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McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute's Industry Open House

Becoming more competitive means embracing new technologies that can help to reduce manufacturing costs and improve productivity.

Some of these new technologies were on display at the recent McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) Industry Open House in Hamilton, ON, held May 15.

"We've been involved in fundamental work focused on processes in manufacturing and we have an opportunity to share this information with industry," says Stephen Veldhuis, director of MMRI."

The manufacturers who attended the event have worked with MMRI, including companies such as Pratt and Whitney and Husky Injection Moulding. While Veldhuis can't provide specific examples of projects MMRI has worked on with manufacturers, he says that the broader goal for some sectors such as aerospace and automotive is about improving processes.

"We're mostly looking at productivity, quality and cost reduction. I'd characterize the work we've done in the aerospace sector as 'first part perfect' in which we're examining what we can put in place to achieve this. For the automotive industry we're looking at long term optimization, mimimizing costs and high volume productivity. For the die and mould area, we're focused on complex geometries, high surface quality and surface integrating [in machining]."

The Industry Open House included a series of technical presentations from industry suppliers such as Iscar Tools, Memex Automation, and Ellison Technologies, Mori Seiki's North American distributor. Attendees also had an opportunity to see technology demonstrations in MMRI's facilities, including a stability lobe and machining simulation on a Matsuura FX-5 machine, machine tool accuracy and calibration software on a Makino machine, drilling torque comparison on an Okuma mill, cutting process simulation software on a Nakamura Tome machine, tool development software on a Walter grinder and a machining demo on a Mori Seiki machine.

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The idea behind the open house was to showcase the technologies that have emerged from MMRI and to encourage manufacturers to use MMRI's resources.

"There are a couple of aggressive companies in Canada and Pratt and Whitney is one of them, in terms of staying competitive," says Veldhuis. The company has a graph to chart productivity gains and you can see the jumps in productivity where they've embraced technologies such as the stability lobe and machining simulation software, which is a three-time multiplier on productivity; that'a s huge improvement. It's just one of the technologies this company has embraced in terms of new tooling advances and what Pratt and Whitney has done effectively is been an early adopter of these technologies."

One of the advantages of manufacturing R&D initiatives at the academic level is that they often result in a commercial product, such as PolySAMBA, a five axis machine geometric calibration software developed by Rene Mayer, a professor in the mechanical engineering department of Polytechnique Montreal.

"The software monitors the machine condition, such as measuring whether the axes are out of alignment, the positive of the cutting tools relative to the parts and other errors of geometry of the machine. The software provides the data and it takes about 30 minutes to run it. It's something that would be useful to run in a machine shop one a month to ensure the machine has not deviated excessively."

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Polytechnique Montreal's Rene Mayer, developer of five axis machine geometric calibration software.

The technologies emerging out of institutions such as MMRI are an example of how manufacturers can work smarter, says Veldhuis.

"We're pushing people to work harder and maybe we should be lookint to work smarter. We need to focus on producing high value products that people want and they don't have to be complex products, which is want people often assume. We need to simply find innovative ways to improve processes and produce products more competitively than anyone else in the world and it can be as simple as producing gloves, but doing it competitively. Our contribution at MMRI is understanding the process and the physics to manufacture the products and examine how we can make use of this knowledge to advance process with higher productivity and lower costs."

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