By: Christina M. Fuges 19. August 2016

Additive Manufacturing Digital Edition Now Online in Time for IMTS

With this issue of Additive Manufacturing magazine, I spoke with Baker Aerospace Tooling & Machining to learn how they are pushing AM development and educating customers at a new collaboration center for emerging injection mold technologies. The issue also visits with an Ontario manufacturer that sees hybrid manufacturing as a means for survival; reviews some experiments whose results support the viability of AM for ongoing production; previews some of the AM technologies to be exhibited at the International Manufacturing Technology Show; and, presents this year’s IAMA award winner for a technology that monitors thermal radiation to map the internal consistency of a metal part as it is being made. Click here for more.

By: Cynthia Kustush 18. August 2016

Throwback Thursday: Executive Decision Making in a Customer-Centric Organization


 If you read the Gardner Business Index for Moldmaking that we published yesterday, and if your heart fell just a tad because it wasn’t very encouraging (especially given that indicators early in the year told us to expect a rocking summer for US molds and molding), take heart. There are always strategies you can use to try and work around the bumps, chasms and pitfalls in your paths. To help you get your ideas going, this week’s Throwback Thursday blog presents a four-part series MMT published in 2011, when things weren’t going so hot, too, due to the recession.

The series is actually kicked off with an article that addresses (and is titled) The Executive Decision: Starting Point: Know Customer Needs. It was then followed up with three more installments titled Executive Decision Making in a Customer-Centric Organization, which discuss how to incorporate the balance between profitability, prioritization, investment options and timing, with all of these aspects tied to learning from your customers’ voices.

In the Starting Point article, learn how to lower the risk in business decisions through VOC (Voice of Customer). Our author is Ed Baker, who at the time was president and CEO of Quashnick Tool Corp., a moldmaker and injection molder based in Lodi, California. Here, Baker sets the stage for the series and tells readers, “I will show you how to get started painlessly with some useful tools, add structure and depth to the decision-making process, and increase decision reliability by the addition of more data/information.”

In Part One of the ensuing three installments, Baker discusses actual concerns cited by business owners and executives in our industry that he interviewed.

In Part Two, Baker discusses how to avoid the pitfalls that can dramatically limit one’s ability to carve out a niche and stay on the relative curve that is basic to productivity.

Finally, in Part Three, Baker helps readers recognize that it is essential to compete on more than just price. He discusses the challenges that can affect competitiveness in our industry and offers ways to find that “something” that helps set a company apart from competitors based on the customer’s focus.

By: Steve Kline, Jr. 17. August 2016

GBI: Moldmaking for July 2016 - 47.1

With a reading of 47.1, the Gardner Business Index showed that the moldmaking industry contracted in July for the fourth month in a row. Since May, the rate of contraction has accelerated slightly.

New orders contracted for the fourth month in a row, although this subindex improved for the first time since March. Production contracted for the second straight month, but its rate of contraction was minimal. The backlog subindex has contracted since November 2014, hovering since May 2015 around 40, which is quite low. Employment increased in July for the fifth month in a row, but the rate of increase has decelerated since this past March. Exports remained mired in contraction and have contracted at a relatively consistent rate for most of the last three years. Supplier deliveries shortened at a minimal rate in July for the fourth time in five months.

The material prices subindex increased for the sixth month in a row, however, the rate of increase was the slowest since February. Prices received decreased for the 10th month in a row, although this index was barely below 50 in June and July. Future business expectations declined noticeably in July, but the trend in expectations has been up since January. 

Companies with more than 250 employees expanded for the fifth time in six months, and the rate of growth in those five months has been strong. Plants with 100-249 employees were flat in July after contracting the previous three months. Facilities with 50-99 employees have expanded for eight months in a row, although the rate of expansion slowed sharply in July. Companies with 20-49 workers expanded for the third time in four months, while companies with fewer than 20 employees continued to contract, although the rate of contraction was the slowest since March.

Custom processors expanded for the fourth time in five months, and July was easily the strongest month of growth among those four months. Meanwhile, metalcutting job shops contracted for the 14th time 15 months. 

The West was the only geographic region to grow in July and has expanded at an accelerating rate the last two months. Ranked from slowest to fastest contractions, the other regions were the North Central-West, Northeast, North Central-East, Southeast and South Central. The Northeast and Southeast contracted after three and two months of growth, respectively. 

Future capital spending plans were above average in July for the third time in four months. Compared with one year earlier, they increased in seven of the last eight months. In three of the last four months, spending plans have increased more than 100 percent, therefore the annual rate of change in future spending plans increased for the first time since December 2014. 

By: Christina M. Fuges 16. August 2016

SLIDESHOW: Technology Showcase: Machining

                                                Handtmann will showcase the PBZ HD 600 profile machining center, specially equipped for high-performance machining of aluminum profiles ranging to 6,000 mm in length. " />                         Belmont’s MX-220 Drop Tank, part of the company’s Maxicut ZNC series of sinker EDMs, features a compact footprint of 56" × 104" and a paint-to-paint design that enables multiple machine setup." />                         C.R. Onsrud’s X-Series is a five-axis CNC machining platform designed specifically for extrusions." />                         Methods Machine Tools, the FANUC RoboCut α-CiB series of wire EDMs are designed for high precision, fast rapid traverse rates and expedited setups." />                         Absolute Machine Tools presents Tongtai’s iVU-5, a VMC that offers conventional machining operations as well as rotary, ultrasonic-assisted machining of advanced materials." />                         TCI Precision Metals’ dovetail machine-ready blanks are designed for use with four- or five-axis CNC machining centers fitted with dovetail workholding fixtures." />                         Yamazen’s booth, Brother International will present the Speedio machining center product line, including the Flex-S robotic cell by Nachi, made for Speedio models s300, s500 and s700." />                         Absolute Machine Tools, was developed to improve cycle times and turning processes for the automotive industry and is suitable for precision turning, high-production volume, automatic production and insertion into mass-production lines." />

According to our latest Gardner Business Index on moldmaking, companies are continuing to expand, employment increased, the trend in expectations has been up since January, and future capital spending plans were above average. And, with moldmakers continuing to up their game by investing in the latest machining technology, there is no better place than IMTS to investigate new product and equipment options.

Next month there will be more than 2,000 exhibitors showcasing their technology wares—everything from CAD/CAM and 3D printing technology to machining and cutting tools to automation and inspection /measurement equipment. IMTS is taking place September 12-17, at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, and based on the current rate of exhibition contracts, the show is anticipating more than 100,000 visitors from 112 countries, and organizers are planning accordingly. This slideshow is just continuing our sampling of what will be on the show floor next month.



By: Cynthia Kustush 15. August 2016

Project-Based Learning – The Rest of the Story

WSU Students used Mastercam software to build the fuselage for a hydrogen-powered UAV. Because the part was so big it needed to be machined in sections and then assembled later. 


In this month’s issue of MMT, I wrote about a Washington State University (WSU) instructor’s strategy for teaching his mechanical engineering students about moldmaking via a project-based approach (See “Project-Based Learning”). I couldn’t include absolutely everything this instructor, Kurt Hutchinson, teaches his students, so I thought I’d blog about it to show readers how his students prove out what they’ve learned under his guidance in his Cougar Lab classroom.

Hutchinson says the mechanical engineering students at WSU often get involved in clubs within The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). A couple of these include Formula SAE (race cars) and the American Institute for Aeronautics and Aerospace (AIAA) club. According to Hutchinson, club activity intensifies prior to competition time (There are always competitions and what better way to prove out skills while having some fun?). Following is a section that didn’t make it into the printed feature article that shows examples of how the students employed Mastercam software to program toolpaths for milling the components used in competitions.

Hutchinson is the advisor for the Formula SAE team that builds a small-scale open-wheel racecar for its annual competition. A wide variety of pieces need to be machined, including mold making, all made easier with the use of Mastercam X9 software. Some students are using Solidworks to develop designs for parts for machining. The challenge for students is to design a car that is as lightweight as possible, using as many composite materials as they can for the body of the car. “This year we used high-density urethane modeling foam to create molds that they can vacuum bag composites into,” Hutchinson says. “We did a mold for a seat, a body panel, and an intake plenum for the engine.” Typically, the students would be required to mold carbon fiber prepreg, wet layup, and vacuum the composites into the mold. Styrofoam, while lightweight, cannot be used because the vacuum bagging process can crush a mold that is not high enough in density to withstand the process without deforming. In addition, these molds must often be autoclaved and materials need to be able to withstand high temperatures. High-temperature materials go hand-in-hand with aerospace applications and the Cougar Lab is no stranger to that type of high-end machine work.

The AIAA club builds a hydrogen-powered UAV for its annual competitions. Hutchinson built molds for the club in 1997-2012 and keeps them on-hand for instructional purposes. Two years ago, one researcher was awarded a grant to build a hydrogen-powered UAV and the club turned to the lab for help. Hutchinson and his students – one of whom was an AIAA member – built the mold for the fuselage, which measured six-feet long. The crew used Mastercam to machine the large pill-shaped part in pieces that were small enough to fit inside the vertical machining center. They then slid together like a big Lego. The mold looks sort of like a bathtub with a gel coat on the inside. The team used it to layup the fuselage for the aircraft, which has flown several times. The students were also asked to build the end enclosures for a cryogenic chamber using projected toolpaths. “There was some really sophisticated, dynamic high-speed milling being done on the pockets,” Hutchinson notes.

While the “moldmaking” discussed here isn’t the kind our industry practices, using CAM software to program high-speed milling programs is a skill that crosses disciplines. Add to that the need for precision and design aptitude, and I think it’s safe to say that Hutchinson’s students are in solid contention for jobs in advanced manufacturing no matter what sector of the industry they decide to pursue. Here’s to educators like Hutchinson who work so hard to make it real for their students through project-based learning.

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