Chris Felix

With a degree in technical writing and editing, Chris began his career as an assistant editor with Modern Machine Shop, eventually moving into the role of production manager. After leaving the machine tool industry for several years to run his own marketing and web design business, he returned to Gardner in 2005 as associate editor of Production Machining. He has also served as editor of Process Cleaning magazine. Chris is an avid baseball fan (particularly of the Cincinnati Reds), but says he'd still rather watch his kids' sporting events any day.

Posted by: Chris Felix 16. April 2014

April 2014 PM Digital Issue Now Available


The digital April issue of Production Machining is now available, with emphasis topics of CAD/CAM and Cutting Tools. The cover story takes a look at some compelling reasons for automating the programming process, even for shops that still manually program simple parts on Swiss machines. Our other feature details the basics of rotary broaching—a process for creating a non-round shape on the inside or outside of a part.

We also examine the advantages of B-axis machining on a turning center and look at how to maximize coolant life through efficient tramp oil removal. Our Case in Point section visits a shop that is achieving reduced cycle times and better machine flexibility and efficiency since implementing a certain CAM package with its multitasking machine.

Be sure to check out our digital April issue today.

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: 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.

Posted by: Chris Felix 26. March 2014

Mazak Hosts VMA’s Annual Workshop and Tour


From April 30 to May 2, 2014, Mazak Corporation will host a portion of the Valve Manufacturers Association’s (VMA) annual “Manufacturers Workshop and Tour” at its North American headquarters in Florence, Ky. The event is open to VMA members and will include a tour of Mazak’s manufacturing campus as well as workshops on supply chain management, MTConnect, problem solving and lean manufacturing.

Mazak will demonstrate how it contributes to productive and profitable valve production by giving VMA members a behind-the-scenes look at its recently expanded North American Production-On-Demand manufacturing plant as well as its national technology center and Center for Multi-Tasking Excellence. Together, these two facilities produce and support advanced multi-tasking, 5-axis, turning, milling and automation solutions for industries that rely on high-quality valves, including oil and gas exploration, power generation, chemical processing and commercial construction.

Recently, Mazak completed a 100,000-square-foot expansion of its manufacturing plant so that the company can continue to effectively support the ever-evolving technology demands of its customers and their unique application requirements. As a result of the expansion, Mazak can now produce up to 200 machine tool units per month, depending on product mix. 

Inside Mazak’s 100,813-square-foot National Technology Center and Center for Multi-Tasking Excellence, which also went through a recent expansion, VMA members will experience several machine tools and automation systems in action, including solutions designed for high-quality valve production. The facility is the main hub for Mazak’s network of regional technology centers in North America, providing manufacturers with applications, service and part support, programming classes and more.

Following the Mazak manufacturing campus tour, VMA members will participate in workshops led by Mazak application experts on effective supply chain management and improving factory utilization via MTConnect, an open-source, royalty-free manufacturing protocol that easily connects devices and systems from different suppliers to capture and share information in a common format. 

VMA members can register for the event here. To learn how to become a VMA member and attend the “Manufacturers Workshop and Tour” at Mazak, please visit or contact Malena Malone-Blevins, VMA meetings manager, at or 202.331.8105 x310.

Founded in 1938, the Washington, DC-based Valve Manufacturers Association of America exclusively represents nearly 100 North American manufacturers of valves, actuators and controls, which account for about 80 percent of total industrial valve shipments out of U.S. and Canadian facilities.

Posted by: Chris Felix 12. March 2014

March 2014 PM Digital Issue Now Available


Production Machining’s March Digital Edition is now available. This issue features emphasis topics of Automation and CNC Swiss-Type Machining. This month’s cover story examines the driving forces behind higher investment in automation, even for small to medium-sized shops. Our other feature article looks at a shop that has recently moved into Swiss machining, taking advantage of combination machines that offer machining capability with or without a guide bushing..

Turn to our Tech Brief section to see a quick-change system aimed at addressing cost concerns for companies focused on improving productivity as well as a line of multi-tasking machines that offers advances in productivity for series production. We also visit a high mix, low volume shop that has redefined throughput for aerospace parts.

Take a look inside PM’s March Digital Edition today.

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