Posted by: Chris Felix 9. April 2014

Autodesk Opens Doors to Creativity


After its acquisition of Delcam in February, I thought perhaps Autodesk may have a lull in big news announcements. But last week I had the opportunity to visit the company’s facilities in San Francisco, and there’s still a lot to say!

During the first couple of hours of my tour on Tuesday morning, I saw the company’s One Market Street Gallery, which features regularly changing exhibits of an assortment of design wonders in which one or more Autodesk products was used. The displays range from architectural and construction designs, such as models of the Shanghai Tower and the Bay Bridge, to media and entertainment work, such as the computer-generated imagery created for the movie Avatar, to the 3D digital prototypes used for large Legoland models.

Later in the morning, we walked a couple of blocks to the company’s new Pier 9 facility (opened in the fall of 2013), which extends out onto the San Francisco Bay. This remarkable 27,000 square foot workshop includes a digital fabrication lab, a woodworking shop, a metalworking shop, a 3D printing lab, laser cutting and printing capabilities, an electronics workshop, a commercial test kitchen, and an industrial sewing center, as well as smaller specialty project areas. The facility is intended to provide hands-on experience to further the understanding of the interface between software and hardware. It allows employees and artists-in-residence to showcase the company’s products by pushing the boundaries of the software and hardware.

While at Pier 9, Carl White, senior director of manufacturing engineering at Autodesk, and Anthony Graves, CAM product manager, announced the commercial availability of Inventor HSM, an integrated CAM solution for Inventor users. Inventor HSM 2015 helps machinists, designers and engineers turn their Inventor designs into manufacturable parts by generating machining toolpaths directly in the software. “Inventor HSM will help users manufacture high quality finished parts, while saving valuable time and resources,” says Mr. White.

Visit the slideshow of my visit for a clearer picture of the many things Autodesk is doing to boost creativity in a number of industries.

Posted by: Miles Free 8. April 2014

Whatever Happened to ‘Thou Shalt Not Covet?' A Look at Tax Reform


Alan Beaulieu, president and principal economist at ITR, recently took a look at the Tax Overhaul Proposal authored by David Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means committee. What he reports is chilling for small manufacturers, prospects for employment and the economy. Read his blog post here.

A reduction in the corporate tax rate to 25 percent and a decrease in the number of personal income tax brackets are what you will hear about.

Those pesky details:

  • This plan would cause significant tax increases to those currently in the 39 percent bracket.
  • The loss of deductions and a phasing out of the benefit of the lower tax brackets would raise the effective rate to 42 percent on many high income earners.
  • The Brookings Institute states that a slice of America would be taxed as high as 60 percent.


Is your company a pass through tax entity (that is, not a C-Corp.)? Rep. Camp’s plan would place firms like yours at a significant disadvantage in that it would reach into the business income of these enterprises (income after the deduction for owner’s salaries) and make 70 percent of that business income subject to payroll taxes.

Does your company have a foreign subsidiary or operations? Double taxation may be in your future. Mr. Camp, and others, wants to reach overseas and claim a piece for Washington, and they not only want to tax income, but also brick and mortar investments.

Whatever happened to “Thou shalt not covet?” Do the folks in Washington really think that confiscatory taxation of the small to medium sized businesses that are the backbone of U.S. employment and engines for growth will encourage hiring and growth after this plan increases their taxable income by 70 percent (these businesses employ one out of every four workers here in the U.S.)?

I can’t think of a single way that this so called “reform” will encourage growth in the U.S. Maybe the recession of 2007-2009 was just a practice round.

PMPA has a contract arrangement with ITR Economics for business cycle analysis and reporting for our members.

Confiscatory may be the “new normal” for small and medium sized businesses.

Originally posted at blog.

Posted by: Steve Kline, Jr. 7. April 2014

PMBI Shows Three Straight Months of Growth


With a reading of 55.3, Gardner’s precision machining index showed that business conditions expanded for the third month in a row in March. The rate of growth increased from last month, but was slightly slower than it was in January. Industry conditions have improved steadily and significantly since last September. This month the index was 11.0 percent higher than it was 1 year ago. This is the sixth month in a row that the month-over-month rate of change grew. The annual rate of change has grown at an accelerating rate the last 2 months.

New orders increased for the fourth straight month and the fifth time in 6 months. Production expanded for the fifth time in 6 months, reaching its fastest rate of expansion since March 2012. Since the index began in December 2011, there have been only 3 months with a faster rate of growth in production. Backlogs increased for the third straight month. Backlogs have been increasing at a tremendous rate compared with 1 year ago, which indicates that capacity utilization and capital spending should be increasing significantly during the remainder of the year. Employment grew for the third straight month. Exports increased for the first time in the history of the index. Supplier deliveries continued to lengthen, but they have done so at a slightly slower rate the last 2 months.

Material prices continued to increase, but the rate of increase was less than the last 2 months. After four straight months of accelerating increases, prices received contracted. Future business expectations are still quite strong, but they have cooled off somewhat the last 2 months.

Shops with more than 50 employees continued to expand at a rate similar to that of the first 2 months of the year. Shops with 20-49 employees increased at their fastest rate since March 2012. On average, facilities with more than 20 employees had an index of roughly 58.0 in March. However, facilities with fewer than 19 employees contracted for the second month in a row, although the rate of contraction was relatively minor. These small facilities have only grown 1 month since April 2012.

The Pacific region grew at the fastest rate in March. It grew for the fourth time in 5 months. Its rate of growth in March was the fastest any region has recorded in the history of the index. It was followed by the East North Central region, which grew for the third month in a row, and the South Atlantic region, which grew for the fifth time in 6 months. The Middle Atlantic region contracted slightly for the second month in a row, and the West North Central region contracted for just the second time in 6 months.

Planned capital expenditures were 19.3 percent lower than what they were 1 year ago. This is the thrid straight month that the month-over-month rate of change contracted. The annual rate of change has contracted at a faster rate each of the last 3 months.


Posted by: Chris Koepfer 4. April 2014

Open House at ZPS America

It’s an annual event that promises to be well worth the time to stop by and see. From April 7-10, ZPS America is opening its doors to customers and visitors in the company’s Indianapolis headquarters. On display will be the latest developments in CNC and cam multi-spindle machine technology in both six- and eight-spindle models.

In addition, the company’s 12-axis CNC Swiss machine will demonstrate applications for the automotive fuel injection industry. Attachment companies such as Autor and IMG will show their capabilities along with vendors supplying quick-change, high precision standard and form tools.

New to the ZPS stable is the Roll Eco Green solvent parts degreaser and inspection line for cleanroom applications, which will be on display at the open house. Don’t miss this event to see CNC and cam multi-spindle machines, CNC Swiss and parts degreasing technology. Register for the event at You might even win a ride on a helicopter. Check it out.  

Posted by: Chris Felix 2. April 2014

U.S. Manufacturers Tour Kaiser Switzerland

David Stucki, Marketing Manager at Kaiser Switzerland, discusses new Kaiser products with United States guests at the recent open house.


BIG Kaiser hosted a group of U.S. manufacturers on a visit to the Kaiser headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland in February. The third annual event featured educational presentations, tours of the assembly and machining areas, and traditional Swiss hospitality.

“The challenges of manufacturing are universal,” Dennis Rosene, owner of Rosene Machine, Firth, Neb., said. “Visiting factories outside the U.S. can help us find new ways to solve the challenges we face at home.”

The visitors were given a brief overview of the global organization. Many were surprised to learn that 25 percent of the BIG Kaiser products they use are actually licensed for manufacturing in Tennessee.

“Many of our tools are designed to the CAT specification common only in the U.S. With a portfolio of over 30,000 items, it’s important we have domestic production and inventory for our customers,” Jack Burley, VP, BIG Kaiser explained. Meanwhile, products such as digital boring heads, micro tools, tool presetters and HSK shanks are produced at the facilities in Europe. In 2003, Kaiser entered into a global sales and marketing partnership with BIG Daishowa of Japan, thus changing the name of the U.S. operations to BIG Kaiser, and expanding the product line globally.

One highlight of the tour was the selection of new boring head technology. Released in 2012, this line of high-precision digital boring heads is designed and manufactured at the Swiss facility. A small sensor and digital display are built into each tool body, allowing quick and precise adjustment of the tool carrier. The patented design saves time and enables critical boring adjustments down to 0.00005”.

Machining tests demonstrated the benefits of proper tool selection and tool balancing. Cycle time, chip management and part finish can all be notably improved even on machines that are not particularly robust.

High interest in Kaiser’s apprenticeship program reflected the common challenge of finding skilled machinists. Each year, a few select students are accepted into Kaiser’s four-year program. The apprenticeship combines continuing education in the classroom with training on various CNC machine platforms and controls. Over four years, students master fundamental skills and move on to real-world challenges such as fixture design or process improvement. Approximately 90 percent of the machinists at Kaiser graduated from an apprenticeship, and many continued studies to become master craftsmen.

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