With more than 75 machining centers, measurement machines, and other high-tech tools, Rochester Gear in Rochester, New York, is one of the largest gear-making operations in the Northeast. President Anthony Fedor says that scale of business is necessary in today’s market.
“We have a very diverse customer base, greater than 120 in a given year. We manufacture spur, helical, and bevel gears for various industries,” Fedor says. He adds that the wide variety of equipment – hobbing machines, shapers, bevel gear cutters, thread mills, lathes, and inspection machines to name a few – are necessary to serve a wide range of customers.
The company’s greatest asset, however, is its workforce, not its equipment, Fedor says. Rochester boasts having four engineers with 144 years of combined gear-making experience in its shop. As with other manufacturers, he notes the challenge faced is preparing for the future as his skilled tradesmen retire.
“Although it is difficult to find good machinists to hire, we have had some success in preparing for the retirement of our older operators,” Fedor says. “On the engineering and inspection side, we have had good success in hiring two excellent mechanical engineers from Rochester Institute of Technology. We are in the process of hiring an additional mechanical engineer.”
Another strategy the company is using to address skilled labor shortages and customer demand for more-precise gears is automation.
“We have also purchased software to communicate between CNC machines and the gear analyzer to make setups and production more effective,” Fedor says. “We think customers will continue to ask for higher precision gears to address noise levels and product longevity. This means Rochester Gear needs to have the manufacturing equipment and inspection equipment that meets its needs.
On Sept. 7, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3388, the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution Act (SELF DRIVE Act), a series of rules that will make it easier for automakers to test autonomous vehicles on public roads. The legislation is being considered by Senate committees, and analysts expect it to pass before the end of the year.
The bill would allow automakers to obtain exemptions from some safety regulations for 25,000 vehicles in the first year of the program, rising to 100,000 vehicles per year within three years.
“Self-driving vehicles stand to make our transportation system safer and more efficient. Advancing this technology to road-ready requires government policy that encourages continued testing and development,” House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, said. “This formula is the foundation for what makes America the most innovative country in the world.”
Several states and municipalities have approved rules to allow automakers to test autonomous cars on public roads, and several local groups are relaxing rules to encourage research and development spending by making it easier to test self-driving vehicles.
The federal rules will allow automakers to put cars and trucks on the road without going through rigorous pre-approval steps with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The companies will still have to submit safety reports, and they must demonstrate that the self-driving cars are at least as safe as traditional vehicles. The legislation also mandates cybersecurity standards to protect autonomous vehicles from potential hackers.
In the Senate, lawmakers reached an agreement in late September to support similar legislation, according to The Hill.
That legislation was set for consideration in October. If approved, a House/Senate conference committee would be called to resolve any differences between the bills.
“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’” CARB Chairman Mary Nichols said, referring to China’s planned phase-out of fossil-fuel vehicle sales. “The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California.”
Regulators have not drafted rules that would ban gasoline-, diesel-, or natural-gas-powered vehicles, but such regulations could come if California follows the lead of China and other countries. China has not yet set a target date for banning fossil fuel vehicles, but France and the U.K. have targeted 2040.
As the most populous state in the nation, California sets more-stringent vehicle emissions rules than the federal government, and several other states match its regulations. So, a fossil-fuel-vehicle ban from California could impact a huge portion of U.S. vehicle sales. www.arb.ca.gov
4 ways social media can influence automotive design
Departments - Rearview
Crimson Hexagon looks at how brands are perceived online and when drivers might be ready for autonomous vehicles.
How long will it be before consumers can hail a self-driving Uber from their smartphones? Given the evolution of automotive technologies over the past several years, you might expect the answer to be, soon. However, while the technology may be there, consumers might not be quite ready for such dramatic shake-ups.
Enter: social media insights. Tapping into unsolicited, unfiltered consumer conversations on social media networks and forums allows carmakers to get a clearer view into the minds of their target customers.
Questions such as, “Who talks about Toyota?” or, “What features do consumers want in a new car?” can be answered. Insights from social media can help car brands not only market their vehicles better, but also improve the overall customer experience to win brand advocates. Below are four uses for social media insights in the automotive industry.
1 | Brand perception
Using social media to understand your brand’s share of voice and how your brand stacks up in relation to competitors is the foundation. An automotive trends report found that when consumers talk on social media about fuel efficiency, they most often discuss Toyota. When they talk about performance and handling, Ford is the most discussed brand.
2 | Target audience research
Understanding who is talking about your brand is critical. For example, social insights reveal that 47% of Honda’s audience is between 18 and 24 years old, 14% are 25 to 34, and 29% are 35 and older. Digging deeper, 70% of conversation about the Civic is sparked by people younger than 25, while 68% of CR-V conversation comes from those older than 25.
3 | Customer support
Social media can be another channel for the help desk. For example, when we identified repeating themes within conversations with negative sentiment about major car brands, we found that the key issues were car service, dealerships, and warranties. Complaints about service visits, the tactics of salespeople, and lack of comprehensive warranty coverage can be good intel for car brands looking to improve the customer experience. It can lead to changes in how warranties are communicated to customers or sales training, so brands can counteract the negative sentiment by giving customers more positive experiences.
4 | Product development
Social media analysis shows the most wanted features consumers discuss for new cars are comprehensive safety features, Bluetooth or USB connectivity, and space. People are hesitant about autonomous driving or autopilot features. In fact, fear has been the most dominant emotion in social media conversations about self-driving cars since 2010. Knowing this, product innovation and R&D teams can consider what people really want in their vehicles and build that into product planning.
Major automaker officials announced more than $1.2 billion in new plant and design center investments in the United States during 2017’s third quarter. The largest announcement came from Volvo, which would double the size, output, and investment of its still-unfinished plant in South Carolina. In most cases, the announced spending plans were parts of multi-year commitments to spend billions of dollars to expand capacity and technical capabilities within the U.S.
Major announcement include:
Volvo Cars: $600 million. Volvo announced plans in 2015 to build a $500 million plant in Berkeley County, South Carolina, near Charleston, to build the S60 luxury sedan. More than doubling that investment will allow the automaker, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, to add the popular XC90 SUV to the facility. S60 production is set to begin in late 2018, employing 2,000 people. XC90 production is set for 2021, when plant employment should reach 3,900. www.volvocars.com/us
Toyota: $373.8 million. Toyota plans to boost gas/electric hybrid output in North America by moving transaxle production to the U.S. from Japan, requiring upgrades to five plants. The company’s Buffalo, West Virginia, plant will receive upgrades to make the transaxles. An engine plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, and aluminum foundries in Troy, Missouri, and Jackson, Tennessee will receive upgrades to make a 2.5L engine that will be paired with the hybrid systems. The Jackson plant will also produce some transaxle components. And Toyota’s Huntsville, Alabama, plant will receive upgrades to support final engine builds. Combined, the expansions will create 50 new jobs. www.toyota.com
Honda: $267 million. Upgrades to the 2018 Accord sedan required Honda to add 342 welding robots to its Marysville, Ohio, plant and to increase production at the nearby Anna, Ohio, engine plant. The Marysville upgrades support laser brazing processes for the Accord’s roof, new stamping systems, and equipment for structural adhesives, Honda’s first use of that technology. Other investments will support the return to Ohio of a hybrid version of the Accord with a power unit that will be made in Marysville. The investments will add 300 jobs between the two plants. www.honda.com
General Motors. GM officials did not announce a specific cost to double the design studio at the company’s Warren, Michigan, technical center, but they did note that it was the final step in a $1 billion upgrade to that campus. Michael Simcoe, GM vice president of Global Design says, “We can only begin to predict how mobility will change in future generations. Investing in our creative and skilled team and providing them with inspiring, modern spaces, new technologies, and more ways to work together will foster innovation that leads to real solutions for customers.” www.gm.com
The VR8 variable-volume high-pressure coolant system (HPCS) adjusts up to 8gal/min. from the VR system’s programmable logic controller (PLC), controlled by the cutting machine’s M codes. VR series programmable pressures range from 250psi to 1,000psi and systems have 50gal or 70gal vertical reservoirs. They can be used with water- or oil-based coolants. All come with two quick-change, large capacity filter bags, a machine installation kit, and a two-year parts warranty. MP Systems www.mp-systems.net
Horizontal turning center
The Puma 2600 SY II high productivity turning center is a 10" class, sub-spindle, Y-axis horizontal turning center designed to craft high-precision parts from a range of tough-to-machine materials.
A standard active thermal compensation system decreases the effects thermal deformation by 60% to 70%. NTN sliding bearings have been applied to all axis box guideways on the carriage, improving fine movement by more than 40% and wear resistance by more than 30%. The feed box and X-axis bearing mount have been reinforced for high rigidity.
The built-in spindle generates up to 22kW (30hp) and 599Nm (442.1 ft-lb) of torque. An enhanced structure for spindle bearings improves runout to 6µm. A 12-station milling turret has been redesigned for improved durability and increased clamping force. BMT tooling provides rigidity for heavy chip removal, fine surface finishes, long boring bar overhang ratios, and extended tool life.
The SumpDoc portable inline fluid reclamation machine, a redesign of the 2012 machine, is small and lightweight enough to allow an operator to push it from location to location.
It provides coolant restoration and rejuvenation treatment of metalworking fluids in the machine tool sump with minimal operator interface; there is no interruption in the production cycle or need to transport fluids. SumpDoc can be wheeled next to a machine tool, parts washer, or rinse tank to provide full-service fluid reclamation in a two-step process.
An alternative to a central fluid recycling system or batch processing, SumpDoc eliminates downtime by removing solids, filtering the fluid, and removing tramp oils.
GlobalMAX abrasive waterjets feature direct-drive pump technology, simplified software, and motion-control technology. Designed for space-conscious fabricators and job shops, the GlobalMAX 1508 has a 20hp pump and a 31" x 60" cutting bed for cutting a variety of materials. The drive system provides smoother transition from rotary motion to linear motion compared to traditional rack-and-pinion drive systems. Tooth engagement minimizes backlash and improves reliability. Pumps convert more than 85% of the electrical power into cutting power.