Boeing and the Georgia Institute of Technology are opening an advanced research center to tackle some of the toughest technical challenges in manufacturing.
The Boeing Manufacturing Development Center (BMDC) at the school’s 19,000ft2 Atlanta, Georgia, Delta Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility will enable Boeing researchers and Georgia Tech engineering students to work on manufacturing automation systems.
“This advanced center will let Georgia Tech students collaborate with Boeing engineers to help drive the development of innovative factory automation solutions in aerospace,” says Greg Hyslop, Boeing chief technology officer and senior vice president of engineering, test, and technology.
“Georgia Tech’s long and productive relationship with Boeing includes immersive educational support for our students, collaborative research, and development of aerospace innovations,” adds Steve Cross, Georgia Tech executive vice president for research.
One of the first research projects at the BMDC will focus on using industrial robotics for machining and fabrication applications.
John J. Tracy joins 3D Systems’ board
3D Systems, Rock Hill, South Carolina, has added Dr. John J. Tracy to the company’s board of directors. Tracy has more than 37 years of aerospace experience, most recently as chief technology officer and senior vice president of engineering, operations, and technology at Boeing from 2006 until 2016. Tracy’s leadership in technology, operations, quality, and engineering includes positions at Hercules Aerospace, McDonnell Douglas, and Boeing’s Phantom Works. He brings specialized expertise in aircraft manufacturing, structure, and materials.
“The addition of Dr. Tracy to our Board reinforces our commitment to enhance management and the board in line with our customer-centric strategy,” says Vyomesh Joshi, 3D Systems’ president and CEO. www.3dsystems.com
Emuge, Open Mind formalize partnership
Rotary tools manufacturer Emuge Corp. of W. Boylston, Massachusetts, has partnered with Open Mind Technologies AG, a Wessling, Germany-based developer of CAM/CAD software solutions and the hyperMILL CAM system.
“Emuge and Open Mind have enjoyed a long, successful synergy, developing and providing cutting-edge machining solutions for manufacturers throughout the world. This formally reinforces our commitment with Open Mind,” says Emuge Corp. President Bob Hellinger.
“We are looking forward to further leverage our resources and expertise to jointly develop the most advanced machining strategies for today’s manufacturers,” says Alan Levine, managing director of Open Mind Technologies USA Inc.
Both companies will share technical data and best practices on machining applications and programs, participate in joint seminars, and collaborate to develop and promote advanced, high-productivity machining solutions for North American manufacturing professionals. www.emuge.com; www.openmind-tech.com
BLM Group USA opens new headquarters, tech center
Global tube and sheet metal processing equipment manufacturer BLM Group USA has opened its new headquarters at 46850 Cartier Dr., Novi, Michigan.
The 75,000ft2 facility features a 35,000ft2 showroom, a machine setup and tooling area, multiple training rooms, and an expanded parts department with an upgraded inventory tracking and order fulfillment system.
BLM Group USA president and COO Dr. Jeffrey Ahrstrom says, “The showroom alone is as large as our previous building. We’re excited to be able to provide a more comprehensive presentation of our product line and to demo more products under one roof.” www.blmgroup.com
Hardide Coatings Nadcap accredited
Advanced surface coating technology provider Hardide Coatings Ltd. has gained Nadcap accreditation for coatings. The quality and process excellence accreditation audited by the Performance Review Institute allows Hardide to provide its advanced tungsten carbide-based coatings to aerospace prime contractors or their supply chains worldwide. (See related story, page 78.)
Hardide Coatings developed Hardide-A as a replacement for hard chrome plating, shortly to be banned under EU REACH regulations, and an alternative to high velocity oxygen fuel (HVOF) spraying, cadmium plating, and other coating processes. The coating is approved by Airbus as an alternative to hard chrome plating.
Hardide Coatings has manufacturing facilities in Virginia and in Oxfordshire, U.K.
In March 2017, Hardide Coatings was awarded approved supplier status to Airbus Group. www.hardide.com
Some of the largest publicly traded U.S. manufacturers are extremely wary about Industry 4.0 and other forces transforming their business, according to the recently released 2017 Manufacturing RiskFactor Report (https://goo.gl/HN8LJM) from professional accounting and services firm BDO USA LLP.
BDO’s analysis is based on 100 companies’ most recent annual reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission and includes the 20 largest companies in the transportation equipment sector. The list features aerospace companies General Electric, Boeing, United Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell Int.’l, General Dynamics, Textron, and Spirit AeroSystems.
Industry 4.0 – also called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and digital manufacturing – promotes machine data exchange, cloud connectedness, autonomous operation, Big Data analytics, and relies on a host of sensor and software technologies.
Based on the frequency of mentions, 91% of the top 100 manufacturers report concerns about information technology (IT) systems and infrastructure, 94% cite risks related to corporate strategies, 96% cite cybersecurity risks, and 87% note concerns about product innovation in implementing Industry 4.0.
The 100 manufacturers represent the food, auto, truck, plastic, rubber, machinery, and metal fabricating industries, so how did the subset of aerospace manufacturers rate their Industry 4.0 readiness? Pretty darn well.
I asked Eskander Yavar, national leader of Management Advisory Services in BDO’s Houston, Texas office, to provide insight on the report. He assured me that aerospace companies were further ahead than most, citing the example of jet engine manufacturers offering analytics as a service and using Big Data to plan maintenance and correct operational deficiencies. Nor did he see any uptick specific to aerospace companies in concerns about cybersecurity – they are already dealing with it.
Yavar described a parallel with Industry 4.0 adoption in the advent of cloud computing. “Five years ago, we tried to introduce the cloud option for enterprise resource planning (ERP). A few clients were apprehensive, they didn’t know what it meant, didn’t know where data was going, or how secure it was. Today, if we introduce a technology that doesn’t have a cloud component, clients are asking why not?”
Yavar says larger aerospace companies are leading the way, but some manufacturers are still trying to understand how to add connectivity within their operations; how to be more connected to suppliers and customers and leverage the digital economy. He emphasizes that a company needs consistent systems and processes to gather the data to enable connectivity – they must build a solid foundation to support the next layer.
“The larger tier players driving Industry 4.0 are going to start to dictate to their supply chain vendors on what they need to be doing, so they may not have a choice because their customers are demanding more digital connectivity,” Yavar says.
The smaller players may not feel obligated today, or need Industry 4.0 to be competitive tomorrow, but they will need it in the future. Does your company have a roadmap to implement Industry 4.0? If so, are you making progress on that road? – Eric
Hank Matousek Sr. was perfectly content in his position as quality control manager at a bearing company during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and he had no idea that his employer’s growing financial woes and a pending layoff would become his surprise catalyst to found Grind All Inc. in Brunswick, Ohio, in 1972. Hank’s one-man shop with one used grinder in a basement has transformed today into a 45-machine, 52-employee, company. The Matousek family still places quality above all else. Hank’s creed – Do it right and make your product better – has been the cornerstone of Grind All’s operations since the company was founded.
“Do the best you can and people will come back. Do jobs better than anyone,” says Grind All President Henry Matousek Jr., quoting his father.
Grind All’s customer base has grown to include many aerospace and defense companies, leading it to set quality goals to obtain ISO 9001:2008 certification in 2011. Obtaining an additional certification to AS 9100C was the logical move for quality-conscious Grind All. Issued by SAI Global, AS 9100C is the standard for quality assurance in the aircraft, space, and defense industries. The certification, along with ISO 9001:2008 certification and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) registration, makes Grind All qualified to offer a complete range of services to even the most quality-conscious customers.
Obtaining AS 9100C certification is no easy task. Critical factors are the processes, characteristics, parts, and software that have a significant effect on product realization and on the use of the product. As Grind All began certification by evaluating its inventory of production machine tools – centerless grinders, OD grinders, ID grinders, surface grinders, honing machines, and flat lapping machines – it became clear that the company’s antiquated centerless infeed grinder would not make the cut. Although it had been successfully rebuilt and was working, it did not provide the reliability and precision required. Grind All saw two options – invest a significant amount of money to patch up the old grinder, or find an outside source for centerless grinding work. Neither option was acceptable. Henry Matousek Jr. turned to Total Grinding Solutions (TGS) for advice.
Affordable grinding technology
Combining 75 years of grinding experience, President Dan Geddes and company Partner Joe Giacalone founded TGS in Warren, Michigan, to design and build a centerless grinder that would be precise and boast the technological innovations of the best machines on the market.
“We applied our hands-on grinding experience with our in-depth knowledge of grinders and set out to design a quality centerless grinder that could handle even highest-volume production runs with extreme accuracy and consistency,” Giacalone says.
“We were looking to produce a more economical, more precision-based solution. We know what works, and we were determined to build a better mousetrap,” Geddes adds.
The TGS-CL-6020 CNC centerless grinder was launched in August 2014, when Matousek and his team saw the machine for the first time. Matousek appreciated the grinder’s modern design but he was especially pleased to learn that expensive tooling from his ailing centerless could cross over to the TGS-CL-6020.
The TGS CL-6020’s flexibility could accommodate Grind All’s requirement to run a variety of parts and, most likely, two or three different parts and materials per day. The controls are user-friendly to minimize training time and shorten the learning curve. The TGS-CL-6020 is priced for the middle market, whose options previously were low-cost basic machines or expensive high-end machines. After a series of test grinds, analyses, and consultations, Grind All management selected the TGS-CL-6020 to replace its old grinder.
TGS modified the machine controls to mimic what was already in place at Grind All, and with its new TGS machine, Grind All met AS 9100C criteria.
“The machine’s Fanuc controls are great. They’ve always been great. It’s nice to be able to call TGS or Fanuc for assistance rather than being tied in to some company’s proprietary software,” Matousek says. “Once our new centerless got going, it’s proven itself as a solid machine that will carry us into the future.”
Grind All Inc.
Total Grinding Solutions (TGS)
Success for many advanced manufacturing and inspection- related projects in aerospace often hinges on high-precision motion control. Comprised of mechanical positioning stages and control electronics, the motion solution represents the platform upon which the entire process is based. Many buyers can easily appreciate the convenience of conforming to a standard solution, however it is often worthwhile to consider customized solutions at an early stage.
The decision of standard vs. custom is far from black and white. There are varying degrees to which products and solutions can be defined as standard or custom, and a key element to a project’s success is to gain a better understanding of this continuum and the tradeoffs to be made in the selection process – what is most ideal for the project at hand.
The following factors are a starting point for buying teams tasked with securing a precision motion solution.
1. Standard motion solutions
Standard motion solutions consist of catalog-level products such as linear and rotary positioning stages, motors, and controllers already designed and documented, with proven performance characteristics typically detailed in specification tables.
There are three levels of standard motion positioning solutions:
- Standard, off-the-shelf – Motors, control electronics, pre-configured positioning stages are manufactured and qualified in advance by the supplier and typically ship directly from the supplier’s inventory with quick delivery.
- Standard, configured-to-order – Users can tailor the solution while still using on-hand inventory by selecting configurable parameters, such as travel length, motor, feedback options, or amplifier current and bus voltage. The supplier then builds the product to the client’s required configuration using stocked components (see photo on page 16), providing clients with flexible options while still offering reasonably fast delivery.
- Standard, manufactured-to-order solutions – This offers the advantages of a standard product, including catalog performance specifications and documentation, however this does not necessarily mean in-stock. Lead times are longer and may be prone to variability throughout time.
2. Custom motion solutions
There are different degrees to which a motion positioning system can be customized. A supplier of custom motion control equipment uses its engineering and manufacturing resources to translate the buyer’s needs into a tailored, specially-documented solution designed to meet requirements. Custom motion positioning solutions can be categorized as:
- Custom assembly of standard products (see photo on page 18) uses the supplier’s standard, core building blocks to generate a unique design to fit the client’s requirements. This typically involves special assembly considerations such as cable management, mounting brackets, precision alignments, and possibly global workpoint or machine specifications. While a few custom components may need to be manufactured, the supplier may already have several of the standard components on-hand, often resulting in faster delivery.
- Customization by modification of standard products – A reasonable approach when a standard product does not entirely meet the needs. An application may require altering an otherwise standard stage to have a special travel length and a specific mounting hole pattern or surface treatment. Although the motion solution is based around standard products, it is important to recognize that it is genuinely a custom solution in that it requires dedicated engineering support, special manufacturing considerations, and documentation (see photo on page 20).
- Completely custom, ground-up solutions – Sometimes necessary to meet a uniquely specific and detailed set of customer requirements that cannot be achieved by customizing standard solutions. Although more resource-intensive, completely custom solutions need the least amount of technical compromises and are often associated with the lowest total-cost-of-ownership throughout time. The photo on page 22 depicts a completely custom vacuum-compatible solution.
3. Total motion solution budget
Prior to engaging suppliers, a buying team should have a drafted statement of the work, providing a technical description of the initial requirements and a budgetary price range.
Initially, standard motion solutions may seem to be more affordable than highly-customized solutions; however, it is possible that the buyer’s engineering and production teams may incur added costs associated with design, manufacture, and integration work needed to close gaps between their requirements and the seller’s supply. In the case of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) projects, high volumes can amplify these additional costs so OEMs and higher-volume end-users may benefit from considering a custom solution, which may involve one-time charges to cover costs associated with engineering services, special tooling, and fixturing. Although this could contribute to an initially higher cost, it can reduce technical and financial risks to buying organizations otherwise unable or unwilling to assume these responsibilities. For high-volume motion systems, one-time costs are usually insignificant throughout the project’s lifespan.
4. Delivery time requirements
Standard off-the-shelf items can typically be received within days of order placement, while standard configured-to-order items will often take days to a few weeks, due to the need to assemble components and subsystems into a final product. Standard products that must be manufactured to order exhibit higher variability in the delivery time, which depends on factors such as the availability of raw materials and components, as well as the supplier’s current production capacity and backlog.
Likewise, custom does not always dictate a long lead time. Custom systems that are assembled from standard catalog products, or even slightly modified standard products, may offer delivery times closer to the products that comprise their core components. However, it is important to consider that custom solutions will always incur some engineering design period prior to manufacturing, ranging from hours to months.
5. Meeting application requirements
The decision to use standard or custom motion equipment depends on how closely the technical application requirements can be defined to fit a standard solution in comparison to how well a custom solution can be tailored to suit the application. And a buyer must differentiate needs from wants.
In many circumstances, custom solutions can more effectively meet a greater percentage of the application’s demands than standard solutions – customized equipment may be necessary to achieve stringent accuracy and repeatability specifications, geometric or dynamic motion performance requirements, or operational compatibility in ultra-high vacuum or cleanroom environments.
Conversely, a buyer might consider designing the application or process around a standard solution. That can be a wise approach for a variety of applications, but it may over-constrain complicated projects. An experienced supplier will be able to assist the buyer with defining the solution’s capabilities and statement of work, considering the tradeoffs between standard and custom offerings in relation to the application’s needs.
6. Internal expertise
Larger organizations with fully-staffed engineering and production departments may be better positioned to perform precision integration and customization work, and may be more willing to consider purchasing standard motion solutions – customizing and integrating them as needed to meet application requirements. On the other hand, these organizations often have engineering and production staff that are already occupied. Additionally, a buyer who independently undertakes a more sizeable scope of work also assumes greater risks. Customized solutions can certainly have an attractive convenience to larger organizations, while smaller organizations with more limited resources can also benefit from purchasing customized motion solutions.
Even if the buying organization can perform higher levels of integration in-house, smaller organizations may find it challenging to service and provide global support for extensively customized equipment. This risk can be mitigated by working with an experienced motion control partner who will provide the global pre- and post-sale support with an integrated or turnkey motion solution. Further, a custom solution’s total ownership cost can be attractive when considering soft costs associated with extended statements of work including engineering services, project management, technical support, and maintenance.
7. Use ease, life cycle
In the one-off use case, buyers may be sourcing motion equipment for in-house use such as for research and development (R&D), a production machine, or a one-time build of an integrated system for an end-customer. Here, standard motion solutions are a perfectly reasonable consideration, assuming technical and commercial expectations are satisfied.
Custom motion solutions offer benefits when many similar or identical systems are needed throughout an extended period. In addition to the advantage of obtaining a solution that is purposefully designed to achieve key technical requirements, custom solutions also give the buyer a higher degree of change control. Unlike standard motion products for which suppliers assume full responsibility for managing product lifecycles, custom motion solutions offer an open, collaborative process between the buyer and the supplier, giving the buyer a share in controlling product lifecycle and change management. This can be particularly appealing to OEM and other higher- volume buyers.
Although this is not an exhaustive list, these factors will help buying teams focus their efforts around finding motion positioning solutions that closely fit their needs. A successful buying team will engage motion suppliers early and communicate with them often. It is important to gravitate towards suppliers that offer technology and expertise, have a thorough understanding of the client’s application and requirements, and demonstrate a commitment to global pre- and post-sale support. A skilled motion control supplier will openly discuss the tradeoffs of standard and custom solutions, as well as the decisions to be made in relation to the client’s project. Ultimately, success is derived from the collaboration of both the buyer and the supplier.
About the author: By Brian M. Fink, is product manager and Aerotech Inc. and can be reached at email@example.com.