A specialized camera that shoots up to 400,000 frames per second, allowing true slow-motion views of the manufacturing process.
Cutting-edge sensors that measure factors like cutting force and harmonic vibrations.
Infrared cameras that show temperature patterns throughout an operation.
These are just a few of the specialized pieces of equipment within the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machining Innovation Lab, which is housed inside the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research’s (IALR) Center for Manufacturing Advancement (CMA). The CNC Machining Innovation Lab also plays a crucial role in the U.S. Navy’s Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence (AM CoE), also housed within the CMA.
Featuring state-of-the-art equipment and cutting-edge technology, the CNC Machining Innovation Lab will support private industry through testing services and process optimization and help the AM CoE develop world-leading additive manufacturing “recipes” for the development of parts needed by the U.S. military.
“The vision of the CNC Machining Innovation Lab is twofold. We support the AM CoE, but we also have a vision to support industry. We’re trying to develop partnerships to help industry drive innovation and productivity with increased profitability in a rapidly changing environment.” — Kevin Thompson, Operations Manager for the Center for Manufacturing Advancement, IALR
Industry Innovation and Support: CNC Machining
Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machining is a manufacturing process where computer-controlled machines create precise and intricate parts and components. Commonplace in industries such as aerospace, electronics and healthcare, this is a subtractive manufacturing process – meaning that an existing block or item is whittled down or shaped.
The CNC Machining Innovation Lab partners with public and private manufacturers of all sizes to modernize their processes, identify and integrate emerging technologies and provide data-driven process development and optimization. Some of the capabilities include process development, process optimization, CNC programming, the integration of emerging technology, automation integration, turn-key solutions and application engineering support.
“Companies don’t have the capacity to be able to stop and try a new process. They have to find external ways of doing that, and that’s a huge role we can play. Companies can present a challenge to us and continue to produce goods while we develop a solution that suits their needs.” — Jeremiah Williams, CNC Technologist, IALR
The CNC Machining Innovation Lab boasts a broad inventory of specialized equipment, including sensors to measure factors like cutting force, slow-motion cameras to track chip formation, infrared cameras to analyze the impact of heat and much more, all with the goal of “trying to optimize processes for customers,” Thompson explains. IALR is even allowing other companies to test and utilize specialized sensors inside of the CNC Lab machines for data collection.
“Our job is not to compete with industry. Our job is to support industry.” – Kevin Thompson, Operations Manager for the Center for Manufacturing Advancement, IALR
- Test various processing configurations to determine the most effective design.
- Review and improve existing manufacturing processes without disrupting operations at existing facilities.
- Replicate processing anomalies or other challenges in a controlled environment.
The CNC Machining Innovation Lab is ISO 9001:2015 certified, reassuring customers and partners alike that we have an internationally validated system in place to address and prevent quality issues.
The CNC Machining Innovation Lab is located across from the CMA’s state-of-the-art Metrology Lab that features one of the largest Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM) on the East Coast with 3D scanning capability along with optical measurement systems, hardness and roundness testers and support equipment. IALR offers the services of the Metrology Lab to regional businesses and partners who may not otherwise have access to such capabilities.
“The Metrology Lab is ideal for emerging or developing businesses to have access to this capability while building justification for their own capital investment.” – Kevin Thompson, Operations Manager for the Center for Manufacturing Advancement, IALR
“Everything we do at IALR involves partnerships and is driven by the needs of industry. Through the CNC Machining Innovation Lab and the Metrology Lab, IALR is simultaneously contributing to our nation’s defense and supporting current, new and prospective companies in Southern Virginia with needed services.” – Telly Tucker, IALR President
The CMA also includes a dynamic Industry 4.0 Integration Lab that serves as a demonstration site, showing manufacturing companies what is possible. Companies that are interested in partnering with IALR in the CNC Machining Innovation Lab or in the CMA should contact the IALR team.
Supporting the Navy’s Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence
The submarine industrial base (SIB) is a system of thousands of companies that produce parts and equipment used in the production and maintenance of submarines for the U.S. Navy. IALR has partnered with the U.S. Navy – along with many other public and private organizations – in a two-pronged approach to support the SIB, the development of new submarines, and the maintenance of the existing fleet: the federal Accelerated Training in Defense Manufacturing (ATDM) program and the U.S. Navy’s Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence (AM CoE).
ATDM increases the pool of skilled labor in areas like additive manufacturing, CNC machining, welding, metrology and non-destructive testing – trades that are needed by the SIB. On the other hand, the AM CoE is focused on implementing additive technologies and processes that will allow for more efficient development of parts. Don Hairston, General Manager of Austal USA Advanced Technologies, used the analogy of making cookies during a recent presentation at the ATDM AM CoE Summit at IALR. When making cookies and especially in manufacturing parts for the U.S. Navy, each of these variables must be accounted for and done correctly for successful production: raw materials, equipment, manufacturing know-how, post-processing and finishing and quality control.
In the simplest terms, “scaling the supply chain” is one of the primary goals of the AM CoE, Hairston explained.
The AM CoE will scale and mature additive technologies that enable innovative production of submarine components to bolster naval shipbuilding and repair supply chains. Involving nine different partners, the AM CoE will increase overall manufacturing capacity and close the supply-demand gap in critical markets like castings, forgings, fittings and fasteners.
The AM CoE team will develop new technical data packages (TDP), which are essentially comprehensive “recipes” for how to utilize additive manufacturing techniques to manufacture particular components. The workflow inside the AM CoE will typically go something like this:
- A team from Phillips Corporation converts 2D drawings into computerized 3D models.
- IALR will provide post-processing operations, including CNC machining, saw cutting, and processing of test samples
- Once all the partners sign off on the approved design, the team from Phillips Corporation will print the part.
- The team from the Metrology Lab, which is operated and staffed by applications engineers from Mitutoyo and Master Gage and Tool, will complete the initial inspection.
- Industrial Inspection Analysis (IIA) provides non-destructive testing at the end of the process.
As part of the Navy’s AM CoE, the CNC Machining Innovation Lab will be utilized after the initial printing of a part, verifying that the design used for additive manufacturing can successfully be machined. Simultaneously, the IALR team will also explore and implement advanced strategies that better align with today’s manufacturing equipment and methods.
“Basically, what we will do is verify that the part that has been printed can be successfully and correctly machined without any issues.” – Jeremiah Williams, CNC Technologist
Additive manufacturing, which can also be referred to as 3D printing, is a subset of manufacturing where an object is built “from the ground up” based on a 3D model. It may seem odd that a subtractive manufacturing method would play such an integral role in the Navy’s additive manufacturing operations. While 3D printing and additive manufacturing are the primary focus of the AM CoE, subtractive methods are still essential in creating and verifying any part.
“With the current technology and dimensional requirements of the parts, you can’t simply print and install a component. You’re going to have to print it and then do some final subtractive work before the part can be utilized.” – Jeremiah Williams, CNC Technologist
Once perfected and tested, the TDPs will be shared with Navy suppliers, providing them with the “recipe” they need to produce the part correctly and efficiently. As of mid-October, the AM CoE has released 28 TDPs to the companies that will be manufacturing the parts.
Partners of the Navy’s Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence include:
|Austal USA||Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM)||FasTech, LLC|
|Industrial Inspection & Analysis||Institute for Advanced Learning and Research||Master Gage & Tool Co.|
|Mitutoyo||Phillips Corporation||The SPECTRUM Group|