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The Truth about…Youth

Posted by Bert Maes on June 14, 2011

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What motivates young people around the world today? Money? Fame? Justice?

McCann Worldgroup asked that question to 7000 young people around the world: US, UK, China, India, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia, Chile, South Africa, Italy, Germany, Korea, Japan, Australia and Philippines.

 The same three motivations are ranked highly in every country.


And it is technology – most often their phone and laptop – which fuels the three motivations above. It is the deep relationship with technology that allows them to connect and to influence justice for a new era.

  • The need for connection and community is the most fundamental motivation for young people. They want to connect, share and broadcast through digital cameras, cheap editing software, design programs and blogging platforms.
  • For this reason: to be remembered, not for their beauty, their power or their influence, but simply by the quality of their human relationships and being loved by many people.
  • Connecting to a broader network of friends has replaced the need to belong to a tight-knit group of friends.
  • They long for new tools to broadcast, share, entertain, make new connections, beat their friends, and narrate their lives.
  • They avoid all impositions, rigid rules and structures where they can’t negotiate.
  • But these tools should come from people that really care. Youth is disgusted by corporate people doing good just to make themselves look good. From a young person’s point of view, the worst thing a brand can do us make a promise it doesn’t keep.
  • Young people want to change the world. Social media allows them to share information, to join groups on a wide range of topics (everything from corruption in politics to freedom of speech or human rights abuses) and to build networks of support and encouragement.
  • They believe technology brands like Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook will solve most of the problems the word faces today, from environmental issues to food shortages, from freedom of speech to privacy and terrorism.

I am wondering how these technology brands will save the world.
Have you got insights for me?

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[VIDEO] Why Manufacturing is so Important to Each of Our Lives

Posted by Bert Maes on June 8, 2011

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[VIDEO] CNC machines have shaped our lives, our history and our future!

Posted by Bert Maes on November 5, 2010

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What an AMAZING video, and what a SUPERB message:

For over 200 years, man has been surrounding himself with machines.
They shaped our lives. They shaped our history. And our future.

They changed the very nature of our being.
Everything we touch
is touched by them first.

They are everywhere.

They redefine the boundaries of what is possible
and they push back the edge of our experience.

[CNC] manufacturing is the backbone of our society:
[CNC artists are] engineers, designers and programmers all wrapped in one person,
using processes and technology for extreme achievement.

Turn up your sound for this:

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[VIDEO] Degrees that Work: Advanced Manufacturing – Lance Builds an Off-road Vehicle

Posted by Bert Maes on October 19, 2010

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Lance is a cool guy. He has got the high-tech knowledge, the hands-on attitude and the problem solving and team work skills to be a winner. With his style, manufacturing is a vibrant and rewarding employment sector.

He shows you step by step how he and his classmates designed and built a 120-component off-road vehicle that survives the severe punishment of rough terrain and water. And what a cool race!

Every country, every economy needs lots of guys like Lance!

Where can we find them?

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Lots of highly skilled people will be needed to program and operate robots

Posted by Bert Maes on August 6, 2010

Nigel Platt, Sales & Marketing Manager for ABB Limited’s UK robotics, firmly believes that manufacturing presents a massive opportunity for achieving a more balanced and prosperous economy. But the challenge now is to make sure that the growth that has been achieved continues to be sustained and built on. That is why robots should be a key part of our industrial future.

Over the past 20 years, robot capabilities have evolved massively. Especially in the areas of precision, repeatability, flexibility, simplicity and affordability there has been vast improvements.

The interesting thing is that robots and other automation technology don’t necessarily threat manual labour. “Robots may have video guidance and intelligent path control, and might perform better than the most skilled manual workers, but they still require lots of highly-skilled people to program and operate them,” says Platt. With the high level of deskilling in recent years, the vanishing of traditional manual engineering roles (resulting in a shortage of skilled operators), there are not a lot of other ways than robots and automation to protect the future of our economy’s manufacturing base.

Also with our high costs for raw materials and energy in particular, it’s vitally important for manufacturing companies to get products right first time while doing things better, more quickly and for less cost in order to outperform the next best company.

Whether it’s reducing breakages in a food packaging line or cutting and finishing metal products, robots can deliver precise and consistent performance at a much higher speed, enabling companies to increase yield and reduce overall production times whilst typically enhancing product quality. Even the smallest operations can now benefit just as much from robotic technology as a large automotive company. Introducing even just one robot to the factory floor resulted in benefits, ranging from reduced production costs even through to reduced energy consumption by turning off lighting and heating in the area where the robots are installed.

For manufacturing enterprises, technology start-ups or technical educational establishments there are ‘10 good reasons to invest in robots’:

1. Reduced operating costs
2. Improved product quality and consistency
3. Improved quality of work for employees
4. Increased production output rates
5. Increased product manufacturing flexibility
6. Reduced material waste and increased yield
7. Compliance with safety rules and improved workplace health and safety
8. Reduced labour turnover
9. Reduced capital costs
10. Optimising space in high-value manufacturing areas

Where training is concerned, ABB is actively fostering partnerships with technical colleges throughout the UK to help equip the next generation of engineers with the skills to operate, program and integrate robotic equipment into industrial applications. An example is our work with the New Engineering Foundation (NEF), where we run master classes in robotics for lecturers from technical colleges demonstrating the application of robotic technology, which they can then teach to their own students.

We also have the largest, dedicated industrial robot training school in the UK, based in Milton Keynes, which has recently invested £100,000 in new robots for some of its 10 cells, along with classroom materials. This school is open to representatives from any company wanting to get a better perspective on what robots can do.

With the right education and with the right technology investments we will be able to have a sustainable manufacturing base, producing innovative goods at competitive costs on home turf.

>> READ the full story: How robots could help sustain the UK’s manufacturing growth

PS… Wouldn’t it be cool if you could program a robot to play a musical symphony?

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The Inspiring Story of Mike Starting His Own Manufacturing Company at 15 Years Old

Posted by Bert Maes on August 4, 2010

Story and Photos by Richard Berry

At 15 years old, Mike Goetz ran his first successful CNC machine job  shop – after school and on weekends – from his parent’s garage.

Goetz Industries, of Lombard, Illinois, is now an “insanely busy,” four-man specialty shop producing high precision aerospace and electronics-industry parts for an enviable troop of Fortune 500 clients. And now, owner/operator/director/programmer/machinist Mike Goetz is a seasoned veteran . . . of 19.

His story is one of natural ability and desire, driven by endless fascination with “what machines can be persuaded to do.

Mike started out as a curious kid. He liked mechanical things, especially bicycles, and “the idea of making stuff.” When the opportunity to sign up for a middle-school shop class came along in 6th-grade, he jumped at it – and was immediately disappointed.

It was a really sorry class,” he smiles. “The first thing the shop teacher stressed was that we couldn’t use anything ‘dangerous,’ like a saw. So all we got to do was make little balsa wood cars with files, and stuff like that.Bored and curious, Mike wandered off into a back room one day and discovered what looked like a machine of some sort draped with a big, heavy tarp. “I lifted up a corner, and there it was – something I’d never even imagined.”

Under the cloth was an old-as-the-hills, crank-handle knee mill. It was left over from years before, when the building was home to a vocational high school. “There were still chips on it, and tooling lying around,” Mike remembers. “So I stared, put two and two together, and realized: You can cut sideways with this thing! I understood how it worked, and that this was the basis for machining metal.

Not surprisingly, the cautious shop teacher would never let Mike use it, “. . . even when I offered to come in after school,” he says. But just the sight of the mill was a turning point. Mike began studying everything he could find on the subject of machining. “Before, I hadn’t a clue how things like my bicycle parts were made. But then it dawned on me – with a mill and a lathe, you could make anything!

That epiphany started the ball rolling. With his parents’ help, Mike bought a manual hobby machine and set up shop in his basement to learn – and to make his own custom bicycle parts. Completely self-taught, he wore out tooling catalogs, learning what did what, and absorbed machining information off the Internet every night. “I learned there were few hard-and-fast rules for making parts, and I began to realize you can make anything if you have the right equipment.”

This led directly to his discovery of CNC, when he excitedly realized he could control equipment with computers. The idea intrigued him so much that he worked to get a little desktop CNC machine – then worked to master it. When people at a local bicycle shop (where the new teenager had taken a Saturday job) liked what they saw and offered to buy any extra copies of the “cool” parts, Mike found himself in business. With the help of his parents he got a Haas Mini Mill, and set up in the garage.

After a year and a half, feeling the need for more room and more independence, he moved into his present shop space and began adding machines.

We now do a lot of 3rd- and 4th-axis work,” says Mike. “I have Haas HA5C rotaries on two machines, and that really helps out. We’re doing a ton of 3-D for the cell-phone industry, and a lot of fun, but really challenging, aerospace parts.” Part of the workload is subcontracted – full-4th-axis work other area shops won’t tackle in-house. “It’s really not that hard,” says the confident self-learner. “You just have to sit there and figure it out. The next thing for us will be going full-5th on some parts. I’d like to get a Haas trunnion for one of our machines.”


One thing I want to do is get more young people into the industry – but I see problems,” explains Mike Goetz, speaking from first-hand experience. “Most of the tech schools around here are still on manual equipment. I know you have to learn that basic stuff: there’s no way you can run one of these modern machines well without first spinning the wheels on an old knee mill. Otherwise, you don’t know what cutting pressures are involved, and you don’t really learn what a mill can do.

“But, they’re missing it by not hooking kids with cool projects and neat machines. They’re having them just mill blocks and drill holes. I think a lot of young people would be a lot more interested if they learned what they could make with modern CNC machines,” says Mike. “A lot of kids have no idea where things come from. I try to explain what I do, and they don’t get it. I tell them, ‘Almost everything starts on a machining center – whether it’s a mold, a prototype or the final product. It’s machined. You start off with a solid block, and you remove material to get what you want!’ But they can’t see it through; it’s just not being taught.

I’m afraid we’re going to have a serious problem in a few years when all the older people start to retire,” he laments. “There’s going to be a real shortage of people who know what they’re doing. Manufacturing has a lot to do with the way this country is – we’ve got to get more people coming into the industry.

As seen in CNC Magazine Issue 38 Volume 11, Summer 2007. Click to download eBook of complete publication.

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The Making of … the TRANSPARENT Car!

Posted by Bert Maes on May 20, 2010

Posted in Applications, Value of CNC | 1 Comment »

Engineers have best bachelor salaries!

Posted by Bert Maes on March 17, 2010

Top-Paid Bachelor’s Degrees

Engineering disciplines dominate the list of top-paid bachelor’s degree:  eight of the 10 most highly paid degrees, according to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Major Average Salary Offer
Petroleum Engineering $86,220
Chemical Engineering $65,142
Mining & Mineral Engineering (incl. geological) $64,552
Computer Science $61,205
Computer Engineering $60,879
Electrical/Electronics & Communications Engineering $59,074
Mechanical Engineering $58,392
Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering $57,734
Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering $57,231
Information Sciences & Systems $54,038
Source: Winter 2010 Salary Survey, National Association of Colleges and Employers. Data represent offers to bachelor’s degree candidates where 10 or more offers were reported.

The average starting salary reported for bachelor’s degree graduates as a whole is $48,351.

While a variety of factors play a role in determining salaries, new graduates with degrees in the technical fields tend to benefit from their relatively low supply. There is more competition for their skills, driving up their salary offers,” says Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director.

Candidates with technical degrees have a serious advantage in the job market!

Even stronger:

The Research Report of PricewaterhouseCoopers: “The economic benefits of a degree” found that the value of an engineering diploma is huge, as

over their lifetime people with engineering qualifications earn more than all other graduates, apart from medicine and dentistry specialists!

So if your goal in life is (1) “earning a lot of money” and (2) “making a real difference in the world“, I have only one advice: START A CAREER IN MANUFACTURING.

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What does UK Manufacturing need right now?

Posted by Bert Maes on March 13, 2010

While waiting for a plane between Romania and Belgium, I spent my time with reading 3 manifestos on the future of UK manufacturing: (1) Ingenious Britain, Making the UK the leading high tech exporter in Europe, A report by James Dyson, March 2010, (2) The Royal Academy of Engineering’s “Making Things Better” Campaign, 2008 and (3) Manufacturing. Our future. Building a balanced economy on a secure manufacturing base, from the EEF, the manufacturers’ organization, July 2009.

And it was a worthwhile read, that’s for sure. To make it easy and quick for you, I SUMMARIZED these reports, with a FOCUS ON the tasks and importance of manufacturing EDUCATION in those frameworks.

Science, technology and engineering will drive the future.

We have been totally focusing/relying on the paper wealth created by the property and financial sectors. People believed that money can only be made from other money.

They forgot that you can only create long-term value by creating and making things, then commercializing and selling them for more than they cost. The profits and wealth this creates are real. Generating new technology is obviously not a quick deal, but it creates long-term value rather than short-term gains.

A UK colleague of mine stated “The banking industry in this country was complicit in the global economic meltdown and yet, just 24 months later, the culprits are enjoying record profits and huge bonus payouts while many manufacturing companies struggle to survive.

So we have to reawaken our world from the dangerous financial bubble that lead us in the global economic crisis and we have to steer our economy back to inventiveness and creativity, making things and innovation as the absolute key to economic success.

To get there, however, we must breed a culture of appreciation for technology and those developing it. We need more entrepreneurs. We need more innovators. We need more scientists, engineers and designers who can turn ideas into working products.

But many people have no idea of the value and excitement of science, technology, engineering or math careers (STEM). Many assume that to succeed, they or their children must become bankers, lawyers or accountants. But only few know that the earnings potential of an engineering degree is second only to medicine doctors!

In fact, engineering is central to almost every aspect of modern life. The way we work, communicate, travel, build our homes, secure energy, diagnose and treat patients: all depend on our ability to engineer practical and sustainable solutions. The creativity and resourcefulness of engineers is changing our lives daily.

Many people dream of changing the world – engineers actually do so.

The importance of manufacturing to a thriving global society is not well recognized. We need more manufacturing specialists … to solve the critical problems of sustainable energy and climate change. We need more manufacturers … to help doctors save lives. We need more engineers …to apply science and technology for the benefit of humankind.

This is a quest for change of mentality. A change of the perception of manufacturing.

A change that must start with EDUCATION.

Demand for engineers is rising in all quarters with a critical need for outstanding talent at every level. We need an education system that germinates the seeds of industrial ambition in young people.

Manufacturing needs ‘hands and brains’ persons. ‘Hands’, in that they can solve problems, have no fear of failure, and follow their ‘brains’ theories through into practice by actually making things.

We have to learn our students the right mix of skills: making things and have a good grasp of the underlying theory. We need young talents who are able to solve problems and create solutions – practically.

The key, in fact: the FIRST PRIORITY of a new government, according to the Ingenious Britain report, is to recruit and develop the right motivated, subject-specialist TEACHERS.

That whole process starts at technical schools, colleges and universities. It’s about inspiring and exciting young minds. That is the core of effective teaching and the core of the best student achievements.

Great teachers are simply the single most important factor in successful teaching. So we will have to develop and support the best teachers out there by

  • Giving schools the flexibility and freedom to develop courses tailored to the needs of their students. We don’t treat students as one homogenous mass, so why do we do this with schools?
  • Equipping thousands of teachers and careers advisers with the knowledge and confidence to communicate and illustrating the excitement and relevance of engineering. We should help them to understand the many different and rewarding career paths aspiring engineers can follow, so they can inspire in the children a passion for the subject. Young are innately curious about how and why things work. We must capitalize on this. We must feed their creativity.
  • Making sure teachers develop themselves. Professional development is vital to keeping teachers up to date, motivated and invigorated. It radically improves the standard of teaching in schools. But half of the secondary science teachers have not participated in any subject-specific course in the previous five years (report from the Wellcome Trust). Maybe people should be obliged, as in Finland, to go to university to become a teacher. There teachers learn how to learn. If the teacher doesn’t learn to learn, how can he teach students how to learn?
  • Giving them the practical real-industry equipment to make kids technologically literate – essential to an advanced technological society. STEM lessons are becoming less and less practical – and consequently less engaging and exciting!, due to safety fears (“That’s too dangerous”) and the huge focus on exams.

    25% of the employers cite a lack of practical experience in graduates as the major barriers to recruitment over the next five years. Giving practical experience is probably the best way to make engineering degree courses more attractive to students.
  • Offering competitive salaries and incentivizing them to respond to the demands of employees and students.

Another key to revamp manufacturing (education) is COLLABORATION. something Ford Motor Co., executive chairman Bill Ford stated as well.

Collaboration between education and industry, between industry and government and collaboration inside the manufacturing industry.

  • Between education and industry: Curricula must be defined directly with industry and must provide the sort of well-educated workforce that can support the high value activities of the future. Industry must have a strong voice in the way courses are designed and taught to the students. This calls for open-mindedness in the educational world. Close relationship with industrial partners in a school’s Industrial Advisory Committee can form a reliable feedback loop to ensure that course contents and skills are meeting the needs of industry.   This sort of interaction will provide individual educational establishments with a unprecedented competitive advantage. Also manufacturers can develop a sustainable competitive advantage by creating a long-term strategy involving public engagement work with local schools, investing in local education, i.e. investing in productivity knowledge to continually add value.
  • Between government and industry: There is a critical need for long-term investments in education. But investments in next millennium’s breakthrough solutions for example can be risky, especially when government budgets are under serious pressure. But the risk could be shared with the market. However, government should look at the long-term potential and not at the short-term savings, leaving all the work to the industry.
  • Between the industrial organizations, charities and companies: Many organizations in the manufacturing field are doing outstanding work to promote the value of science and engineering. However the key is to coordinate those different activities so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. A committed cadre of people could streamline initiatives and use the skills of their PR and marketing professionals.


I believe there is ONLY ONE MODEL in the entire CNC (Computer Numerical Control) manufacturing industry that incorporates all above visions and requests: the Haas Technical Education Center (HTEC) concept.

Haas Technical Education Centers (HTECs) are revolutionizing manufacturing training across the world!

The HTEC initiative is a long-term partnership program between educational establishments, CNC machine tool builder Haas Automation, the company’s local distributors  and a very strong and broad alliance of the manufacturers leading the CNC technology industry.

We need to build a stronger manufacturing infrastructure.  This requires well trained, highly motivated CNC technicians; people with access to the very latest CNC technology and with the knowledge and skills to get the best from it.

That’s what the HTEC program aims to deliver: attract, inspire and educate more young people to become highly skilled CNC technologists.

As part of the HTEC network, technical schools, colleges & universities can receive:

  • The most advanced manufacturing technologies used in today’s industry in their CNC/mechanics classes;
  • Effective, compelling teaching materials for direct use in the classroom setting, saving teachers valuable time AND improving the students’ performance;
  • A concept to transform the school’s CNC department into a motivating, high-tech, inspiring learning environment;
  • Support to connect to the local manufacturing community, to build the school’s reputation and increase  relations to better achieve the school missions.
  • Support to ensure the students graduate with the best possible employment and career opportunities to make lasting contributions to society and the economy.

Contact me for more information

Posted in Policy, Solutions, Value of CNC | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The technology behind your glasses

Posted by Bert Maes on March 3, 2010

My eyewear specialist has just sent me a personal e-mail. As he knows I’m interested in those kind of facts, he wanted to tell me about the new technological world behind his glasses shop.

He wrote:

We prefer to do the grinding work ourselves. That doesn’t surprise you, isn’t it? To grind your glasses in the best possible way, we now purchased the most advanced machine existing today. The WECO EDGE 650. Through high-precision CAD/CAM technology, we cut, mill, drill and groove your glasses with an accuracy of 0.01 mm (!).

24 second video

A colleague of mine once said: “CNC manufacturing is what makes our current world turning!” 😉

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Precision Machining Recruiting Video

Posted by Bert Maes on March 1, 2010

Ryan Pohl at EXPERT TECH has put together a short recruiting video for Precision Machining classes to use.


Please send the link to all students, teachers, counselors, administrators and parents! Let’s fill up those manufacturing feeder programs! >> Check Ryan’s excellent blog for more:

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Only the manufacturers with highly skilled machinists can survive: an example

Posted by Bert Maes on February 17, 2010

Detroit-area auto suppliers are differentiating and rolling in new business. At least 100 auto suppliers already have secured contracts in other industries and that at least 250 have bid for work.

The machine tool and parts company W Industries, once an exclusive supplier to the auto industry, is now:

  • Making heavy steel parts for the frames, bodies and gun mounts of Humvees and Stryker combat vehicles destined for Afghanistan and Iraq. (see CHART expected growth in defense)
  • Testing the Orion space module by simulating the violent vibrations of liftoff. The NASA Orion space program aims to send human explorers to the moon by 2020 and then to Mars and beyond. (see CHART expected growth in aerospace)
  • Finishing a steel mold that will be used to make 70-foot-long roof sections of Airbus A350 passenger jets.

Race-car engine developer McLaren Performance Technologies is now making components for thousands of SunCatcher solar dishes, and is helping to design and build the motorized units that will convert concentrated sunlight into electricity. (See CHART expected growth in energy & resources)

Dowding Industries, a tool-and-die shop for Oldsmobile in 1965, later expanded into metal auto parts, tractor and rail car parts. In 2006, the company started to develop better-performing tools for plane makers and wind turbine components, in one-fifth the time of current methods. The carbon-composite blades will be 30 percent lighter than fiberglass blades and last 20 years or longer. (See article: the challenges of manufacturing wind turbines). Dowding sees opportunities to use similar technologies for bridges, expressways and ships.

Upcoming products in Michigan include remotely piloted military aircraft, lithium-ion batteries (Johnson Controls), the next-generation wind turbines (General Electric), a Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier engineering center, solar panels and battery systems for utilities.

What makes this shift possible?

The standard of manufacturing in the automotive industry is extraordinarily high in Detroit, and that is the only place you can find such a concentration of skills, for R&D, pilot projects and early-stage production.

The main allure of the Detroit area is its ability to quickly turn designs and prototypes into real workable products, that are more efficient, less expensive and easier to mass-produce.

The region is the country’s premier precision manufacturing base, with tens of thousands of highly skilled, underemployed mechanical engineers, machinists and factory managers. “We have the best manufacturing resources on the planet here in Michigan,” says Chris Long, the founder and chief executive of Global Wind Systems. “We just need to get aligned.”

A BIG question is whether the new work will sustain Detroit’s manufacturing ecosystem if auto assembly keeps migrating elsewhere. As suppliers close, more managers and engineers could move away.

To illustrate how difficult that manufacturing talent would be to replace, Bud Kimmel, vice president for business development at W Industries, points out to 30-year-old machining whiz Jason Sobieck.

Jason is like an artist,” Mr. Kimmel says. “We built our whole program around him. Jason began work at 17 at a small Detroit welding shop. He then worked for tooling companies, where he learned to program automated systems and manage projects. “These skills really aren’t taught in school,” Mr. Sobieck says, “This is a trade you learn on the shop floor.”

That’s one reason that W Industries wants to snap up as many good machinists and engineers as it can afford.

If we don’t re-engage the automotive workers soon in major programs,” Mr. Kimmel says, “this set of skills will be lost.”

Source: Detroit Auto-Parts Suppliers Branch Out to Other Industries –

Posted in Policy, Solutions, Value of CNC | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

How wind turbines work and the big challenges of manufacturing them

Posted by Bert Maes on February 9, 2010

A summary of Assembly Magazine’s cover article “Assemblers Harness Wind Power“, by Austin Weber, January 27th 2010.

Wind power is the cheapest and most popular type of regenerative energy. As a result, manufacturers all over the world are scrambling to build gearboxes, generators, blades, power systems, motors, control systems and other types of electromechanical devices.

How does a wind turbine work?

Wind power works by harnessing the breeze that passes over the rotor blades of a wind turbine and rotates a hub. The hub is connected to a gearbox via low-speed and high-speed shafts that drive a generator contained within a nacelle. A generator converts the energy into electricity and then transmits it to a power grid.

The typical wind turbine is a slender structure that consists of a three-bladed rotor that extends up to 300 feet in diameter attached to the top of tall towers that soar hundreds of feet into the air. A yaw mechanism uses electrical motors to turn the nacelle with the rotor against the wind. An electronic controller senses the wind direction using a wind vane.

How is a wind turbine made?

The average wind turbine contains up to 8,000 parts that must be assembled. Towers and rotors are the largest and most basic components.

Most wind turbines are designed for a 20-year life cycle. The gearbox and drivetrain system must be strong enough to handle frequent changes in torque caused by changes in wind speed. Bearings are extremely critical. The whole system must be correctly aligned to minimize wear from vibration and any resulting noise.

One thing that differentiates wind turbine manufacturing from other industries is sheer size. All components, such as bearings, gears and generators, must be extra large and extra strong. Big parts and big plants are common in the industry. For instance, the typical gearbox weighs around 30,000 pounds.

Due to their size and weight, gearboxes are often moved through assembly steps at plants in Germany using large rail systems similar to those in automotive plants. Quality expectations in the industry are huge, because manufacturers demand reliability and low maintenance. Wind turbines don’t make money if they’re not working.

Towers typically consist of large tubular structures. Plated steel sheets are rolled into rings and joined together with submerged arc welding. The tower sections are typically fabricated into cans about 20 meter long and then bolted together through internal flanges. This is an industry that needs to build large, high-capital items in a production line manner. It may be compared to aerospace.

There is great potential for advanced robotic welding to be developed. On the other hand, rotor blade manufacturing from fiberglass and other composite materials tends to be the most innovative and highly secretive area of the wind turbine industry. Blades over 70 meters long are now being designed. To achieve low-cost mass production, automated solutions from aerospace or automotive, such as robotic tape layers, have to be used to join long lengths of blade to assure aerodynamic conformance.

What are the challenges facing manufacturing wind turbines?

Wind technology will need to evolve. Engineers need to make wind turbines larger, taller, less expensive, more reliable and more efficient. Because wind turbine components undergo excessive forces and a tremendous amount of joint stresses and failures, numerous manufacturing issues must be addressed.

It looks very graceful and simple, but the aerodynamics, power characteristics, vibrations, system fatigue, acoustics of a wind turbine are harder to understand than an airplane or a helicopter.
For instance, blades, towers and casings must be able to withstand heat, cold, rain, ice and abuse from changing wind speeds. Blades must also be built with a high strength-to-weight ratio, so research into new materials is key.

Making wind energy practical is a matter of maximizing efficiency and minimizing production cost.

Reliability is critical in the wind turbine industry. The most difficult application is the gearbox, because it is important to avoid any distortion. The challenge is to maintain clamp loads for the service life of the turbine. Manufacturers are looking at weight reduction and improved assembly of threaded joints.”

Close tolerances, the ability of components to withstand operation in difficult conditions, and the availability of quality materials are all important challenges facing engineers. It is also a challenge to develop parts that are light-weight enough so that the final system can be assembled more easily, but they must also be durable enough to withstand difficult operating conditions.

And finally: the industry is struggling to build a local supply chain. The availability of a steady and sufficient supply of locally sourced components is important, as turbine companies increasingly develop production facilities away from their home base, they need to be able to have access to enough quality components to build the systems at their new location.”

Feel free to also read:

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Guitar body machined from acrylic using a Haas CNC machine

Posted by Bert Maes on January 13, 2010

I have been writing about producing your own guitars earlier:

But this one is pretty inspiring too:

The process of making a guitar body from ACRYLIC using a Haas machine

The result:

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[Video] Mouthwatering Manufacturing

Posted by Bert Maes on January 7, 2010

What is it about INTENSE CYCLES that causes their bikes to be so irresistibly mouthwatering? How did they come to represent all that’s appealing about mountain biking’s high-end?

Intense Cycles Inc. is one of the last companies to produce 100% (hand)made in the USA.

Every frame of each Intense “down hill” bike is handcrafted, in-house, each step of the way with the precision and love only a true artisan can appreciate.

See how their Intense 951 was created – Note the great soundtracks!

Each Intense is built with the eyes and hands of a sculptor:

And it comes down to  superior CNC machining skills to make it to the quality top 3 in the world:

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Crazy, dangerous but smart: Engraving your school logo into a laptop [Video]

Posted by Bert Maes on January 6, 2010

Tired of using those expensive little etch-on stickers for safety?

We now present to you a solution that not only pays of each time you use it, but can do much more damage.

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Learn how to make wind turbines in 6 weeks

Posted by Bert Maes on January 4, 2010

This is a compilation of activities that occured during the 3rd CNC Fast Track training program at Macomb Community College in 2009.

Students with a Machinist background registered for a 6-week (180 hour) program to learn how to program, setup, and operate CNC Machining and Turning Centers.

Their class project was to develop programs and CNC machine 50 small scale Wind Turbines.

Thanks to Gary Walters, Macomb Community College.

Great video and wonderful soundtrack, Gary!

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The most precious gift of all

Posted by Bert Maes on December 23, 2009

The latest article from the View from the Mill blog:

The great thing about working in CNC manufacturing, is the sheer breadth of technologies and applications with which we are involved. From motorsports, such as Formula 1 and NASCAR, through to aerospace engineering, LCD TV manufacture, and digital printing, CNC machining is making a real contribution.

However, perhaps the most exciting developments are in medical applications, where for example the Renishaw neurosurgical products are being used in Deep Brain Stimulation procedures to help improve the quality of life for sufferers of degenerative diseases such as Parkinsons.

And what can be greater than making a contribution to the generation of life itself? Infertility affects at least one-in-six couples in Britain and one-in-eight in the USA, with the most common cause male infertility, usually characterised by sperm with little or no mobility.

A common treatment for such cases is in vitro fertilisation (IVF), where sperm is injected into an egg in a laboratory and then transferred to the mother’s uterus. However, the genetic material (DNA) in sperm with limited mobility is often damaged and can affect the success rate of IVF treatment.

Using Renishaw’s inVia Raman microscope, the universities of Edinburgh and California are jointly working on a method to non-destructively test the DNA of sperm and then select the best sperm for IVF. Like most pioneering research there are no guarantees of success, but the final result would be a system that can rapidly give a health report for individual sperm.

Have a great Christmas, a fantastic start of 2010 and consider the difference CNC machining specialists are making for the world…

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5 Reasons To Choose A Career in Precision Machining

Posted by Bert Maes on December 17, 2009

Precision machinists make the things that make today’s quality of life technologies go. And stop. Anti lock brakes – we make them. Airbag parts.  Bonescrews and medical implants too.

Here are 5 reasons to choose a career in precision machining:

Ready employment. Even at the bottom of this last recession, there were openings for precision machinists advertised in the major newspapers around the country. Our parts are indispensable. So are our skilled machinists.

Great work. Our work is challenging, satisfying, and technical. At the end of the day, you can see the results of your skill and effort. Lives that will be saved. Cars that will run.

Great Wages and Benefits. We don’t know what the Obama administration has in mind for the benefits side of the equation, but set up machinist and toolmakers  wages are on par with the wages that a business major might earn after a 4 or 5 year bachelors degree program.

Great life. How many fields do you know of where the people don’t have some  worry about the future, and their place in it? Low cost competition from China and India has not killed our industry. We continue to make the high precision, high value added parts that make a difference in people’s lives, everyday.

Great values. Today shops are managed by international environmental management systems like ISO 14001 and international quality standards like ISO/TS 16949. We are sustainable, lean, just in time, and environmentally sustainable companies that make a difference.  Making high value high precision parts. You can too.

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[Video] How quality knives are actually produced

Posted by Bert Maes on November 16, 2009

Kevin Wilkins is one of the best custom-made knife makers in the world.

gd7_09He shows on his website that the creation of these everyday useful objects in the most effective and efficient way all comes down to four (4) things:

  1. Designing a computer CAD/CAM blue print of the object you want to make.
  2. Selecting the right metal, aluminium or other material.
  3. Learning how to program and handle precision cutting CNC machines.
  4. And lots of passion and creativity.


To read more in ENGLISH:  CNC Magazine 3D EBook: “The Art of Steel by Matt Bailey

ht_cher_1To see more on the production of Wilkins Knives [in GERMAN]:

To learn where to study CNC machining:


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