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LASER’S EDGELASER’S EDGELASER’S EDGELASER’S EDGELASER’S EDGELASER’S EDGEConquering hard materials with laser-assisted machining

µ Life-enhancing sensors

µ Diving into deep-draw forming

µ Cleaning options for microparts

µ Growth of Swiss-style machining

PLUS: About Tooling µ Tech News Down Sizing µ Product Showcase

May/June 2015 Volume 8 Issue 3

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Smartphone Benefi tsYou can use your smartphone to scan the quick-response (QR) matrix code images below and instantly access the respective reports on our website, or enter the URLs into your Web browser.

UL backs AM training centerIn May, the University of Louisville and UL (Underwriters Laboratories) announced plans for a 3D printing training facility to open this fall adjacent to the university

Laser Video Series: How lasers workMICROmanufacturing columnist Ronald D. Schaeffer, CEO of PhotoMachining Inc., provides the history and future of laser technology and its importance to

Slim and accurate mechanical chuckShowa Tool’s Micron Chuck, a mechanical milling chuck featuring a slim design and inherent rigidity, is said to offer a higher level of accuracy than hydraulically operated



s & D



On | 1

COLUMNS4 Front Page

Heather Thompson, EditorMicromanufacturing and ‘Big Manufacturing’

13 About ToolingKip Hanson, Contributing EditorTurning microparts on a macro lathe

16 Fab UpdateDavid Sherrer, Nuvotronics LLCImproving the functional density of electronics

19 Swiss MachiningJohn ConroyRising use of Swiss-style machines

22 Down SizingDennis Spaeth, Electronic Media EditorWatches … old and new

52 Last WordLouise Dickmeyer, PDP SolutionsCommunication and the manufacturing fl oor


10 MICRO Marketplace

47 Product Showcase

51 Advertisers Index



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Main Office

One Northfield Plaza, Ste. 240Northfield, IL 60093

(847) [emailprotected]

StaffPublisherDon Nelson(847) 714-0173 [emailprotected]

Editorial DirectorAlan Rooks(847) 714-0174 [emailprotected]

EditorHeather Thompson(714) 915-9565 [emailprotected]

Senior EditorAlan Richter(847) 714-0175 [emailprotected]

Assistant EditorEvan Jones Thorne (847) 714-0177 [emailprotected]

Electronic Media EditorDennis Spaeth(847) 714-0176 [emailprotected]

Contributing EditorsKip Hanson (520) [emailprotected]

William Leventon(609) 926-6447 [emailprotected]

Art DirectorGina Moore(847) 714-0178 [emailprotected]

Ad Production ManagerJulie Distenfield(847) 714-0179 [emailprotected]

CirculationSynergy Direct Inc. (866) [emailprotected]

Advertising SalesScott Beller (North/Southeast)(847) [emailprotected]

Bill Klingler (E. Central/Far West)(847) [emailprotected]

Marc Condon (W. Central)(847) [emailprotected]

Jody Nelson (International)+1 (847) [emailprotected]

Cover Story24 Booster Beam

Kip Hanson, Contributing Editor Laser-assisted machining tackles hard materials

Features30 Life Enhancers

Kip Hanson, Contributing Editor Microscale sensors improve life, work and play

36 Drawing Attention William Leventon, Contributing Editor Growing interest in deep-draw forming

42 Clean Sweep John Conroy Cleaning options for small, complex parts


May/June 2015 • Volum

e 8 • Issue 3

2 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing




Laser-assisted machining photo courtesy of Purdue University. Cover design by Gina Moore.

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FRONTpageHeather Thompson,


As a relative newcomer to micromanufacturing, I’m still amazed

by the incredibly small scale of parts and devices. I still see things that make me want to say, “Wow, did you see that? It’s so incredibly small!” I like to call out things like that because they seem so revolutionary. I’ll bet that’s not how you feel, because if it is a part of your everyday, you may even think it’s a bit boring.

Stay with me. Boring does not mean simple or easy—micro is still enormously complex. But it does mean that we can stop looking at the technology as if it were magical. It also means that it’s time to improve micromanufacturing processes and make them more efficient.

One area ripe for improvement is software.Many micromanufacturers use jury-

rigged CAD/CAM systems on a daily basis, Lauralyn McDaniel told me during SME’s RAPID event for 3D printing in May. McDaniel is industry manager for medical device manufacturing for SME, a trade association for manufacturing professionals. She said she has yet to see proof that CAD/CAM software providers really understand the micro perspective enough to create an off-the-shelf solution. “CAD/CAM developers just don’t have the right technology, at least none that any manufacturers have told me about.”

The way McDaniel sees it, in micromachining, for example, the part exerts more force on the tool than the tool exerts on the part. Macroscale machining is the opposite—the tool exerts more force on the part. It’s a great way to illustrate the thinking required to produce microparts. “Many people think it’s just smaller, but it’s more than that,” said McDaniels.

The lack of specific software is just one issue. There are a host of digital technologies that could help micromanufacturers become “big manufacturers.” Big manufacturing (Big M) involves more than the shop floor, explained Ed Morris of America Makes, a network of companies, non-profits, academic institutions and government agencies based

in Youngstown, Ohio. He explained to RAPID attendees that Big

M refers to every aspect of manufacturing, from conception and design to production and disposal. According to Morris, the entire process must be supported and improved in order to increase efficiency, reduce lead times and improve margins. America Makes aims to help provide that support through membership-sponsored projects.

Another recent development that should improve support for micromanufacturing is the launch of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) in May. Managed by UI LABS, the 94,000-sq.-ft., Chicago-based consortium of academic, industry and civic partners is dedicated to finding new manufacturing technologies and solutions to industrial challenges.

“The point of DMDII is to identify gaps where digital manufacturing needs work, distribute intellectual property developed from the research, engage small and medium-sized business, and contribute to workforce development,” explained George Barnych, DMDII’s director of R&D programs, during a presentation at the Siemens Automotive Manufacturing Summit 2015. “The idea is to get teams to work together that don’t normally work together.” DMDII wants to solve large-scale industrial challenges—including those in micromanufacturing—and develop and demonstrate the digital thread of technology across the manufacturing process.

The ability to share ideas across disciplines should improve all aspects of advanced technology. But even those of you who might be a bit bored with your daily grind, remember: You can always make it better. µ

Editor(714) [emailprotected]

Does micro have room for ‘Big M?’

4 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing

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European microtech market sees uptick

European microtechnology compa-nies are poised to spend more on tech-nology development and expect to grow in 2015, according to IVAM, a Dort-mund, Germany-based association that represents companies and institutes in the fields of microtechnology, nanotech-nology, advanced materials, and optics and photonics.

IVAM conducts an annual survey among its mostly European members to gauge the market. According to the sur-vey results, European microtechnology companies expect to spend 35 percent more on developing technology and spurring corporate growth in 2015 than they did in 2014.

IVAM’s economic research manager, Iris Lehmann, said, “This shows that the microtechnology industry is ahead of other industries in Europe when it comes to investment.”

Europe’s economic recovery was sta-ble, if slow, in 2014. For about 40 percent of microtechnology companies, busi-ness last year was “as expected.” About 33 percent of the surveyed companies experienced better outcomes than ex-pected and 26 percent reported business was worse.

Lehman said that just over half the companies received a larger number of orders in 2014 than in 2013. Production increased for 43 percent of the compa-nies, and sales increased for 47 percent of companies.

This year, 57 percent of companies expect their business to improve. Survey respondents said they expect a strong increase in orders and sales in 2015, but

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Compact medical devices, such as this oximeter that measures the proportion of oxygenated hemoglobin in the blood, are a key market for European microtechnology companies, according to IVAM.

continued on page 9

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Tomoaki Mashimo, a researcher at the Toyohashi Uni-versity of Technology, has developed a micro ultrasonic motor with a 1mm3 stator that could eventually be used to actuate micro forceps embedded in endoscopes. Mashimo claims it is one of the smallest ultrasonic motors ever built.

The stator consists of a metallic cube with a through-hole and piezoelectric elements that adhere to its sides. It can be scaled down without requiring any special machin-ing or assembly methods.

“The simplicity of the stator structure enabled the min-iaturization without having to use any special machining process,” said Mashimo. “This prototype stator is much simpler than those of other existing ultrasonic motors.”

The prototype achieved a practical torque of 10 micro- newton meters (μNm), meaning if the pulley has a radius of 1mm, the motor can lift a 1g weight. The prototype also has an angular velocity of 3,000 rpm at approximately 70Vpp

(peak-to-peak voltage). This torque value is 200 times larg-er than that of existing micro motors and is suitable for ro-tating small objects, such as sensors and mechanical parts.


Tiny ultrasonic motor revs upto actuate micro forceps, more

Toyohashi University of Technology

A micro motor prototype produced by Tomoaki Mashimo.

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NEURAL KNOW-HOWAdvanced electrodes power neurological treatments

January/February 2015 Volume 8 Issue 1

5-axis vs. 3-axis machiningOutlook for 3D printing Hybrid Swiss/laser machine Close-up on optical micsSurge in electronics usage PLUS: Laser Points µ Tech News

Down Sizing µ Products/Services

5-axis vs. 3-axis machiningHybrid Swiss/laser machine

5-axis vs. 3-axis machiningHybrid Swiss/laser machine

µ Secrets of sinker EDMing µ Big strength of fine grain metals

µ Milling in a nuclear environment

µ Navigating nanoposition systems

µ When to avoid 3D printingPLUS: Micromolding µ Laser Points

Tech News µ Products/Services

‘Artisanal’ dental tool making

helps Hu-Friedy grow


March/April 2015 Volume 8 Issue 2

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Conquering hard materials with laser-assisted machining

µ Life-enhancing sensorsµ Diving into deep-draw formingµ Cleaning options for microparts

µ Growth of Swiss-style machiningPLUS: About Tooling µ Tech News

Down Sizing µ Product Showcase

May/June 2015 Volume 8 Issue 3

For information about advertising, call 1-847-714-0048 or e-mail us at [emailprotected].

SUBSCRIBE NOW! Don’t miss an issue of MICROmanufacturing!

Close-up on optical micsSurge in electronics usagePLUS: Laser Points µ Tech News Down Sizing µ Products/Services

Hybrid Swiss/laser machine

Tech News Products/Servicesµ Secrets of sinker EDMingµ Big strength of fine grain metals

µ Milling in a nuclear environment

µ Navigating nanoposition systems

µ When to avoid 3D printing

When to avoid 3D printing

When to avoid 3D printing

When to avoid 3D printingPLUS: Micromolding Tech News

‘Artisanal’ dental tool making

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Surge in electronics usage

Tech News Products/Services

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Conquering hard materials with laser-assisted machining

µ Life-enhancing sensorsµ Diving into deep-draw formingµ Cleaning options for microparts

May/June 2015 Volume 8 Issue 3

Secrets of sinker EDMing Big strength of fine grain metals

Milling in a nuclear environment

Navigating nanoposition systems

When to avoid 3D printing

When to avoid 3D printing

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When to avoid 3D printingMicromolding

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2. What is the primary end product manufactured (or service performed) at this location? (Please be specific)

If your company does NOT manufacture at this location, specify company’s primary end product or service performed. (Please be specific)

3. Your Job Title? (Check one only)

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B Engineering Manager (Supervise Engineering Personnel)

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only moderate growth in production. Lehman noted that increased invest-ment by microtechnology companies does not necessarily correlate to an above-average increase in employment.

The report also examines subsectors of the microtechnology industry, such as medical and healthcare. “This market is growing and has been the most impor-tant one for the industry for a while; it offers countless possibilities for applica-tions of microtechnology products,” said Lehman. More than half of European companies are supplying the medical and healthcare market. For nearly a quar-ter (24 percent), it is the most important target market, compared to 2 years ago when the figure was just 16 percent. The automotive industry is also an important microtechnology market and is a major target for 11 percent of companies sur-veyed. In 2013, only 4 percent of survey respondents identified it as such.

—Heather Thompson

Parts management platform provides multiple benefits

OEMs that implement a parts man-agement strategy and system save de-sign time, focus their time on design functions that matter, speed up product development and time to market, let their part suppliers do the part updat-ing work and gain purchasing power, according to CADENAS PARTsolutions LLC, Cincinnati. The company provides digital parts catalogs with interactive 3D-CAD-model downloads and stan-dard parts management platforms for engineering teams.

“Parts management helps to lock down and control what designers can actually spec, be it from a preferred sup-plier or based on price or material,” said company CEO Tim Thomas, adding that there are numerous other factors to consider when adopting a parts management strategy.

Without effective parts management, an OEM may not be aware of the sup-

pliers that can source the needed parts, creating a “rogue environment,” Thomas said. This scenario can allow design en-gineers to inadvertently introduce du-plicate and bogus parts into a design.

He explained that the company has two focus points: Help part suppliers sell more product by creating digital, search-able catalogs so they can reach a broader audience, and help OEMs reduce design

1.2 mm


A parts management system connected directly to outside vendors allows commercial parts suppliers to provide their part data to design engineers.

continued from page 6

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10 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing


costs by enabling them to understand where they get the “most bang for the buck” on the parts they are specifying. For example, instead of 10 designers in an engineering group specifying parts from multiple suppliers, a parts man-agement system guides them so they select from the same preferred supplier

and the OEM gets a volume discount.According to the company, parts

covered in a parts management system include industry, supplier and company standard parts. A company stan-dard part is one OEMs make inter-nally rather than buy. A supplier standard part is externally sourced to fulfill a standard function. An in-dustry standard part is typically an item manufactured in accordance with specifications and inspected for con-formance by a standards body. Such a part is sometimes called a “commodity part” and is sourced from various suppliers, with selection frequently driven by price and availability.

“A guy designing some large piece of industrial machinery has access to liter-ally millions of parts through our parts management platform that he doesn’t have to redesign himself,” said Adam Beck, the company’s marketing manager. —Alan Richter

Senvol adds prices to 3D printer database

Th e Senvol 3D printer database for industrial additive-manufacturing ma-chines and materials now includes machine pricing information. Th e 3D printer database already allows users to search by machine build size, mate-rial type and material tensile strength, among other attributes.

Senvol provides analytics and consult-ing for the AM industry, and the data-base grew out of the company’s work. “We had clients with seemingly simple questions about additive manufactur-ing,” said Senvol Co-President Zach Sim-kin. “For example, a client might have asked us which machines accept titani-um, but short of going to all the machine manufacturers’ websites, downloading the spec sheets and sifting through the information, there was no way to get a quick answer to that question.”

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As a result, Senvol created a data-base for its own use and shared that information with its clients. “As we told people what we were doing, the feed-back we got, across the board, was that this would be an incredible resource for the industry,” said Simkin. “We decided to make it accessible on our website for free, with the objective of helping the in-dustry grow.”

Th e public database launched in Janu-ary, and at the time did not include ma-chine pricing. “We have an extremely active global user community, with thousands of regular users who e-mail us suggestions and feedback, and one of the most common requests was to add machine pricing to the database,” said Simkin.

Annie Wang, co-president of Senvol, noted the company collaborates with machine manufacturers on the data-base, including the pricing component. “Th e price ranges in the Senvol database


Users can use more than 30 fields to refine their machine and material searches on the Senvol database.

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12 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing


reflect the fact that specific machine pricing can vary by location and by dis-tribution channel,” she said.

The Senvol database includes more than 350 machines and 500 materials. Users can use more than 30 fields to refine their searches. For example, a user can search for a machine that is compat-ible with steel, has a build envelope of at least 6" × 6" × 6" and is priced below $500,000.

According to Simkin, a variety of us-ers access the database, from beginners who use it to learn about AM to part designers who need information on spe-cific mechanical and thermal properties, among other requirements.

“In the future, we’ll continue to im-prove the database, based largely on the input we get from our global user com-munity,” Simkin said.

To access the database, visit

—Alan Rooks

Press-fit finds place in micro applications

Compliant press-fit interconnects are used in the automobile industry, power modules and other applications. Ac-cording to Interplex Industries Inc., a College Point, N.Y., provider of metal,

plastic and assembly solutions, this is due to the ability of press-fit technology to eliminate soldering while providing high-reliability interconnects with ex-cellent thermal characteristics and high current-carrying capacity.

According to a recent Interplex bul-letin, the adaptability, flexibility and cost-effectiveness of press-fit technol-

ogy spurred the company to develop a micro press-fit configuration 0.20mm thick, as well as mini (0.25mm) and macro (1.2mm) variants to complement industry-standard press-fit sizes, such as 0.64mm and 0.80mm, which are fre-quently used in automotive and power applications.

The interface reportedly flexes with-out degrading its current-carrying capa-bility or incurring long-term stress dam-age. Micro press-fit interconnects, made via stamping, are available in a range of automation-ready formats.

According to Interplex, micro press-fit interconnects are a better choice than solder joints for wearable technology and mobile medical monitoring devices, due to their resistance to temperature cycling, shock and vibration, and their reduced weight and size. The enhanced flexibility they offer for tight fit con-straints and unconventional form-factor requirements are another advantage. µ

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ABOUTtoolingBy Kip Hanson,

Contributing Editor

Making bone screws, watch components and other tiny workpieces are all part

of a day’s work for machinists operating Swiss-style machines. Turning those miniature parts on a CNC lathe fitted with an 8" chuck and a 4,500-rpm spindle, however, might lead some of them to think about early retirement.

At first glance, the problem would appear to be too slow a surface speed. Depending on the cutting tool applied, the recommended speed for turning 1⁄8"-dia., 316 stainless is about 10,000 rpm—twice what’s available with most conventional CNC lathes. Slow speeds lead to poor surface finish, trouble-some size control and built-up edge (BUE), which ultimately leads to tool chipping.

These issues can be avoided with the right tool coating, according to Brian Sedesky, applications engineer for toolmaker Horn USA Inc., Franklin, Tenn. “Titanium Carbo-Nitride (TiCN) often allows efficient cutting at slower surface speeds. It’s a very hard coating that won’t be degraded by heat, and we often see improved tool life in micro applications as a result.”

Sedesky added that those concerned about the loss of edge sharpness whenever coatings are applied shouldn’t be—today’s coatings are only microns thick and leave tools sharp enough for micro work.

Limited spindle speed isn’t the only poten-tial problem when turning microparts on a macro lathe. Insufficient tool sharpness, poor chip evacuation, work material deflection and a host of other obstacles also can prove problematic.

Turning an actuator pin 0.25" long and 0.05" in diameter, for example, would require extending the bar stock from the spindle face by a distance equal to the part’s length and the width of the cutoff tool. That would be an overhang of 6 to 1 or more.

Too much overhang can lead to chatter, part tapering and broken tools. Worse, bringing turret-mounted tools a fingernail’s width away from a spinning collet or a 3-jaw chuck is something even the most intrepid machinist would rather avoid, as the slightest

miscalculation can result in a noisy, spark-filled collision.

Sedesky suggested a better approach for microparts: use oversized bar stock. “With the right cutting tool, you might use ¼", or even 3⁄8", material and bring the part to size in a single pass, rather than roughing and finishing. This offers a more rigid setup and minimizes part deflection.”

Another approach—one some might consider contrary—is using cutting oil instead of a water-soluble cutting fluid. Oil isn’t much fun to work with, and is sure to draw complaints from whoever’s doing the laundry, but its high lubricity can help eliminate BUE when machining at less-than-optimal spindle speeds.

Setting the cutting tool on the proper

Turning microparts on a macro lathe

Horn USA

The Horn system S274 utilizes a “µ-Finish” with microscale edge preparation for machining small-diameter parts.

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14 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing


centerline can also be a challenge when turning small parts on big lathes. Shops cranking out trailer-hitch balls don’t care if the tool’s 0.010" above or below center, but those turning minia-ture hydraulic pistons will experience poor tool life and less-than-stellar size control if tools aren’t on center. Shim stock can be used to lift tools to the correct height, and a turret adjustment might be in order if tools are set too high.

Aside from the correct centerline, Sedesky said it’s equally important to use tools designed for microscale turning. “General-purpose cutting tools don’t work with microparts. You need a very sharp edge and a nose radius that’s proportional to the part being machined, typically as close to zero as possible. This helps minimize cutting forces.”

Sometimes, just getting the chips to behave is the biggest obstacle to successful micropart turning. Finish boring a 0.060"-dia. blind hole with a cutting tool that measures 0.050" across leaves little room for chips to escape and coolant to enter. This can lead to chip packing, galling and broken

tools. Drilling into the next part might provide room for those chips, but since this negates the use of a center drill, care must be taken that the drill doesn’t start to walk.

Ken King, COO of Kaiser Tool Co. Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind., said it’s impor-tant to keep an eye on the cutting fluid.

“If you’re cutting a ¼"-wide groove, you don’t have to worry too much about the coolant nozzle—just get it close and the groove will help guide the cutting fluid in. But with a very thin groove on a tiny part, the fluid has to be aimed spot-

on, especially with internal grooves and part features.” He added that machin-ists must be careful with high-pressure coolant; if the pressure is too strong, it can deflect the workpiece or the cutting tool.

King said tolerances can be increas-ingly difficult to meet as part sizes

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Smartphone Benefi your smartphone - [PDF Document] (17) | 15

shrink. Where the width on the ¼" groove mentioned above might have a callout of ±0.010", the tolerance on a 0.008"-wide groove could easily be a tenth that of its larger counterpart. Th is makes life tough for machinists and makers of microtools alike, as narrow grooving tools are not only diffi cult to grind but must be handled with kid gloves on the shop fl oor.

High-speed-steel cutting tools can be a viable alternative to carbide in these instances. Not only is HSS more forgiving to side loads than carbide, but the anemic spindle speeds typically seen when turning microparts actually work in its favor. As King pointed out, HSS tool edges don’t enjoy the same life as carbide, but since proportionally less material is removed, tool life is less of a concern.

Turning tools, boring bars and grooving tools aren’t the only cutters climbing the steep hill of microscale turning. With the increased popularity of mill/turn machines, endmills and slotting cutters are becoming common items in turning tool cribs.

Scott Laprade, marketing manager for GenSwiss Inc., Westfi eld, Mass., said milling cutters suff er some of the same problems as turning tools. “Surprisingly enough, rigidity can be an issue when using small tools in a big machine, mainly because it’s tough to get small tools up close to the work-piece.”

Laprade off ered the example of a shop using a large mill/turn center to machine parts for racing car suspen-sions. “Th ey were trying to mill a kidney-shaped slot inside a 300-series stainless steel piston. Th e feature was at a recessed angle, so the only option was to extend a 4mm endmill a substan-tial distance from the turret-mounted angle attachment. Tool life was awful—the cutter vibrated like crazy and the corners would chip out after just a few parts.”

Th e solution was a new style of endmill holder intended for a Swiss-style machine that fi t in the ER taper’s

live-tool attachment. Th is brought the tiny endmill closer to the workpiece and provided greater rigidity than the previous method. Laprade said this and other Swiss-style tooling is often a good choice when machining small work-pieces on conventional lathes. “Th e

shop was able to run the entire lot with a single endmill. It was a huge hit.” µ

About the author: Kip Hanson is a contributing editor to MICROmanufacturing. Telephone: (520) 548-7328. E-mail: [emailprotected].

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Improving electronics’ functional density

Demands from many different industries are pushing electronics toward higher

speeds and higher densities. In aerospace and defense, electronics

advances are driven by improvements in size, weight and performance (SWaP) for a given cost and power-consumption level. Similarly, the rapid proliferation of mobile communi-cations and the move to higher frequencies in new 5G networks are forcing suppliers to push the boundaries of electronics manufac-turing—packing more high-speed functions into a smaller space. This functional density is constrained by transmission-line pitch, isola-tion and manufacturing tolerances.

In the commercial and defense manu-facturing worlds, the problem is the same: legacy electronics manufacturing techniques and infrastructure must overcome new func-tional density barriers.

The existing toolset for electronics pack-aging is not ideal; as densities and frequencies increase, so do performance problems. Board

dielectrics are lossy (dissipating electrical energy) at higher frequencies. Chip pads, bond wires and circuit boards are squeezed ever closer, and poor transmission line isola-tion in those circuit boards can allow receiver circuits to be flooded by adjacent transmis-sions. The introduction of a third dimension (chip stacking) exacerbates the problem and creates a need for new interconnects, mechanics, materials and heat-transfer capabilities.

When optimizing a new 3D, high-density, high-speed electronic packaging system, designers should include several features, such as chip and device interconnections to circuit boards, low-loss routing, high line isolation, tight tolerances and good thermal management.

The basic components of such a system include good electrical conductors, thermal conductors and nonconductors (dielectrics). Regarding electrical conductors, the inte-grated-circuit (IC) industry migrated from

All images: Nuvotronics

This 24 GHz power module includes integrated PolyStrata ICs.

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David Sherrer, Nuvotronics | 17

aluminum to copper because of the latter’s superior electrical conductivity (not to mention its desirable thermal conductivity of ~400 W/mK).

Dielectrics become a bit trickier as frequencies move up and tend not to be ideal, causing increasing wave disper-sion (and, worse, absorption).

In high-density, miniature 3D electronics, isolation between lines establishes lower limits on line spacing unless transmission lines are completely shielded, as in a coaxial line. In addi-tion, to maintain signal integrity as frequency increases, manufacturing processes must minimize phase errors. For instance, microscale smoothness of circuit lines is required to eliminate scattering losses. Thus, nanometer-level

surface roughness and micron-level tolerances are critical elements of miniature, high-density, high-speed circuits.

The high-speed electronics industry thus needs a scalable 3D architecture featuring coaxial copper circuit boards with an ideal dielectric. Well-known technologies address only some of the gaps toward this vision.

For example: PCBs (printed circuit boards) are made with copper and lossy dielectrics via a 2.5D subtractive manufacturing process. An industry has evolved to support PCBs, including designing, manufacturing, assembling and testing them. However, PCBs offer limited transmission-line options, and those transmission lines are compro-mised by lossy dielectrics, metal roughness and poor tolerances.

3D printing processes—such as selective laser sintering (SLS) and

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Stacked PolyStrata coax interconnects, splitters and antenna feeds.

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18 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing


stereolithography—are excellent for fabricating metal, plastic and even ceramic 3D objects. However, in elec-tronics manufacturing, SLS methods do not offer adequate surface finishes and tolerances, and cannot process mixed materials (printing both metals and dielectrics). As a result, SLS cannot be used to make functional hardware.

And plastics printed via the stereo-lithography process are also suboptimal because they do not offer suitable thermal conductivity for electronics packaging.

Wafer-scale microfabrication takes advantage of parallel manufacturing via lithography, providing good defi-nition and resolution and appropriate feature sizes in the plane of fabrication. However, the technology is of limited value in high-speed fabrication of elec-tronics because it does not enable simultaneous 3D definition of both metals and dielectrics.

Advancing high-speed electronics manufacturing requires merging the positive aspects of the technologies described above while overcoming their limitations.

Nuvotronics has met this need by developing its scalable wafer-level 3D architecture, called PolyStrata. The technology allows production of 3D coaxial copper circuits using air as the dielectric. The architecture has evolved into a toolset of building blocks consisting of high-speed, high-density electronics hardware.

Functional, high-speed circuit blocks are defined virtually in 3D software, linked electrically and mechanically, then grown together as a monolithic form. Because what is designed can be precisely fabricated, most of the development work can be done using design and simulation software before a design is built.

The PolyStrata process begins with a flat carrier surface (currently 8" wafers). To that surface is applied a thick, sacri-ficial mold material directly patterned using a lithographic process. The mold is filled with material, including metal (typically copper) in some regions and non-conducting dielectrics in others.

Once the regions are filled, the mate-rial and mold are planarized to a precise thickness with a process that provides nanometer-scale smoothness. By using lithography and planarization, 2µm feature tolerances can be maintained in all three dimensions.

The sequence of patterning the mold, filling it with materials and planarizing it is repeated many times, until a fused, multimaterial structure is formed. The sacrificial mold material is then dissolved to reveal a 3D structure made of metal, solid dielectric and air.

Completed parts can remain on the substrate or be released to create freestanding hardware of the desired design. These products may be compo-nents of a larger device, such as an RF filter, or, in some cases, can be the back-plane of a larger module, such as an antenna array. Completed devices can be joined to one another or to other structures and can include electro-mechanical sockets for integration of (or onto) ICs.

Three-dimensional air-coax circuits have facilitated the development of sensors and communications systems with 10 times more functionality (measured by both weight and volume) than was previously possible. These circuits are used in demanding mobile, aerospace and satellite platforms.

With 3-D air-coax circuits, the need to isolate high-speed signals is no longer a limiting factor, making inter-posers, wafer probe cards, transceivers and phased-array antennas a reality at ultrahigh frequencies. With a standard building block architecture that is cost-effective and scalable to high volumes, larger, more complex systems, or millions of identical parts, can be fabri-cated for emerging applications. µ

About the author: David Sherrer is president and founder of Nuvotronics LLC, Durham, N.C., and the primary inventor of the PolyStrata technology. Telephone: 800-341-2333 x111. E-mail: [emailprotected]

Top: The process of making 3D coaxial copper circuits via the PolyStrata process. Below: Completed circuits.

Smartphone Benefi your smartphone - [PDF Document] (21) | 19

SWISSmachiningJohn Conroy

Swiss invasion targets aerospace, medical

The growing use of small, tight-tolerance parts by the aerospace, medical device

and consumer products industries is driving the growth of Swiss-style machine tools in North America. Between 11,000 and 13,000 manual and CNC lathes are sold annually in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, according to Pat McGibbon, vice president of strategic analytics for AMT—The Association For Manufacturing Technology. Sales of Swiss-style CNC machines—lathes with sliding headstocks—grew from just under 10 percent of that total to almost 13 percent between 2009 and 2014, he said.

“People tell me that this market has gotten a lot better for them in the last 5 or 6 years,” said McGibbon, who attributed the growth to reshoring and the ability of Swiss-style machines to make small, accurate round parts, among other factors. Some domestic manufacturers have repatriated their produc-tion from overseas, partly because of the savings they can realize by making parts in the U.S. on today’s efficient, automated

Swiss-style machining systems.Aerospace and medical device manufac-

turers are fueling much of the demand for Swiss-style machines, McGibbon said. “Their growing share of the overall market is leading more people to use this technology.”

The market for consumer electronics is also driving sales, he said. “Basically, it’s anything you buy at Best Buy: drones, washing machines, CD players.” The multifunction capabilities of new Swiss-style lathes are helping them “take a larger share” of the turning market as sales of manual lathes decline.

“Right now, the hottest industry pretty much coast to coast seems to be aerospace,” said Steve Tragarz, West Coast application engineering manager for Tsugami/Rem Sales Inc. of Windsor, Conn. He said that firearms manufacturing, which had also been driving sales of Swiss-style machines for a few years, “seems to have fallen off in the last year or so, but aerospace is running hot and heavy.”

The medical device industry has also been a stable source of income for the company,

Tsugami/Rem Sales

The 5-axis SS327-5AX from Tsugami performing milling.

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20 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing


Tragarz said. “Medical has been prob-ably about a third of our annual business. Our customers do a lot of connectors and a lot of fittings. On the medical side, we are starting to see more and more small parts.”

The efficiency of Swiss-style machines has inspired even doctors and dentists to begin designing parts, said Joseph Dulinski, general manager of automation for Swiss-style machine tool builder Marubeni Citizen-Cincom Inc., Allendale, N.J. The machine has the ability to “make a part, front and back, and drop it off complete” because there’s no need to conduct a second, separate setup. “That means more opportunity, and with more tools on the machine, there’s more you can do with it,” he said.

Doctors and dentists don’t run machine tools, but sliding-head-stock machines make it economically attractive to turn their medical device concepts into lucrative finished prod-ucts, said Dulinski. Dental implants, for example, are mostly custom-made. These devices are “high-price items” that lend themselves to Swiss-style processes, he said.

Dulinski said Swiss-style machines get the cutting tool “real close to where I’m gripping the material. Since the material’s got to move, my tool is always the same distance from the guide bushing. With a conventional lathe, if I want to move my cutting point, it’s obviously moving away from where I’m supporting the material.”

For making microparts, the guide bushing is a key advantage of Swiss-style machines compared to standard CNC lathes because it gives the oper-ator precise control “right from the get-go,” said Dave Nelson, an appli-cation engineer for Productivity Inc., Omaha, Neb., a distributor of machine tools and other manufacturing prod-ucts. The Swiss-style machine’s guide bushing is well-supported for holding small parts. A guide bushing set up to accommodate stock measuring ¼" in diameter, for example, means “there’s almost no room for anything to deflect.”

Hybrid machines, advanced CAM software, multiple-axis machining capa-bility and other advances have made Swiss-style machines more attractive to micromanufacturers. Nelson said that “even the simplest” machine now has at least three axes and five tools.

According to Tragarz, Tsugami’s entry-level machines have four and five axes, with more advanced machines offering up to seven. This multi-axis capability is particularly suitable for manufacturing bone plates and other products whose designs require “true, full 5-axis motion,” said Tragarz.

He also pointed to a recent devel-opment: Tsugami’s Laser S206-II, an integrated Swiss-style machine and lasing system. The S206-II was designed to overcome the challenges of using

turning and milling tools to cut features like windows and spirals in tubular medical devices, such as stents. The laser cuts those features more quickly and efficiently than other processes, said Tragarz. (See the Swiss Machining column in the January/February 2015 MICROmanufacturing.)

Marubeni Citizen-Cincom also has integrated a laser with its Swiss-style machine technology, and offers it in four configurations: the Citizen Cincom L20 VIII, L20 X, L20 XII and L20E IX. The Laser System L2000 was supplied by Arcor Laser Services and Citizen is also retrofitting it to some existing models in the field.

Dale White, an engineer with Tsugami/Rem Sales, noted that the main advantage of an integrated laser

Tsugami/Rem Sales

Tsugami’s SS327-5AX has a full B-axis with eight driven tools and a modular subspindle tool post.

Smartphone Benefi your smartphone - [PDF Document] (23) | 21

is cutting setup times in half “because you now need only one machine to perform the functions that were previ-ously done on two separate machines.”

Swiss-style machine tools offer numerous advantages over traditional CNC machines. One is that setup times are “reduced, because you’re using a sliding head-stock to move the part,” said Derek Briggs, also an engineer with Tsugami/Rem Sales. “You have a standard tool point that eliminates the need to touch off on the part every time you change tools. Also, having fixed, multiple tools available means you can leave redundant tools on the machine. When you’re ready to machine a different part, the tools are already loaded.”

There are, however, some applica-tions where Swiss-style machines are not suitable, said Marubeni’s Dulinski. “Once you start going over 32mm-dia. bar stock, you don’t have enough horse-power. It just gets out of our range.”

Depending on the type of Swiss-style machine, “chip-to-chip time”—when no cutting is taking place—is from 0.4 sec. to 0.8 sec., according to Tsugami’s Tragarz. Spindle speeds range from 10,000 rpm for 20mm machines to 25,000 rpm for a 3mm machine.

Swiss-style machines, with their ability to hold extremely tight toler-ances, are more costly than standard CNC lathes. Customers must consider the initial cost per collet, plus guide bushings and the programmable subspindle collets in Swiss-style machines. Nevertheless, Tragarz said, “once you get the machine up and running, the cycle time is much less than it would be on a conventional lathe.” µ

About the author: John Conroy is a technology and general assignment journalist based in Los Angeles. E-mail: [emailprotected].

Marubeni Citizen-Cincom

Laser cutting and Swiss-style machining on a single machine, such as this one from Marubeni-Citizen Cincom, can reduce setup time and save money.

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22 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing

What does the oldest known watch have that’s missing from today’s

smartwatches? My respect.Smartwatches are small, sleek and

offer many of the same distractions—um, functions—as our computers. Compared with a brass watch the size and shape of a large egg worn as a pendant by royalty and the very wealthy during the 16th century, smartwatches, at first glance, win more points for style.

As for function, that old brass watch reportedly could run for 12 to 16 hours on a single winding and was accurate to within the nearest half hour, according to a display of the oldest known timepiece at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. OK, so no points for function.

But I must add that not everyone wore the 16th century brass watch as a pendant. Some men, according to wildly reliable Internet sources, wore the watch on their belts—alongside their sword and dagger. Compared to a smartwatch on the wrist versus the 16th century brass watch hanging next to a sword and dagger, the latter commands respect.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I wouldn’t wear any watch—including the new Apple Watch—even if it were acceptable to attach it to a belt alongside a sword, dagger or any other weapon.

First, I’ve never found wearing a wristwatch to be anything but clumsy. I wore one in college and for a short time while working for daily newspapers in the 1980s. But then came the computer age and time was everywhere.

Second, I’m connected enough these days with my iPhone. At least with it I can go home, leave it in the kitchen and claim I didn’t hear it ringing because I was in another room. With the Apple Watch, well, not even the porcelain-throne room is off limits.

Despite my view that watches are a royal pain in the backside, the evolution from the 16th century watch to the Apple Watch is yet another example of technology getting

smaller and more functional.By the 17th century, the egg-sized watch

had been redesigned to more easily fit in a pocket, which is where most men wore the bulky timepiece. While this preference among men ushered in the pocket watch design, women were drawn to a wristwatch that got its start as a gift designed for Queen Elizabeth I of England.

The watch market remained segregated by gender until the early 20th century, when the wristwatch caught the eye of the military. Thanks to a couple of wars, including World War I, the military ordered wristwatches

for servicemen to synchronize troop maneuvers. At the end of that war, many of the servicemen returned home wearing the more-rugged wristwatches. By 1930, the number of men wearing wristwatches far outnumbered those with pocket watches.

A timely point


The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date watch, introduced in 1956, is said to still be the most prestigious Rolex.

The first digital watch, a Pulsar LED, circa 1976.

Tasoskessaris from en:wikipédia

In 1995, the Timex DataLink offered users an opportunity to download data from their computers to their watches.

Danski14 from Wikimedia Commons

The Fossil Wrist PDA (personal digital assistant) debuted in 2003 and was among the first attempts at an interactive watch display.

Left: This brass watch dates to 1530, the year engraved on the bottom along with the name of Philipp Melanchthon, a well-known theologian who lived from 1497 to 1560.

Opposite page: The Apple Watch debuted this year in a variety of models.

Walters Art Museum

Smartphone Benefi your smartphone - [PDF Document] (25) | 23

The following year, Rolex invented and patented a self-winding mechanism with a perpetual rotor that to this day is “at the heart of every modern automatic watch,” according to the watchmaker.

Watches added another function besides telling time in the 1940s, when some models offered a small window on the watch face that automatically displayed the date. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date watch, which debuted in 1956, was the first wristwatch to display the date and day of the week in two separate windows.

Electric watches, which emerged in the late 1950s, took a major step forward in timekeeping accuracy in 1969 with the introduction of quartz-crystal resonator technology.

Digital electronic watches with LED and LCD displays followed in the 1970s, and the display technology improved throughout the 1980s. That decade also saw the first attempts to bring computer functionality to wristwatches.

In 1984, Seiko rolled out its RC-1000 Wrist Terminal, which was said to interface with personal computers. Seiko’s RC-20 Wrist Computer, released the following year, boasted an 8-bit

Z-80 microprocessor, 2KB of RAM, and applications for a calculator, scheduling and memos.

After the 1995 debut of the Timex DataLink watch, which allowed users to download and store data from a computer to the watch, the technology driving the wristwatch market stalled, at least commercially. There were attempts at wristwatch computers, such as the Fossil Wrist PDA running the Palm operating system in 2003, but none met with commercial success.

The world waited another 10 years

before smartwatches such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Sony SmartWatch made successful debuts. With the introduction of the Apple Watch this year, the smartwatch market is expected to grow from 3.6 million units sold last year to 101 million units by 2020, according to an IHS Inc. market research report released May 7.

Yet IHS included a caveat, of sorts, in the news release on its smartwatch report. “Should Apple stumble with its foray into smartwatches, the smartwatch market will suffer similarly,” observed Ian Fogg, IHS’ senior director of mobile and telecoms markets. That

said, the firm expects the Apple Watch to benefit all smartwatch suppliers because of Apple’s ability to raise consumer awareness of the product and its benefits.

Still, I have my doubts that smartwatches will become anywhere near as entrenched as smartphones. Consider the conclusions reached by some young tech prognosticators who claim smartphones are akin to pocket watches from a century ago, and that checking a smartwatch as opposed to a smartphone would be more polite

during face-to-face social interactions.Perhaps these young prognosticators

have never witnessed someone impatiently looking down at their bare wrist and tapping an imaginary watch. Checking your watch—smartwatch or not—during a face-to-face conversation has always been considered impolite.

Oh, would you look at the time. Got a deadline to meet. µ

About the author: Dennis Spaeth is the electronic media editor of MICROmanufacturing magazine. Telephone: (847) 714-0176. E-mail at [emailprotected].

Dennis Spaeth, Electronic Media Editor

Walters Art Museum Apple

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Using heat to soften materials for easier processing is nothing new. Blacksmiths

have been shoving metal into furnaces for millennia, and glassblowers have long used flame to make their wares pliable. Yet neither of these processes actually removes material—the heat serves only to make the material workable.

Laser-assisted machining (LAM) takes that concept to the next level by combining lasers with conventional machine tools. The energy generated by the laser heats metal or ceramic to very high temperatures, which softens the material and makes it easier to slice than a piece of cheese.

This doesn’t mean the decision to adopt LAM is a simple one. For one thing, lasers are rela-

tively expensive. Few shops are willing to invest $50,000 or more to make machining easier, not when conventional means will do the job—albeit more slowly. Adding to the cost is the guarding required, since improperly handled laser light may harm human eyes and skin. And heating a workpiece held in a lathe or machining center must be done carefully to avoid thermal growth and possible damage to bearings and motors.

Despite this, LAM may be gaining appeal due to laser prices dropping. The world’s hunger for advanced ceramics, titanium and other super-hard alloys continues to push manufacturers toward ever-more-innovative methods of processing these difficult-to-machine materials. To some, LAM may be the silver bullet.

Booster BeamLaser-assisted machining helps manufacturers cut hard materials

By Kip Hanson, Contributing Editor

Purdue University

Turning silicon nitride is made much easier when LAM is employed to soften the material prior to cutting it.

Cover Story

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26 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing

Leaving the Dark AgesWhile LAM is still far from main-

stream, it has made substantial progress, according to Dr. Yung Shin, professor of the Laser-Assisted Materials Process- ing Lab at Purdue University’s School of Mechanical Engineering. Shin has been working on the process for 20 years. “When I started, there was very little interest from manufacturers. It was more or less the Dark Ages of LAM. That’s all changed over the past decade.”

Shin said commercial LAM devel-opment is now underway worldwide, with Asia, Germany and other coun-tries leading the pack. He said the primary reason is the small number of U.S. machine tool builders. This makes it difficult for U.S.-based researchers to collaborate with OEMs on machine integration.

Another roadblock is the very nature of LAM. “Laser-assisted machining is a process that requires multiple steps to implement,” Shin explained. “That makes it challenging to market. If it were

a product in the sense of a catalog item, it would be much simpler to sell.”

That’s not to say LAM hasn’t attracted

interest in the U.S. On the contrary, a large number of companies are exploring the process for their own use. According

Booster Beam continued

Micro-LAM Technologies

A Micro-LAM system, installed on a diamond turning machine tool, is ready to machine a ceramic lens.

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to Shin, practically every major aero-space and automotive manufacturer has approached Purdue and expressed interest in LAM. “Many of these compa-nies have helped fund our research,” he said. “They recognize the substantial economic benefits, and are now in the process of implementing LAM at their own facilities.”

Due to non-disclosure agreements, Shin is unable to share many details of these projects, but cited one example of a micropart producer that recently filed a patent on its laser-assisted-machining process that the company estimated will save $10 million per year in manufac-turing costs. Another company using ceramic parts in its fuel injector assem-blies was able to replace seven of its form-grinding machines—valued at $1 million each—with a single laser-assisted turning machine.

A less-secret example is a titanium machining project at Boeing Co., in which Shin helped demonstrate a 30 to 40 percent reduction in machining time via LAM. He said, “That’s probably the main reason this has taken so long to catch on. Back when everyone was mainly machining aluminum and steel, there was no need. But with all the work recently on advanced materials, such as composites and high-temperature alloys, machining has become a real challenge.”

Diamonds are a LAM’s best friendOne company working on commer-

cialization of laser-assisted machining is

Micro-LAM Technologies Inc., which has a manufacturing facility in Battle Creek, Mich., and a research facility at Western Michigan University. As Chief Technical Officer Deepak Ravindra explained, the company is collaborating with builders and users of diamond turning machine tools to improve and optimize precision-optics manufacturing.

“Diamond turning is a very efficient way to produce optical-quality parts, especially ceramics,” he said. “However, these materials are so hard that extensive

tool wear is a problem, as is fracturing of the material under heavy cuts. We’ve developed a hybrid system that shines infrared laser light directly at the point where the cutting tool contacts the work-piece, thus softening the material.”

Micro-LAM’s machines tread a “Gold-ilocks” line of not-too-hot, not-too-cold with respect to application of laser energy.If not controlled, LAM can easily turn brittle, 90-HRC ceramic into a taffy-like mess. Ravindra said the thermal sweet spot is material-dependent, but typically hovers


Coherent Inc. (408)

Micro-LAM Technologies Inc.(269)

Purdue UniversitySchool of Mechanical Engineering(765)

Reliance Tool & Manufacturing Co.(847)

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28 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing

around 700° to 1,000° C. “It’s pretty hot, but you have to

remember that the soft area is small—between 20µm and 100µm across—and the heat falls away with the chips. Th ere are no negative eff ects on the material. Th e end results are much lower cutting forces, improved surface finish, and

signifi cantly enhanced tool life.”Ravindra said Micro-LAM tempo-

rarily reduces the hardness of ceramic by 50 percent or more without aff ecting its post-machining strength or mate-rial properties. Micro-LAM also shows promise in reducing machining times on Inconel and other superalloys, although initial results—while impressive—are not in the same league as they are for friable materials, such as ceramics.

“We haven’t done extensive testing with superalloys, only because the over-whelming response from the ceramics industry is consuming most of our eff orts. Th e value proposition here is signifi cantly higher than that of other materials. Given the potential for quick payback on invest-ment, it’s a massive market.”

Th at ROI may be as fast as 6 months for some high-volume manufacturers on an investment of less than $200,000, Ravindra claimed. And, compared to other industrial lasers that consume kilowatts of electricity to operate, Micro-LAM machines use less power than the 60W lamp on your nightstand.

Keep it cleanSomeone who knows about laser

power is Frank Gaebler, marketing director for Santa Clara, Calif.,-based laser solutions provider Coherent Inc. Gaebler agreed there’s substantial interest in LAM, particularly among those manu-facturers processing ceramic materials, but said the environment in a machine tool presents some obstacles.

“Th ere are cutting fl uids and debris that may contaminate optics, or even

damage them if protective measures aren’t taken,” he said. “Th is is not much of a problem with industrial cutting lasers because the optics are shielded with a gas stream or protective window, making them less delicate and prone to environ-mental interference. It’s far diff erent than the controlled and delicate heating of material that occurs with LAM.”

Another consideration is the variety of materials many shops process. As Gaebler explained, the cutting lasers used in sheet metal shops require a shielding gas to create an exothermic reaction, similar to fl ame or plasma cutting. Th e same laser can be used to cut stainless steel, brass or aluminum by simply changing the gas. Not so with LAM, which relies on the correct wavelength and power level to heat and, therefore, soften the workpiece.

Nor are there general-purpose, tunable-frequency lasers available, except

Booster Beam continued

Micro-LAM Technologies

This Micro-LAM system can be retrofit to a diamond turning lathe in less than 20 minutes.

Start enjoying MICROmanufacturing

on your tablet. Visit your app store

and download it today!

MM 1-6 vert 1.indd 1 1/14/15 2:41 PM


CO2 lasers are used in many LAM applications.

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for scientific applications. “As a rule, the user would need to change lasers to process substan-tially different work materials,” Gaebler said. “Despite the chal-lenges, however, I’ve seen LAM used successfully with special alloys and ceramic materials that are very difficult to process otherwise.”

Bearing downOne of these materials is silicon

nitride. Richard Roberts, director of corporate development at Reli-ance Tool & Manufacturing Co., Elgin, Ill., said the company has developed a proprietary process that heats this superhard ceramic to temperatures of 1,100° to 1,300° C. “All you’re really doing is getting it hot enough to melt the ceramic binder. The tempera-ture is easily controlled through adjustment of a single parameter in the laser control. We find it to be a whole lot faster than grinding.”

Roberts said Reliance’s work with LAM evolved from hard turning. “Around 13

years ago, we were having trouble turning a ceramic cylinder liner for a racing engine. The boss said, ‘Let’s try heating it up.’ So one of our guys used an acety-lene torch. It worked, but we struggled

with maintaining the temperature. That’s when we turned to lasers.”

Reliance teamed with Northern Illinois University’s Department of Mechan-ical Engineering and eventually won a contract from the Department of Defense to commercialize the system. “By and large we succeeded, but if you’re producing components for helicopters and aircraft, it takes years to get approval,” Roberts said. “We do not have the system in production at this point.”

The Reliance system uses a 1,000W laser to heat items 3" to 4" in diameter, the majority of which are used for hybrid ceramic and steel roller bearings. “We hope to get LAM to the point where it’s efficient enough to produce low-cost ceramic components that can be used in a large number of applications,” he said. “Ceramic is basically indestructible.” µ

About the author: Kip Hanson is a contributing editor to MICROmanufacturing. Telephone: (520) 548-7328.

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Illustration of a machine retrofit, where a Micro-LAM system is added to a tooling stage.

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30 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing

From laptop computers and hearing aids to inkjet printers and washing machines,

microsensors touch nearly every aspect of our lives. Automakers employ them to monitor tire pressure and deploy airbags, and physicians use them to analyze blood and deliver drugs. These tiny gadgets make planes safer, smartphones smarter and video games far more fun.

Microsensors are everywhere.

Just call them sensors alreadyNot everyone agrees on what to call them.

“Microsensors is a term we typically don’t use,” said Michael Markowitz, director of technical media relations for the Americas at Switzerland-based semiconductor developer STMicroelectronics. “About the only context where we still throw the micro in front is with micro-actuators, used in inkjet printing, for example, or medical applications, where you’re essentially squirting liquid, under pressure, out of a MEMS device.”

Micro prefix or not, there are two basic types of microsensors, Markowitz said. MEMS sensors, including accelerometers, gyroscopes, and microphones, are found in everyday prod-ucts. They incorporate moving parts (albeit very small ones) to sense movement and relay that information to onboard firmware and other types of integrated circuits. MEMS sensors tell your wearable fitness band how far you’ve walked today, or whether your remote control drone is about to crash into the neighbor’s pool.

Microsensors made from solid-state circuits are the second type. These devices have no moving parts and rely on the inductive, capacitive and photoelectric properties of semiconducting materials, along with dedi-cated signal-processing blocks, to amplify minute signals that are then processed by embedded logic circuits. Examples include electrical-current and voltage-sensing devices, and “time-of-flight” sensors, which Markowitz said measure the speed of light to determine

Life EnhancersSensors improve the way we live, work and play

By Kip Hanson, Contributing Editor

Bosch Sensortec

The Bosch BME680 environmental sensor enables multiple new capabilities for portable and mobile devices, such as air-quality measurement, personalized weather stations, indoor navigation, fitness monitoring, home automation and other applications for the Internet of Things.

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32 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing

distance to an object. Perhaps the best-known devices in this family are the CCD

(charge-coupled device) and CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) sensors used in digital cameras, which sense light and convert it into the zeroes and ones needed to generate the awesome pictures you snapped at the last family picnic.

Take off the maskSurprisingly, both solid-state and MEMS sensors are made

via similar processes. The photolithographic masking and etching techniques that crank out integrated circuits by the billions can also be used to fabricate the delicate, pendulum-like structures in a MEMS device by the application of different chemicals, the timing of that application and through various bonding methods.

Dave Kirsch is vice president and general manager of EV Group Inc., Tempe, Ariz., the North American sales arm of Austrian lithography equipment manufacturer EV Group. He explained that the photolithography equipment used for sensor manufacturing works in a manner similar to how old-fashioned photographs were made. “Once the silicon wafer is prepared, a 5nm- to 10nm-thick layer of liquid, called photore-sist, is applied. After curing, the wafer is covered with a mask in the shape of whatever pattern or geometry is desired, which is then exposed to UV light. This causes a chemical change in the photoresist that allows it to be washed away, leaving the mask image etched into the wafer.”

From the memory chip in a laptop computer to a micropro-cessor in a clock radio, this is the basic process behind every integrated circuit ever made. Of course, it’s far more complex than what’s described here, and is performed at an almost inconceivable scale. Kirsch described laboratory-grade nano-

lithography techniques that cut features less than 10nm across; production systems are capable of resolution roughly twice that, or 20nm-wide features.

MEMS devices are roughly 50 to 100 times larger than their solid-state counterparts and more complex, containing dozens, perhaps hundreds of moving parts. Through clever mask layering and application of different chemicals during manufacturing, mechanical structures can be etched into the silicon substrate, creating impossibly small hinges and cantilever shapes that deflect when subjected to changes in acceleration, magnetism and temperature.

“Consider a modern vehicle,” Kirsch said. “There are all these things going on that you never have to think about—how much fluid is left in the power steering unit, or whether there’s oil in the crankcase. Anti-skid and anti-theft devices, navigation systems, rollover detection—they’re all controlled by the tiny mechanical sensors.”

Dollars and centsDespite the awesome technology behind them, most sensors

cost less than a cup of coffee, and the ones used in high-volume runs of consumer electronics often cost far less.

Stephen Whalley, chief strategy officer of the Pittsburgh-based MEMS Industry Group (MIG), a trade association advancing MEMS and sensor technology, said a typical MEMS device may cost a dollar, while a solid-state CMOS sensor with an equivalent feature set is just a fraction of that.

Life Enhancers continued

Bosch Sensortec

A Bosch Sensortec 9-axis sensor

node plus sensor fusion in a single


Despite the awesome technology behind them, most sensors cost

less than a cup of coffee.

Smartphone Benefi your smartphone - [PDF Document] (35) | 33

“Each has its own strengths, and comes with its own set of tradeoffs,” Whalley said. “If a CMOS can do a sensing job, that’s what people will likely use since it’s a more common and scalable process. You may not always get the same accuracy and preci-sion as a MEMS device, but the lower cost of a CMOS sensor is a big driver in many commercial applications. By comparison, MEMS sensors tend to be used for capabilities that CMOS alone cannot deliver. The tradeoff with developing a new MEMS device, however, is that it usually means longer development cycles, higher initial costs and less ability for multisourcing. That said, MEMS is where the growth is today, with designs in automotive, smartphones, wearables and the all-encompassing Internet of Things.”

Sensors are big business. Whalley said MIG has over 180 members and partners representing a wide range of manufac-turers, researchers, integrators and material suppliers for MEMS and solid-state sensors alike. The group’s mandate is standardiza-tion and communication within the sensor industry, as well as the promotion of that industry through global networking events.

Despite having MEMS as part of the organization’s name, Whalley said the group’s focus is on sensors in general. “If I were to draw a Venn diagram (a drawing showing relation-ships among a set of things) with MEMS sensors on one side and non-MEMS sensors on the other, there would be a good amount of overlap where we have common ground between the two industries and those members that make and use both.”

Opening doorsOne of these members is MEMS sensor manufacturer

Bosch Sensortec GmbH, Reutlingen, Germany, a subsidiary of multinational electronics and engineering firm Bosch. (Bosch Sensortec is represented in the U.S. by Mouser Electronics Inc.,


Altimeters, gyroscopes, motion sensors and other features can be combined in a single MEMS device.

2015-MicroMan_halfhoriz_Traceability_otlns.indd 1 3/16/2015 5:11:13 PM

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34 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing

Mansfi eld, Texas.)Stefan Finkbeiner, CEO of Bosch

Sensortec, said that, compared to yesterday’s mechanical sensors, MEMS devices are more scalable, less expen-sive to build and far smaller. “� ere are still a few sensing applications unsuit-able for MEMS. In barometric pressures of several thousand bar, for example, or in highly alkaline and other harsh environments, silicon devices may not survive.”

In cases like this, designers must make sacrifi ces, as a mechanical sensor may be thousands of times larger than its MEMS equivalent and cost hundreds of times more. � is is the beauty of today’s sensor technology: ultracompact size and extremely low cost, attributes that have made today’s boom in smart devices possible.

� ose devices are about to get a lot smarter. Bosch Sensortec and other manufacturers continue to pack more capabilities into ever-smaller devices. “We can deliver pressure, temperature, humidity and air-quality sensing in a

single environmental device, as well as 9-axis motion sensors that combine an accelerometer, gyroscope and magne-tometer in a package measuring 5.2mm × 3.8mm,” said Finkbeiner.

� e ability to combine multiple sensing functions with an application-specifi c integrated circuit (ASIC) provides these complex devices with decision-making

capabilities never before possible. “� is technology gives you a lot of possibilities, such as self testing and internal-function verifi cation. It leverages the potential

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Life Enhancers continuedContributors

Bosch Sensortec GmbH(Mouser Electronics Inc.)(800)

EV Group Inc.(480) 305 2400

InvenSense Inc.(408) 988-7339

MEMS Industry Group(412) 390-1644

STMicroelectronics+41 22 929 29 29

MEMS Industry Group

An accelerometer suitable for a smartphone or personal fitness device measures 2mm square.

Smartphone Benefi your smartphone - [PDF Document] (37) | 35

of microelectronics together with the mechanical capabilities of MEMS. It’s a very powerful combination.”

Looking forwardAnother sensor developer is InvenSense

Inc. Mo Maghsoudnia, vice president of technology, said the San Jose, Calif., company sees growth in five market segments: mobile, which includes smart-phones and tablets, as well as wearables, smart homes, automotive and industrial. “Th e applications can be anything from platform stabilization to health and fi tness, navigation and activity tracking, optical image stabilization and virtual reality.”

Much of the success of today’s sensor technology comes from the integration between traditional MEMS platforms and the CMOS devices that process their output signals. Maghsoudnia said InvenSense uses a eutectic bonding technique to marry the MEMS and CMOS wafers. Th is allows the package to be tested as a single device rather than testing each component individually, and off ers lower costs and easier integration eff orts than previous sensor technologies.

“Combining the two chips in this

manner provides a fully integrated sensor hub,” Maghsoudnia said. “It provides greater power savings than traditional designs, improves battery life on portable devices and reduces heat. At the same time, the technology allows us to inte-grate more devices into a much smaller form factor. It also provides a number of capabilities in terms of processing algo-rithms directly on the sensor. Th at means we can do onboard gesture logic, activity classification, context-aware motion processing and run-time calibration, and

make power management deci-sions based on activity levels.”

It also makes the programmer’s life easier, as customization and code development can take place directly on the sensor chip. Th is is good news for the computer nerds in the room, but for the rest of us, it means our smartphones may soon be able to tell us not only where we are, but our altitude, the temper-ature in the room and whether we should evacuate the building because there’s a gas leak down the hall. Wearable devices will alert you if Grandpa just slipped in the tub, or if you should cut short your

5K run because you’re about to have a cardiac event.

Simply put, sensors have the potential to transform our lives. µ

About the author: Kip Hanson is a contributing editor to MICROmanufacturing. Telephone: (520) 548-7328. E-mail: [emailprotected].

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Manufacturers that look deeply into the matter may discover that deep drawing is

the best way to produce their small parts. For the right applications, proponents

say, the technology is a capable and money-saving replacement for processes such as screw machining, injection molding, and die and investment casting. What’s more, deep drawing could have what it takes to help micromanu-facturers in a variety of industries meet new part-volume requirements—up to billions of parts in some cases.

In the deep-drawing process, sheet metal is formed into a 3D shape by a punch and die. The power-driven punch pushes the metal into the die, which gives the material its shape. The process is considered deep-drawing when the depth of the drawn part exceeds its diameter. Many different metals can be deep-drawn, including cold-rolled and stainless steel, copper,

brass and aluminum.

Transfer press processDifferent types of presses can be used to

produce deep-drawn metal stampings. One common option is the transfer stamping press, which is normally used to form cup-shaped metal components. Transfer presses can produce precise, intricate parts by drawing a flat metal blank through a series of dies.

The use of blanks, which are cut from coil strips, differentiates transfer stamping presses from progressive die presses. Individual blanks facilitate material flow between the punch and die, which allows for greater length-to-diameter ratios. Braxton Manufacturing Co., Watertown, Conn., claims its proprietary transfer presses can produce deep-drawn parts with length-to-diameter ratios greater than 55:1.

The blanking process, in which sheet coil

Drawing AttentionInterest grows in deep-draw forming of microparts

By William Leventon, Contributing Editor

Braxton Manufacturing

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stock is cut into the round or shaped flats required for deep drawing, normally occurs at the first station in the transfer press. Once cut from a coil, the blank is moved to the next station, where a punch and die form it into a rough cup. Mechanical fingers then transfer the cup to subsequent drawing stations, which form the metal into the desired shape in a step-by-step process. Once the rough final shape has been formed, additional stations can be used for processes such as piercing holes in the part or trimming away excess material.

Many advantagesAs metal is formed into shapes during

the deep-drawing process, the grain structure is stretched and cold-worked, boosting its strength. As a result of this work hardening, the finished part is stronger than the base metal used to create it, eliminating the need for any secondary heat treating.

“If we purchased 0.010"-thick raw material, it would probably end up being 0.008" thick in the finished product. So 20 percent thinning would result in that cold working and hardening,” explained Thomas Ordway, president of Braxton Manufacturing.

Braxton claims its machines can deep- draw parts as small as 0.006" in diameter, with wall thicknesses down to 0.0005" and tolerances as tight as ±0.00015". Some of Braxton’s smallest deep-drawn parts are 0.008"-dia., gold-plated electronic connectors and testing probes.

Deep drawing offers consistent and repeatable manufacturing of small parts, according to Ordway. To illustrate why this is important, he offers the example of implantable drug-filled titanium seeds used to treat cancerous tumors. These seeds range from 0.012" to 0.030" in diameter, with one end sealed and the

other capped. The deep-drawing process produces a sealed end, eliminating the need to use “a glob of weld” to seal the ends of the seeds, Ordway said. The result, he claims, is a much more consis-tent final product that allows the seeds to more precisely dispense drugs.

Deep drawing also minimizes mate-rial waste. “With a machined part, you would start with bar stock, and you would have a lot of scrap at the end,” said Paul Cote, president of National Die Co. Inc., Wolcott, Conn., a high-volume manufac-turer of small caps, connectors, eyelets, pins, tubes and other deep-drawn parts. “But with a drawn part, you’re starting with strip stock, and there is less scrap and less cost.”

Deep drawing can also reduce manu-facturing time and costs by producing complete parts. Braxton, for example, can equip one of its deep-drawing machines with up to 25 independent tooling stations, allowing the machine to produce features such as holes, slots and flares without the need for secondary operations.

Deep-drawing drawbackOn the downside, deep-drawing

processes have a hard time with hard materials. “You can’t draw something that’s very hard,” said Kenneth Heim, president of Volkert Precision Tech-nologies Inc., Queens Village, N.Y. If a particular application requires stainless steel, which would be harder to draw than, say, brass or aluminum, “most of the time you try to use 305 because it draws better than some of the other stainless steels,” Heim noted.

This difficulty with hard materials means that work hardening, an advanta-geous result of the deep-drawing process, can become a disadvantage. “Work hard-ening can be an issue, depending on what material you’re using, because the more times you draw the material, the harder it gets,” Heim explained.

Volkert uses transfer presses to produce a variety of small parts, including ¼"-dia. nickel-iron cups used in surge-protection systems for telecommunications equip-ment. But there’s a limit to what they can produce. “The parts can have flanges and

Drawing Attention continued

1 2 3

4 5R. Chandramouli, SASTRA University

The deep-drawing process. (1) Punch contacts workpiece. (2) Bending. (3) Straightening. (4) Friction and compression. (5) Final cup shape.

Deep drawing is a multiple-step process. The shape of the metal is changed again and again until the finished part is formed.

Smartphone Benefi your smartphone - [PDF Document] (41) | 39

some fancy shapes,” Heim said. “But the major limitation is that transfer presses generally are only used to make round, cup-shaped parts.”

Micro challengesWhen it comes to deep-drawing very

small parts, special challenges arise. One of these is dealing with extremely thin materials. “If you try to draw a part out of a material that is just a few thousandths of an inch thick, you can experience frac-turing and other issues,” Heim said. “So you need experienced people who know things like what lubricants to use so that you don’t get wrinkling of the metal.”

A blank holder, which applies pressure to the metal sheet against the die, controls material flow between the punch and die, which prevents wrinkling.

At the microscale, however, it becomes much more difficult to maintain proper blank-holder alignment and force for the deep-drawing process, noted Scott Wagner, an assistant professor at Mich-igan Technological University.

Wagner, who researches micro metal forming, employed what he described as a “crude and simple approach” to handle blank holders in his micro deep-drawing work. This involves the use of locating dowels and a floating blank-holder frame supported by springs and bolted in place.

Friction is another big issue in small-scale deep drawing. “Frictional effects are very different at the smaller level,” Wagner said. “You notice it so much more, and it’s a lot easier to tear your parts.”

To reduce friction during his micro deep-drawing process, Wagner tried traditional wet (oil) and dry (graphite) lubricants on both the punch and die. “I noticed that the wet lubricants were sticky and had a more negative impact on the process, [resulting in] more tearing,” he reported.

Micro deep drawing also pres-ents tooling-related challenges. At the

macroscale, Braxton’s Ordway explained, companies that deep-draw parts can use computerized manufacturing tech-niques to produce the tooling they need. But at the microscale, he said, these computerized techniques are “very limited” in their ability to produce the required accuracy. “So, instead, you have to rely on traditional toolmaking methods that are not computerized and automated,” he said. “And that means the skill level of the people involved has to be very high.”

Though deep drawing of very small parts is an inherently difficult task, the job has gotten easier in recent years, Ordway said, thanks to the availability of cleaner and finer raw materials. In the past, extremely deep draws “were actu-ally annealed mid-process and parts went

Braxton Manufacturing


Braxton Manufacturing Co.(860)

Michigan Technological University(906)

National Die Co. Inc.(203)

Volkert Precision Technologies Inc.(800)

Volkert Precision Technologies

Deep drawing can produce parts of various sizes.

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40 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing

through a lot of other processes because the raw material wasn’t as good and robust as it is today,” he said.

Specifically, he noted, modern mate-rials offer better formability, allowing them to go much farther in the deep-drawing process than did their predecessors. In addition, the new mate-rials have fewer defects that lead to part cracking or breakage.

More small-scale business?Braxton already makes tiny compo-

nents for companies in the medical, communications, aerospace, automo-tive and electronics industries. But could the deep-drawing technology offered by this company and those like it be poised to assume an even larger role in micromanufacturing? Ordway thinks so—not because of any recent changes in the technology itself, but because of a change in the business of micromanu-facturing.

“Up to now, [microscale] products generally haven’t been produced in large volumes,” said Ordway, whose

firm makes over a billion parts for some jobs. “But I think micromanufacturers are starting to look at deep drawing because their volumes are increasing. Deep drawing can produce the volumes and the accuracy that micromanufac-turers are looking for today.” µ

About the author: William Leventon is a contributing editor to MICROmanufacturing. Telephone: (609) 926-6447. E-mail: [emailprotected].

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Drawing Attention continued

Braxton Manufacturing

Deep drawing small parts requires skilled workers as well as precision machinery.

Smartphone Benefi your smartphone - [PDF Document] (43)

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42 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing

M icroparts present cleaning challenges for the companies that make them and

cleaning equipment suppliers. Manufacturers need to exercise care to ensure cleaning proce-dures do not damage tiny parts and part features. Regulations, throughput requirements and scal-ability issues add to the task of finding suitable cleaning methods.

“When you have a microcomponent, the part is frequently just a surface,” said Barbara Kanegsberg, president of BFK Solutions LLC, a consulting firm based in Pacific Palisades, Calif., that offers expertise in critical product cleaning. “However, it’s not necessarily the size of the part that presents a cleaning challenge, but rather the complexity of its surface and its criticality.” Cleaning requirements are particularly strin-gent for medical and aerospace parts, she added.

Cleaning methods are defined by the processes and chemicals employed. The three primary

methods are aqueous, solvent and nonchem-ical. The latter is a misnomer, Kanegsberg noted, because while it can involve cleaning by force alone, some non-chemical processes do involve chemicals. An example is plasma cleaning, when the cleaning agent is a chemical generated in-situ. Other nonchemical cleaning processes employ carbon dioxide, carbon-dioxide snow (dry ice) and carbon-dioxide pellets.

“It’s essential to match the cleaning agent and the cleaning process to the soil and to the part being cleaned,” she said, marveling at the fact that part manufacturers often don’t test cleaning systems for specific applications. During site visits, clients frequently tell her that they set up their cleaning systems a certain way simply because the sales rep recommended it. Just as frequently, she is told that the system variables have never been tested.

Testing is especially important when

Clean SweepCleaning options for small, complex parts

By John Conroy


An ultrasonic cleaning system.

Smartphone Benefi your smartphone - [PDF Document] (45) | 43

purchasing ultrasonic cleaning systems, according to Kanegsberg. The manufac-turer must choose the frequency with both the soil and the part configuration in mind. “There’s a continuum where the higher you get in frequency, the less effec-tive cavitation is and the more important acoustic streaming becomes,” she said. Acoustic streaming is the process by which sound waves create currents that flow in one direction in a fluid.

In megasonic (high-frequency) cleaning, acoustic streaming, or line-of-sight cleaning, dominates because it reduces the chance of damaging the surface. However, it is ineffective for cleaning complex surfaces. “It really involves a great deal of experimentation and testing to determine the exact process required,” Kanegsberg continued.

BFK Solutions is conducting studies exploring variables such as different frequencies, temperatures and cleaning agents. Kanegsberg recommends that part manufacturers stop using default settings on their cleaning equipment, and cautions that longer cleaning times and higher power are not necessarily better. “You can have cleaning conditions that damage the surface,” she said, adding that manufacturers should develop custom settings appropriate for the parts they make.

Custom builtA customized system is often required

to maximize a cleaning process. Mira-clean specializes in building water-based ultrasonic cleaning systems, with cleaning, rinsing and drying steps built to process specifications for the various parts a customer makes, said Cheryl Larkin, Northeast sales manager for the Ashville, N.Y., company.

“A typical line may have two or three cleaning tanks running one, two or three different chemistries, followed by multiple rinses to remove any residue

prior to drying,” she said, adding that part geome-tries, contaminants and throughput requirements can affect how the cleaning line is equipped. Cleaning

stations and rinses typically use water that is purified and deionized or produced via reverse osmosis.

Many of the microscale parts cleaned by Miraclean lines are medical device components for cardiac, vascular, ortho-pedic and neurostimulation applications, and are typically made of stainless-steel alloys, precious metals or plastics. Larkin said some of the components have outside diameters as small as 0.35mm and hole diameters of 0.015mm.

The part substrate and the contam-inant can impact chemistry and


An automated ultrasonic medical part cleaning and passivating line from Miraclean, shown with system enclosure.

A dual-chamber, vacuum cycle nucleation machine from VPS used to clean small stainless steel tubing used in medical applications via aqueous chemistry and deionized rinse water, followed by vacuum drying.

Vacuum Processing Systems

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44 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing

ultrasonic frequency selection. The substrate can also influence tempera-tures. For example, plastics might require a lower drying temperature than metal substrates, she said. Part geometry can affect ultrasonic frequency selection, with higher frequencies tending to be used for smaller parts and part features. High frequencies generate more micro-scopic bubbles, which can more easily navigate microscopic part geometries. A big concern of Miraclean’s customers is how to “fixture microscale parts so they’re actually getting the cleaning done, because some parts are very complex,” said Larkin. “Finding a way to contain the

parts but still expose them to the cleaning energies can be a challenge.”

Tightening regulationsStringent FDA regulations have

encouraged medical part manufacturers to standardize and validate their cleaning processes to ensure they are repeatable, said Larkin. This has led to “an increased emphasis on automated processes whose critical parameters can be continually tracked and, if desired, electronically logged.”

An automated system processes each batch or load of parts according to program parameters, said Larkin. There-fore, process steps, process duration, temperatures and ultrasonic exposure times are automatically repeated every time parts are cleaned. The system can also continuously monitor chem-istry concentration and automatically replenish chemical levels. Critical process parameters are continuously tracked during operation and displayed in real time.

The parts cleaning industry began to evolve dramatically in the early 1990s, following passage of the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 international treaty that phased out the use of Freon and other ozone-depleting chemicals.

The treaty led to the development of Vacuum Processing Systems’ core technology, according to Joe Schut-tert, national sales manager for the East Greenwich, R.I.-based cleaning system developer. VPS’ vacuum cycle nucle-ation technology is a vacuum-to-vacuum cleaning process that is more than 95 percent effective in recovering both flammable and nonflammable solvents, according to Don Gray, the company’s

president and VCN’s inventor. The process works with both solvent and aqueous chemistries.

“Other [cleaning] processes start from the outside and try to go into [a part],” Gray said. “We’re trying to form vapor bubbles inside and work from the inside out.” In the VCN process, parts are placed in a vacuum chamber, air is removed and the chamber is backfilled with cleaning liquid. “Then we drop the vacuum level below the vapor pressure—the boiling point of that liquid,” Schuttert said. “Now we’re boiling the liquid inside the tube,

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Clean Sweep continued

Vacuum Processing Systems

In this Vacuum Processing Systems cleaning system, a vacuum is created in the glass process chamber, causing millions of bubbles to form and burst on the surfaces of the parts being cleaned.

Smartphone Benefi your smartphone - [PDF Document] (47) | 45

and as it creates bubbles, it drives itself out and takes out whatever contaminant is in there.” Soaps or solvents then solu-bilize contaminants or particulates in 1 to 1.5 seconds.

“When we first started working with solvents, it was a vapor-only technique,” said Schuttert. Early on, the company was responding to its customers’ envi-ronmental concerns, particularly those in the aviation industry that were using open vats of high-emission, nonsoluble waxes and thick oils, according to Gray. At the behest of customers, the company

added techniques such as immersion in the vacuum chamber, part rotation and solution agitation.

“When you push the liquid out, that liquid takes with it contaminants or spent liquid from a reaction, such as passiv-ation,” Gray said. “When we apply a little pressure, we bring in fresh solution. It might be fresh surfactant or contain a higher concentration of acid than the spent solution, and we continue this process so as to clean or passivate quickly.”

VCN works best on products with high aspect ratios. It is not as effec-

tive on smooth surfaces, said Schuttert, noting that the method does not damage surfaces, either. In addition, Schuttert says VCN can incorporate multiple cleaning steps and be operated in conjunction with conventional ultrasonics if the part has flat and/or complex geometries. “We usually don’t turn anybody away, because we have ultrasonics in our systems also, and they take care of the flat surfaces,” he said.

An abrasive personalityAnother technology, microabrasive

blasting, works best on surfaces with dissimilar layers, said Colin Weightman, president of Comco Inc.

The more alike the layers being cleaned, “the less suitable our process is,” he said. “If you have two similar ductile layers, or two brittle layers, we’re going to have a harder time with [the part], because the closer they are together, the more likely you are to eat down into a second, or lower, layer.”

However, a ductile layer on top of a brittle layer is an ideal candidate for Comco’s cleaning process. “Even if the layer is not flat or uniform, we can remove the material very effectively,” said Weightman.

The Burbank, Calif., company’s tech-nology combines compressed air (e.g., from the shop’s air supply, set to 100 psi) and a fine abrasive propelled from a nozzle to clean material from a surface, said Weightman. Its cleaning process is nontoxic, and the only time an envi-ronmental issue arises is if the removed material includes a component that’s toxic or regulated, he said. “Then the handling and the disposal of the spent abrasive would be an issue.”

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An operator using a Comco microabrasive blasting system to remove excess epoxy from a pacemaker header. Inset: A closeup of the cleaning operation.

Smartphone Benefi your smartphone - [PDF Document] (48)

46 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing

Th e technique controls the amount of energy in the abrasive stream to regu-late the amount of material removed. “What makes it eff ective as a cleaning tool is its ability to be selective, so that we can target one material while leaving the lower, base material unaffected,” Weightman said.

Microblasting is geared toward small, delicate parts with fi ne geometries. A typical use would be removing a thin epoxy layer from a circuit board or semiconductor wafer. For example, components of an LED are overmolded, and that overmold is then milled down. Microblasting completes the cleaning by selectively removing excess epoxy without damaging the fi nal part. Maxi-mizing the diode’s brightness requires “a signifi cant amount of strength with minimal structure,” Weightman said.

Selection tipsWhen selecting a cleaning system,

throughput and scalability are key concerns. Part manufacturers should start with a cleaning system that enables

them “to develop the process on an R&D level and grow with production requirements without having to reval-idate, retest or redesign the cleaning process,” said Weightman. “At that point, all you may need to add is automated parts-handling.”

However, once a manufacturer has ramped up production, scalability,

throughput and cleaning can suffer because of supply chain problems tied to global outsourcing, noted BFK Solu-tions’ Kangesberg. “Often, the supply chain is selected, at least in part, by cost. When you are outsourcing parts from far away, there is a lot of time between initial rough cleaning and fi nal critical cleaning,” she said. Th is time lag can lead to contaminants that are diffi cult to remove, a problem that can cause critical problems with microscale and complex parts.

“It’s not an issue of which technology is best for a given [manufacturing application],” said Kanegsberg. “It’s an issue of having the components manu-facturer become educated about all of the possibilities rather than naively accepting the word of a cleaning system’s sales rep.” µ

About the author: John Conroy is a technology and general assignment journalist based in Los Angeles. E-mail: [emailprotected].

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Clean Sweep continued

ContributorsBFK Solutions LLC(310)

Comco Inc.(818)


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PRODUCTshowcase Advertorial

PIEZO NANOPOSITIONERS. Aerotech Inc. says its QNP-XY series piezo nanopositioners provide the resolution (0.15nm), linearity (0.007 percent), repeatability (2nm) and high dynamics required for demanding applications, such as microscopy and optics alignment. Users can achieve high throughput in exacting processes with the highest dynamics (resonant frequency and stiffness) of any other comparable stage, according to the company. A variety of travels (100µm to 600µm), feedback choices and vacuum versions are available. (412) 963-7470

CUTTING TOOL CATALOG. Microcut’s 140-page catalog of microscale cutting tools is available for download at its website. Items include 3-flute, long-shank endmills from 0.015" to 0.125" in diameter and carbide microdrills from No. 92 to 0.125". Included is a full selection of amorphous diamond-, CVD- and PCD-coated endmills, high-performance endmills and specialty cutting tools. A large inventory ensures same-day shipment of stocked items. (781) 582-8090

ROTARY BROACHES. Hassay Savage Co. offers M-42 cobalt rotary broaches in inch and metric sizes. They are effective for difficult-to-machine high-alloy workpiece materials. The broaches are suitable for all CNC and Swiss-style machine tools, according to the company. (800) 247-2024

SOLID-CARBIDE ENDMILLS. Tungsten ToolWorks’ solid-carbide micro-endmills come in seven different styles and can be designed for specific applications. They are available via the company’s website. The tools are said to contain a superior carbide substrate and feature a variety of coating options. (800) 854-2431

MICRODRILLS. Mikron Corp. Monroe has introduced the CrazyDrill Inox. The drill is available in diameters from 0.02" to 0.08", with or without through-coolant capability. The drill can be applied at high cutting speeds and feeds and ensures process stability even when drilling nickel-base superalloys, according to the company. (203) 261-3100

PHOTOCHEMICAL ETCHING. Tech-Etch Inc. combines photochemical etching with precision metal bending to create features as small as 0.003" in metal parts as thin as 0.0005". Photochemical etching produces burr-free parts with intricate and complex shapes. The company can deliver prototypes in 5 days. In-house laminating, plating, heat-treating and assembly services are also available. (508) 747-0300

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48 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing


MICRO DIE CASTING. Fielding Manufacturing has unveiled “Mr. Micro,” a marketing spokesperson for its micro die-casting capabilities. The company intends Mr. Micro to provide an educational backdrop and a real-world awareness of the physical attributes and economies of microscale die-cast parts made of zinc. According to the company, zinc casting alloys are stronger, stiffer and tougher than molded plastics, extruded aluminum and die-cast aluminum or magnesium. (800) 230-8690

WATERJET MICROMACHINING. The MicroMAX JetMachining Center from OMAX Corp. can waterjet-machine parts or part features smaller than 0.0118" from a variety of materials, including exotic metals, advanced composites, polymer thermoplastics and glass. It has an X-Y cutting travel of 2' × 2' and uses linear encoders, vibration isolation and software control systems to achieve a position repeatability of 0.0001" and a positioning accuracy of about 0.0006". The nozzle can produce kerf as small as 0.015". (800) 838-0343

DOUBLE-ANGLE SHANK CUTTERS. Harvey Tool Co. LLC’s line of double-angle shank cutters includes 300 sizes, multiple-reach lengths and 10 included angles. Ideal for job shops, the tools are suitable for a variety of operations, including front and back chamfering, deburring and milling V-grooves. The cutters allow machinists to save time by avoiding part reorientation and tool changes. (800) 645-5609

LED TOWER LIGHT. Balluff Inc. offers the SmartLight LED, a programmable, multipurpose tower light. It offers up to three modes of operation: stack light, level indicator and run light. The modes can be switched, based on programmed conditions, to provide process feedback, including cell operation status, tank fill levels and operator progress along an assembly line. A 95dB buzzer is optional. One-, three- and five-segment models are available. (800) 543-8390

STATISTICAL PROCESS CONTROL. PQ Systems has released SQCpack 7, a comprehensive update of its statistical process control application that helps companies improve quality via data analysis. The easy-to-use, scalable application includes all the tools needed to comply with critical quality standards, reduce variability and improve profitability, according to the company. It has a new user interface and hundreds of improvements that further streamline process management. (800) 777-3020

MICRO WIRE BRUSHES. The Mill-Rose Co. offers microscale twisted-wire brushes from 0.014" to 0.125" in diameter. They are for deburring, cleaning and lightly reaming small holes and cavities. The company manufactures the brushes using a diverse range of metals and natural or synthetic fibers. (440) 255-9171

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STANDARD CUTTING TOOLS. Midwest Industrial Tool Grinding Inc. has increased its standard cutting tool line by more than 500 percent. By combining increased manufacturing capability with in-house coating, MITGI says it can fulfill product orders within 3 days. The updated standard line will be featured in the company’s latest catalog.(320)

AIR-COOLED MODULE. Prometheus Laser LLC’s Prometheus II air-cooled module is available in various configurations for marking, engraving and micromachining materials used in the electronics, aerospace and medical industries. The module is available in 1,064nm, 532nm, 355nm and 266nm wavelengths, with power options of 10 W to 100 W, 5 W to 20 W, 3 W to 10 W and 2 W to 5W. The module comes with a controller that can handle seven inputs and outputs.(503)

CNC LATHE. The B0125-II CNC automatic lathe from Tsugami/Rem Sales LLC has an independent back tool post and two optional rotary tool positions to enable simultaneous machining on the front and back spindles, which reduces cycle time. The 12mm, 5-axis, opposed-gang-tool lathe offers a speed of 12,000 rpm on the main spindle and subspindle, and 21 tool positions: nine OD and 12 fixed. Users can run the lathe as a traditional sliding-headstock machine with its guide bushing or as a chucker using an optional kit.(860)

SOLID ROUND TOOLS. Kyocera Precision Tools Inc.’s 2015 “Solid Round Tools” catalog provides information about 7,000 standard endmills, drills, routers, engravers, boring bars and reamers from 0.0015" to 0.500" in diameter. New standard tools include corner-radius and extended-reach endmills, diamond-like carbon-coated endmills and solid-carbide thin saws, which are shipped in 24 hours. The catalog also promotes special taps in inch and metric sizes.(888)

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NEURAL KNOW-HOWAdvanced electrodes power neurological treatments

January/February 2015 Volume 8 Issue 1

5-axis vs. 3-axis machiningOutlook for 3D printing Hybrid Swiss/laser machine Close-up on optical micsSurge in electronics usage PLUS: Laser Points µ Tech News

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5-axis vs. 3-axis machiningHybrid Swiss/laser machine

5-axis vs. 3-axis machiningHybrid Swiss/laser machine

µ Secrets of sinker EDMing µ Big strength of fine grain metals

µ Milling in a nuclear environment

µ Navigating nanoposition systems

µ When to avoid 3D printingPLUS: Micromolding µ Laser Points

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Conquering hard materials with laser-assisted machining

µ Life-enhancing sensorsµ Diving into deep-draw formingµ Cleaning options for microparts

µ Growth of Swiss-style machiningPLUS: About Tooling µ Tech News

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Hybrid Swiss/laser machine

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µ Milling in a nuclear environment

µ Navigating nanoposition systems

µ When to avoid 3D printing

When to avoid 3D printing

When to avoid 3D printing

When to avoid 3D printingPLUS: Micromolding Tech News

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Surge in electronics usage

Tech News Products/Services

Tech News Products/Services

Conquering hard materials with laser-assisted machining

µ Life-enhancing sensorsµ Diving into deep-draw formingµ Cleaning options for microparts

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Secrets of sinker EDMing Big strength of fine grain metals

Milling in a nuclear environment

Navigating nanoposition systems

When to avoid 3D printing

When to avoid 3D printing

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Tech News

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2. What is the primary end product manufactured (or service performed) at this location? (Please be specific)

If your company does NOT manufacture at this location, specify company’s primary end product or service performed. (Please be specific)

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What is so extraordinary about Toyota’s plan is that, in the automotive manufac-turing industry, 1 minute of production time is valued at about $20,000. Th at means Toyota invests nearly half a million dollars per week on eff ective communication.

MICRO: What are the costs of a lack of communication?

Dickmeyer: Poor communication creates confusion, wasted time and eff ort. And miscommunication can spur rumor mills, which hurt morale and produce disengagement—which is a big deal. Poor communication is responsible for high levels of turnover; actively disengaged employees are four times more likely to leave their jobs. Th ey are also more likely to steal from the company, and they drive customers away. According to the Gallup organization, up to 70 percent of Amer-ican workers are not engaged in their work. On the fl ip side, employees who report an understanding of the business strategy and how their role contributes to it demonstrate higher levels of engage-

ment. And there is a study that shows companies with the most highly eff ective communication experience 47 percent higher returns for their shareholders than companies with the least eff ective communication.

MICRO: What should a company do to improve communication?

Dickmeyer: One idea is to form an internal, multidisciplinary group to focus on regular communication. Th is team should meet every week for about 10 minutes and talk about what is going on in various departments. Subjects such as rumors are certainly on the table, but it might also be that an inspector is coming to visit the plant, or that a produc-tion initiative isn’t working properly. Whatever events or ideas might aff ect employees should be open for discus-sion. Th e communication team should write up three sentences on a particular topic and then publish those and other ideas in a weekly news bulletin that is, for example, printed and distributed to people on the manufacturing fl oor.

MICRO: What comes after this kind

of initiative?Dickmeyer: Th is is the point where

most management teams might think, “OK, the message is out. Now let’s get back to work.” But that isn’t the end of the process. You have to measure the eff ectiveness of the communication. Th at’s where companies like ours come in. PDP Solutions measures communi-cation eff ectiveness and reports back to management on how information was received. We analyze performance metrics; that is, how the communica-tion led to production adjustments, improved morale, etc. We publish those metrics in the newsletter as well, so that management and employees under-stand how a note was received, acted upon and what the results were. Th is process helps to kill the rumor mill, gets good communication fl ow going and lets leadership understand which messages worked and which didn’t. Communication can’t be a fast thing—but it is an imperative. I think wise leaders recognize how important it is to put eff ective communication practices in place that will grow as their company grows. µ


MICROmanufacturing (ISSN: 1938-2170) is published bimonthly. Copyright 2015 by M2 Media Company, One Northfi eld Plaza., Suite 240, Northfi eld, IL 60093-1213. All rights reserved. Periodicals postage paid at Winnetka, IL 60093 and additional mailing offi ces. Circulated in the U.S.A. to qualifi ed individuals involved with micromanufacturing. For others, subscriptions are $35 per year in the U.S.A.; $45 in Canada. Other foreign subscriptions are $50 per year; overseas delivery via airmail, $60. Editorial and advertising offi ces: One Northfi eld Plaza., Suite 240, Northfi eld, IL 60093-1213. Phone (847) 714-0048; Fax (847) 559-4444. This magazine is protected under U.S. and international copyright laws. Before reproducing anything from this publication, call the Copyright Clearance Center at (978) 750-8400. M2 Media Company makes every effort to ensure that the processes described in MICROmanufacturing conform to sound machining and manufacturing practices. Neither the authors nor the publisher can be held responsible for injuries sustained while following procedures described herein. Postmaster: Send address changes to MICROmanufacturing, P.O. Box 2747, Orlando, FL 32802-2747. Produced in the U.S.A.

The Advertisers Index is provided as a courtesy to advertisers. Every effort is made to avoid errors, but should one occur, MICROmanufacturing is not responsible.

Last Word continued from page 52

ADVERTISER NAME PAGE # CONTACT NAME CONTACT PHONE CONTACT EMAIL / WEBSITEAerotech Inc. 17 Stephen M. McLane 412-967-6854 [emailprotected] / www.aerotech.comBalluff Inc. 11 John R. Goyer 606-727-2200 www.balluff.comBalluff Inc. 33 John R. Goyer 606-727-2200 www.balluff.comCrescent Manufacturing 29 Dick Hrinak 860-673-2591 [emailprotected] / www.crescentmanufacturing.comFielding Manufacturing 9 Steven Fielding 401-461-0400 ext. 214 [emailprotected] / www.fieldingmfg.comGenevieve Swiss Industries Inc. 21 Scott Laprade 413-562-4800 [emailprotected] / www.genswiss.comHarvey Tool Co. LLC Cover 4 Peter P. Jenkins 800-645-5609 [emailprotected] / www.harveytool.comHassay Savage Co. 37 William Fletcher 413-863-9371 [emailprotected] / www.hassay-savage.comIndo-MIM 26 Jag Holla 609-651-8238 [emailprotected] / www.indo-mim.comKyocera Precision Tools Inc. 3 Mark Gardiner 828-698-4137 [emailprotected] / www.kyoceraprecisiontools.comMarubeni Citizen-Cincom Inc. Cover 3 Diane Brooks 201-818-0100 [emailprotected] / www.marucit.comMicrocut 44 Joe Dennehy 781-582-8090 [emailprotected] / www.microcutusa.comMicrocut 45 Joe Dennehy 781-582-8090 [emailprotected] / www.microcutusa.comMidwest Industrial Tool Grinding Cover 2 Eric Lipke 320-455-0535 [emailprotected] / www.mitgi.usMikron Corp. Monroe 15 Hans Liechti 203-261-3100 [emailprotected] / Mill-Rose Co. 12 Paul Miller Jr. 800-321-3533 [emailprotected] / www.millrose.comNewson USA LLC 31 Alex Schreiner 503-686-9220 [emailprotected] / www.newsonusallc.comNSK America Corporation 27 Vickie Prescott 800-585-4675 [emailprotected] / www.nskamericacorp.comOmax Corporation 5 Sandra Mclain 253-872-2300 [emailprotected] / www.omax.comPQ Systems 34 Kiki Shockling 937-885-2255 [emailprotected] / www.pqsystems.comRichards Micro-Tool Inc. 12 Wayne Leach 800-223-9956 [emailprotected] / www.richardsmicrotool.comScienscope 35 Dan Kelsey 909-590-7273 [emailprotected] / www.scienscope.comTech-Etch Inc. 40 Bruce McAllister 508-747-0300 [emailprotected] / - REM Sales 25 Scott Anthony 860-687-3412 [emailprotected] / www.remsales.comTungsten Toolworks 7 John Forrest 800-564-5832 [emailprotected] /

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52 | MAY/JUNE 2015 | MICROmanufacturing

Louise Dickmeyer, PDP Solutions

Communication and the manufacturing floor

Louise Dickmeyer is the president of PDP Solutions, a communications company

with offices in Mankato, Minn., and Seattle. It provides managed services and proprietary software to facilitate effective communication, particularly in manufacturing. Heather Thompson, editor of MICROmanufacturing, interviewed her about common problems at her clients’ facilities and how best to overcome those problems.

MICROmanufacturing: What are some pain points that you’ve observed on the manufacturing floor?

Dickmeyer: Friction exists within any manufacturing environment. Companies are dealing with multiple shifts, multiple facilities, and lots of departments and files. There’s a lot of information flowing from various sources. And there are generational and cultural differ-ences as well. A communication style that works for one department, one culture or one generation doesn’t work for everyone. We’re hearing more concern from manufacturing leaders on how to communicate effectively. Recently, TR Cutler, a marketing firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., surveyed executives from large, medium and small manufacturing firms. CEOs at every level overwhelmingly

said that their greatest fear is communicating with employees and staff.

MICRO: “Fear” is a pretty strong term. Why is it associated with communication?

Dickmeyer: Leaders are often hired because they have very strong practical abili-ties in engineering or operations that allow them to achieve measurable goals, such as production quotas, protecting intellec-tual property or improving processes. Those attributes don’t necessarily come with great communication skills. However, commu-nication, or the lack thereof, can be the greatest barrier to growth and success. Most leaders know that effective communica-tion and engagement hits every line of P&L (profit and loss). Research shows that profit-ability is related to higher levels of employee engagement and communication. But communication takes discipline and consis-tency, and it’s hard to create an approach that is measurable and effective.

MICRO: How should a company commu-nicate?

Dickmeyer: One method is to think about the most important messages “seven times, in seven ways.” It’s not enough to simply communicate a message and then assume that everybody heard it, understood it and will change behaviors accordingly. So “seven times, seven ways,” might include a one-on-one conversation, a daily shift huddle, written notes, e-mails, group meetings, electronic surveys and printed newsletters or memos. The idea is to bring information to people in a way that helps them understand and engage.

MICRO: What is the value of good communication?

Dickmeyer: Toyota Manufacturing Corp. offers a great example that I love to share. The company has two 5-minute discussion periods each day, led by supervisors, in which each shift group stands together for a conver-sation. The discussions might be related to quality, safety, business strategy or personnel.

continued on page 51

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How do I access my PDF files? ›

Find the PDF you want to open in your Files and double click to open. Select Adobe Acrobat (or whichever reader you downloaded) from the list of available options. If no list appears or the page opens in another application, you can right-click the file and select Open With to choose your PDF reader. Click Open.

How to retrieve a PDF file? ›

Step 1. Click Windows to bring up the search box and type “File Explorer” in the search box to go to the file manager window. Step 2. Locate the PDF you deleted before the storage location, click the right mouse button, and select the “History” button at the top right, you can see the PDF files you deleted here.

What is a PDF on your phone? ›

Answer. PDF stands for "portable document format". Essentially, the format is used when you need to save files that cannot be modified but still need to be easily shared and printed. Today most devices open a PDF in an Internet Browser.

Why can't I download PDFs on my phone? ›

PDF files often need to be downloaded from the internet before they can be opened. Make sure you have enough storage space available on your device to download and open PDF files. If you have content blockers or ad-blockers enabled, they might interfere with downloading PDFs.

How do I convert to PDF on my phone? ›

Using the Gallery or Photos app
  1. Launch your Gallery or Photos App.
  2. Open the photo you want to convert.
  3. Click on the (three dots) icon to access more options.
  4. Choose Print.
  5. In the Printer Options, select Save as PDF.
  6. You can set the Paper Size and Orientation.
Mar 6, 2023

Does Android have a built in PDF reader? ›

Some Android devices don't have a default reader, and won't open any PDF files, so it's useful to download Power PDF Mobile, which is the ideal app to access PDF for Android.

How do I change the PDF settings? ›

Right-click on the thumbnail of any PDF file. On the menu, click Properties. A new dialog box will appear. In the first subsection, the text “Opens with:” indicates which PDF viewer is set as your default.

How to set default PDF reader in Android? ›

Go to Settings > Apps and then find the default PDF viewer you're using. Tap on the PDF viewer app you want to make your new default and scroll down to Defaults. Tap on the Default tab and then select your desired programme as your new default.

How do I find my saved PDF? ›

Method 2: File Explorer
  1. Open a File Explorer window on your PC.
  2. In the search box on the top right of your screen, enter "type: . pdf" - again, without the quotes, then hit Enter. ...
  3. In the main window, you'll see your PDF files displayed. Click on the one you're looking for to open it in your installed PDF app.

Where is PDF download in Mobile? ›

If you save a PDF to your Android mobile, you'll be most likely to find the file in the 'File Manager' app on your device. Sometimes this app can also be called 'Files' or 'My Files' This is the default app to which any of your downloaded files will be saved, regardless of the format.

Where do PDF Downloads go on my iPhone? ›

Find downloads in the Files app

Swipe down from the center of your Home Screen, then search for the Files app. Tap the Browse tab. Tap iCloud Drive. Tap the Downloads folder to see your downloaded files.

Where are my files on Android? ›

On your phone, you can usually find your files in the Files app . If you can't find the Files app, your device manufacturer might have a different app. Learn how to get help for your specific device.

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