PM Blog

The Precision Machining Index registered 46.1 in October, indicating a slowing contraction in business activity. Readings above 50 indicate expanding activity, and values below 50 indicate contracting activity. The further away a reading is from 50 the bigger the change in activity. Gardner Intelligence’s analysis of the underlying index components found that supplier deliveries activity rebounded in October after posting its first and only contractionary reading in over three years during the prior month. The October data indicated that both new orders and exports experienced a quickening contraction in activity with both setting multi-year lows. The impact of weak orders coupled with almost unchanged production levels likely explains October’s weak backlog reading, which also fell to a three-year low.

The latest month’s weak total and domestic orders may have been in part a result of the strike at General Motors that lasted from Sept. 16 until Oct. 25. During the two months affected by the strike, every component of the Index contracted except for supplier deliveries in October. Beyond the unique challenge to the auto sector in recent months, Gardner’s Precision Machining Index has revealed that several end markets continue to expand. Markets that are still expanding consistently include medical and aerospace manufacturing. Pump manufacturing also continues to expand but with more volatility.

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Collet-type toolholder assembly and setup have typically relied on manual methods that can be cumbersome, prone to errors and potentially waste time and money. Traditionally, operators must first check adjustment charts to reference torque values based on specific collet series holders and tool diameters. Then they have to find the right torque wrench, unlock it, set the torque level and re-lock it before tightening the collet retention nut on a toolholder. This procedure can cause shops to lose valuable production time and can lead to inaccurate torque settings that damage toolholders, or, in some instances, negatively affect workpiece precision.

This system can also lead shops to adopt bad habits in their quest to save time and simplify the setup process. Under deadline pressure or unsure of exactly what to do, shops might lock their torque wrenches at maximum values and leave them there, trying to cut corners with what seems like a quick solution. But nuts don’t all transfer the same amount of clamping force to the collet—some are more efficient than others. Shops that try to apply the same approach to every setup might end up with over-tightened tools because of improperly adjusted torque wrenches that transmit excessive force to the thinnest, most vulnerable parts of the toolholders. This force can damage toolholders, collets and nuts, and introduce runout that leads to rejected workpieces. Conversely, applying too little torque can be dangerous if it leaves tools loose enough to pull out of their toolholders. Some solutions to these setup problems substitute new complications for old ones by adding bulky hardware or complex, expensive digital technologies that change the setup process without necessarily improving it.

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Some experts say the cost of perishable lubricant is 1.4% of total sales. In comparison, perishable tooling costs average about 6%. With the cost of a quality coolant at $1,500+ per drum, how can it have such a low impact on the bottom line? The real cost needs another look, but getting there takes some effort.

We recently sat down for a Q&A with Joe Gentile, product manager at Hangsterfer’s Laboratories Inc., to discuss the true cost of metalworking fluids. He provided some real-life examples to show it may be far more significant than many shops think.

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First, let’s try to define micro-drilling. Like so much metalworking vocabulary, hard and fast definitions are often elusive. Our industry is such a bastion of relativity that virtually all discussions aimed at pinning down metalworking specifics begin or end with “depending on the application.”

However, we found a brave soul willing to define micro-drilling with a number. Jack Burley is vice president of sales and engineering at Big Kaiser, a distributor for Swiss micro-drill maker Sphinx’s product line. Mr. Burley says Sphinx defines micro-drilling with a starting diameter of 0.05 mm (0.002 inch) and ranging to 2.5 mm (0.10 inch). For our purposes in this article, let’s agree with this definition. He also adds that this benchmark is a moving target as improvements in production technology and materials used to make these tiny tools continue to push for a smaller minimum starting diameter.

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Technical Cleanliness Expert Days Brings Together Cleaning Community for Learning and Networking

The expectation of shipping clean machined parts to customers or cleaning parts prior to a coating process is a reality for many companies. But it’s not easy to find information on best cleaning practices. Two companies that offer cleaning technologies to the industry—Glaeser Inc. and Jomesa North America—have recognized this issue, and therefore partnered for the second consecutive year to host a conference focused on education in the field. On Oct. 29-30, in Aurora, Ohio, 33 attendees, including specialists and executives who manage quality requirements of technical cleanliness within their companies, gathered at the Bertram Inn & Conference Center for the second Technical Cleanliness Expert Days event. This year the event expanded to one-and-a-half days, with the theme of “Cleanliness in Production and Critical Processes.” The event was again sponsored by Production Machining and Products Finishing magazines.

With 15 speakers presenting (six of whom came all the way from Germany), many areas of expertise were covered throughout the conference. Attendees had plenty of opportunities to ask questions and network with other attendees and speakers, including at lunch, a cocktail reception and dinner, all included with the conference cost. Several presenters also set up tabletops outside of the auditorium to offer further information about the cleaning processes supported in their presentations.

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