be difficult to spot, but look closely at the photo above, and you’ll see that the part on the bottom looks just a bit shinier. That’s due to more than just the lighting and the limitations of the camera on my iPhone 4S. Both parts were machined with a ballnose cutter like the one on the left, with the exact same parameters and the exact same program on a F510M three-axis VMC from Hyundai WIA. However, the one with the better surface finish was mounted at an angle to enable cutting not with the tip of the cutter, but with the flutes on the side, which spin at a relatively higher surface speed to impart a smoother finish. 

This piece of wisdom was just one of many takeaways from the machine tool supplier's Christmas-themed “Unwrap the Solutions of Die and Mold” workshop. Hosted last week, this was the second installment in the monthly series of "Learn Today, Prosper Tomorrow" educational and networking events at the company’s Chicago-area U.S. headquarters facility. Notably, the tidbit about the ballnose cutter wasn’t conveyed in a powerpoint presentation or seminar, but rather, an informal conversation with Fred Puzon, product manager. And, it happened not during normal business hours, but at roughly 6 p.m. Attendees were also treated to beer, wine, soft drinks and catered food (the meatball sandwiches were particularly tasty). The idea here—and the idea behind future "Learn Today, Prosper Tomorrow" events—is to make it as painless as possible for busy manufacturers to network and educate themselves.    

That said, those with the time to take an entire day were also treated to a slew of more formal presentations during normal business hours. Moreover, those presentations weren’t just from Hyundai WIA, but also suppliers including Mastercam, Bohler Uddeholm, OSG Tap & Die, Big Kaiser, Haimer, Siemens and Fanuc (all of which stuck around later for the more casual evening portion of the event). The company says this range of partners evidences its focus on not just machine tools, but the entire manufacturing process chain, from software to spindle to cutting tool assembly and workholding. In fact, the company says it will invite such partners to host future events of their own at its Itasca, Illinois facility. Cutting tool manufacturer Sandvik Coromant is already scheduled to host one such event in June.

The F510M VMC’s FANUC CNC features a Hyundai WIA interface that provides access to various features that are said to be of interest to moldmakers in particular. 

Moldmakers in particular might want to consider attending the open house in March. That’s when Hyundai WIA plans to unveil its new Hi-MOLD6500 VMC, a machine designed specifically for our corner of the industry. Many features will be identical to that of the F510M, including the custom, mold-focused control interface shown above. However, the newer machine is expected to offer improvements in areas including thermal displacement compensation, a major focus of the company’s recent R&D efforts. October will see the release of yet another new model benefitting from recent R&D, the five-axis XF600. In this case, however, improvements will relate to improved spindle durability and five-axis response, both of which are areas the company says it plans to strengthen in coming years.

Such R&D efforts are just one example of a company on the move. For one, much of the aforementioned research came out of Germany, where Hyundai WIA opened up a new facility this year facilitate improved collaboration with CNC manufacturer Siemens. Moreover, that location is just one of a number recent facilities the company has opened worldwide, including the U.S. headquarters facility where the event was hosted in Itasca. (In fact, I reported earlier this year on the company’s reasons for moving from New Jersey, where the company had been located since opening its first U.S. headquarters there in 2011.)

All in all, the South Korean parent company has invested more than $580 million in its machine tool division during the past year alone. Given this investment and the company’s stated goal of becoming a Top 5 machine tool builder worldwide by 2020, it will be interesting to see what the future holds. 

By: Christina M. Fuges 16. December 2014

Intro to 3D Printing

With the trend in 3D printing only growing, I have been in many conversations while putting together features for our Additive Manufacturing Supplement that revolve around the need for a curriculum focused on 3D printing.

Stratasys has developed such a curriculum. The beginner course, Introduction to 3D Printing: From Design to Fabrication, explores 3D printing in terms of its history, established applications, forward-looking trends, and potential social and economic impacts. Through project-based learning, students will experience 3D printing’s impact on the design process firsthand. A variety of projects guide students through the process of designing and 3D printing a fully functional moving part in a single build.

Students will become familiar with the advantages of various 3D printing technologies in terms of precision, resolution and material capabilities. While Stratasys recommends FDM and PolyJet 3D printing technologies for this course, any technology platform and any CAD software with STL support may be used.

Completion of the beginning course should enable graduates to demonstrate knowledge of key historical factors that have shaped manufacturing over the centuries; explain current and emerging 3D printing applications in a variety of industries; describe the advantages and limitations of the main 3D printing technologies; evaluate real-life scenarios, and recommend the appropriate use of 3D printing technology; identify opportunities to apply 3D printing technology for time and cost reduction; discuss the economic implications of 3D printing, including its impact on startup businesses and supply chains; and, design and print objects containing moving parts without assembly.

Stratasys plans to add two sequential advanced courses that will cover material memory, multi-material use and 3D printing for robotics applications.

Schools in Singapore and the U.S. have led the process of implementing Stratasys’ 3D printing curriculum.

Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston uses Stratasys’ 3D printing curriculum. “There are going to be many instructors out there who would love to teach a course in 3D printing, but who simply do not have enough time to do the detailed research and to prepare professional level presentations,” says Assistant Professor Steve Chomyszak. “This curriculum has now made it much easier for any instructor to offer a college level course on the subject.”

Learn more about the courses, specific details or to download free materials, by visiting the Stratasys Educational Curriculum page.

Photo courtesy of Wentworth Institute of Technology.

By: Matthew Danford 15. December 2014

See It to Believe It

Summit Tooling brings more than just top decision-makers to industry events. At one recent IMTS, the company made a point to kick the tires on various laser welding equipment. Read this case study for information about the shop's experience with that process. 

A few weeks back, I blogged about an infographic detailing the demographics of attendees to the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) this past September. The fact that only 17 percent of visitors said they had no actual purchasing authority bolstered my hunch that, indeed, most attendees are higher-ups in their organizations.

In my view, however, sending only top decision-makers could be a mistake. After all, IMTS was among the first industry events I ever attended, and I’ve never in my life gathered so much information in so little time. Granted, as a magazine editor, my role is quite different than that of most attendees. However, if a complete neophyte (which I certainly was at that first show) could learn so much, what might such an event have to offer a seasoned shop-floor-level employee? After seeing what’s out there first-hand, how might employees think differently about how they’re currently doing things? What might they have to contribute to conversations about new machinery and processes?

According to Dan Martin, president of Summit Tooling, who brought his entire toolroom (16 people) to the most recent IMTS, they can contribute a great deal. Indeed, leveraging employees’ expertise and ideas is “critical to the success and future of our company,” he says. In fact, says this first-hand exposure to technology outside the shop’s own four walls played a significant role in easing the adoption of the company’s first-ever robotics.  That’s a transition that, as many shop owners can attest, can induce a significant amount of anxiety. “Some people were pretty skeptical until they actually saw the reality of what it could do,” he says. Sometimes, it seems, people have to see something in person to truly grasp its potential impact.

Interesting as it was, this conversation was just a small tidbit of a larger discussion that had little to do with IMTS or getting employees out of the shop, let alone the company’s adoption of robotics. Rather, I was interested in a much less dramatic development, but one that has nonetheless resulted in big gains. For this McHenry, Illinois toolmaker and injection molder, implementing laser welding was not only relatively easy, but also led to time savings and reduced rework on repair jobs and engineering changes alike. Read this case study for more details.

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