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AMT Tech Trends: Cam Shafted

Episode 51: Ben and Steve share their pre-college manufacturing and tradecraft education and experiences. Stephen claims Boston is the new Switzerland in terms of precision manufacturing. Benjamin talks about the precision of manufacturing electric...
Jun 11, 2021

Episode 51: Ben and Steve share their pre-college manufacturing and tradecraft education and experiences. Stephen claims Boston is the new Switzerland in terms of precision manufacturing. Benjamin talks about the precision of manufacturing electric vehicle running gear. Steve announces the Women in Manufacturing 2021 Hall of Fame is accepting nominations now! Ben closes with the intricacies of shaft measurement.






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Benjamin Moses: Hello Ron, welcome to the AMT tech trends podcast, where we discuss the latest manufacturing, technology, research and news. I am Benjamin Moses, the director of technology. I am here with...

Stephen LaMarca: Steven LaMarca, AMT's technology analyst. What's up, Ben?

Benjamin Moses: Steve, it's great to see you again.

Stephen LaMarca: It's good to be back.

Benjamin Moses: The first thing I wanted to talk about was what hands-on experience do you have when you're a wee little guy back in high school or early college on either manufacturing, construction, or I guess gardening too? What did you do hands-on back in the day?

Stephen LaMarca: Oh man, absolutely nothing. When it comes to gardening, doing around the house kind of stuff, my dad learned pretty quickly that I was pretty useless with weeding and stuff like that. He even in, I think, middle school paid him and my best friend at the time to paint this old busted shed we had in the backyard. He actually paid us a good amount of money and bought the primer and paint from Home Depot and we just did the most horrendous job. And we were like, "Money please?"

Benjamin Moses: That was a bad investment for him.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. It was a terrible investment for him, and that thing rotted so fast too. It doesn't exist anymore, but we also don't live in that house anymore. When it comes to shop class and stuff like that, there was also like this engineering class that everybody thought was so cool because they were like, "Oh man, you don't even have to raise your hand because your desk has a light on it. And when you have a question or a problem, you just flip the switch and it puts the light up." Everybody thought that was the coolest thing. Growing up in Arlington, Virginia and Fairfax County, Virginia, with all of the well-to-do yuppy white people in this area, I was never one of those privileged kids who had their parents fight for them to get them in all of the fun elective classes like that.

So yeah. I never got to take any of those classes. I never got to learn, in shop class, how to use a drill press, when it's pretty straightforward and simple, but I missed out on that stuff. However, getting into video games, a little too into video games and grades started slipping, my parents sent me to military schools, I've told you guys before, and I will say that in military school, I got a lot of awesome opportunities that I doubt a lot of kids at the time, especially kids today, had the opportunity to do. I was on a competition rifle team, shooting 22 rifles, Olympic style, 22 rifles at 50 feet, which sounds hard, but the target is about the size of a quarter at 50 feet. And you had to be in the dead center to get full points on target, and it was 10 targets per match in each position, standing crouch and prone. I only ever got a perfect 100 in prone once and I got a 99. I was so shy of getting a 100 in crouch. Standing, my coach said I was about as accurate as a match grade shotgun.

But one thing that I definitely also learned from military school was we did a lot of drill. You do a lot of military marching drill, and part of that is knowing how to march and knowing how to do different commands with a rifle. And the military school, Fishburne military school, that I went to in Waynesboro, Virginia, the students drilled with decommissioned M1 grand rifles. And now, they cut the springs, the recoil spring so they weren't full tension, because they needed all these weak high school kids to be able to pull the bolt back on an M1 and that's a tough spring.

And they also wanted to make sure if that bolt comes forward, 'cause you probably heard of grand thumb before, if that bolt comes forward on your thumb, they didn't want to send kids to the hospital because they did something wrong. So they weaken the spring, but I knew how to use an M1 grand and in college, my best friend's dad completed the U.S. civilian marksmanship program and was given the opportunity to buy a M1 grand, an original M1 that was world war II era. And we went to the lake house for spring break one year and his dad brought that and he was like, "Yeah, you guys go out in the back. Go back into the woods and just... Here's some end block clips. Loose a few rounds into the woods."

And we did that. And when we got out there and we set everything up, Chuck and my other roommate, best friend, [Juan 00:04:56], they were like, "We don't know how to use that." And none of the buttons or controls are labeled or anything. There was training. You had to know that stuff. But I was like, "I might know how to use it. We never shot them, but I know how it operates." And loaded an end block clip, pumped all eight rounds out of it, heard the little ping eject and I was like, "Oh my God, I do know how to use this thing." So that was really cool about military school. That's subconscious education that I got to experience from military school drilling something into your head.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah, absolutely. That's a fun experience and I'm glad you were able to carry that knowledge in the future and glad nobody died from that shooting experience also. That's handy.

Stephen LaMarca: I don't know where those eight bullets went. [inaudible 00:05:46] coil on a 36 in a semiautomatic, it's pretty intense.

Benjamin Moses: That's a big bullet. When I was growing up, my parents had a couple of properties and they were too cheap to have a paid sauna, fixe it up for us. So my dad and I would often spend our weekends doing tons of construction when I was in high school. And then when I got out of high school and early college, I was doing a lot of car repair because again, we're too cheap to take it to the garage. We ended up fixing our own stuff. We bought a lot of Hanes manuals and the, I think, it was [Chill in 00:06:17] manuals also. Back when you had to buy books to figure out how to use a car. I had to fix a car.

So that carried over to I think where I transitioned to my career, that all the hands-on things that I learned to do and allowed me to be a manufacturing engineer early in my career and that helped me understand where I want to go in my future career. I thought that was very beneficial. I wasn't given a lot of opportunities in school. So we did have a shop class, but even in college, there wasn't a manufacturing class in the late '90s and early 2000s. There might've been one or something on composites. There's a couple of labs. We had an aerospace engineering, but not a true like manufacturing class. So I do say there was a deficiency there that I think changed.

And the reason I wanted to have a discussion was one of our peer organizations, The Technology and Manufacturing Association, just graduated 38 students from their related theory apprentice program. So it's amazing to see that there are these vibrant programs releasing students into the manufacturing world. To be honest, my goal would be for them to be safe. For you to learn how to handle firearms, and that's the biggest thing I learned in manufacturing is that if you know how a machine works, then you know how to operate it safely. And I think the two are interrelated where knowledge of manufacturing inherently grows safety in operation. So I thought that was amazing to see that article on the apprentice program.

Stephen LaMarca: Absolutely. I'm glad. If there's one thing that's changed in tradition or that's stayed true in tradition, as much as technology has changed, a machine tool from a hundred years ago to a modern machine tool, freshly being shipped and coming off the assembly line today, I'm glad the one thing that's still the same and it's in common with the two of them, those machines separated apart, is a big red [inaudible 00:08:18].

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Stephen LaMarca: It's almost like you don't even have to be trained. You know what that button does, which is really cool.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah. It's obvious enough that if you don't know how to run a machine, that thing will, hopefully, save your life.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. Sure.

Benjamin Moses: Let's get into some articles, man. You talked about some 3D printing precision.

Stephen LaMarca: Yes. Yes. The first article that I got that I'm really excited about even, is article from Sci-Tech Daily. The title is 3D printing tiny, ultra precise parts for massive impact. And it's this professor and, I'm sure, a team of other researchers at MIT and another company that this is working for, but in the Boston area, they have developed 3D printing technology, 3D printing machines, 3D printers that can produce ultra precise, very small parts that typically, not only would you not think of additive being able to do, but the type of parts that you would think would come off of Swiss machines. And this week, this is just one of the three articles that I saw, not about this particular instance. There's another firm in Switzerland that's doing something similar, mostly for... They're, of course, doing it for the watchmaking and jewelry industry, but it's using additive.

But reading this article was like, "Oh, Boston, MIT, and Boston, the region of the United States, Boston, Massachusetts is a really leading the way with this precise and microscopic additive technology." That I got excited immediately because when we think cutting and machining small parts immediately, you think Swiss machines, Swiss lades, etc. It could be in our future that if we want Swiss like parts, but with additive, we're talking about Boston printers.

Benjamin Moses: Sure. That'd be cool.

Stephen LaMarca: Bostonian printers could be the title of small ultra precision, additive parts.

Benjamin Moses: All the parts can have an accent.

Stephen LaMarca: From Southy.

Benjamin Moses: That is a fascinating trend. The biggest benefit I see is being able to include lubrication channels or enhancing the features to create internal geometry in those additives. Or make them lighter if needed or be able to tune them like in watchmaking. I'm sure being able to tune the weight of these objects [inaudible 00:11:04] towards the end or towards the center, I think there's a lot of benefits. So just a one-to-one replacement, whatever.

Stephen LaMarca: And strength too. Not just strength in design, like being able to print miniature lattice structures, but one of my favorite things about additive and probably always will be one of my favorite things about additive is the fact that they're... The research has shown that it's easier to print. It's easier to use additive technology with certain materials than it is for subtractive. And that's crazy to me that it's easier to print Titanium and Inconel and stuff like... And some of the super alloys like that than it is to cut and turn them.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah. Yep. Awesome. I've got an article also on precision. It's precision metrology increasing in the role of EV gear manufacturing. So being EV gear myself, well, hybrid. It's my new tagline, Steve. I'm a EV guy now. It talks about a couple of things. The growth of the EV market, so not just pure plugin vehicles, but also hybrids, right? And for me personally, I see that as the sustainable future and not just buying billions of batteries, but also combining internal combustion with hybrids and varying that percentage between the two. And it talks about the need for the precision manufacturing, precision gear manufacturing for a couple of end use cases. So it talks about electric cars for efficiency or what they, I guess, call range ability, the overall range and gear noise. Those are two key elements that they say are roadblocks for EV, gears using EV.

Stephen LaMarca: Gear noise, huh?

Benjamin Moses: Yeah. Yep.

Stephen LaMarca: Wow. I kind of like the whine of a gear.

Benjamin Moses: Well, if you like the supercharger whine-

Stephen LaMarca: If it's a luxury. If it's a luxury product, people who are consumers of luxury goods don't want any, especially like cars, they don't want any noise whatsoever. So I get that.

Benjamin Moses: And I think the noise is part of the paradigm shift. Everyone's used to a car droning, no one's used to an electric motor droning yet. So I think in five years, 10 years, if the problem still exist, people will get accepting of it. The article talks about actually manufacturing the parts. So they mentioned that continuous generating, grinding, utilizing thread wheels to be in constant contact is one way to get the two structure that they're looking for. And it offers the path to get the texture and the waviness to improve the gear itself so you can reduce the gear noise and increase the efficiency of the tooth being in contact with each other. So that's the core of it. So manufacturing uses its methods, but the article gets into, "Okay, now what's the best way to measure it? How do I know these, basically, surface anomalies are not existing anymore?" And it gets into 3D non-contact optical profilers, which I like, because they mentioned coherence scanning and ferometry. I think I pronounced that correctly.

Stephen LaMarca: Interferometry.

Benjamin Moses: Interferometry. Thank you, Steve. Or CSI, CSI Miami, if you're into that type of thing. And I thought that was fairly interesting. Basically, it's a non-contact way to measure the surface profile and surface topography. And it not only looks at a single tooth, but it's able to stitch several objects, several pictures together so you can see a larger profile or several teeth together. It measures three typography of the surface and it... Not interfering with the touching the part itself. So I thought that was fairly interesting and it can be scaled up for any gear because you can stitch several objects together. So the end use of any of the quieter gear, I need better surface finish, better topography on the gear that requires better manufacturing processes and better inspection methods. So I thought that's a very interesting string to pull on.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah, it is. And just to correct myself, correcting you, interferometry. [crosstalk 00:15:09]. No, no, no. No worries. I don't care what anybody says, I don't care what your experience is, a lot of these words are tough. Because I've been into cigars since I've been in high school, as bad as that sounds, and I just learned this year that the little tool, the little gauge that you use to measure the relative humidity of your humidor when storing cigars, I've been calling that my whole life a Hydrometer.

Benjamin Moses: Sure I remember that.

Stephen LaMarca: It's a hygrometer.

Benjamin Moses: Oh.

Stephen LaMarca: There's no D in there. It's a hard G, Hygrometer.

Benjamin Moses: I think I can put a Hygrometer in my lawn to see how much moisture it's...

Stephen LaMarca: This whole time I thought it was Hydrometer. I've been sounding like big dingus.

Benjamin Moses: Steve, all the cigar guys you've been talking to have been laughing at you. Maybe CSI Las Vegas, which one's your favorite?

Stephen LaMarca: Honestly, I've never watched any of them.

Benjamin Moses: Oh, you're not missing much.

Stephen LaMarca: I've seen a few video or episodes of... I don't know. Maybe it was Miami, but that guy who tries to be too cool is...

Benjamin Moses: He puts on the glasses and they play the music afterwards.

Stephen LaMarca: Is he red head or is he just really weird blonde?

Benjamin Moses: No, I think he's a red head.

Stephen LaMarca: Okay. Yeah, he did too much overacting.

Benjamin Moses: If you guys know who the lead actor in CSI Miami is, send us a fax.

Stephen LaMarca: Send us a fax. Remember in the movie, Liar Liar, when Jim Carrey is accused of being an over actor in the outtakes when the credits are rolling, Jim Carrey doesn't have anything on this guy.

Benjamin Moses: Steve, let's talk about women in manufacturing hall of fame. You found a little something on the...

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. So [Cat 00:17:03] posted in our industry news Slack channel that Women in Manufacturing has opened and is now accepting nominations. So if anybody, any of our listeners know some women in manufacturing that have been an influence and to use Cat's words, where did they go? Who have made a positive impact in increasing female representation in the manufacturing industry, go ahead and give them... Click the link in the description below and nominate. Give some slight details to who you are and who they are and submit them. And that's now open for the 2021 women in manufacturing hall of fame. So yeah, I just thought it was cool and it's nice to see lists like these and I hope to be reporting on it soon.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely. Yeah. I would definitely follow up to see who submitted potential candidates and report back on who's in the hall of fame.

Stephen LaMarca: Oh, yeah! And I'd like to mention that Cat also stated that nominations are not reserved to those who work at manufacturers. Employees of foundations, associations, organizations, etc. are all eligible. So we could nominate people too.

Benjamin Moses: Absolutely.

Stephen LaMarca: Like Melissa or Pam. Pam's retired, but I'm still nominating Pam.

Benjamin Moses: You should do that. She was a heavy influencer in our department.

Stephen LaMarca: Yes.

Benjamin Moses: She's in what? Bolivia?

Stephen LaMarca: Bolivia, North Carolina.

Benjamin Moses: It's very misleading when you tell it that she's in Bolivia.

Stephen LaMarca: Yeah. She retired and moved to Bolivia.

Benjamin Moses: That's amazing.

Stephen LaMarca: To start a new life.

Benjamin Moses: I can't wait for my retirement. Not in Bolivia, but in general.

Stephen LaMarca: Same.

Benjamin Moses: The last article I got is about Shafter measurements. So how to choose the best shafter measurement tool for your specific application.

Stephen LaMarca: When do you measure your shaft?

Benjamin Moses: Steve, I think it's underrated for people to talk about how difficult shaft manufacturing is. I would say it's a parallel to gear manufacturing, right? You've got two different objects that you're trying to connect and there's a lot of nuances and trying to make something straight, something concentric, something with a good surface finish or acceptable surface finish. And then if you add additional features, like maybe a gear in the middle, or a M plate or a mounting plate, or other end features, maybe a spline at the end, then it increases the complexity, right? So you're constantly adding value to this straight bar, right? You could buy raw bar stock that you turn down and, or grind down, then you add all these other features, then you're constantly adding value and they get as end part where you've got a machine, a couple of holes for a mounting plate and you screw up the hole then you got to scrap all everything back.

Stephen LaMarca: Right, right, right, right, right. We saw something like that yesterday when we were filming machining fails. But one thing I do remember, and I think I was in either high school or college when I originally saw this, my parents had a cable TV back in the house back when cable TV was a thing, but one of my favorite channels to watch, especially on the weekends, was the speed network. And there were a bunch of shows on speed that were like working on cars and stuff and I will always remember this really cool clip of... One of those working on car shows was talking about cam shafts and they did a really cool demonstration. They were swapping cam shafts and like Chevy LS, and they took out the old cam shaft.

And he was talking about the internals of the material of the forged cam shaft. It's strengthened and stress relieved in a way that if you held it upright, so it's vertical, the shaft is upright, and drop it on the ground, when it hits the ground, it'll be totally fine. But if you put it on its side and you drop it on the ground, it'll shatter into a million pieces. And he demonstrated that. He dropped it on its end, was totally fine. Then he held it horizontal and dropped it, it blew up. It was wild. I feel like there's a lot that goes into shaft manufacturing, all jokes aside.

Benjamin Moses: Watching camshaft grinding is really scary. There's a lot of moving parts in that thing.

Stephen LaMarca: I don't think you're the only person who's afraid of camshaft grinding because remember a couple years ago, VW, before diesel gate, VW had that issue where their engines were shearing [inaudible 00:21:51]. And I think it was because they were trying to skip the step of camshaft grinding. They were trying to find an easier, cheaper method of manufacturing camshafts, but go on.

Benjamin Moses: Well, yeah. So the article gets into the best technique to measure these parts and the key takeaway is that... It's actually a combination of several things, right? So you want to improve on the efficiency of metrology or improve the speed of metrology in this particular case, where in most cases you can just use the CMM. CMM will measure just about anything that you want, as long as you can touch it with a probe. You got to watch out for some [inaudible 00:22:28] and things like that. If your probe isn't aligned properly, but if you just have a straight shaft, you just use optical measuring tools. You could use different way to measure the straightness or non-contact measurement systems work out very, very well for those features. So measuring 80% of a shaft with a optical measuring system, and then go to something contact where you need for... Maybe there's a spline in the middle or a hex on the end of the shaft where the optical systems don't work either because it's casting shadows, or there's not enough accuracy, or for whatever reason, then you go to that for a contact method.

And I thought that was a very interesting approach where it's a shift where people always talk about a one size fits all or, no, let's break it up into its components and figure out the best, fastest inspection method for that feature on the part, and then combine all your metrology data and say, "Yeah, the part is good after several inspection methods." So I thought it was a fair enough takeaway that don't measure the entire shaft with all the features on the CMM. Break it up into its components or its features and then use the fastest method for those features.

Stephen LaMarca: Makes sense.

Benjamin Moses: Yeah. Makes sense. When you read the article, you talk about it like...

Stephen LaMarca: It sounds really complicated technical, but when you get to the intro paragraph and you compare it to the conclusion paragraph, it's like, "Oh, okay."

Benjamin Moses: And to be fair, I think... And you're talking about value being added to the part throughout the manufacturing process, manufacturing is really about managing risk. So if I just grind a shaft and then I'm able to do a quick inspection through a non-contact, and I know that it's good, as opposed to waiting towards the end where maybe the chapter wasn't correct, but I added all these other value features. Now, I've got to either scrap it, right? So catching the flaw before I keep adding value to it is very important too. So not only checking the features based on the fastest metrology method, but also mitigating risk and carrying value to high up and catching value. So it's also, it sounds like a timing issue too in the real process too. So lot of good takeaways today. I thought that was a good look at it. And if people are listening, it's fairly reasonable to ask your manufacturer and just hear, is this the best way to measure these individual features as opposed to the best way to measure the entire part?

Stephen LaMarca: Sure.

Benjamin Moses: Awesome, Steve. Where can they find more info about us?

Stephen LaMarca: Our listeners, not just they, our listeners can find more info about us at AMTonline.org/resources. There, they can subscribe to the weekly check report and listen to previous episodes of the podcast.

Benjamin Moses: Awesome, Steve. That was a great episode. Thanks.

Stephen LaMarca: It was fun. Thank you, Ben.

Benjamin Moses: Bye everybody.

Stephen LaMarca: Bye.

Benjamin Moses
Director, Technology
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