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Jedd Cole

Jedd Cole joined Modern Machine Shop as Assistant Editor after graduating with a B.A. in Rhetoric and Professional Writing from the University of Cincinnati in 2015, and after working as an intern with the magazine in 2014. He manages the blog of Techspex.com and also assists with the editing of Modern Machine Shop's sister publications, Modern Machine Shop MéxicoPlastics Technology México and Products Finishing México.

Posted by: Jedd Cole 22. February 2019

Focusing on Workforce Development: 10 Stories You Need to See

One of the most important topics on the minds of manufacturers everywhere seems to be finding skilled labor. As happens cyclically in all forms of modern industry, competition presents a moment of decision for shop owners: find ways to automate existing processes, or figure out how to engage more workers.

The industry at present (as at all times) demonstrates a mixture of these two approaches among owners of capital. The movement behind the so-called Industrial Internet of Things advocates ever-increasing levels of automation through software, machine interconnectivity and monitoring, and robotics. But many are also seeking new ways to find, hire and train new workers across manufacturing. While the so-called “skills gap” may be a fraught and unhelpful (or just plain incorrect) way of viewing the most recent crisis of productivity and labor in manufacturing as a whole, there are certainly struggles on the local level as shops of varying sizes decide how to adapt to their particular conditions of competition, productivity and access to labor. 

Modern Machine Shop and her sister magazines covering manufacturing from metalworking to plastic injection to composites have devoted a special effort in recent months to covering stories of shops addressing the development and engagement of workers and their training. But while the settings may be particular, the lessons learned span all areas of manufacturing. 

These stories are well worth your time: 

Posted by: Jedd Cole 20. September 2018

Change vs. Progress: Reflections from a 25-Time IMTS Attendee

IMTS Show floor

Image: AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology.

 

During IMTS last week, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence recognized Burt Mason, a portable arm measurement specialist, with a tribute for having attended a whopping 25 editions of IMTS! On the occasion, he reflected on the almost 50 years this represents: 

After recounting the growth of CNC and CAD/CAM technology into the mainstream, Mason observed that these changes, being incremental by nature, were very gradual—“so gradual that if you asked people what they saw at IMTS that was unique or interesting most people would say, ‘There is nothing really new at the show this year,’ yet the changes were there show after show.”

It’s a good reminder that change most often comes not in sudden grand revelations but rather the step-by-step meandering of day-to-day problem solving and the effects of policies, both spoken and unspoken.

If I can add anything to Mason’s words, I’d say that change isn’t identical with progress. For example, the movement toward the looming labor dilemma that preoccupies many a shop both large and small has been just as incremental (and multifaceted) as the developments in CNC and CAD/CAM technology. To agree with Mason’s conclusion, it would do us well to pay attention to the incremental shifts that go on around us, whether or not they are intentional. Maybe that way we can contribute positively to the changes that we’ll look back on in the future.

Posted by: Jedd Cole 20. August 2018

How to Make the Most of IMTS 2018

 

Next month, my colleagues will be descending on Chicago, Illinois—along with some 115,000 other visitors—to attend the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), set to take place September 10-15.

Why?

To learn. For us, the idea is to soak up as much as possible in order to share it with you, the reader, in the pages of Modern Machine Shop. But you’re also going there to learn: about new products, new technologies, new processes, new faces. But with over a million square feet of ground to cover and hundreds of thousands of attendees weaving their way through tens of thousands of exhibits, how can you make the most of the short time you’re at the show?

In collaboration with AMT—The Association For Manufacturing Technology, Modern Machine Shop published a blog post back in February with five keys to doing just that. They were:

1. Plan your visit by registering, downloading the MyShow Planner mobile app (link) and taking a divide-and-conquer approach to prioritize must-see exhibit. 

2. Listen to industry experts both in the booth and at one or more of the over 150 conference sessions scheduled. This year, IMTS will host learning sessions specifically geared toward owner-operated job shops, among them: 

  • Uncopyable: Creating an Unfair Advantage Over the Competition,” at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 12 or Friday, September 14. Gain insights from marketing master Steve Miller, who will discuss new ideas for business growth and lessons from his new book (complimentary to all participants) of the same title.
  • “The Unending Search for Qualified Labor” on Wednesday, September 12 from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m. An elite panel of job shop peers will share how they are overcoming this major challenge facing our industry.

3. Connect socially with fellow shop types and potential suppliers, as well as tap into the state of the industry by talking with industry thought leaders.

4. Watch live demonstrations on the show floor and presentations in booths and conference sessions. 

5. Apply what you learn later by documenting your experience as you go (keep a notebook, take pictures and video, etc.).

Come to think of it, these tips are as useful for our purposes as they are for yours. All of us are trying to understand developments in the industry, and that’s what IMTS is all about.

Posted by: Jedd Cole 6. April 2018

When in the Machine Tool Buying Cycle Should You Use Techspex?

Modern Machine Shop and Techspex

Modern Machine Shop is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. But Techspex is no spring chicken.

Did you know Techspex is over 20 years old? Nick Bloom started the platform in 1996 as an online database of machine tool specifications enabling users to search by specific parameters and compare machine specs within or across brands. A former machine tool salesperson himself, Bloom often published his insights and takes on the latest machine tool technology on this blog.

Techspex: An Initial Research Tool

In one blog post from 2015, he reflected on the place of machine tool specifications in the process of coming to understand a piece of equipment. Bloom saw Techspex as the first step in the process of looking for and buying a new machine.

“We don’t say that because we’re boasting,” he writes. “Rather, Techspex is a research tool that’s best used at the very beginning of a machine tool buying project.” Bloom compares Techspex to a sort of restaurant menu.

That said, Bloom writes that other resources are needed to help make the best decision.

Going Beyond Machine Tool Specs

For Bloom, Modern Machine Shop was a natural second or third place to look when considering the purchase of a new machine tool.

“Beyond the specs is the story of machining processes, implementation, engineering, performance, and all the ramifications of making parts,” he writes. “Digging deeper, by reading the story behind the machines, may provide insight that suggests or eliminates one machine compared to others.” Sure, he says, the magazine is a great resource at all times, but when in the market for a new machine, it might provide the opportunity to “read between the lines to find out what model specifications can’t and won’t tell you.”

One way to go about this is by using the “Related Content” sidebar on any Techspex machine specs page or company showroom page. For a more robust search, mmsonline.com enables users to search content by product release, blog post, article or case study. For that matter, depending on the type of machine, it might have been covered in either of Modern’s sister magazines, Production Machining or MoldMaking Technology.

As Bloom puts it, “When used together, these resources provide a deeper, richer, more useful research experience.”

Posted by: Jedd Cole 29. September 2017

When Buying a Five-Axis Machine, Bigger Isn't Always Better

trunnion table in a machining center

During the Top Shops conference earlier this month in Indianapolis, Indiana, I got to sit in on a presentation about five-axis machining given by Michael Cope, an applications engineer with Hurco. With a title like “Five-Axis: It Just Ain’t That Scary,” it was clear that Cope’s talk was clearly aimed at an audience used to machining on three-axis machine tools and possibly worried about switching over to 3+2 or five-axis machining. One of Cope’s arguments to ameliorate this fear was, “You’re already performing five-sided machining; you’re just doing it manually.” While perhaps not “scary,” five-axis machines certainly bear more variables to take into account and consider. This may be the greatest challenge to their adoption—and also reflects their great potential for increased efficiency.

One consideration that might be counterintuitive for the buyer new to five-axis is what size machine to get. With a three-axis machine, you likely want to get the largest that your budget allows, but Cope says that with trunnion-type five-axis machines, bigger isn’t necessarily better. The reason has to do with Z-axis clearance.

At zero degrees (origin), the trunnion shouldn’t be any encumbrance to the tool’s axis travels, but as it tilts to 90 degrees, the table’s supports and assemblage suddenly become an obstacle, causing potential interference among the table, the machine casting and the spindle head as the tool is lowered along the Z axis. Faced with this scenario, you’d have to equip the machine with extended-length tooling in order for it to reach the part from over the trunnion, which Cope says is undesirable since longer tools amplify rigidity issues and can result in less accuracy and breakage.

Palletized fixturing also plays a role in machine selection, because adding fixtures to the table increases the effective workpiece height. When the trunnion tilts toward 90 degrees, it’s no longer Z-axis travel that is encumbered, but Y-axis travel, since now the part protrudes laterally instead of vertically. Thus, ironically, the total height of the fixture and workpiece will impact the limits of the spindle head’s horizontal (Y-axis) movement.

The takeaway here, Cope says, is that trunnion-style machines should be sized for the work that they will be machining, so contemplating the purchase of a new five-axis machine should definitely take workpiece size into account.

Cope’s presentation was based on a short book he wrote for Hurco called “The Power of Five: The Definitive Guide to 5-Axis Machining.”

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