Monthly Archives: July 2009

Gaming Milton Bradley

Have you ever lost out on a big contract when your price and service were clearly better than the competition, but the buyer had a grudge against your old management? Whether in the business world or a myriad of other venues, fairness and logic are often trumped by emotional bias.

Milton Bradley is an outfielder for the Chicago Cubs, who signed a three year $30 million contract during the off-season. He is having an awful season, batting 80 points less than last year.

I have watched a lot of Cub games this season and observed Bradley’s batting closely. One of the main reasons his stats are way down is that the umpires have it in for him at the plate, so he often finds himself at the pitcher’s mercy in unfavorable 0-2 and 1-2 counts.

I would argue that the reason the umps are abusing him is his career-long behavior on the field. Bradley acts like a bush leaguer when batting, often dropping his bat in disgust or disdainfully flipping it when he strikes out. He is a classless act, but the reality is that these days he is being discriminated against by virtually every ump in the game. My question is, should an ump or referee discriminate against a jerk, or does a jerk still deserve the same treatment as a polite “ambassador of the game” like Derek Jeter?

Every sport has its unwritten rules which are enforced by the players, managers and umps. In baseball, if a pitcher hits or knocks down the star player of the opposing team a quid pro quo will soon follow. If it is done “professionally” the umps will generally ignore it. But a Milton Bradley “bad strike rule,” which happens at most to one player a year, is a tougher call.

I saw the “bad strike” unwritten rule go against the great Robbie Alomar, a potential Hall of Fame second basemen. He spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck, after Hirschbeck allegedly called him gay during their argument. Alomar’s career went into steep decline after that incident.

Frank Thomas, the fantastic homer hitting first baseman/DH for the Chicago White Sox, supposedly showed up the umps and got the “treatment” for a season.

I ask you, is it fair? Does a person’s attitude, his long-term reputation as a miserable pain in the neck, justify blatant discrimination? Is it fair in this case to the Chicago Cubs or their fans?

We all know life is unfair. A proud and petulant Milton Bradley seemingly never gets a break at the plate. It may hurt is career—but should it?

How would YOU call the close ones on Milton Bradley?

Watch a bad call

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Mismatched Materials Produce Self-assembling Gears

There’s been a breakthrough in the production of tiny gears used in medical instruments and electronic mechanisms. July 23, the NewScientist printed an article about a new technology which enables gears and cogs to make themselves.

The components are formed from discs that buckle into shape after a change in temperature, and the team behind the study says the technique can produce complicated bevels or curves that are difficult to produce with traditional methods.

For a decade, engineers have been experimenting with materials that spontaneously bend into shape. A thin metal film deposited on top of a heat-expanded polymer such as PDMS will buckle into an ordered array of wrinkles when the polymer is cooled down.

Xi Chen‘s team at Columbia University in New York City realized the technique could be used to produce the regularly spaced teeth of a gear without having to rely on costly etching and grinding methods.

So far the researchers have tested their technique at the macro scale, producing simple and beveled gears 6 to 25 millimeters across, but Chen says it can be readily extended to the sub-micrometer scale – something he plans to do soon.

Do think micro- and nano-manufacturing will be a viable business for your manufacturing operation in the next few years?

Article by Colin Barras
Source: NewScientist

Link to full article: NewScientist

Self making gears

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Interview with President of Big Kaiser Precision Tooling Inc. Part II

Recently Lloyd Graff interviewed Chris Kaiser, president of Big Kaiser Precision Tooling Inc. They discussed Big Kaiser’s hiring philosophy and also talked about the features of two of the company’s products: the Chip-fan and the Fullcut Mill.

Question: Would you be willing to hire an employee with impeccable talent but zero people skills?

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A Historical Feat of Precision Machining

By Lloyd Graff

Ethamore Claar died at 55 near Pittsburgh. Among his possessions was a brass bell made on a National Acme screw machine at IMTS in 1971. Mr. Claar, known as Frank (the Ethamore came from his grandfather’s first name), worked his entire career as an engineer-draftsman for Kennametal, according to his niece Dorothy Miller who sold the bell to us for $15.02 on eBay.

This bell, which measures 2 1/4” high, was made on an Acme in a one part cycle with an elegant improvisation that somehow stuck the clangor into the housing.

I would love to hear from Acme aficionados on exactly how this was done and if they have recollections about the exhibit. I am offering the bell as a prize to the person who comments in the most interesting way about this intriguing engraved dinger.National Acme Screw Machine Anniversary bellDSC09959

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National Acme Musical

In December 2004, a stage version of Mary Poppins debuted in London, based on the story’s original books from the ‘30s and the Disney film from 1964 which I and several generations of kids cherished growing up. Some might say producing a live remake of the story is just an easy unoriginal way to make a buck. I say it’s taking a great product that’s become somewhat neglected and making it appreciated again in today’s world. In a way it’s similar to taking a 1960 Acme and refitting it with the accoutrements of 2010 CNC controls.

In September we are going to see some major auctions with dozens of 3/4” RA8, 1 1/4” RB8 and 1 5/8” RBN8 Acmes. These have always been the primo sizes of this genre of multi-spindle screw machines but never have so many poured into an already saturated marketplace. These machines from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s are still perfect for high-volume automotive work, but in an 8-10 million unit market downshift, the supply chain is soggy with capacity. This could change quickly if we reach 11 million in 2010 and 12 million in 2011, which may happen with a rejuvenated GM.
I would not be surprised if the Acme rebuilders like Champion, Doverspike, Detroit Automatic and Jem begin to see a significant bump later this year. The beefy Acme design, now 60 years old, is still viable because spare parts are readily available from the Detroit dealers. Companies like Sieb & Meyer produce sophisticated controls which turn the rebuilt National Acmes into serious hybrids, much cheaper than new European machines.
Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke as the happy chimney sweep was a Disney classic. The old movie converts beautifully to a stage musical. Still, an old chimney is probably much easier to clean than a 40-year-old Acme out of Saginaw Steering.

Question: Would you buy an Acme converted to a CNC? Why or why not?

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Harrison Ford meets CNC Swiss

By Noah Graff

Hey all you CNC Swiss medical component manufacturers out there. Ever wonder how companies are using your parts when they leave your floor?

Recently medical device maker, Medtronic Inc., received a subpoena from federal prosecutors about a former army surgeon who is being accused by the army of falsifying data from his research on the company’s bone-growth product. Medtronic gave Dr. Timothy R. Kuklo nearly $800,000 over the past three years to conduct research on the company’s bone-growth protein called Infuse.

A sinister doctor falsifying medical research for a multi-billion dollar company—haven’t I seen something like this before? Ah yes. The Fugitive!

Source: Wall Street Journal

Question: Should the president of a medical device company be held responsible for a dishonest researcher?

Watch our video blog below

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Machining Pinball

By Lloyd Graff

Back in the heyday of Brown and Sharpe screw machines in the 1970s, many of the screw shops in Chicago ran parts for the pinball machine guys. The flippers and bumpers were exquisite mechanical devices full of precision components. Most of those parts are gone today as video games have come into vogue, but one manufacturer remains, Stern Pinball of Suburban Melrose Park, Illinois. There was an excellent article in Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune about the company and the owner Gary Stern. An accompanying piece on 98-year-old Steve Kordek, a hall of fame pinball designer is also well worth reading.

My best pinball experiences were as a kid on family vacations to Miami Beach. While my parents baked by the pool, I lived at the hotel pinball machines, mesmerized by the thump of the bumpers and the unpredictable roll of the steel balls. One of my childhood regrets was flipper anxiety—always a little early or a little late on the buttons.


Question: What is one of your most vivid memories of playing pinball?

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A Tale of a Woman Machinist

In yesterday’s Battle Creek Enquirer, Elizabeth Willis wrote an earthy portrait of Julie Eddy, a machinist for 24 years and now an adviser to local students. She says she first got hired because she was wearing a push-up bra when she knocked on the door of the machine shop. She’s had her share of shop injuries and talks about it with the sensibility of a professional wrestler–they come with the job. While the writer views Julie as a working anomaly, anybody who walks into a factory today is likely to see women working all over the shop floor.

Direct link to interview:

Question: Do you find there is generally a “grease ceiling” which keeps women in a plant assembling parts or doing second op work instead of programming CNC equipment?

Julie Eddy (Battle Creek Enquirer)

Julie Eddy (Battle Creek Enquirer)

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Michael Jackson vs. Billy Mays

By Lloyd Graff

Michael Jackson’s passing got most of the ink, but the death of TV pitchman, Billy Mays, just a few days later affected me so much more. Both men died at 50. Billy was funny without trying to be funny and could relate to consumers. Michael Jackson was a sad freak who couldn’t relate to himself or his fame. Mays had soul, Michael had hair.

Watch the following videos for more insight and a response from the Today’s Machining World team.

Michael Jackson vs. Billy Mays — Who mattered more?

Response to Michael vs. Billy Mays

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