Addiction

June 1, 2012

I first landed in Canada on a Friday afternoon in September of 1979.
Started working 60 hour weeks the next Monday in a machine shop. I spoke Hungarian, Croatian and German but not a word of English. The only language that helped me was the universal one – Math. My schooling was not recognized here but hard work was. Work kept me busy but I was in THE country best known about its outdoors so I quickly got addicted to the true freedom that I have never experienced before . . .

It was July 3 1982. I was standing on top of the 750 feet King Mountain, Ottawa, Canada. A cold front just moved through from the West just yesterday.The sky was clear with only a few, young cumulus floating in a light,summer breeze. It was still early, later on they will become large, sitting on powerful thermals. The Blue Angels just flew by in their formation just a few minutes ago as the Canada day celebrations where winding down.

I was going through my pre-flight inspection. My hang-glider was in great condition but every pilot goes through this routine methodically. Check all the flying wires, make sure that they are not frayed, check all the bolts and nuts, check every inch of the sail, feel the leading edge for any imperfection, make sure that all the batons are secured.

This is very similar to doing the last check on your tooling and set-up. Make sure that the tools are sharp,the inserts are tightened just right,the fixture is rigid and the part is secure, just before you press cycle start – except your life is not depending on one mistake.

The next step is to hook-in to the center of gravity with an over-sized carabiner. Do a hang-check. Stand-up and feel the glider in the light breeze. It all feels fine. Walk to the top of the large, round, rock-face terminating in a 500 foot dead cliff.

O.K. my heart is racing now! I’ve logged 56 flights so far, but the total airtime is only 19 minutes. My highest flight to date was a mere 120 foot hill, where my flight path followed the slope in such a way that I was never more than 30 to 50 feet above ground. This is wild, OK so remember the flight-plan: Hold the glider straight and level, keep the nose low, but not too low, wait for a steady breeze, watch the breeze playing in the bushes as it comes at you . . .

Am I sill hooked-in? Yes. Yell “Clear!” and run like hell towards the abyss.

The next thing I know is I’m flying. All I hear is just the reassuring sound of the wind rushing past my sail, it sounds a bit fast so I slow down slightly. Wow there is all this room all this altitude. I can finally start practicing some 180 degree turns, maybe even a 360. This is so much fun, let’s try another turn . . . now I feel what is ‘Learning to Fly’ by Pink Floyd is all about . . .

Ugh – oh I need to pay attention! The forest bellow looks way too close! I supposed to fly over the river to the landing filed. I’m not going to make it! Don’t panic there is a nice field on this side of the river, all I have to do is fly across that gap in the tree-line and I’ll be fine. Getting closer to the gap. Not sure if it is wide enough for my wing-span but I will bank slightly when I go through . . . closer now, it looks wide enough, remember to keep your speed up. Wow!! – I just saw the sun reflecting off an electrical wire in that gap! I am doing about 40 mph at about 30 feet above the ground heading for an electrical wire! There are no brakes, I cannot dive into the ground, if I try to hop over I will stall at 70 feet above the ground and dive in at 60 mph!

I’m so glad I learned all that math! None of it helps me now! Instinct takes over, I bank hard right and push the A-frame all the way out . . . the glider goes into a complete stall with the wings vertical just as I hit the big tree on the right side of the gap. I hold on to the branches at about 50 feet from the ground and wait for the farmer and then a half hour later my buddies to help me out of my predicament.

I am so happy, I can’t wait to do this again . . . well not the landing in the tree part. It is OK to make mistakes if you can learn from them and it helps if you survive them:-)

The whole flight only lasted 5 minutes and 28 seconds but I still remember it vividly 30 years later.

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Cam vs CAM

May 16, 2012

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This is a continuation of a time-travel from the past towards the present and future.

I was anxious, I felt that I was part of the future, I have never done anything like this before but felt confident that the years of study and training have prepared me for this day and it was exciting to be at the leading edge of technology.

This was the first team project I worked on. There were six of us in this team of engineers and technicians and our job was to ‘program’ this 12-axis Swiss-turn machine so that it can cut a small component of a fire hose nozzle. We had an order for 300 thousand units in the first batch.

The year was 1979, the machine had 12 axes . . . 12 cam-plates which moved 12 components of the machine through individual lever systems. These axes where moving the bar-feed system, consisting of the main and bar-feed collets, the machines upper and lower turrets, with their individual tool-station rotary units, various live tooling and a part catcher assembly.
 
My job was to design the cam-plates which controlled the bar-feeding subsystem. The individual operations were simple enough, but they had to be synchronized with all the other cams so that the whole unit moved efficiently and gracefully as it cut the parts.

There was no CAM system around yet, especially behind the Iron Curtain so it took our team 3 to 4 days to design all the plates. There was no CAD system either so we designed them on a manual drafting board. The plates had to be turned, marked by a center punch along drawings, machined on manual machines, hand filed, heat treated, polished and assembled to the machines cam-shaft.

Now the machine was ready for the first-run, which was done by driving the machine very slowly, manually through all the motions without a part . . . we called it dry run because there was no material or coolant at this point. Most of the time minor adjustments needed to be made before ramping-up to full speed. The actual material was only added once it was clear that there are no collisions and that everything was moving without a glitch. Many parts were cut in this stage, until the process was ready for mass-production.

I always felt a great sense of accomplishment once the machine was running and it was producing good parts.

The company had about 35 of these machines and ‘programming’ them provided a full time job for a team of ‘programmers’ and a full compliment of a toolmakers because each project took about one to three weeks to ramp-up to production.

Programming those same parts using today’s modern Cam systems for modern CNC machines takes only hours even minutes in comparison but the same challenges still exist because the demand for speed and precession has matched the advancements in technology, tooling and machine tool capability.

This has been true throughout the history of manufacturing, that is why this is the leading edge of technology, a place of continuous innovation and limitless possibilities.


First Flight

May 6, 2012

Since I was a kid I have always been addicted to flying. I have built kites, then model airplanes, ran around a field with a spool to launch them and dreamt about one day soaring into the sky like a bird.

My current and previous jobs require me to fly a lot, both domestic and intercontinental destinations. I am always amazed that many of us take it for granted that we can board an airplane, sit in an armchair and without any effort realize man’s thousand year old dream.

I have a greater appreciation of flying not only because I have been intimately involved it the aerospace manufacturing industry, but also because I am a former pilot.

I still vividly remember my first flight. It was on a Saturday morning in late Summer of 1972. I was 17. The airplane was a 3 seater Scout, the pilot in front and two passengers behind him. The wing was above the fuselage held by two struts on either side. I was the passenger in the middle, anxious as hell as we accelerated down the grassy runway and took-off. It seemed that we barely cleared the tall row of trees on the end of the runway, but soon the surrounding corn-fields turned into green patches of tapestry as we slowly spiraled up to 1000 meters, where I knew this flight would end for me.

I felt the cool floating sensation as the temperature steadily dropped as I was watching the familiar landscape from a brand new vantage point. The fertile farmland below used to be the Pannonian sea before Attila the Hun roamed these lands. History has moved the borders below many times and it was fitting that the only city visible in the distance was called ‘Szabadka,’ which loosely translated is an endearing name for ‘Freedom’.

The original plan was for me to exit at 500 meters, but my instructor changed the plan at the last minute, he decided that we will loose too much altitude if we cut power at 500, so instead we will go to a 1000, I will exit first, then the pilot will fly downwind a bit more and my instructor will exit there.

I trustest his judgment because he had over 300 jumps under his belt, this was not only my first airplane ride, but also my first jump. I was throwing weighted streamers out every so often as we climbed so he can see where they landed and adjust our exit position to the drift.

We have practiced the next few steps many times on the ground. The pilot said “Get ready!” . . . I hooked my main line’s carabiner into the bar above my head as my instructor double checked it and I yelled “I’m ready”. The pilot cuts power and yells “Get into position!” I climb out to under the wing, step onto the outside step with my right foot and hold onto the strut with both hands as the wind is loudly rushing past and yell “I’m in position!” I am vaguely aware that I feel scared, excited, and above all intensely alive at this moment. I know that is the point of no return as I hear the pilot yell out “Jump!”

I let go, spread my arms and legs wide and try to hold it, but I feel that someone just pulled the chair underneath me and the sensation is not going to stop. I know  that I attached my carabiner, which is on the end of a 5 meter static line, attached with a weak-link to the parachute, those lines are another 4-5 meters long, so my free-fall is only about 10 meters (30 feet), but I’m starting to question if I really hooked-in, did I tie that weak link properly? . . . as I feel a hard jolt, close my eyes as my shoot opens. I open my eyes and panic because I cannot see a thing, it is dark in here . . . oh wait, the jolt made my helmet slip over my eyes, bring it up and look up. The chute is open! It is so beautiful!

This is so very cool! I can see the curvature of the Earth! I can turn by just pulling on either side of my controls. It feels like I’m not descending at all, I am just hanging out here in silence and peace. I never realized during that jump that I will never be able to explain the feelings I was experiencing. I still can’t.

I was so distracted that I never once looked to see where the little grassy airport was so when the Earth started moving-up I was completely unprepared. I only had a quick glance to see the general direction of the airport, but I was confident that I can land, after all I have been a Greko-Roman wrestler since the age of 6 – knowing how to fall was second nature.

I landed in a corn field. It took me about 15 minutes to untangle my parachute from the corn stalks and another 30 to hike back to the airport.

It is said that life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away. I logged many jumps and many flights since, but the first flight is still vivid even after 40 years.


Positive energy

May 2, 2012
A bad workman always blames his tools. – Chinese proverb

You can give the same hammer to two people and one of them will fail to even drive a nail in while the other one will frame a whole house with it. It is human nature that the first one will blame the hammer and the second one may take all the credit.

One of the most basic truths in life are constantly ignored even though they have been repeated to us throughout the ages. THERE ARE NO LIMITS. Everything that you have ever experienced or will ever experience on this planet has always and will always happen inside your mind. All the limits, possibilities are set there by you. Everything that was ever accomplished has started there as a mere thought.

The mark of a master is that he/she makes the difficult look easy.
A scalpel is a simple tool, but it can perform miracles in the right hands.
When we look at the Mona Lisa we are awed by the talent of Leonardo da Vinci, we never think that ‘wow – that old Italian guy had a great paintbrush’.

It is also true that a great tool doesn’t make one an instant master . . . purchasing a Ferrari will not make you a better driver.

So never listen to those with limitations . . . those who blame a tool for their own shortcomings.

It is always more impressive to see someone accomplish a lot with very little than seeing someone accomplish very little with a lot.


Custom Application – Port Expert

March 4, 2011

Mastercam offers a number of Custom Multiaxis Applications designed to simplify complex but specialized solutions. The aim of Port Expert was to present the user with a simplified workflow for generation of predictable and reliable head-porting toolpaths with minimal user interaction.

Let me explain. Head porting is a special case used mostly by race engine builders. They are obsessed by horsepower and one of the best ways to increase horsepower is to ‘let the engine breathe’ by increasing both the intake and exhaust port openings.


Traditionally this has been done by hand by very talented individuals:

Imagine trying to do this once and then repeating it consistently for all the openings, not to mention that the port design, or actual shape, is only in the operator’s head.

The engine is then assembled and tested to make sure that it delivers the desired performance.


Many race engines will only be used once, or only a few times, so once this performance is dialed in it will be a challenge to consistently repeat the head-porting operation by hand.

This is where 5-axis CNC machining comes in. CNC machines are great on repeating the same operation as many times as needed. So the challenge now is to reverse engineer a manually ported ‘master port’ with some type of probing operation or a laser scanner. The end result of this is a CAD model of the port.

Mastercam’s Port Expert will then apply a controlled and efficient 5-axis toolpath to cut this CAD model. It will take into consideration the capability and limitations of any 5-axis equipment available and it will move the axis of that machine in a smooth, deliberate fashion.

Simply put, Port Expert makes a hard and complex job easy.


Please see more at the following links: PRI, Mastercam website and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cahhRLVDDr0


New user interface for all Multiaxis Toolpaths

February 23, 2011

Mastercam is 28 years old this year. It is amazing how many great things have started in someone’s garage. The continued success of the Mastercam product line is directly proportional to its ability to continuously adapt to changes in technology. As CNC Software, Inc. and its flagship Mastercam continue to grow and expand into new markets and technology, our focus remains on our customers. We are committed to delivering tools that support the higher productivity and greater precision demanded by todays, and tomorrow’s manufacturing.

Evolution is change. Change is the only thing constant. The changes we made since that garage are huge but they came over time and the focus always remained on how to make something better for our customers. Better has multiple meanings: faster, more precise, more functionality, easier to use, for example. The trick is to balance all of these attributes.

Mastercam has a long established and very robust set of multiaxis toolpath generation capabilities. For X5 we redesigned the multiaxis user interface in order to simplify the user interaction. Ease of use promotes training and day-to-day interaction which is bringing this powerful capability to anyone’s reach.


There are numerous multiaxis toolpaths available, but they all share the above workflow. Just start on the top and choose a Toolpath Type, select a Tool, a Holder, chose from an available Cut Pattern, select the Tool Axis Control method and continue down the same path every time.

This is the new look:


Notice that the Toolpath Types are organized into 6 logical groups.

The toolpath dialogs are also organized with ease of use in mind. It only takes a quick glance to the tree-style dialog to see what branch is currently active. All the controls that are used in multiple toolpaths are positioned in the same place. On the right-hand side there is a large, dynamic image which changes every time the user clicks on any of the dialogs – giving the user an instant representation of what he or she is about to set/change.

If you need more information please click here to watch a video.


 


Getting Back to the Blog

February 14, 2011

The clock is ticking and before you know it another year passes by. Have you ever noticed that when you enjoy your work you tend to work harder and not even notice the time passing by? This is what has happened to me since my last blog.

Managing the Multiaxis milling product at Mastercam is the most fun I had in years. It has many challenges, it preoccupies my every waking hour and it requires constant attention. It makes me feel alive. I find myself thinking about work, after work, in the most unlikely places . . . on a hiking trail, on my bike, or in the middle of a lake in my kayak. Actually, my best ideas come to me during one of those activities.

I am very proud of the changes that had happened in the last year or so and I am very excited about what is coming in the future. We have completely redesigned the Mastercam X5 user interface to promote consistency and to create a user-friendly environment. We have conducted extensive focus group studies and kept a close eye on user feedback since the release of X5 and the response has been great.

Machine Simulation is now an intricate part of Mastercam and there are 17 of the most popular Multiaxis machine configurations installed with X5. We also install realistic, real life sample files for every Multiaxis toolpath. These sample files are designed so that they can be used as templates for the most popular Multiaxis applications.

We are in the process of adding more custom applications in an effort to transform complex jobs into routine ones and to bring them into the reach of all users.

It is very exciting to watch concepts turn into reality.