Peter Zelinski

Peter Zelinski has been a writer and editor for Modern Machine Shop since 1997. His monthly column, “The Z Axis,” has been part of the magazine since 2000, and he became editor-in-chief in 2016 — only the sixth person to fill that role since the magazine’s debut in 1928. One of the aspects of Pete’s work he enjoys the most is visiting machining facilities to learn about the manufacturing technology, systems and strategies they have adopted, and the successes they’ve realized as a result. Pete is also an authority on the advance of 3D printing into industrial production, and in 2012 he helped to launch Additive Manufacturing magazine. Serving as the editor-in-chief of this publication as well, he regularly speaks at the Additive Manufacturing Conference and he is the co-host of an award-winning video series on additive manufacturing, The Cool Parts Show. Pete earned his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and he first learned about machining by running and programming machine tools in a metalworking laboratory within what is now GE Aviation.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 20. February 2020

Because of the Tariff on Mold Tooling, This Indiana Mold Shop’s Business is Now Booming

How important is the 25% tariff the United States recently reinstated on China-built injection mold tooling?

For Precise Tooling Solutions, this action by the federal government could not be more meaningful. Order activity is already making it clear that this will be a good year for the shop, whereas 2019 was not. By the middle of January 2020 — that is, just three weeks into this year — this Columbus, Indiana, mold builder with a staff of 40 had already booked more molds than it did for the entirety of 2019. Employees who might have grown accustomed to 40-hour weeks will now be called upon to work significant overtime. I spoke to owner and CEO Don Dumoulin about the change. How much of the upswing does he attribute to the tariff?

“All of it,” he says. The tariff went into effect during the final days of 2019. Since then, the shop has been hearing from mold buyers who had never been customers before — injection molders that, until that point, had been committed to sourcing their tooling from China.

2018 was a strong year for the shop, too. The tariff went into effect in July of that year. It was rescinded at the end of that year, and now recently restored, as the presidential administration apparently agreed with comments filed by 150 American mold builders on behalf of this action. Precise’s experience certainly demonstrates the effectiveness of the move. “The shop is humming again,” Mr. Dumoulin says. Meanwhile, he argues the tariff was also the right move.

A tariff is arbitrary, to be sure. This is one of its problems: It is a cost set by politics and bureaucracy rather than market forces and value. However, U.S. moldmakers have long struggled against arbitrary moves opposing them. Among these is the support foreign governments (China and others) give to their domestic toolmakers. By virtue of the tariff, the U.S. is now supporting its toolmakers as well.

The artificially lower cost overseas leads to another irrational factor, he says, which is the short-term actions of mold buyers. “U.S. businesses get caught up in cost savings that hurt their interests long-term,” he says. Molders saving cost by buying from foreign sources is particularly galling to him, he explains, because the mold frequently amounts to only 3-4% of the total cost of a plastic part. However, the loss of domestic moldmaking capability — a real possibility as significant amounts of mold work shift to China — would imperil plastics manufacturing. Since a new product made of plastic is defined by the mold, the ability to invent with plastics relies on access to moldmaking, and intellectual property is literally contained in the mold. If a tariff is “protectionism” — and it is — moldmaking is a capability arguably worth protecting, at least against artificial distortions.

Is 25% a fitting number? Again, arbitrary. But in this case, Mr. Dumoulin says that figure seems just right. U.S. molds are still costlier, but where the price difference compared to China used to be huge, the tariff now leaves the price of Precise’s molds generally within about 10-15%, he says. This gap is slight enough that the desire to buy domestically can close it. To many molders, the ease of proximity and the expectation of service, quality and delivery that come from sourcing from an American mold shop justify a reasonable price premium.

“Customers have always told us, if you can get the price within 20%, we will buy American,” he says. The tariff is now proving this to be true.

This story originally appeared in Modern Machine Shop magazine.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 16. November 2018

Video: What Can Force Analysis Tell You About Your Machining Process?

This piece originally appeared as a blog post on MMS Online.


I recently had the chance to work with TechSolve, the machining consulting firm based in Cincinnati, Ohio, on filming some really ugly machining passes.

The point was cutting force analysis. Watching poorly performing cuts while also seeing the corresponding cutting force profiles illustrates what force measurement can reveal about the process. In many cases, force monitoring is limited to the machine’s spindle-load monitor, but TechSolve can bring more than this. It can measure forces more specifically and directly using a three-component dynamometer.

Force analysis can be useful for diagnosing the challenges of an application involving a difficult workpiece material and/or an unstable process. To the knowledgeable observer, force profiles can reveal the problem areas in a process—the shortcomings to address to make the process consistent and reliable enough for unattended machining.

In this video of machining 4140 steel, watch the cuts and see the force profiles corresponding to (1) gradual tool failure, (2) cutting with a rake angle that is too highly positive for the process and (3) the development of a built-up edge.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 22. June 2017

Is Your Machine Shop a Top Shop?

In this video produced for our upcoming Top Shops Conference, I talk about the value of benchmarking and the different benefits that might come from comparing your shop’s business and performance metrics to those of other shops. Also in this video, Gardner Business Media Director of Market Intelligence Steven Kline describes three characteristics that distinguish top shops—the group of shops with the leading benchmarks in our annual survey—from other machining businesses and facilities.

The Top Shops Conference, which will explore ideas and technologies top shops are adopting and the challenges they are overcoming, is the very first of what we hope will be a regular event. The conference runs September 5-7 in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

Learn more about the event and its speakers, and be sure to register for the Top Shops Conference.

For more Top Shops information, visit the Top Shops Zone at MMS Online.

This post is an adaptation of a blog post titled “Video: Are You a Top Shop?” originally appearing on MMS Online.

Posted by: Peter Zelinski 12. January 2017

The Impact of a Horizontal Machining Center

Tri-State Tool Grinding is a Cincinnati, Ohio, shop that, along with the tool grinding in its name, also does general CNC machining. For this latter work, the shop recently made a move many small shops contemplate: the jump from vertical to horizontal machining.

For the shop’s first HMC, it invested in an a61nx from Makino. In the video above, Quality Manager Michael Newcomb describes parts that were formerly machined using verticals, and how those same parts are now machined more efficiently (thanks to fewer setups) on the horizontal machine. He also describes the shop’s use of Mastercam for programming these jobs.


This blog post from Peter Zelinski originally appeared at Modern Machine Shop.


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