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Spinner Machining Center with Siemens CNC Helping University Researchers See Into Space

Machining center used at University of Hawaii Institute For Astronomy to produce one-off diffraction gratings for remote sensing instruments used with telescopes and other research instrumentation

University of Hawaii Institute For Astronomy telescopes are able to see the solar system and into deep space with greater clarity than at any other location on the planet, according to Dr. Ritter.

When you enter the laboratories at the University of Hawaii’s Maikalani Institute For Astronomy (IFA) Advanced Technology Research Center on the island of Maui and hear talk of light years, dark energy and space telescopes, it quickly becomes apparent that this is not your typical machine shop.  The machining for instrumentation developed here involves some of the most sophisticated techniques on Earth, which is a pun of cosmic irony, as the workpieces produced here are primarily used to help evaluate happenings in deep space.

The Maikalani facility provides laboratory workspace for Physicists and Astronomers performing advanced metrology and optical fabrication, novel optics design, optical/infrared sensor development and a creative workspace.  Maikalani literally means, “knowledge we gain from the cosmos.”  As the Lab Director, a world-class physicist, Dr. Joe Ritter explains, “At the IFA, our excellent staff and faculty invent, design and build novel instruments for use in state of the art telescopes.  Among other technologies, we are working to develop a novel generalized conformal diffraction grating. Gratings are optical components used to split light into component colors for the study of the chemistry of stars.”  Ritter and his assistant John Valliant are also the machinists.  They exchange their hats from physicists to milling machine operators, using a Spinner MC650-5A, equipped with Sinumerik 840D solution line CNC, to produce parts from high-conductivity copper and aluminum 6061-T6 grades, among other alloys.

Since the Spinner is used at the IFA exclusively for precise one-off parts, the search for the right machine focused on equipment that had among the industry-highest standards of accuracy and precision.  The novel conformal gratings under development at the lab are designed with variable pitch and spacing dimensions to correct optical aberrations and also focus and split infrared light for future deep space spectroscopy instrumentation.

As Ritter explains, “Accuracy is everything in optics. Most of the machining centers I evaluated were in the +/-25 micron (~0.001”) range for accuracy.  We settled on a 3+2 axis machine with 100 nanometer precision scales with interferometric remapping on the 840D sl CNC.  Because we do experimental fabrication work and optics typically need to be made to micron level tolerances, it was imperative to have a feedback control on the machine tool with a known accuracy and predictable degrees of variation.”  As an example, though not suitable for visible light, the optics Ritter discussed required accuracies of a few microns-good enough for infrared optics.  Other technologies being developed by Ritter at IFA include novel photonic meta-materials for future space telescopes intended for studying exoplanets and the evolution of our universe.

Dr. Ritter cited the age-old challenge for educational and research institutions, when searching for such precision machinery, namely, budget constraints.  In this case, the lab was fortunate, according to Ritter, as they became aware of a demo machine from Spinner, available from Lois Hill and Robert “Mac” McPherson of MacHill Machinery in South Carolina.  During the purchase and commissioning, Ritter emphatically noted, “The Spinner technician Herr Siegfried Jungk, who trained us, was exceptionally talented and particularly knowledgeable and helpful.  Ritter also noted that the Siemens ShopMill software included with the CNC package, was “…an easy-to-use program for getting the multi-axis machining up and running for basic drilling and facing.”

Sample parts produced on Spinner machine, mostly copper and aluminum, include many that become diffraction gratings used on highly sensitive instruments for deep space exploration projects

While invariably the smart guys in any room, Dr. Joe and John Valliant are not machinists by trade, so they were using both Shopmill and CAD/CAM programs like Mastercam with the highly-specialized G-code generator and post-processor needed to create precision path cuts, then running them directly on the mill to quickly begin cutting, an absolute necessity in their one-off world of custom parts.

“For some optics, the millions of coordinates we use for every workpiece are pushing the control to the limit, but it responds well.  Plus, the teach-in functionality of the Sinumerik 840D sl CNC and its software package keep us running very efficiently,” according to Valliant, who worked in the lab as a University of Hawaii-Maui college student and has learned CNC machining on the go.  In an environment where 0.1 of a wavelength of light is the desired target for accuracy, this is no small achievement.  Valliant adds, “Once you’re comfortable with this machine and the control, the process is very intuitive.”

Photo Credit: Rob Ratkowski

Dr. Ritter, who is constantly pushing the boundaries on novel orbital space telescope designs, notes that the state of Hawaii and the island of Maui in particular have some of the best conditions on Earth for nighttime telescopic observation, as well as the best in the world for daytime solar viewing.  The National Science Foundation will soon build the world’s largest solar telescope on Maui.  Maui is a little known hotbed of technology development.  In addition to solar research and deep space observations, the Institute for Astronomy partners with many nations to push the boundaries of human knowledge, while training future scientists.

Currently, the Institute is engaged in developing technology to make other new scientific discoveries possible.  They include the largest camera on earth, new high contrast off axis telescopes, instruments using electronic cameras and spectrographs for the telescopes on Mauna Kea, Haleakala and, in Chile, detectors such as ultra-sensitive mega-pixel infra-red CCD arrays, plus adaptive optics to help overcome the image blurring caused by Earth’s atmosphere.  Knowledge gained from the cosmos depends on maintaining Hawaii’s dark skies. Another initiative by Ritter, who chairs the Maui County Outdoor Lighting Committee, includes the development of novel efficient low light pollution outdoor and street lighting to preserve endangered species sea turtles and migrating seabirds as well as to preserve dark skies for Astronomy (see www.EcoScienceLighting.com).

Mac McPherson, the Spinner machine dealer and importer for North America, adds, “We do considerable business with academics and it’s always challenging, owing to the unique nature of their machining needs.  In this case, an optic grid pattern with high accuracy was the biggest hurdle.  We were able to supply the Spinner demo machine within budget and with the proper tooling included.  The lab actually built their own custom fixturing for their work and Siemens helped to develop a special post-processor program.”

“Na Kilo Hoku” means “the watchers of the stars” and the instrument components made here certainly help them do just that — and also gain knowledge from the cosmos for us all.

For more information on this story, please contact:

Joe Ritter, Ph.D
Physicist and Lab Director
University of Hawaii Institute For Astronomy
Maikalani Advanced Technology Research Center
34 Ohia Ku St.
Pukalani, HI 96768
Phone:  808-573-9521
Web:  www.ifa.hawaii.edu


Robert McPherson
MacHill Machinery Solutions, LLC
(dealer for Spinner machines)
2245 C-132 Ashley Crossing Drive
Charleston, SC 29445
Phone:  843-873-6888
Web:  www.machillmachinery.com


390 Kent Avenue
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Phone: 847-640-1595
Fax: 847-437-0784
Web:  www.usa.siemens.com/cnc
Email:  SiemensMTBUMarCom.sea@siemens.com
Attention:  John Meyer, Manager, Marketing Communication

Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SiemensCNC or Twitter:  www.twitter.com/siemens_cnc_us.

Siemens Industry Sector is the world’s leading supplier of innovative and environmentally friendly products, solutions and services for industrial customers. With end-to-end automation technology and industrial software, solid vertical-market expertise, and technology-based services, the sector enhances its customers’ productivity, efficiency and flexibility. With a global workforce of more than 100,000 employees, the Industry Sector comprises the Industry Automation, Drive Technologies and Customer Services Divisions as well as the Metals Technologies Business Unit. For more information, visit http://www.usa.siemens.com/industry.

The Siemens Drive Technologies Division is the world’s leading supplier of products, systems, applications, solutions and services for the entire drive train, with electrical and mechanical components. Drive Technologies serves all vertical markets in the production and process industries as well as the infrastructure/energy segment. With its products and solutions, the division enables its customers to achieve productivity, energy efficiency and reliability. For more information, visit http://www.usa.siemens.com/drivetechnologies.

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Hydraulic Rod Locks Assist On Movable Pool Bottom Project

Aquatic Development Group uses specially modified Amlok® product from Advanced Machine & Engineering to protect movable pool floor stability at Ithaca College

AFW™ pool raising and lowering system, designed by Aquatic Development Group, operates on a series of hydraulic rams connected by a rebar structure, to evenly and smoothly raise and lower the pool floor. Especially useful when floor is occupied by aquatic therapy patients or water aerobic participants.

Aquatic Development Group (ADG) of Cohoes, New York is a professional design, manufacturing and construction firm serving the waterpark, resort, hotel aquarium, aquatic therapy and commercial/institutional swimming pool markets.  The company’s recreational aquatic creations range from Disney to the Wisconsin Dells, plus a diverse group of institutional and physical therapy applications are included in the company’s successes.   Among ADG’s many unique designs is the AFW™ movable pool floor system that allows depth adjustment from deck level down to deeper water for various uses, including physically-challenged patient aquatic therapy.  The system is also used routinely in pools adapted for competitive swimming, diving, water polo and other activities, where the depth adjustment is beneficial and allows more multi-purpose use of a facility.

At the touch of a button on the master control module, the pool floor is raised and lowered by a system of synchronized multiple hydraulic cylinders that work to maintain consistent floor level throughout the process. ADG determined it was necessary to include a mechanical locking system that would secure the cylinder rods in position, at all points of travel, especially when the floor was occupied by physical therapy patients, water aerobics participants etc. The floor also featured a passive mechanical pulley system to maintain the floor position in the event of a catastrophic hydraulic failure.

…and then lowered smoothly into position for therapy with minimal patient upset.

Used for aquatic therapy, the pool floor can be position at deck level…

On a recent project using this system at Ithaca College (Ithaca, New York), as ADG Engineering Manager Rob Schiavi details, “We had a four-cylinder ram system with a rebar structure that was designed so that any two diagonally opposed cylinders could malfunction without compromising the stability or safety of the floor and its occupants.” He also notes that the company had developed a special 304L stainless steel and non-skid, chemically-impervious PVC floor grating that was considerably lighter weight but somewhat less stable than conventional concrete pool flooring.

Illustration of pool bottom showing AFW™ design of stainless steel and non-skid PVC flooring.

The hydraulic circuits operate on a shuttle valve system with passive engage ram failure. Eliminating the mechanical pulley system on the design results in a smoother transitioning of the pool floor level, particularly important when people are present, Schiavi notes.

In designing the hydraulic ram system and in search of an appropriate cylinder locking protection system, ADG turned to its local subcontractor, who recommended the Amlok® system of hydraulic cylinder rod locks from Advanced Machine & Engineering (Rockford, Illinois), a longtime supplier of hydraulic and pneumatic rod locks to industrial and commercial applications worldwide. AME Business Development Manager Ken Davis explains, “We saw this project as an ideal application for our hydraulic rod locks, with one particular challenge, namely, the ingestion of chlorinated pool water.” To overcome this challenge, a modification was made to the seal design and materials on the four stainless steel rod locks to be installed on the ram system built by ADG’s subcontractor (click here for ram system specs). Each lock has the capacity to provide a locking force to 50,000 lbs. at 1500 psi release pressure (click here for locking force specs).

RCH Series Amlok® hydraulic rod locks hold cylinders in place and automatically seize cylinders in position, in the event of a catastrophic power loss.

During normal operation, the hydraulic rod locks used on this application (RCH Series) allow free movement of the cylinder through the lock housing, as the supplied hydraulic pressure maintains an open position on the lock. When the desired pool floor level is achieved, the hydraulic pressure is removed and the cylinder is mechanically locked into position. However, in the event of a catastrophic power loss or other hydraulic system failure, when the pressure is removed, the lock immediately clamps to retain the cylinder securely in its present position until power is restored and the lock release is again activated.

AME worked closely with its local distributor, Airline Hydraulics Corp. (Bensalem, Pennsylvania) to supply this system to ADG.

For more information on this story, please contact:

Rob Schiavi, Engineering Manager
Aquatic Development Group
13 Green Mountain Drive
Cohoes, NY 12047
Phone: 518-783-0038
Web: www.aquaticgroup.com


Ken Davis, Business Development Manager
2500 Latham St.
Rockford, IL 61103
Phone: 815-316-5277
Fax: 815-962-6483W
E-mail: info@ame.com
Web: www.ame.com
Connect with AME online: yt wp twit li gplus fb

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AME Completes Asset Purchase of Metalcut

Global leader in carbide sawing systems acquired by leading machine tool component and carbide saw machine manufacturer

Advanced Machine & Engineering (AME), the Rockford, Illinois-based manufacturer of various machine tool components and auxiliary equipment, today announced the asset purchase of the Metalcut Carbide Saw Division of Centro-Metalcut, also of Rockford and a longtime global industry leader in the design and manufacture of heavy-duty carbide sawing systems for the metalcutting industries.

AME is also a leading global manufacturer of carbide sawing systems, under its popular AMSAW® brand name.  AMSAW systems are found in forge, metalcasting, service center and primary producer operations, anywhere large or continuous sawing is performed.  The acquisition of the Metalcut carbide saw line represents a substantial expansion of the company’s capabilities in the world market.

This purchase will transfer the complete sawing machine technologies, engineering data, inventory, spare parts and service operations for all Metalcut carbide saws to AME.  Steve Swanson, the business unit manager for the carbide saw machine division of AME, will assume oversight responsibility for the Metalcut product line, allowing a seamless transition for all existing customers and immediate access to the Metalcut carbide saw line for all new AME accounts.  AME has worldwide sales and service locations already in place to accommodate all customer requirements, according to Greg Champion, vice president of sales & marketing for the company.

Centro-Metalcut will continue to manufacture and market all other product lines in its offering, including hot and cold abrasive saws, conditioning grinders and materials handling equipment.

Dietmar Goellner, AME president and CEO, and Danny Pearse, CEO of Centro-Metalcut, agreed to the purchase terms on September 24, 2010.

For more information, please contact:

Tim Waterman
2500 Latham St.
Rockford, IL 61103
Phone: 815-316-5277
Fax: 815-962-6483
E-mail: info@ame.com
Connect with AME online: yt wp twit li gplus fb

Advanced Machine & Engineering Co., is a manufacturer located in Rockford, Ill., serving the Machine Tool Industry with precision components and accessories, including spindle interface components, workholding devices, and, through our sister company, Hennig, machine enclosures, chip removal and filtration systems.  The Fluid Power – Safety markets are served with cylinder rod locks and safety catcher devices; and the Production Saw market with our AmSaw carbide saw machines and Speedcut blade products.  AME has manufacturing partners and customers around the world and across the U.S.  To learn more, visit www.ame.com.

Hennig, Inc. designs and produces custom machine protection and chip/coolant management products for state-of-the-art machine tools.  Hennig products are designed to protect against corrosion, debris and common workplace contaminants. Manufacturing facilities are located in the U.S., Germany, France, Czech Republic, Brazil, India, Japan, China and South Korea. Repair centers are located in Machesney Park, IL; Chandler, OK; Livonia, MI; Blue Ash, OH; Mexico City, Mexico; and Saltillo, Mexico. To learn more, visit www.hennigworldwide.com.

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