Content By Ryan E. Day

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By: Ryan E. Day

I like my job in journalism. I get some interesting invitations from some interesting people. Last Friday my inbox greeted me with “The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) is throwing a rally in Chico! Let us know if you’d be interested in a press pass or an interview with an AHA representative ahead of the event.” A press pass to a beer-brewing rally, hmm. Why yes, I believe quality control in home-brewing does fall into my bailiwick.

The event to “celebrate the joys of home-brewing and connect beer enthusiasts from all over California...” was held at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and featured a VIP brewery tour, beer samples, gifts, and prizes.

“People don’t get into home-brewing because they want to make bad beer,” says Matt Bolling, events coordinator at the AHA. “Home-brewing takes a lot of time and effort, so you want to make sure that you’re making a product that tastes good, and that you can be proud of and share with your friends and family.”

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By: Ryan E. Day

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For manufacturers, big parts pose big challenges. How does one measure parts that are in excess of 15 ft and also have complex geometry? Design and inspection are part and parcel of all manufacturing operations, but as product size increases, and part geometry grows more complex, the challenges take on larger proportions.

Wagstaff, Inc. is the recognized leader in the design, development, supply, and service of the systems and equipment required to produce primary aluminum ingot and billet using direct chill (DC) casting methods in casthouses around the world. The team at Wagstaff is well acquainted with large-part inspection challenges.


Image 1: A Wagstaff casting cylinder being installed

“Some of the cylinders that we manufacture are nearing 30 ft tall,” says Jim Massey, quality assurance engineer at Wagstaff. “And then tables and bases and other equipment are upwards of 25 ft by 15 ft.”

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By: Ryan E. Day

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My wife and I purchased a new car this year. The employee handling the closing paperwork gave a compelling presentation concerning the extended warranty, which we also purchased. His presentation included a litany of high-tech components and even higher-tech systems that could and sometimes do go haywire—and the potential price of repairs. Having personal experience with a faulty GM ignition switch issue, we were all too happy to sign up for extended warranty coverage. But what does this have to do with the newborn IATF 16949:2016 standard?

Well, maybe nothing, but the auto industry’s continuing struggle to balance innovation, affordability, and safety, just might give some context to a standard that is written by an organization comprised of subscribing automotive manufacturers. Manufacturers that install ignition switches, seatbelts, and airbags for instance. Manufacturers that now install electronics rivaling anything NASA ever used. And do so at a price even my wife and I can afford. Is the IATF reacting to a solid 10-year struggle with safety recalls?

First, let’s take a quick look at what IATF 16949 is and who will be impacted by its arrival.

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By: Ryan E. Day

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Brian Vinson may have one of the best jobs in the country. Vinson works as director of engineering with AWE Tuning, an automotive aftermarket company that provides award-winning, handcrafted performance exhausts, track-tested carbon-fiber intakes, and performance intercoolers.

“Well, we do get to play with some very interesting vehicles on occasion,” says Vinson. “We have a super-skilled set of individuals hanging around here, and we make some ‘bad-ass’ product for sure.”

AWE-Tuning-HQ

But it’s not all fun and games when engineering excellence is in your company’s DNA. It’s a considerable challenge for a company continually striving for higher standards in a dynamic market.

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By: Ryan E. Day

Coffeepots and tires. All products should be built like coffeepots and tires. Awash in a sea of disposable products, these two durable goods stand out as icons of heresy against designed obsolescence.

I have long been amazed at the punishment automobile tires absorb and yet continue to perform as intended. Although freeways sometimes seem littered with shredded rubber carcasses, for the most part, tires usually last so long we can’t remember when we bought them. Some of us run ’em until they are so thin you can practically see the air inside. Every time a pothole sneaks up and makes my teeth clack when my tires hammer the thing, I marvel that the rubber doesn’t tear and the belt layers don’t come unglued. Every time I fall down on the street and instantly lose flesh, I am awed that my car tires grind against that surface for tens of thousands of miles without complaint. Even most entry-level tires are good for 30,000 miles. Simply amazing.

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By: Ryan E. Day

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In a TED Talk, Geordie Rose, co-creator of the D-WAVE quantum computer, said, “Humans use tools to do things. If you give humans a new kind of tool, they can do things they couldn’t otherwise do—imagine the possibilities.”

Rose was, of course, speaking of quantum computers, but that sentiment is just as relevant in manufacturing. When Alignment Services of North America (ASNA) began using laser trackers and 3D modeling software, the company and its customers began to discover how much more they could do with a 3D survey compared to precision optics.

Alignment-Services-of-North-America
Image 1: ASNA’s 3D metrology team uses extremely accurate, portable coordinate measuring machines (CMMs).

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By: Ryan E. Day

Is it just me, or does it seem like businesses are actually trying to outdo each other in poor customer experience? Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood, so let me be as clear as I can.

I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill poor customer service like big box stores running skeleton crews as standard operating procedure, or chain stores hiring clueless youngsters and not training them (not the fault of the youngsters, btw). Although that is quite prevalent and has become a fairly routine model for many consumer-oriented businesses, it is almost benign compared to the fiendish efforts of communications conglomerates today. Yes, them.

Phone and internet service providers seem to be in competition to see which company can inflict the most, longest lasting, and cleverly contorted pain upon their customers as possible. Unfortunately, they are very good at being very bad. I can remember actually lauding my provider in 2011, but I moved to a different area, and they did not have internet service available for that particular location. So began the search for a new ISP provider.

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By: Ryan E. Day

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Everything, it seems, has a vulnerability. For werewolves, it’s silver bullets. For Superman, it’s Kryptonite. For manufacturing—it’s rework. Rework means loss of throughput, which means loss of profit, which can mean death by a thousand rewelds. But, just as silver bullets can be dodged, and Kryptonite can be avoided, much rework can be prevented by adopting appropriate technology.

In 1902, Elias Gunnell, Charles West, and Lynford Geer launched the Manitowoc Dry Dock Co. to construct and repair wooden ships. Starting in 1925, West, then the company’s CEO, began building cranes on a subcontract basis for the Moore Speedcrane Co., a move that marked the beginning of a legacy of world-class crane manufacturing.

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By: Ryan E. Day

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Although more than 140 years old, Colonna’s Shipyard Inc. has not stood still with respect to modernization. Colonna’s has made the capital investments necessary to improve efficiency and productivity—and those investments are paying off.

During the late 1990s, Steel America (SA), a division of Colonna’s, branched off to meet market demands for industrial plant expansions and other onshore fabrication projects.

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By: Ryan E. Day

Handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers are proven analytical tools commonly used for the fast, easy, accurate, and nondestructive identification and analysis of metals and alloys. Common applications include metal alloy identification for quality control, scrap sorting and positive material identification (PMI), geochemistry for mining exploration and grade control, precious metal analysis, and hazardous elements screening for environmental, consumer goods, and restriction of hazardous substances (RoHS) testing.

XRF analyzers work by measuring the secondary X-ray emissions of a given sample when that sample is excited by a primary X-ray source. In this way, the chemical signatures of the sample’s elemental composition are revealed. Known as spectrometry, this type of analysis is important for anyone needing to quickly and efficiently inspect metals and alloys.

Industries and applications

Several specific industrial sectors can benefit from the use of handheld XRF analyzers, such as the Olympus Vanta series. Adopting the technology can drive an enormous return on investment for manufacturers seeking to eliminate waste and more efficiently test and process metal-based parts and products.