With Manufacturing Day and American Made Matters Day just past us, we’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to support American manufacturing. We’ve been leaders in precision machining for the medical device, aerospace, space and defense, and electronics industries for more than 35 years, so we know the importance of keeping products made in the U.S.
It’s no secret the manufacturing industry and varying sectors have seen ups and downs over the past few years, but there has been a steady uptake of contributions to the U.S. For example, last year, manufacturers made up $1.87 trillion in the country’s economy, supporting more than 17 million jobs, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. If the manufacturing sector were to separate from the country, it would be the 10th largest economy in the world—and with that kind of growing capacity, why would we be shipping our business elsewhere?
NAM also calculated (based on data from United Nations, Bureau of Labor Statistics and the International Labour Organization) that manufacturers in our country are the most productive in the world. Yet many companies manage to outsource millions of jobs per year. Although big names such as Apple and many well-known automotive companies are bringing jobs back, there are plenty of reasons to push for even more companies to bring manufacturing back home.
When you support American manufacturing, you’re supporting the American workers, the economy, and future generations of this country, and we at Metal Craft and Riverside Machining and Engineering are dedicated to keeping the Made in the USA initiative alive.
At Metal Craft and Riverside Machine and Engineering, we pay attention to the latest news and trends within the industries we serve. Recently we’ve discussed manufacturing, aerospace, and defense, but after attending two recent tradeshows, OMTEC and OrthoTec, we have the medical device industry in mind.
The two conferences focus on the design, manufacturing, and productivity of orthopedics implants and devices.The shows both featured both conferences where attendees could hear industry updates as well as learn about new products, as well as a technical exhibit where device manufacturers and suppliers of all types showcase their products and services in front of top industry officials.
Here are three major trends we saw while attending and meeting with industry leaders at these shows:
Lower Costs-Post-recession or not, it’s clear the industry wants to cut costs. Whether this involves self-reflection on what lean practices can be implemented to trim production costs in the company or evaluating ROI, lower numbers are better—unless, of course, you’re talking in terms of profit. This is why Metal Craft and Riverside partner with our customers to find best practices and find ways to cut costs and still be profitable for both parties.
Faster Turnaround Time- With new technologies sweeping every major medical market, it’s no surprise the turnaround time is getting quicker. But, this doesn’t mean companies can skimp on quality—investors still expect the same, if not better, standards at a faster pace. That is why Metal Craft has recently invested in multiple new floor CMM’s. This allows for faster first article checks so we can get projects moving faster while ensuring the quality standard we live up to.
Automation Investments- Investing in suppliers with automation equipment is a key part of manufacturing in this day and age. Technology is rapidly increasing, which means less manpower is required to produce more products. It response to this trend, Metal Craft has recently purchased two Integrex i-150 Mill Turns, three new Fanuc Wire EDM’s with a Robotic Loader, and a Robotic Loading 7-Axis CNC Anca Grinder.
Trade Shows not only allow us to connect with long time customers and meet new ones, it also allows us to get an insight to where the industry is and where it is going. We are committed to staying with current trends and offering the best service, quality, and experience in the medical device industry. To see what shows we will be attending next, follow the link and visit our website.
Because we do so much work for aerospace clients, we try to keep as up-to-date as possible with progress at the cutting-edge of the industry. That’s why a recent article in Time magazine caught our eye. In “Drone Home,” science writer Lev Grossman observes that a new generation of pilotless vehicles is increasingly substituting for manned missions that used to be handled by veteran fliers.
“More than a third of the aircraft in the Air Force’s fleet are now unmanned,” Grossman notes. “The military logic couldn’t be clearer.”
This logic extends throughout the furthest extremes of the wild blue yonder, from drones in combat to flights to other planets. Since the beginning of the Space Age, planners have been wrestling with the vexing question of whether the future of space exploration belongs to humans or machines (at least, human-controlled machines). That question, for the time being, seems to have been largely settled in favor of the machines.
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first living creature into outer space, a dog named Laika; and in 1961, they successfully sent the first human into orbit, Yuri Gagarin. This set the first goal of space flight for the competing nations; going to the moon and back. Ultimately the U.S. would win the race, and each nation created its own goals for their space programs. Costs, risks, and benefits though would ultimately change the future of aviation and space flight. That cost-benefits ratio reached its ultimate tipping point in 2010 when the Obama Administration shelved NASA’s plans to replace its aging space shuttle fleet with an enormously expensive rocket delivery system called Constellation; leading years later to the creation of the new Space Launch System (SYS).
Now, human space travel is limited to shuttles to the International Space Station aboard Russian Soyuz capsules (and various suborbital projects such as Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship and XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx), and the most sophisticated missions are handled by remote-controlled vehicles, such as the Mars Curiosity rover.
Even the most advanced systems in the vaunted X Program overseen by NASA and the U.S. Air Force are remote-controlled vehicles. Consider three of them as being at the very furthest points in “pushing the envelope” that we have ever come.
• The NASA X-43 is an experimental hypersonic aircraft with a scramjet engine that has broken all airspeed records, flying as fast as 7,000 miles per hour. Its early prototypes are designed to test whether scalable versions can be stepped up in the future.
• Boeing’s X-51 Waverider is another scramjet-powered aircraft that uses its own shockwaves to add lift. It successfully completed its first powered flight in 2010 and also achieved the longest duration flight at speeds over Mach 5.
• The USAF X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is a reusable unmanned vehicle that is boosted into space by a rocket and then re-enters the atmosphere and lands as a space plane. The secretive X-37B has been reported to operate for over a year (and one prototype is in orbit now).
All of these vehicles represent an unmanned future for aerospace, simply because they go where no human can take them. And that is an interesting notion to think about as we ponder the future of aerospace technology.
Where would we be without math?
In our daily tasks, we use math every day; we just don’t think about it. It runs through almost every job we do, but it lies in the background so we take it for granted. Consider CNC (or computer numerical control) machining as an example. We do our best to keep up with the latest in CNC equipment and have made significant investments in new CNC tools; as we’ve said, CNC is the foundation of our operation. It enables us to increase efficiencies, meet deadlines and reduce costs. And CNC is strictly mathematical.
There was a time when CNC was considered a revolutionary breakthrough in the manufacturing sector; bringing computer control to what had been a labor-intensive, hand-written craft going back hundreds of years. Today, we would barely know where to start a job without programming a CNC turning, milling or grinding machine.
We were reminded of this because April was Math Awareness Month, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) is one of the sponsors of the month-long focus on the topic. This year, the theme of their activities is the “Mathematics of Sustainability.”
At the website for Math Awareness Month, the sponsors state: “Humanity continually faces the task of how to balance human needs against the world’s resources while operating within the constraints imposed by the laws of nature. Mathematics helps us better understand these complex issues and is used by mathematicians and practitioners in a wide range of fields to seek creative solutions for a sustainable way of life. Society and individuals will need to make challenging choices; mathematics provides us with tools to make informed decisions.”
Mathematics is essential in our work as well as in our world. It is the key to the innovation we provide to customers everyday and its roll in our operation is always growing. We are constantly supporting Math and Science programs as well as manufacturing programs to help bring up the next generation of machinists and engineers, and potentially our future employees.
In his book, Aerotropolis, Professor John Kasarda discusses the rise of the global airport-based economy, arguing that the cities which develop the airport infrastructure necessary to sustain significant air-traffic are bound to prosper in ways similar to the cities that developed port or railroad infrastructures in previous times. Reality seems to bear out his argument. Witness the meteoric growth of a city like Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which already boasts the largest airport terminal in the world. Likewise, cities in the United States with state-of-the-art airports are witnessing boom-times. Denver International Airport in Colorado, Dulles International in Northern Virginia, and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, with their similarly oversized capacities for handling passenger and cargo volume, are witnessing staggering economic growth around their perimeters.
If airports are the key to the economic survival of cities caught in the throes of global competition, then airport security is one of the most fundamental sectors needed to sustain that survival. Not only must airport detection devices protect the passengers and cargo of each individual plane that takes off from a given airport, but they are – like it or not – responsible for protecting the GDP of the regional economy where they’re located. It’s a giant task for a man-sized device, but modern airport security systems are increasingly “up to it.”
Today’s airport security scanners can detect essentially any harmful substance or object that could be used to the detriment of passengers or air-cargo. We at Metal-Craft & Riverside Engineering ought to know, since we machine airport security scanner components for companies whose machines are in airports throughout the world. Riverside uses their specialized Aluminum Vacuum Furnace Brazing process to manufacture heat sinks and cold plates which are inside the security scanner. The job of these heat sinks and cold plates are to remove the heat generated by the electronics inside and make sure the scanners stay at a cool operating temperature and don’t over heat. Sounds like a small job in the scheme of things, but in reality, it’s an important component in a complex machine.
These machines are not limited simply to North America or Europe; these companies have devices in service in airports in China, India, and elsewhere. With the future of airports looking to be a bright one, we foresee an ever-growing need for the types of components we fabricate at our twin facilities. Keeping people and the skies safe is a large responsibility; Metal Craft and Riverside are right there to help the companies responsible for this never ending task.
Make no mistake; our company isn’t your standard machine shop. In addition to our immaculate CNC machining capabilities, we are a company of engineers, thinkers, and customized solutions providers. We’re a company, in part, that’s based in a former Cray supercomputer manufacturing site and we take that legacy seriously here. When you do business with Metal Craft & Riverside Machine and Engineering, you’re doing business with a company whose quality assurance certifications includes AS9100C, ISO 9001:2008, ISO 13285:2003, ITAR, WBENC, WOSB, and advanced GTAW welding operations. To sum it all up, we are capable of meeting – and exceeding – the standards and expectations of the most advanced industries the world has yet to produce.
American aerospace and rocketry systems are the technological pride of our nation. In the country that saw the large-scale birth of the Industrial Revolution, we continue to lead any and all global competitors in our manufacturing ingenuity. The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, considered by many defense experts (alongside the F-22 Raptor) to be the most advanced 5th generation fighters in the world is a perfect example. If that’s not enough, the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) ballistic missile defense systems, which is second to none and being used worldwide, and our Air Force Satellite Control Network and space surveillance radars keep our skies well-warned against any potential hostile threat to the North American continent.
Where do Metal Craft and Riverside Machine and Engineering come in thought? By providing pre- and post Aluminum Furnace Vacuum Brazing services , general component machining, and complex assemblies to our valued defense clients. Our brazed cold plates and heat sinks allow some of the most mission and defense critical parts to work around the clock without overheating. By removing excess heat, these advance systems can keep us safe without us even knowing. This is just one way Metal Craft and Riverside Machine and Engineering’s services can benefit the greater good our all of our country.