AMT Tech Trends: Icosahedron

Updated: Apr 15

Release date: 23 August 2019

Elena finally made an icosahedron and Stephen covers the lessons learned. Ben talks about an article covering challenges with processing additive parts and an article about how to use less support material with additive. Steve finishes with an article and a recent DC trip regarding the state of robotics innovation in America.

Benjamin’s Linked In www.linkedin.com/in/benjamin-moses-b13b44a2/

Amateur Machinist Blog swarfysteve.blogspot.com/

Music provided by www.freestockmusic.com


Benjamin Moses:          00:10                Hello everybody, and welcome to Tech Trends podcast. I am Benjamin Moses, the Director of Manufacturing Technology. And we’re here to discuss research and news. Also here with…

Stephen LaMarca:         00:19                Stephen LaMarca, and I am the Manufacturing Technology Analyst.

Benjamin Moses:          00:22                Awesome, Steve. How are you doing today?

Stephen LaMarca:         00:24                I’m doing great. We did that without fumbling on our titles.

Benjamin Moses:          00:28                I pat myself on the back.

Stephen LaMarca:         00:29                We should be really proud of that.

Benjamin Moses:          00:31                I don’t know why I have such a difficult time with my title.

Stephen LaMarca:         00:33                Me too.

Benjamin Moses:          00:33                So before we get started talking about the test bed articles, I ran across two issues again with my home automation experiment.

Stephen LaMarca:         00:38                Okay.

Benjamin Moses:          00:40                This was with outdoors with my sprinkler system. So it’s a simple straightforward sprinkler system. I’m running green hoses on top of the lawn, to gear-driven sprinklers. And I just have timers on the faucet. So it’s a timed sprinkler.

Benjamin Moses:          00:56                But one thing I know… It’s been working great so far. Grass is kind of green. We’re in Maryland, I don’t expect tons of green grass.

Stephen LaMarca:         01:01                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Benjamin Moses:          01:02                But there’s two issues that came up. One was I had some work done on my driveway. It was dipping right before the garage. So it was kind of a pain to drive in so the builder fixed that. But what they didn’t tell me was they moved one of the sprinklers. So, the only reason I noticed that was because that portion, that side of the grass, started turning brown. And when I looked at the sprinkler, it was pointed at my neighbor’s car. So for like a week I was spraying my neighbor’s car just with the sprinkler for every day in the morning for like 20 minutes.

Stephen LaMarca:         01:30                Wow.

Benjamin Moses:          01:31                So one of the key takeaways on the automation side, from my perspective in this scenario, was the need for communication.

Stephen LaMarca:         01:38                Yeah.

Benjamin Moses:          01:39                The guy came and did the work. I wasn’t there when they came and did the work. If they left a sticky note, I did notice that they left a rock where the sprinkler was, which is good. I know where the sprinkler goes back, but I didn’t know that they have moved the sprinkler.

Stephen LaMarca:         01:54                Wow.

Benjamin Moses:          01:54                So I think, if other people are getting involved besides the one who designed the system, besides the one running the system, any type of communication, a sticky note, if you spray painted something on the driveway after they put a chalk line or something. Any type of communication would be helpful.

Stephen LaMarca:         02:11                That’s kind of awkward stage or an awkward area in a lot of service, I think. I put in a lot of maintenance requests at my apartment complex, and sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they don’t. It’s about 50/50 whether or not the fix is going to work.

Benjamin Moses:          02:29                Yep.

Stephen LaMarca:         02:31                Lately I’ve just been like… I want to be there when they show up. So I can make sure that they do a good job. But at the same time you don’t want to be hovering over the person, because they’re not going to be a happy worker if they’ve got the person there.

Benjamin Moses:          02:44                Yeah, that’s right.

Stephen LaMarca:         02:45                And I feel the same way about taking my car to the shop.

Benjamin Moses:          02:49                Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         02:51                Every now and then I have some awkward work done, like-

Benjamin Moses:          02:55                That hand-off and delegations really-

Stephen LaMarca:         02:56                It’s like, “Dude, the brakes squeak. I want you to put on this high-temperature grease.” And they’re like, “Oh, well, we just applied it to the slide pins because that’s usually-” No. Apply it to the back of the pads too.

Benjamin Moses:          03:08                Well, you’re supposed to, yeah. Yeah, I agree. The other scenario I ran into was, again with the sprinklers. For some reason I have one sprinkler that breaks.

Stephen LaMarca:         03:16                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Benjamin Moses:          03:16                The second time it’s broken, and I didn’t realize it was broken until… So it covers a big portion of my lawn.

Stephen LaMarca:         03:23                Yes.

Benjamin Moses:          03:23                That one sprinkler does. And then I came outside one day just checking the mail or something, and I realized that there’s one strip of green grass and a huge fan of brown grass. So like, this is not working out well. What happened here? So I did a quick check. Oh, it was right before I was cutting the grass.

Stephen LaMarca:         03:38                Was it the motor drives, or it was just programming?

Benjamin Moses:          03:40                No, no, it was the motor.

Stephen LaMarca:         03:41                Okay.

Benjamin Moses:          03:41                It’s a gear-driven sprinkler head, and I think something got stuck inside of it. I do have deer eating some of my flowers in front, so I’m feeling the deer must have knocked it.

Stephen LaMarca:         03:50                Yeah, maybe.

Benjamin Moses:          03:50                It is a weird location too, so there’s not much traffic. I don’t know, man, something broke in the system.

Stephen LaMarca:         03:54                Right.

Benjamin Moses:          03:55                But the interesting thing was the quality checks that’s required to make sure the system’s functioning properly.

Stephen LaMarca:         04:04                Yeah.

Benjamin Moses:          04:04                I think it’s pretty important for some level of automation. In this case I could see the grass was getting browner, where it’s in a portion that should be covered by the water, and it shouldn’t be getting brown. So that’s the first indicator. It turned brown relatively quick and it’s growing back again. But one thing I did notice is this failure. I was able to fix it relatively quickly by just replacing the part. So yes.

Stephen LaMarca:         04:25                Are these also the sprinklers that deploy up out of the ground?

Benjamin Moses:          04:28                No.

Stephen LaMarca:         04:28                Or are they always out of the ground?

Benjamin Moses:          04:30                No, I’m way too cheap for that, Steve.

Stephen LaMarca:         04:32                No, that’s a good thing.

Benjamin Moses:          04:32                They’re always above the grass.

Stephen LaMarca:         04:33                No, no, no, no, it’s not a matter of being cheap or not.

Benjamin Moses:          04:37                Right.

Stephen LaMarca:         04:38                Those bougie sprinklers that pop [crosstalk 00:04:40] and deploy out of the ground like this is like some sci-fi sentry gun or something like that, they always jam.

Benjamin Moses:          04:46                Yes.

Stephen LaMarca:         04:46                My uncle had those for the longest time. They would never work right.

Benjamin Moses:          04:50                Yeah, because they’ve got to articulate up and then they got to rotate around. That’s too much motion.

Stephen LaMarca:         04:53                Yeah, they never deployed.

Benjamin Moses:          04:54                That’s way too much.

Stephen LaMarca:         04:55                Or the really crazy thing, if it doesn’t deploy, the water pressure actually builds up under them.

Benjamin Moses:          05:01                Oh, that’s right.

Stephen LaMarca:         05:01                So after the timer goes off and after they stop watering, there’s still water pressure built up in that one sprinkler that didn’t deploy.

Benjamin Moses:          05:10                Yep.

Stephen LaMarca:         05:11                And if somebody walking their dog goes by your yard and the dog sniffs the sprinkler and just lodges whatever blocked it from deploying out of place and it deploys.

Benjamin Moses:          05:23                Oh, no.

Stephen LaMarca:         05:23                Everybody gets wet. The dog gets scared. You get yelled at-

Benjamin Moses:          05:26                It’s a nightmare.

Stephen LaMarca:         05:26                Because it’s just there’s so much nonsense with keeping grass green. We don’t even want to talk to the people on the west coast about that. Jeez.

Benjamin Moses:          05:35                So there’s two lessons I learned, one is just the communication and the second is to quality check once in a while. I should run the sprinkler system once a month just to make sure things are running properly or just look at the lawn, that helps too.

Stephen LaMarca:         05:46                Yeah.

Benjamin Moses:          05:46                So see if you got some interesting things were happening in the testbed. Why don’t you walk us through it?

Stephen LaMarca:         05:50                Yeah. So Elena who is our guest on the testbed and recent high school graduate. Sadly she will be going to college, WPI up in Massachusetts. It’s bittersweet. Because she’s done some great work. Like, you should see the file folder of all the G-code on our [crosstalk 00:06:12]. Like over the past two years, I think I have like 10 G-code programs and 10 programs for the testbed, the Pocket NC. In the past two years. She’s been here for like what? Two, three months? And there’s probably a hundred G-code programs. Now, a lot of them are refinements and whatnot, but still, man, that’s a lot of programs. Anyway, it’ll be sad to see her go. But she’s coming in again tonight with her friend, Sam Steel.

Benjamin Moses:          06:37                This is a real person?

Stephen LaMarca:         06:38                This is a real person, not some superhero, but he was also here last week and what we did last week is… He was like, “Okay, you guys have a five axis machine, let’s do some five axis machining.” And I’m like, “Well, easier said than done. Have Elena help you out and bring me a program and let’s run it.” And so last week we ran it and of course it failed. There was two failures. The first work piece that we threw in, everything was going great. And by the way, Sam, what he wanted to make was a… I wrote it down here cause I want to say geodesic, but it was geometric dome. That may be actually be geodesic, whatever. Geometric dome. Essentially he wants to mill out, from our two by two by two stock, a hemisphere with gemstone facets.

Benjamin Moses:          07:26                Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         07:26                Not a perfect hemisphere, but-

Benjamin Moses:          07:28                It’s a flat-top.

Stephen LaMarca:         07:29                Some flats that aren’t necessarily flat either. They’re kind of like contoured and smooth, but it still uses all five axes of the machine. So I’m like, awesome, let’s run this and everything’s going great and the first failure we came across is the B-table issue reared its ugly head again. So it’s not a big problem because I know the quick fix.

Benjamin Moses:          07:49                Okay.

Stephen LaMarca:         07:51                Eventually I will… Maybe we’ll put some R & D dollar of our testbed dollars to upgrading to the V2.

Benjamin Moses:          07:58                Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         07:59                Which should fix a lot of it and I’ll talk to them about that. But I did the immediate fix, which was just take the cover off of the B-table to expose the pulleys and gears and realigned the drive belt for the B-table. And you know after a few rotations… Because it’s still stalls a little bit after you do that fix because it wants to get everything in place and once it’s in place everything works fine for probably the next 100 rotations and then it needs to be realigned again.

Stephen LaMarca:         08:26                Anyway. It’s funny, this machine has a periodic maintenance and it needs its timing belt checked on the B-table.

Benjamin Moses:          08:32                That’s funny.

Stephen LaMarca:         08:33                But anyway, that was the first problem we ran into. So it started doing milling and the B-table wasn’t moving.

Benjamin Moses:          08:39                Right.

Stephen LaMarca:         08:40                So I was like “We’ve only got four axes moving when we need all five.” And then the second problem was… So that night the B-table failed and it was already late. Elena got a angry text from her moms at 11 o’clock and was like, “You need to come home now. You can’t be staying out all-“. Sure. Okay. So I ran it again the next morning. And the next problem was we got on… I think it was a 45,000 line G-code program and it stalled on like line 35,000 so we were almost done.

Stephen LaMarca:         09:15                And I actually have the part just over there, but it did all the roughing passes. Just finding the last few finishing passes. If an error popped up and I told Elena about it and they’re coming in tonight and we’re going to see if they have a solution for it or if they want to just go on making the next thing. Because I mean it’s just a geodesic dome.

Benjamin Moses:          09:36                Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         09:36                Yeah. We’re using all five axes, but what are we going to use this thing for? They’re going to come back tonight. But anyway, that’s what we did on the testbed. And so the week before that, and I talked about this on the last podcast, she finally, she successfully made the 20 sided die, the icosahedron. And we got the working program and she’s now has been working on making the program more efficient because there were some excessive lines here and there.

Stephen LaMarca:         10:08                And that ties perfectly to the tech trends article that I have, which was by Advanced Manufacturing Media at advancedmanufacturing.org and the title of that article is More Profitable Tool Paths. And they’re basically talking about… it’s a pretty long winded article, but it gets you thinking. And I think that was the huge value behind it. And they’re talking about using software to make the most ideal toolpaths. And the problem with a lot of people and shops, even, is they’ll write a program and they’ll refine the program until the program works and the machine can be left alone. And a lot of people stop there and I’m not going to fault them. I stop there most of the time.

Benjamin Moses:          10:54                Sure.

Stephen LaMarca:         10:54                Once I get a program that works and the machine can do it by itself. Awesome. But how do you make the most profitable toolpath, is you cut back on some redundancies and maybe you add a little bit more toolpaths to another part that seems a little rough and a lot of places don’t go that route to making it better like that unless they’re trying to meet really strict tolerances.

Stephen LaMarca:         11:22                But again a lot of places, more places than they probably should, follow, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And in the article they talk about… There’s a lot of software out there today that will take what toolpaths you have now and make your G-code more efficient.

Benjamin Moses:          11:40                I like it.

Stephen LaMarca:         11:40                And actually, Herko, one of my first years working here, I saw a Herko video and they have a program that optimizes toolpaths and they say, “A lot of people engineer their toolpaths and think of it like a car from getting point A to point B,” which is essentially what a CNC machine does using coordinate systems. But CNC should be more than an appliance getting from point A to point B. To maximize your profit, you really need the machine acting like a race car and Herko dropped the line. “You need the drivers aligned to take the corners as efficiently and as quickly as possible.”

Stephen LaMarca:         12:22                And it’s the truth after having seen the programs that I’ve made on our machine, it’s like there’s areas where we’re wasting a lot of time cutting air when there’s stock in there and it really only… out of like 10 passes it makes, you only make the slightest bit of contact with the part once. And there’s other areas where you make 10 passes and you really should be making like 12 to 15 passes on it.

Benjamin Moses:          12:54                That’s the interesting thing. There’s a lot of lessons learned to go through.

Stephen LaMarca:         12:57                There’s a lot, a huge amount of lessons learned.

Benjamin Moses:          12:59                So you’re just trying to save time, but also at the other side of it is improving cutter quality and cutter life.

Stephen LaMarca:         13:03                Yeah, exactly.

Benjamin Moses:          13:04                There’s a whole ecosystem of things that to be saved, like continuing iterate. Well, you’ve already developed the safe process to get parts out the door cause-

Stephen LaMarca:         13:12                Exactly

Benjamin Moses:          13:12                The customer has got to get satisfied but you can come back and say why aren’t you getting satisfied? I’m going to make more money. And I think that’s a perfectly usable process to develop the testbed.

Stephen LaMarca:         13:20                Absolutely. Absolutely. And the article really focused on the the R & D investment should be in software, cause there’s a lot of software out there to optimize your toolpaths. But I think if you have a really creative machinist in your shop and programmer, another, less expensive than you would think because we have one for crying out loud, is invest in a testbed while… Get the program to where it works and it can run by itself. You don’t need somebody hovering over the E-stop button and run those parts. And while the machine can run by itself until it needs more stock or whatever, that same machinist who made the program in the first place, they should be, or the technician or operator, whatever term you want to use for them, should be able to have a testbed available to them so they can optimize that program further to keep it working and working even faster.

Benjamin Moses:          14:18                One thing that is not talked about often is in the simulation side, so as you’re iterating, is including all your work holding. So you’re including basically everything in your environment to avoid crash, to avoid stagging your cutter and things like that. A couple of weeks ago, we’re comparing crash videos and it’s tragic to see the solid carbine cutter. That’s very expensive.

Stephen LaMarca:         14:38                Oh my God.

Benjamin Moses:          14:39                It gets sheered off. I’m like, “Ah, there that goes.” So that’s awesome. I like to see that. Yeah. Driving the need for a testbed to continue harvesting your profits is awesome.

Stephen LaMarca:         14:49                Exactly. And like I said, there’s two options. You can either do software that can promise advanced toolpaths right out of the gate. So once you have a working program, then it makes it better. Or you can get a testbed and a testbed has more flexibility than I think software just designed for one thing.

Benjamin Moses:          15:09                You can do a lot more. You can test work holding. And you can test automation and you test so many physical assets of it too.

Stephen LaMarca:         15:13                Yeah.

Benjamin Moses:          15:14                So I got an interesting article on Additive and it’s actually from the same group. So Advanced Manufacturing [crosstalk 00:15:19] work. So they’re talking about the other side of Additive. So everyone’s really interested as Additive disrupting manufacturing.

Stephen LaMarca:         15:28                Yes.

Benjamin Moses:          15:30                Which is partially true, but there’s still a lot of things that need happen upstream. So that article talks about one, the benefits of going to Additive and what’s needed in the design world. So, and the remaining portion of the article that talks about the GD Aviation application where in one application they reduced the weight by 25% and increased their cost efficiency by 30%. Just running that engine… Just by converting, doing a fair amount of design work to harness the value of Additive and implementing that in their engine.

Benjamin Moses:          16:01                The article also… The core of the article really focuses on the need for aerospace to shift from noncritical hardware to critical hardware. And the US Army is really interested in doing that. They have a use case on one of their, I think, helicopters, one of the inlet components where they want us… Additive will go to that part to harness similar to what GE has their savings. But what they’re saying is, “The manufacturing is okay.” They are comfortable with the direction that’s going, is they want to drive information further upstream to design world to alleviate some of the issues that they’re having in manufacturing and be able to predict the benefits that they’re going to see in real life applications. So some of the issues that they’re running into are the need for standards. So material databases, getting information captured digitally, in-situation monitoring, cultural change because once a lot of the information’s inherited to the design engineer it’s not passed down from generation. And the other side is alloy development. So back to what types of alloys are being printed.

Stephen LaMarca:         17:08                Yeah.

Benjamin Moses:          17:10                And what that information can do is, on the case I had NASA brought up was you know they may be printing a significant amount of parts. So the use case that they talked about was say they printed a thousand parts or 40,000 parts, it really doesn’t matter. In the current application, the current system that they have, they have to CT scan every single part. That is outrageously expensive. It’s super time consuming. Stephen LaMarca:         17:32                Yeah. As if Additive isn’t slow enough.

Benjamin Moses:          17:34                And if you had a defect, you’re screwed. You just throw that part away. And maybe Stephen LaMarca:         17:37                Right. And that’s expensive material too.

Benjamin Moses:          17:39                Yeah, exactly. So what they want to do is have a drive for more reliability. And a lot of that can be driven from the information that we’ve talked about but also standards, so I’ll end with a quote here. They talked about, “Standards help us develop reliability, reliability on materials, processes and geometry are necessary if we weren’t going to have reproducible parts. Reproducible parts are required to achieve certification.” So anything in the aerospace world they need to start driving that way and they want to harness those benefits and they’re seeing a real life application and gains from implementing a lot of these things.

Stephen LaMarca:         18:14                Yeah, I think standards with Additive are now more important for than ever because the development or the research and development in Additive is just off the charts right now. It’s only getting faster and faster and things are getting better and better. And there’s no way for something like software or if companies that are making hybrid machines, which should be the end all be all machine on the shop floor, they can’t keep up because these new materials, if you’re implementing a hybrid machine and you’re using some new alloy that was developed strictly for Additive, then they’ve got to do a whole bunch of research and development on what are the speeds and feeds that can be used with this metal or what have you. But…

Benjamin Moses:          19:06                And with the issues with the 737 MAX. The FAA is very, very particular about and implementing a lot of new processes, new materials. So-

Stephen LaMarca:         19:13                I bet.

Benjamin Moses:          19:13                I could see why they’re risk adverse in terms of testing on new things, which makes a lot of sense. I mean these are flight critical hardware. So if something breaks, the aircraft has to land. There’s lives at stake and with NASA’s application too, you’re gonna launch this thing out in outer space. That’s the only thing preventing the astronaut from being killed [inaudible 00:00:19:33], right. So I think the criticality is parts are a paramount. And the drive to the point where they’re talking about the reproducibility, so they have more confidence in the parts is critical. Those were real good articles. I was really happy with that.

Stephen LaMarca:         19:47                It is good.

Benjamin Moses:          19:48                So Steve, I was super happy with the recording this week and I had a great time.

Stephen LaMarca:         19:51                Me too, that was great.

Benjamin Moses:          19:53                Yep. See you later, man.

Stephen LaMarca:         19:54                Bye, everybody.