AMT Tech Trends: New Challenger

Updated: Apr 15

Release date: 13 September 2019

Ben kicks things off with more home automation fails tracing back to a need for quality checks and communication. Stephen announces a new challenger approaching the testbed, Sam Steele. Together Sam and Elena ran the second ever program at AMT to utilize true 5-axis machining. The testbed update segued into an article about more profitable tool paths. Ben closed with an article regarding design for additive.

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

Amateur Machinist Blog swarfysteve.blogspot.com/

Music provided by www.freestockmusic.com


Benjamin:                     00:07                Hello everybody, and welcome to the [inaudible 00:00:09] podcast where we discuss the latest manufacturing technology, news, and research. I am Benjamin Moses, the director of manufacturing technology, and I’m here with…

Stephen:                       00:17                Steven LaMarca, the manufacturing technology analyst.

Benjamin:                     00:22                [inaudible 00:00:22] catch your business card there. Someday you’ll get it.

Stephen:                       00:25                We had it last time we recorded.

Benjamin:                     00:27                Yeah.

Stephen:                       00:28                It was perfect.

Benjamin:                     00:29                That’s fine.

Stephen:                       00:29                We screwed it up. I screwed it up.

Benjamin:                     00:31                That’s all right. How’s everything going, Steve?

Stephen:                       00:33                Everything is going well.

Benjamin:                     00:34                Good. I realized something today when I was driving around going into my favorite place, the library. I noticed an issue with their sprinkler system. I’ve been running an automated sprinkler. I’m calling it automated, but realistically it’s a bunch of garden hoses with some sprinkler heads, the cheapest implementation of the way it’s automated is a timer.

Stephen:                       00:54                It’s still home automation.

Benjamin:                     00:55                It’s home automation. I’ve had issues with one of the sprinkler heads not working all the time. For some reason, it just stopped working. It’s just spraying in one direction, dumping water in one direction. [inaudible 00:01:06] the library. I look over, and I see this fully automated, pop-up head, professional system done with one sprinkler just dumping water right in some corner. Then I realize, “Great, this guy with a fully professional system has the exact same problems that my [inaudible 00:01:21] $200 system has.”

Stephen:                       01:22                So it made you feel good.

Benjamin:                     01:24                It made me feel good.

Stephen:                       01:24                You’re all in the same boat.

Benjamin:                     01:26                Exactly. That’s the big takeaway that hit me again when I realized that these small systems that we set up, our test bed, we’re going through the test bed to find problems, to see how it scales to bigger systems. If you’re a small company doing small automated systems, you’re going to have the same problems that a bigger factory does. All the problems are basically the same.

Benjamin:                     01:46                One caveat I will mention that you do have, scale problems. If I just go to a bigger building, now I’ve got much more thermal distortion, much more things that are just because it’s big, problems. But, in terms of functional technical problems, I have a robot here, I have 10 robots there. They all face the same problem.

Benjamin:                     02:07                That was an interesting revelation again, and I was reinforced. I felt good.

Stephen:                       02:11                It helps you better yourself, better your system. It’s a good reasoning why everybody needs a test bed.

Benjamin:                     02:18                Everybody needs that. That’s why I’m so happy we have our test bed also.

Stephen:                       02:20                That’s right.

Benjamin:                     02:21                Speaking of which, what’s going on in test bed.

Stephen:                       02:22                Let me tell you what’s wrong with our test bed.

Benjamin:                     02:24                Wait a second. Too many problems today.

Stephen:                       02:28                As you know, I’ve been having a lot of problems with the B-table. The B-table stalls. We’ll be in the middle of a 5-Axis operation, and the B-table stops turning. It’ll get hung up on something and starts stalling. That’s the belt that drives the B table, rides up, slips off of its axes of operation, and rides up against the B-table cover, and generates just enough friction to stop that B-table from moving. We’ve scrapped a few 5-Axis parts because of this now.

Stephen:                       02:57                For a while, the the short term fix, if you can call it that, more like maintenance, is just about before every operation, I have to open it up, open up the machine, make sure the belt is aligned properly, make sure it’s clean, maybe apply a little bit of lube to make sure everything’s happy, close it back up, then home the machine, and get started doing whatever I’m doing.

Stephen:                       03:23                It’s tedious. You have to do that every time. Good thing we’re just an association because if we were a full production facility, nobody’s doing that every time they run one part.

Benjamin:                     03:34                Yeah. I’ll caveat that.

Stephen:                       03:36                Okay. Mr. Experience.

Benjamin:                     03:38                I have seen… You’re not doing that when you run one part.

Stephen:                       03:41                A batch, though.

Benjamin:                     03:42                You will do that if you’re trying to limp along, which I’ve seen people limp machines along. A problem does come up. They figure out the bandaid that should get you by until you call the technician to put in the permanent fixed. They’ll keep running that bandaid month, after month, after month, and it becomes standard procedure as part of the startup sequence for machines. One of the articles we’re gonna talk about later on is that one of the seven layers of waste, and that is unnecessary motion.

Benjamin:                     04:06                You’re wasting time. You’re, one, losing missed opportunity for parts that you could’ve run, and your inducing additional costs by having this person do this thing over and over again when you should have just had it fixed.

Stephen:                       04:19                Well, I’m not at a permanent fix yet, but we are a step closer. I went and got in another back and forth with Pocket NC. Their customer service is incredible. They just sent me, last week, I got the box with two new stepper motors. The stepper motors aren’t the issue, but it’s what’s attached to the stepper motors, which is a pulley, a permanently fixed pulley that drives the belt, that drives the table. These new redesigned pulleys that came out on the more recent version of the V1, which we have the V1, the pulleys have a lip to keep the belt aligned at all times. So, the belt doesn’t slip. So, great. Sounds like an amazing fix. Pocket NC didn’t charge us at all for them. They charged us $10 for the shipping, which was killer.

Benjamin:                     05:09                That’s reasonable.

Stephen:                       05:10                A $10 permanent fix. Could be. Unlikely, but it could be. So, I’m looking at these new steppers. I’m really looking forward to installing them this week. It’ll be fun to see what it does. I’m looking at them. There is a problem.

Benjamin:                     05:27                Okay.

Stephen:                       05:27                But before I’ve even got them installed, there is a slight problem. The lip that keeps the belt aligned onto the center of the pulley, it looks chewed up. It’s just, I guess, poor manufacturing. They’re plastic pulleys, delrin maybe.

Benjamin:                     05:45                It’s not a complete circle on top.

Stephen:                       05:46                It literally looks like a dog chewed it. It’s just the lip. The actual ribbed part of the pulley that keeps the belt from slipping…

Benjamin:                     05:56                That’s fully formed.

Stephen:                       05:56                That looks fine. That’s fully formed. The back of the backside lip, which the old pulleys have a bottom lip, they’re just missing the top lip. It’s just the top lip on these new ones that is chewed to all hell.

Benjamin:                     06:11                There’s a fair amount of material, so I’m not overly concerned about it.

Stephen:                       06:13                I’m not concerned. It’s going to stay. I know the belt is going to stay aligned with these new pulleys. The new question is, are we picking the lesser of two evils? The answer is probably yes because this new lip is probably going to chew up the drive belt after a year or so. That’s if we do a lot of machining and use the b-table a lot. That belt is probably going to get chewed up, and we’ll need to replace it.

Stephen:                       06:43                But, it’s the lesser of two evils. I rather replace one belt every year, than realign the same belt that [inaudible 00:06:52] together every time I use the machine.

Benjamin:                     06:55                That’s a good point. You’re shifting maintenance schedules. So now, you had a problem. You have a temporary fix where you induce more maintenance. Fix the problem, but you have a check-in… Basically, you check-in the belt, similar to a car, like check an accessory belt. It’s a pretty easy check, too. It’s not like it seems overly complex.

Stephen:                       07:12                If you look at cars, different model years of a car, at what point does a bandaid need to be replaced with a full redesign of a particular part or component.

Benjamin:                     07:26                This’ll be super helpful once we are able to pull data from the test bed, from the Pocket NC, so we are able to record how long actual run time, machine time, that belt has seen. Then, we can project how much time the future belts will have before we start getting concerned.

Benjamin:                     07:44                We had a discussion offline about catastrophic failures. There’s no reason to have a catastrophic failure. There’s some life that’s predicted. We should be able to start being worried or replace the parts before a catastrophic failure occurs. I think collecting this data will be super useful for that.

Benjamin:                     08:00                That’s awesome. That’s good. What’s-

Stephen:                       08:01                But in the short term, before we go on, and I will tell you what’s going on next. If this doesn’t work, or it doesn’t work as planned, or just isn’t sufficient, the final step, the plan C is just… We’ve got a quote from Pocket NC to just fully replace the machine. Not to replace it, to upgrade it from the V1 to the V2.

Benjamin:                     08:22                I was going to say, because I’m looking for budget money and it’s not for replacement, it’s for upgrading.

Stephen:                       08:26                It’s for upgrading. This doesn’t have any belts. It’s direct gear drive. So that’s going to be nice.

Stephen:                       08:33                But getting back into the things… After Alana went back up to college a few weeks ago in Massachusetts WPI, now I’m just getting back to what I was working on before she did her time here. That’s just getting back into cutting brass. I’m going to move forward in making my a watch dials.

Benjamin:                     08:55                That’s going to be exciting.

Stephen:                       08:57                It is. It is. I’m looking forward to it. Got some new tools for it that I think are going to fit the build perfectly.

Benjamin:                     09:02                Good. Transition to a couple of articles that we found. I found one about mobile workstations. Now on the surface, it doesn’t sound that interesting. But see, if you’ve been in a factory a couple of times, as the operator, you’ve toured factories with the operator stationary, they move around quite a bit. What’s your perspective on how much movement they they have?

Stephen:                       09:21                What I’ve seen is that they move around quite a lot. They’re only glued in front of the machine for a fraction of the runtime. Once they see… That’s probably from my experience. What I do, I would assume it’s at the very beginning or the very end of a cycle. But operators are pretty free and moving around.

Benjamin:                     09:47                I found this article on the fabricator and they talk about this application in the packaging cell. They have this huge open area where they’re packaging pallets of boxes and stuff that are ready to ship, and the operator is moving from one side of the building, on one side of the room to the other. So it was all over the place. So, maybe 40 feet traveled between locations. I’ll say that’s fairly common in any manufacturing, moving from machine to machine. But, in today’s digital world where all the information is stored on a computer or you have to access it through a computer, having a printout where you can carry it with you, being able to be mobile with the operator is kind of a problem. The problem statement is you’ve got cables and all supporting material for the digital apparatus that you need to go with the operator. Phones are too small. Tablets, I think, are way too small. Unless you’re doing…

Stephen:                       10:37                Really?

Benjamin:                     10:38                I mean, if you’re going to pull up a drawing, a blueprint to help support a drawing or put in instructions, that’s not the best environment, especially ergonomically. I mean, typing on a little tablet that just standing there isn’t necessarily the best.

Stephen:                       10:49                You’re telling me you need a full mouse and keyboard?

Benjamin:                     10:50                A full mouse and keyboard. You want to be productive, right? The most efficient way to do that kind of data exchange is with a mouse keyboard. What the article goes over is, they have a mobile cart, a pretty robust cart with a computer, a printer, label, and stuff to throw away for the operator, trash cans for the operator, a full cart that the operator can move around. Now the interesting thing that they implement, is obviously the laptop is wifi enabled, so you’re wireless there. But, if you have a printer, if you have a computer, if you have a couple of other accessories, how are you getting power to that? Great question. They have four giant lithium batteries in the base of the cart that power the laptop, power the printer, that powers everything that the operator needs to be able to survive in that external environment.

Benjamin:                     11:40                It’s interesting that in in this specific cell of packaging, he’s making printer labels. He’s documenting shipping invoices. He’s doing everything he needs at that location, far away from any electric outlets, any CAT-5 connections.

Stephen:                       11:56                That is awesome.

Benjamin:                     11:58                He’s able to work roughly the day. I mean, it’s powering a laptop, a low powered laptop, a printer that’s running off and on, and some other accessories. It was a fairly interesting implementation of something that’s conceptually simple. Like, “How do I get this person mobile,” with today’s advances in batteries, that you could probably power this one operator with those batteries for an entire 10, 12 hour shift if need be. I thought that was a really cool implementation.

Stephen:                       12:24                That’s a pretty easy fix too.

Benjamin:                     12:25                It is. It is.

Stephen:                       12:27                Because you could have longer term, maybe higher maintenance, certainly higher costs things, like a streetcar style cable system along the walkaways of a factory floor. Or you could have parking spots where the operator can park the workstation that the floor would have an induction pad.

Benjamin:                     12:48                Those are all just restrictions for operator, though. Interesting. This is great for the operator, gives them a full universal control of where he wants to go. But, what’s the return on investment of the business? That’s one of the layers of lead manufacturing on the seven layers of waste with the lead manufacturing, is the excess of movement. If I have a box over there, I’ve gotta go back and forth to the printer. Say that’s 30 seconds. But if I have a couple of hundred boxes, that adds up pretty quick. So in the article, it actually talks about saving several thousands of dollars or increasing your productivity, so you’re not missing opportunity by just, “Hey, let’s get the operator, the computer [inaudible 00:13:27] of use.”

Benjamin:                     13:28                Pretty solid business case. I mean, a small reasonably… The lithium batteries are not super cheap, but it’s a reasonable implementation for solid return on investment.

Stephen:                       13:36                Yeah. That’s the wildest thing because I’m not as experienced as you are in the industry. It’s crazy listening to you talk about this and conveying the weight and the importance of things like that on just 30 seconds, because it’s very Formula 1 esque. The smallest thing, the smallest $40,000 investment can shave a 10th of a second off your lab.

Benjamin:                     14:04                On the surface, you save 30 seconds. But what that enables you to do is to convey a culture of efficiency and improvement. If the operator sees, the technician sees, that we’re investing and saving this amount of time, I think what I’ve seen in the past is the operator feels empowered to bring up more ideas, to see other ways to improve the work that he wants to get done.

Benjamin:                     14:28                It not only saves money, but also it empowers the operator to feel like their work is valuable.

Stephen:                       14:35                Good. That’s awesome.

Benjamin:                     14:37                You had an article?

Stephen:                       14:37                Yeah. Let me tell you my mine. Here’s the headline. The headline is most of the story, which is a ultra fast 3D printer, Nexa 3D, taps former Uber exec, Jeff Holden, to join board of directors.

Benjamin:                     14:51                Nice.

Stephen:                       14:53                I posted this article in our Slack channel for industry news, and I posted though a little joke underneath. It really isn’t that funny, but overwork and underpay the machines.

Benjamin:                     15:03                The Uber model.

Stephen:                       15:05                Very Uber style. Bring the Uber model to the manufacturer. Anyway, have you heard of Nexa 3D before?

Benjamin:                     15:13                No, it doesn’t sound familiar. I’m not too keen on the plastic [crosstalk 00:15:16].

Stephen:                       15:16                I hadn’t heard of them either, so I took a deeper look into what they offer. They seem pretty cool. Allegedly, they have a ultra fast stereolithography SLA 3D printers or production additive manufacturing.

Benjamin:                     15:31                That’s a pretty crowded market.

Stephen:                       15:34                Yeah, really crowded market, but a really quickly developing additive market. These machines that they sell, they advertise as being fully compatible or compatible for full automation facilities.

Benjamin:                     15:54                That’s cool.

Stephen:                       15:55                You buy these machines, you put them in a cell, and you walk away. Once you get the integration all ironed out and down, these are not like human interface machines. You put them in a cell and they do their thing. They’re meant to work with full automation, which is really wild because they have things on these machines, like self washing. They wash the parts after they’re done being made. The machines wash themselves, and the machines are even capable of in-machine… I don’t know what term they use, but they can cure the part coming out of the machine in that machine. Curing is done [inaudible 00:16:34]. As the part comes out of the machine, it’s already been cured and heat treated, I assume.

Benjamin:                     16:39                So basically, there is no additional processing that needs to be done once it leaves the machine. You just take it out, and it just moves on to shipping.

Stephen:                       16:46                Exactly. It’s pretty wild.

Benjamin:                     16:47                That’s cool.

Stephen:                       16:48                It was nice to look into.

Benjamin:                     16:50                I feel like that’s where they separate themselves in the market. Sure, they say they’re faster. They produce probably an accurate part, but moving additive into an automated process because of their long run times, that enables you to do a lot of different things where a human doesn’t have to be involved on that type of process, helps additive go further into production a lot more.

Stephen:                       17:12                Would you say SLA is the most common form of additive that’s used in mass production?

Benjamin:                     17:19                Yeah. I mean, if you do it by part count, it’s a little tough to tell, tough to determine that, because there’s a lot of different markets getting into different ways to grow, especially with plastics. Probably.

Stephen:                       17:34                I posted another article. This wasn’t industry news because I didn’t use tech trends to find it. I found this doing my own personal research on audio. There’s an IEM company, an in-ear monitor company called Ultimate Ears. I just recently heard about them, but they are a subsidiary of Logitech. Logitech owns them, but they don’t want to go by the Logitech name. They call them Ultimate Ears.

Stephen:                       17:57                They’re really high end in-ear monitors. They’re custom fit, so whoever’s buying them needs to send them a mold of their inner ear. The person has to set up an appointment to go to a place to get a mold done of their inner ear. Then, that place sends them to California to Ultimate Ears. Ultimate Ears 3D scans the mold, they edit the mold on what the shape of the monitor should look should look like in a CAD program, and then they send it to a-

Benjamin:                     18:31                To a print shop and off it goes.

Stephen:                       18:33                They send it to their own in-house… They have their own print shop, and they have been using SLA since 2009 to make these IEMs.

Benjamin:                     18:43                That’s good.

Stephen:                       18:43                It’s wild. I’ll just digress real quick, but the market on IEMs has blown up this year.

Benjamin:                     18:51                According to you. Sure.

Stephen:                       18:52                2019. No, it really has.

Benjamin:                     18:55                I’ll take your word on that.

Stephen:                       18:57                This company has been doing it 10 years earlier.

Benjamin:                     19:00                10 years earlier.

Stephen:                       19:01                It’s just wild.

Benjamin:                     19:01                Yeah. Before I get into the last article, I think we should get into e-sports.

Stephen:                       19:06                E-sports?

Benjamin:                     19:06                Yeah, Logitech is e-sports. I think we should get into that.

Stephen:                       19:09                In the podcast?

Benjamin:                     19:11                So, the last article I want to talk about is hydrogen embrittlement. This is a research being done in oil and gas. I found this… Where did I find this article on 3D printing industry, and it’s titled degradation of additive manufactured parts in oil and gas industry.

Benjamin:                     19:29                One question Steve, do you know what hydrogen embrittlement is.

Stephen:                       19:32                No.

Benjamin:                     19:33                Good. Not a lot of people do. It’s the idea of, I’ve got a fully formed part that’s solid, say a metallic part. In this case, if the application is oil and gas, say it’s on the [inaudible 00:19:45], so it’s deep within the earth. In this application, hydrogen exists and the atmosphere around it, and there’s enough pressure and temperature that the hydrogen is actually penetrating the part. The hydrogen is attacking the grains in between. It’s an intergranular attack.

Stephen:                       20:03                Yeah, because it’s very small so it can get into the smallest of pores.

Benjamin:                     20:06                Yeah, exactly. If the temperature of the parts even bigger, so it’s able to penetrate. The hydrogen is actually attacking the grain structure and is creating cracks, subsurface. Those cracks, then, propagate to the surface and then you have catastrophic failure of the part itself. That’s all because the hydrogen is penetrating the material.

Benjamin:                     20:25                What they’re looking at is, they want to additively manufacture some parts and use it in oil and gas. In this particular case, they’re doing Inconal 718, which has been around in aerospace for a long time.

Stephen:                       20:36                At least since the sixties.

Benjamin:                     20:37                Yes.

Stephen:                       20:37                We just haven’t been able to manufacture, process it until recently.

Benjamin:                     20:42                Well, at least additively. It’s fairly easy to process in [inaudible 00:20:47] condition. Then, you age it so you get the full strength. Aerospace has been using that for a while because of the strength at high temperature. It’s pretty solid. But, it looks like they’re trying to get into applications in oil and gas and they’re doing some testing to see whether or not this will have hydrogen embrittlement as a potential cause for failure in oil and gas.

Benjamin:                     21:07                It’s an interesting test. Now, the article I will debate one thing about the article, is that they say high temperatures is 500 degree F, Fahrenheit. That’s not really… It’s not that high.

Stephen:                       21:17                It’s not high.

Benjamin:                     21:18                Get a hold of yourself. It’s fine.

Stephen:                       21:19                That’s an oven. That’s a household oven.

Benjamin:                     21:22                I bake cupcakes at that temperature.

Stephen:                       21:25                Don’t use water. Use milk. Keep it moist.

Benjamin:                     21:28                That’s a good article. I liked it. I liked the fact that they’re trying to look ahead a little bit. Back to the catastrophic failure issue. They’re trying to see if this will cause a failure. They did mention one Kazakhstan oil field, one of the biggest oil fields in Kazakhstan. I don’t know why they chose Kazakhstan.

Stephen:                       21:43                Very nice place.

Benjamin:                     21:44                Very nice place. But, the entire oil field was shut down for two years. So, if you could imagine, if you’re a country where one of your biggest oil fields is shut down for two years, that’s a fairly big problem that is affecting your GDP and things like that. I think this is fairly forward looking and good for the research group that’s getting into it.

Stephen:                       22:05                Cool stuff, man.

Benjamin:                     22:06                Yeah, I’m super happy for the articles today. Thanks for the test bed update.

Stephen:                       22:10                Thanks, Ben.

Benjamin:                     22:10                Yeah, have a good week, everybody.

Stephen:                       22:12                Bye.

Benjamin:                     22:12                Bye.