Tuesday, January 30, 2018

When It's Time to Turn to Engineered Solutions

By Bob Goulding, Machine Tool Business Development Manager and Tom Funke, CET Manager

Never before have we in the manufacturing world had to do more with less. Shops across the country face skilled labor shortages, demanding customers, unforgiving production schedules as well as the increasing complexity of parts and the equipment used to produce them. All this while experts tell us that we need to “constantly improve,” a goal that’s tough to reach when all you can do is react to the latest challenge.

Seco can help. Our Engineered Solutions team represents a company-wide commitment to comprehensive support for your operations – we sweat the process optimization details and you reap the profits without disrupting your work in the slightest. Our best and brightest engineering minds work hard to develop comprehensive solutions, and the results – an increase in productivity of 25 percent or more – speak for themselves.

To obtain the best results, shops must begin with the part and ask themselves what is the most optimized way to produce it. And whether a situation involves a new or existing process, our experts will then meet with yours so we can get a thorough understanding of your needs and goals. We’ll take all that information back with us to our headquarters in Troy, Michigan, where the Engineered Solutions team will get started on your project.

Our workflow begins with a simple question: “What is the most efficient result that can be obtained with these inputs?” We usually find our answer after a quick look through the archives; few projects today involve any real unknowns for Seco. Instead of spending valuable time reinventing another wheel, we apply our expertise to the customer-supplied data and evaluate cost-per-unit, projected cycle times, machine capacity and other factors to create a documented process.

After we’ve finished our research, we present our findings directly to you in the form of a complete proposal. This is no simple summary of our investigation – our Engineered Solutions team will describe exactly how to optimally produce the part, including the equipment used and how to apply it. We not only define the best cutting processes, but also the best machines, tools and accessories as well as the optimized cutting data.

With your approval, we’ll then go on to turn the plan into a reality. We’ll quickly build any required custom products in our 35,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art production facility in Troy, conduct runoffs, then have it delivered directly to your facility. Our Engineered Solutions staff will be there when it’s time to install any components and initiate the new process. As far as Seco is concerned, we’re not finished until you are running parts that meet your exact specifications.

Even after the project is “finished,” we remain fully committed to your continued success. A new process is useless without someone to manage and maintain it, so our training staff will be on hand to work directly with your operators on the process and to fine tuning cutting data. Likewise, even after you have all the aspects of the process set up and running smoothly, Seco will remain a resource you can call on any time you have a question or need support.

Now is the time to join the many other shops that have enjoyed cycle time reductions or cost-per-unit savings of 25 percent or more upon optimizing their part processes with Seco. And since there’s no cost to you until after you’ve accepted our proposal, choosing Seco as your process optimization partner is a no-brainer. For more information, talk to your local Seco salesperson or contact Engineered Solutions directly by phone at 1-800-896-2593 or by email at epd@secotools.com.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Teaching the Techies: 3 Tips for Educating Technical Professionals

All students learn differently, and nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to teaching engineers, techies and other students who fall under the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) umbrella. Tailored teaching approaches ensure that students retain information and gain the confidence to implement what they’ve learned. And as these students enter and progress in their chosen fields, these educational methodologies provide a platform for continued learning. Here are three ways to help your students/trainees prosper and succeed in the classroom and in the world beyond:

1. Find Out What Moves Them

For example, consider machinists in training programs. Since the prospect of abundant and lucrative employment opportunities will likely motivate them, you can emphasize how the subject matter being taught will help the students become more valuable to potential employers. And while new cutting tool technologies and how they will benefit production operations may be what motivates a group of shop engineers in a cutting tool training class, future cutting tool distributors and salespeople in that same class may be more interested in how they can more effectively sell these new products to their customers. Learn why your students are in your classroom and use that knowledge to keep them engaged.

2. Go Greek

Engineers and other technical professionals report being more likely to grasp the subject matter once they comprehend the logic behind the new information and they realize the immediate cause and effect of implementation. Given that, one strategy for reaching these students is the long-established and popular Socratic method, which teaches through a series of questions that show students the ways in which the new information logically builds on what they already know while challenging them to continually reach for the next step. While many associate the Socratic method with law school, education experts have argued that it’s particularly well-suited for teaching scientific subjects. As students take ownership of the lesson, they prove to themselves the usefulness of the new information, making it an excellent fit for technical types.

3. Get Physical

The kinesthetic method – or as it’s more commonly known, hands-on learning – is another great way to reach STEM students. To apply this method to teaching about cutting tool innovations, for instance, you can have students implement the information they just learned by running the tools on live machines. The students experience immediate results and can then tweak the cutting parameters through trial and error in a risk-free setting. This process builds their confidence and increases the likelihood that they will be successful in continuing to use their newly acquired skills and knowledge. Obviously, this teaching method requires access to the necessary tools or machinery, but advanced simulation software and portable simulation systems can mimic machine behavior and provide students with the same experience they would have if they were actually in front of a real machine.

About the Author
Don is the manager of education and technical services for Seco, responsible for all educational activ

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ten Steps to Peak Performance and Productivity

To remain competitive and profitable, you continually seek the most economical and productive ways to accomplish your work. Unfortunately, unless you’re a global industrial giant, you may feel that productivity improvements are out of reach. But quite the opposite is true.  There are many ways to take control of operational improvements and optimize your shop practices without breaking the bank, and ten of them are listed here.

1. Intelligent budget control
A common approach to budgeting in metalworking operations is to acquire every element of the process at the lowest price possible. However, it is best not to base your shop’s tool selection on price alone. Before discussing prices, consider the desired end results. If a tight-tolerance, top-quality part is the goal, more-expensive precision tooling will be required to machine it. On the other hand, when quality demands are less stringent, a portion of the capabilities of high-precision tools will be wasted. Recognizing the ultimate goal of the process is the first step in cost-effective purchasing decisions.

2. Intelligent handling of constraints
Real-world metalworking operations are bound by practical constraints that include machine power and stability and customer demands in terms of dimensions and surface finish quality. Simply reducing your cutting parameters overall is not an intelligent way to deal with process constraints. The combination of decreasing depths of cut and increasing feedrate, for instance, can improve your shop’s productivity within the constraint of limited machine power.

3. Tool application rationalization
Typically, shops make tool application choices one operation at a time, choosing a specific tool to create a certain feature on a part then picking another tool to machine another different feature. Each tool is programmed and optimized separately, representing separate programming and administrative costs. An alternative is a specialized custom tool that cuts multiple features, but these tools can be expensive.

Between these two extremes, shops could opt for a standard tool engineered to perform more than one operation. Even if such multi-purpose tools do not operate at the optimized cutting parameters of the separate tools they replace, the standard multi-purpose tool provides savings in tooling, programming, tool change time and inventory costs.

4. Complex workpiece approach (group technology)
To expedite the machining of complex parts, view similar features as a group and choose a tool optimized for a certain operation, such as holemaking, that is repeated on different parts. The optimized tool will maximize productivity and also reduce cost when considering the engineering time that goes into repetitively programming tools for each separate part. This approach also helps reduce your tool inventory.

5. Achieving minimal functional workpiece quality
Although initially the concept may seem strange, it is necessary to achieve only the lowest possible workpiece quality that meets your customer specifications and functional requirements. There is no need to exceed those requirements. If a part tolerance is 5 microns, achieving 3 microns is a waste of time and money. Higher quality tooling and more precise operating processes will be required to achieve the tighter tolerance.  But customers will refuse to pay for such unrequested higher quality, and the job will be a money-losing proposition for your shop.

6. Predictive tool maintenance
Traditional tool maintenance is reactive. When a tool wears out or breaks, it is replaced. That approach, however, generates costs beyond those of the tool itself, including manufacturing process downtime and possible damage to the workpiece. Preventive tool maintenance is a step beyond reactive maintenance and is based on replacing the tool before it reaches its shortest expected working life to be sure that the change is made before the tool wears out too much or breaks.

7. Tool inventory control
Tool inventory control is different than tool management. Tool inventory control is an effort to rationalize and consolidate the number of tools your shop possesses to focus on what is really needed. If tools are not rationalized before being loaded into an automated tool dispenser, the result is simply automated disarray.

8. Practical work analysis
Many shop activities needed for the production of a finished workpiece do not directly add value. These include fixturing the workpiece on the machine and writing the machining program. Such non-value-added tasks should be completed as fast as possible and in a way that minimizes their effect on your total cost of production. Automation can accomplish tasks such as part loading and fixturing and save time and money. When analysing work activities and costs, it is essential to consider all the contributors to part production time.

9. Practical application of optimization
Rarely does a process work exactly as planned, and it is at this point where optimization of the operations in terms of speed, reliability and other factors is necessary. Most shops also seek to improve ongoing processes. Practical optimization enables your shop to find technical and economic benefits in a combination of feed, speed and depth of cut that produces the desired results.

10. Intelligent introduction of new technology
Today’s manufacturers face a range of relatively new challenges including mandates for sustainability and environmental protection. Intelligent introduction of new technologies and processes enables your shop to fulfil these challenges. Dry machining, for example, permits your facility to reduce the use of coolants, which in turn reduces the potential effects of the fluids on the environment, as well as the cost of safely disposing of them. Improving process parameters and production tooling performance will result in measureable savings in energy expenditures.

About the Author
Don is the manager of education and technical services for Seco, responsible for all educational activities for the NAFTA market, new product testing and various other technical functions. Outside of work, he enjoys making maple syrup, restoring antique tractors and farming.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Modern Manufacturers Need More Brains Than Brawn

One of the biggest problems today’s manufacturers face is the shortage of good machinists and skilled technicians. As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, companies find it tough to fill positions that require high skill sets.

Hordes of baby boomers in the manufacturing sector continue to retire, and they leave behind myriads of open jobs. Unfortunately, most young people show zero interest in such a career path and instead buy into the myth that a four-year college is the only way to get ahead in life.  

Although today’s manufacturing companies are a major source of high-tech innovation, wealth creation and plenty of high-paying careers, the industry still suffers from a negative image of “working the line.”  To change this mindset, Seco has created a proactive, comprehensive internship program to educate students about future manufacturing career opportunities as well as help them gain real-world experience. The company’s program targets college-level students.

In a partnership with Ferris State University (FSU) in Big Rapids, Michigan, Seco offers local area engineering students an opportunity to participate in a multi-year internship program. It invites the top three engineering applicants to participate for an initial first year internship. Then, based on their interest and performance, the students are potentially asked back for a second year. Once a student graduates from the program, Seco often presents an offer of employment at one of its several U.S. locations.

Under the guidance of seasoned mentors, Seco interns experience a combination of classroom training and real-world business experience while earning their degree at FSU. The first-year interns take part in technical training and the development of custom tooling. They will also learn to further develop their machining skills by utilizing advanced machining technologies and accompany Seco applications specialists on outside customer calls. All these facets of the program ensure students receive a comprehensive overview of all their potential areas of interest.

During their second year, interns are often sent out-of-state to shadow an experienced sales rep and make professional sales calls for on-the-job experience. Students participating in the sales portion of the internship program are paid competitive wages during the internship and receive assistance with housing placement and living expenses. Seco also provides a company car to all second-year students.

In light of its company-wide “family spirit” values, Seco ensures that students/interns are taken care of and have all the tools they need to succeed.  Because Seco takes care of everything, the students’ parents don’t worry about their son or daughter moving to a new city and having to locate and pay for housing or, in the case second-year sales program students, a car either.

Seco’s internship program has been in place for several years, and feedback has been extremely positive. The majority of students who complete the program end up working for Seco, and it has placed second year students all over the country from South Carolina to Texas and California.  Most of these students will have a job offer from Seco before they even graduate.

It’s a win-win model that benefits everyone. Students receive an education with the promise of a great career, and Seco gains skilled job candidates that know their job before they even join the payroll.

Visit Seco at FSU’s Career Fair this fall
Engineering students interested in securing an internship with Seco should plan to
Visit the Seco booth at FSU’s Career Fair to be held this October. Inquiries may also be directed to Andrew Nalian via Email at: Andrew.Nalian@secotools.com.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Add Some High Performance to Your Optimized Roughing

By Jay Ball - Product Manager, Solid Carbide End Mills

Conventional optimized roughing strategies call for shallow radial stepovers and high depths of cut with multi-flute cutting tools. Now, imagine how much more productive the strategy would be if it were possible to up those stepovers to as much as 70 percent of the cutting tool’s diameter. With today’s innovative continuously variable geometry end mills, such stepovers are possible and standard operating procedure for a new version of the strategy referred to as high-performance optimized roughing (HPOR) that also requires high-performance machine tools and toolholders as well as specialized CAM software.

Much like high-feed tools, continuously variable geometry end mills perform best when they are fully loaded in the cut as opposed to lightly loaded. Therefore, the radial stepovers of 12 percent or less of a tool’s diameter typically used in optimized roughing prove much too shallow to work well for optimized roughing with these advanced end mills – such as the Niagara Cutter Stabilizer 2.0 – that operate best with stepovers of at least 20 percent or more of the tool’s diameter.

To handle such high stepovers, these new age end mills sport robust core designs and a high heat and abrasion resistant AlTiN coating. At such aggressive stepovers, chip evacuation is key and having the right combination of core diameter and flute spacing is crucial to a tools optimal performance.

But what really makes Stabilizer 2.0 so strong is its patented continuously variable geometry that eliminates detrimental harmonics and chatter vibrations. Other conventional end mills are unable to withstand such depths of cut and metal removal rates and will most likely fail if a shop tries to use them for HPOR.

With the Stabilizer 2.0 geometry, each of the tool’s cutting edges varies from front to back and differs from the one next to it. Additionally, each of the tool’s four flutes are spaced at different degrees from one another instead of evenly at 90 degrees apart. The helix, radial relief, radial clearance and indexing are all varied. And, any given point along the cutting edge of each flute is different from another point on that same flute as well as varies from any points on the other three flutes.

In addition to the cutting tools themselves, machine tools must have heavy-duty high-torque and high-horsepower spindles such as CAT 50, HSK100A and HSK125A. HPOR can be performed on lighter duty machine tools with CAT 40 and HSK63A spindles, but caution must be used not to overload or max out the machine’s horsepower capabilities. With such strong forces in play from the machine tool spindle, toolholding must be equally rigid to minimize runout, and standard side-lock holders with set screws or heavy-duty mill chucks are the best choices. Most shrinkfit holders and collets lack the ability to hold variable geometry tools in place under such high-powered cutting conditions.

Currently, HPOR is mainly used in European markets, but shops in North America are realizing the benefits of this new strategy. In fact, several CAD/CAM software developers have already created the necessary CAM software needed for HPOR.

Because continuously variable geometry end mills, like Stabilizer 2.0, are stronger and better at eliminating harmonics than any of their predecessors, shops can adapt cutting strategies to optimize the new tools’ capabilities. These cutting tools, along with the right machine tools, toolholders and software, can significantly boost a shop’s metal removal rates.

About the Author
Jay has been with Seco for more than 10 years. As a key member of the product management team, he is responsible for Seco’s solid carbide end mill products in North America. He works closely with global R&D on new innovations to ensure they meet the necessary market requirements. He also provides technical support for high-speed hard milling and micro milling operations, including CAD file review, tooling selections and programming recom

Friday, May 26, 2017

Better Chip Control Improves Safety on Shop Floor

Safety is a top priority for shop owners, and we’ve seen significant improvements by our customers in development of workplace safety procedures and better training. As an example, when our sales reps visit your facilities, they are often required to watch a safety video before even going onto the shop floor.

One area of focus in many shops is better chip control. Usually when we think of chips and the problems they cause, surface quality and productivity issues are first to come to mind. But more shop owners are becoming keenly aware of the safety hazards chips cause and understand that the best form of precaution is to control chip formation.

When machining materials with low amounts of carbon, such as mild-steel and austenitic stainless steel, it’s common for long, stringy chips to form and tangle around the tool and workpiece forming “bird nests.” Operators must stop the machine to untangle the chips from around the tooling, which can be dangerously sharp. They also must frequently empty chip hoppers. Anytime a machine operator reaches into a machine, there is potential for an injury to occur. Alleviating the need to clear chips reduces this risk.

There are several tooling solutions and best practices for dealing with problematic chips. First, let’s look at chip-breaking technology. There is a good selection of chipbreaker insert geometries available today. These effectively control the formation of chips so they break off and move out of the cutting zone. For example, there are finishing chipbreakers that are specially designed for smaller depths of cut less than 0.060" and low feed rates of 0.003"-0.012" in/rev. These chipbreakers are narrow in the front and have a pit or dimple and a very large rake angle at the nose. There are also chipbreakers designed specifically for roughing which typically have negative T-lands for edge strength and for breaking chips at heavier depths of cut.

The important thing to remember when choosing chipbreakers is to match the chipbreaker to the application. To be effective, you must create the right combination of tool geometry, cutting speed, feed rate and depth of cut for the workpiece material.

It’s best to follow the general rule of running cutting tools at their maximum allowable depths of cut to create the more desired comma-shaped chips that break off and quickly evacuate. Smaller depths tend to produce spiral-shaped chips, which don’t behave as nicely.

Likewise, chip breaking can be improved by optimizing the feed rate. In most cases, to ensure ideally shaped chips, the minimum feed rate in turning applications should not be less than the chipbreaker’s recommended feed rate, and the maximum feed rate should not exceed the tool’s nose radius.

Another way to control chips is by using a direct coolant system, which can effectively increase chip removal. Our Jetstream Tooling™ channels coolant directly to the insert through small-diameter apertures to produce an acute high velocity “jet stream” that penetrates the precise friction zone between the cutting edge and the workpiece. The result is superior lubrication, cooling and chip removal.

As you search for ways to improve safety on your shop floor, be sure not to overlook your chip control strategies. Contact us to learn more about our assortment of chip control solutions.

About the Author
As product manager for threading and grooving at Seco, Don is responsible for threading, threadmilling, cut-off, grooving and oil field chasers. In his spare time, he enjoys restoring old motorcycles. Contact Don at dhalas@secotools.com.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Industry Trends Steer Cutting Tool Development

Manufacturing trends – such as the softening or growth of certain industry segments, the use of technologies like 3D printing or processes li
ke near net shape manufacturing – all have direct impacts on cutting tool product development. As a leading cutting tool manufacturer, we strive to not only keep pace with the natural progression of the industry, but also to set new standards in tool development and performance.

Aerotek, a leading provider of industrial staffing services, recently released its second annual list of “Opportunities in Manufacturing” that includes the top 10 fast growing U.S. industries for manufacturing employment. Topping the list is Oil and Gas Field Machinery Equipment with seven percent employment growth in 2015-2016, which coincides with a recent uptick in activity from our oil and gas customers who have shown increased interest in our patented long reach Steadyline® shell mill holders. These tools excel at reaching difficult-to-access machining areas, such as large, complex workpieces and deep cavities, and oil and gas manufacturers use them for pipe and coupling manufacturing.

High-performance threading solutions are another need for customers in the oil and gas industry. We recently introduced new Thread Chaser inserts for pitch-perfect threading. The inserts provide the speed, reliability, accuracy and precision gauging of threads needed to meet the demanding requirements of the oil and gas industry and other industry segments requiring special threads such as API and common licensed thread types.

The versatile Thread Chaser tool features inserts for both push and pull threading of ID features and push for OD threading using multi-tooth patterns for fast two-pass threading. The system’s multi-tooth inserts have precise thread patterns that quickly and reliably generate high-accuracy, consistently perfect thread pitches for couplings and pipe materials in a wide range of hardness.

Thread Chaser inserts increase productivity by reducing threading passes and decreasing cycle time. The tools use a special substrate and coating, and feature through-coolant holes and chip formers to direct high-pressure (up to 210 bar) coolant precisely to cutting edges to optimize chip formation/evacuation and extend insert life. Inserts are available in push or pull and push sets of one, two or three sets on pipe to accommodate various thread machine types.

In addition to the development of new tool technology to meet these types of specialized needs, we are continuing to meet the needs created by the use of different materials in new applications. Sticking with the oil and gas industry for illustration, manufacturers are now switching from steel to stainless steel in the manufacturing of the giant valves in fracking pumps to extend the life of the valves.

This change means more opportunities for the development of products featuring our Duratomic® technology which achieves the elusive balance of toughness and hardness when machining steel alloys and other workpiece materials such as cast irons and stainless steels.

Duratomic technology has been proven to improve productivity by at least 20 percent in average turning applications. Furthermore, it features an innovative used-edge detection technology that uses an approximately 0.1┬Ám-thick chrome-colored coating that clearly identifies a used insert edge when black aluminum oxide shows through. These high-contrast used-edge marks allow operators on busy shop floors to easily spot them and do not impact tool performance or machining-related parameters such as cutting data. As a result, manufacturers can process more parts per edge, limit production interruptions and reduce waste.

These are just a few examples of how we are at the forefront of cutting tool development. In addition to responding to current market trends with more advanced cutting tools, we also provide custom design services to meet customers’ unique needs. So, whatever your tooling need, please give us a call. We’d love to help you find the right solution.

About the Author
As product manager for threading and grooving at Seco, Don is responsible for threading, threadmilling, cut-off, grooving and oil field chasers. In his spare time, he enjoys restoring old motorcycles. Contact Don at dhalas@secotools.com.