About Drew Greenblatt

President of Marlin Steel Wire Products LLC. Executive board member of National Association of Manufacturers. Chairman of the Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland. Chairman of the National Alliance for Jobs and Innovation. Vice Chairman of the Governor's International Advisory Council. Maryland State Manufacturing Commission Member. Most proud of 2030+ days without a safety incident.

Marlin Steel’s Take on Employee Training is Being Featured on Inc.com

 

Is there such a thing as too much training? For those of us here at Marlin Steel, there is no such thing as too much training.

In a recent article featured on Inc.com, Marlin Steel’s company president and weekly INC Columnist gives six reasons why manufacturers need to double down on training for their employees. Even in a period of economic hardship (especially in a period of economic hardship), employee training is a great way to differentiate your company, attract top-quality talent, and stay a step ahead of the competition.

From enabling superior quality for production lines, to building your bottom line, learn why your company will benefit from “over” investing in employee training in this Inc.com article today!

Baskets of Interest for Mechanical Engineers

 

Baskets for EngineersEvery wire form job is different. During the initial design phase, Marlin Steel’s engineers ask the client to rate key characteristics of the final product in importance. These characteristics include:

  • Functionality.
  • Appearance.
  • Cost.
  • Delivery.

Different clients will have different priorities. For example a client who uses their baskets for a display might prioritize appearance above function or cost, while a client who has a tight deadline might make delivery time the most important aspect of their particular order.

“How do these priorities impact the final design,” you ask? By gathering information on what their clients want the most from their basket designs, Marlin Steel engineers are better equipped to meet the needs of said clients.

To highlight this, here are two examples of recent basket designs that were optimized to meet the priorities of the mechanical engineers ordering them.

#1: Zero Frame Weld Baskets

Baskets for Engineers - no frames 4 press brakesIn this instance, a client wanted mass-produced baskets that would be sturdy, delivered quickly, and, most of all, inexpensive.

After choosing a grade of steel that would meet the minimum performance requirements of the client for heat and chemical exposure, Marlin Steel’s engineers set to the task of finding a way to make the final assembly of the basket as cost effective for the client as possible while speeding up production time.

Ultimately, it was decided to weld the wire together in a “flat” position. Once welded, the wire form is put through a CNC press brake to bend the outer edges up to create the walls of the basket. This eliminated the need to weld a frame around the top, reducing production time and costs.

In this way, Marlin’s engineers were able to meet their client’s demands for cost-effective wire baskets to hold larger pieces of loose material quickly and easily. The precision of the CNC press brake ensured that each and every one of these wire baskets came out with consistent angles in the bend and a uniform shape.

In short, welding the frame while it’s flat, then bending it into a basket shape using a CNC press saves both time and money.

#2: Baskets Capable of Both Stacking and Nesting

stacking 1For this design, the client want a basket design that had specific functionalities. In this case, they wanted the baskets to take up minimal space when not in use, but to be able to stack without putting pressure on the contents when in use.

Naturally, these baskets had to have a frame welded on to ensure maximum integrity when stacking with a full load. This way, the baskets won’t deform when the weight of one is placed on top the other. Every aspect of this basket’s design had to be considered in light of how it would affect the ability of the basket to stack when in use, and nest when not in use to save space.

Baskets for stackingIn order to allow the baskets to switch between nesting and stacking modes, Marlin Steel’s engineers made the decision to make the handles of the baskets a part of the stacking mechanism. The handles, which feature a precision-bent hook design, can be flipped into or out of the basket. When inside the basket, the grips of the handle act as a mount for the next basket on top to rest on. When flipped outside of the basket, the handles are out of the way, leaving the top basket free to rest almost wholly inside the bottom basket (minus space for the handles), minimizing the space each takes up when not in use.

For this customer, functionality was the most important part of the basket’s design. Their baskets needed to be sturdy, able to take a load and still stack neatly.

Building the Perfect Basket

Whenever Marlin Steel’s engineers create a new basket design, they always strive to make sure that each basket will meet, if not surpass, the goals and needs of the client. From creating the base design, to choosing the materials needed to make that design a functional and effective reality, Marlin’s engineers have the training and the practical experience to help you make the perfect parts washing and material handling baskets.

Learn more about how Marlin Steel creates top-notch wire baskets with a combination of automation and technical know-how today!

Custom Material Handling Baskets: Creating the Perfect Plunger Basket

 

Custom Material Washing Basket - Marlin Steel While many Marlin Steel customers are looking for either a wire basket or a sheet metal product for their material handling and parts washing needs, sometimes a specific customer process requires a more creative approach than simply using one material or the other.

In a recent job for an automotive parts washing process, the customer had a very specific set of requirements for washing their parts. The part in question was for the rebuilding of injectors, and the washing process involved placing the basket in a tank with various chemicals at 150 °F for ten minutes at a time.

Not only that, but the cleaning process also involved the use of ultrasonics, so the basket needed to be designed to withstand the stresses of such high-frequency vibrations.

Movement of the basket between phases of the process was to be done by hand, with operators wearing protective gloves for safety.

With this information, Marlin Steel’s engineers were able to pick the right materials for the basket, but the hard part was designing a basket that could hold 322 cylindrical parts in place without allowing them to move around, and still be able to release all parts quickly at the end of the wash process. Not only that, but in order to ensure the best cleaning performance, there had to be as little material between the part and the cleaning medium as possible, so the final design needed to be as “open-air” as possible.

Holding Narrow Cylinders in Place without a Mesh Cage

The final solution was relatively simple, but elegant. Instead of making a wire mesh basket with a lid, or a straight sheet metal box, Marlin Steel’s engineers used a wire frame with several custom-cut sheet metal plates to hold the parts in place.

Since each part had a slightly narrow “neck” just below the head of the unit, the basket was designed as a plunger basket. Two layers of sheet metal were precision cut to hold the hundreds of narrow cylinders in place securely. One layer is cut in such a way as to form hundreds of “L” shapes, and the other layer has hundreds of corresponding keyhole-like shapes with a wide and a narrow end cut into it.

The part would fit into the larger circle portion of the keyhole shape, then slide up into the narrower part of the shape. Once all 322 parts are in place, the lock sheet slides over, covering the large holes with the other piece of sheet metal and securing all of the cylinders in place.

This gave the parts maximum exposure to the cleaning process and coatings that they needed to be ready for final assembly, while keeping them in place so that they would not get lost inside the parts washing machine.

Making it Easy to Load and Unload

Material Washing Basket Marlin SteelOf course, the speed at which this basket could be loaded was a major concern. The basket had to be designed in such a way as to allow an operator easy access to load and unload the parts. To this end, the frame of the basket is designed to be open and hold the parts far enough from the base to comfortably fit a forearm underneath. This allows operators to load the parts from the underside of the basket as well as from the top.

To facilitate the quick release of parts once they are finished going through the wash process, a quick-release pin was added. This pin holds the lock sheet in the closed position during the wash, and can be used to keep the sheet in the open position during the unloading process.

Using the Perfect Materials for the Job

When Marlin Steel’s engineers were first given the task of making this basket, the customer’s initial request was for plain steel. However, after a review of the washing process, it was determined that plain steel would not last long enough to be cost-effective, as it would require frequent replacement.

Grade 304 stainless steel, on the other hand, was found to be much more compatible with the client’s wash process while still being cost effective. Marlin’s engineers brought this to the customer’s attention, and talked them through how using 304 SS would save money in the long run.

The change was made, and this customer was spared the expense of having to re-order new baskets a month or two down the road. Instead of simply giving the customer an inferior product that would not have met their needs, Marlin Steel’s engineers identified a potential problem and offered a solution.

By consulting with clients and making them aware of issues that can affect the performance and longevity of their products, Marlin Steel’s engineers strive to ensure that their clients get the perfect parts washing baskets to meet their needs.

Three Benefits of Manufacturing in the USA

 

Marlin Steel Wire ManufacturingRecently, we talked about several reasons to be optimistic about the future of manufacturing in America. One of the major takeaways from that post was that the number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. is on the rise once again, and that many companies are beginning to consider moving their production back to American locations.

However, you might be wondering “why it is that companies are considering making the switch to manufacturing in the U.S. once again?” Well, there are actually a number of reasons, including:

#1: Costs

As we mentioned in a previous post, the energy costs associated with operating a U.S.-based manufacturing location are actually going down. However, the cost savings of moving manufacturing to the U.S. go well beyond that for many companies.

For a lot of companies, even though their production has been moved out of the U.S., their R&D facilities have remained here. By basing their manufacturing facilities nearer to their R&D facilities, companies can save time and money when shipping parts and prototype units between the two.

Not only that, but communication between manufacturing and R&D teams is much easier when they are both located in the same region. This eliminates the need for translating terms, speeding up the communication process (team to team as opposed to team to translator to team). Also, this reduces the chances of a miscommunication between a team used to using one kind of measurement to a team that typically uses another kind of measurement: degrees Fahrenheit versus degrees Celsius, for example.

#2: Simplification of Regulations Requirements

One of the major challenges of operating any business in multiple countries is that each country will have different regulations and requirements for the distribution, import, export or manufacture of any products.

By placing your manufacturing in the same country where goods are to be distributed, you can streamline the approval process for many products and make it easier to avoid intellectual property infringement risks.

Having to pay for customs fees and wait for processing on materials, then having to pay export fees and other taxes for the finished products in order to get it to the intended market can quickly become expensive and time-consuming.

Speaking of shipping times…

#3: Reduction in Transit Times

The delay in the ROI for the manufacture of a new product line as it languishes in the cargo storage of a slow, bulky sea vessel can break monthly income projections, and faster air cargo shipments can be prohibitively expensive, while still having to wait for customs processing.

Bringing manufacturing centers into the region where your company’s products will be distributed saves time. This allows you to see a return on your investment sooner rather than later. In addition, this removes a few middlemen from the sales process, reducing markup and allowing prices to be more competitive.

What’s more, this reduction in transit times also means an increased level of flexibility and responsiveness in meeting consumer demands. The faster a company can leverage consumer needs and wants, the better.

For example, if the first run of a product line sells out in record time, a company that bases its manufacturing in the same country it is distributing those products in can strike while the proverbial iron’s hot, putting more of the in-demand product into customer’s hands while it is still in demand. A company that bases its manufacturing overseas, on the other hand, will have to wait for weeks on shipping alone, during which time the enthusiasm for the product may die down or competitors could release off-brand copies of the product.

A company located overseas could prevent an unexpected shortage of a suddenly popular product by massively over-producing everything, but that would be a tremendous waste of time, money and materials.

A Positive Outlook

Of course, there are many more reasons why any specific company might benefit from basing their manufacturing in the U.S., far too many to cover all of them here. Here at Marlin Steel, we’re excited to have the chance to not only witness a resurgence of American manufacturing, but to be a part of it.

With more companies relocating their manufacturing to the U.S., and thus more manufacturing jobs being created, we’re optimistic for the future of the manufacturing industry in the U.S.

Marlin Steel and Material Drying Shelves: Mobile Racks with Casters

 

Marlin Steel Custom Material Washing Shevles

Sometimes, simply creating a custom wire shelf to fit into an existing mount isn’t enough. In a few cases, it is necessary to build an entire custom mount for the custom shelves that hold your precision-engineered parts.

In one recent job, Marlin Steel’s engineers were tasked with creating not only a series of shelves that would be routinely exposed to temperatures in excess of 250 °F (approximately 121 °C) for twelve hours at a time, but a custom shelving unit with wheels that could be hand-pushed which could withstand the same kind of exposure as well.

That’s right, instead of the typical washing processes, this particular shelf would be designed to be used in a specialized drying process.

Making Material Drying Shelves

Just as with the creation process for parts washing baskets, our engineers checked for numerous properties associated with the client’s material drying process before starting the design, including:

  • The temperatures the racks and shelving unit would be exposed to and for how long.
  • The dimensions that the shelving unit should be.
  • The method by which the shelves and the shelving unit would be moved.
  • Desired spacing for mesh to accommodate parts.
  • Whether or not the shelf would be exposed to specific chemicals or physical stresses such as vibration.
  • Weight distribution of parts on the shelves.
  • Number of units to be manufactured.

These were just a few of the considerations that went into the design of the shelves and the shelving unit.

On top of these concerns, it was important for this particular manufacturing job that the shelving units and the shelves themselves be free of sharps, edges, burrs, and welding/laser splatter. This was partly because the unit was intended to be hand-pushed from one phase of the process to the other. Sharps and other irregularities pose an injury hazard, as well as preventing smooth operation of the individual shelves.

Based on the specifications provided by the client, Marlin Steel’s engineers began designing the wire racks and the shelving unit to hold them. Grade 304 stainless steel was used for the wire racks and the shelving unit alike because this grade of steel was cost-effective for the client while being able to withstand the temperatures that were expected of the drying process. Since no corrosives would be used in the drying process, a more corrosion resistant grade of steel was not necessary.

Using the precision of automated manufacturing lasers, wire benders (including machines specifically designed to minimize burrs and sharps), and welders, Marlin Steel’s engineers were able to complete the shelving unit and the racks quickly, and with minimal splatter that was easily cleaned.

Wheeling the Shelves in Place

Marlin Steel Material Drying ShelvesOf course, with the units being moved by hand, there had to be an easy method of pushing the shelving units from one place to the next. The most natural solution was, of course, to add wheels to the bottom of the shelving unit.

The two primary challenges with this issue were to:

  1. Find a wheel that could withstand the temperatures of the drying process without wearing out;
    AND
  2. Mount the wheel in such a way that it would not interfere the movement of the shelving units into the dryer.

Neither of these challenges proved to be very difficult.

For the first issue, Marlin Steel’s engineers used a set of specially-made Nonmarking High-Temperature Caster wheels. With a maximum capacity of 700 lbs. and the ability to withstand temperatures of up to 475 °F (246 °C), these wheels were built to handle stresses that are well over the design limits of the drying process.

As for the second issue, it was a simple matter to design the shelving unit in such a way that the wheels would not exceed the dimensions of the base of the shelving unit, even while swiveling.

With every order, there are always specific needs and challenges that have to be addressed. However, with an experienced and talented team of engineers, and the precision made possible by sophisticated automated manufacturing techniques, almost any challenge can be overcome so that you can have “quality engineered quick” for your own metal form needs.

The Benefits of Automated Welding in Three Dimensions

 

Ideal Welding Machine - Marlin SteelFor most automated welders, the welding heads can only move along a flat plane. You can program X and Y coordinates into the welder, but all too often, there are vertical welds that need to be completed as well.

For the vast majority of automated welders, a vertical weld requires that either:

  1. The weld is handled manually, slowing the welding process down which drives up production time and cost and reduces quality and negating the advantages of automation.
    OR
  2. The piece being welded is removed and re-positioned manually so that the “vertical” weld can be done. This reduces the chance of a quality part since when removing the part from the work holding fixture, it is time consuming and likely to cause accretive tolerance issues.

Neither of the above solutions are truly optimal. Both require manual labor to work around the limitations of the automated welder, and carry with them all of the risks associated with doing the weld work manually.

This is why an automated welder with three-dimensional weld capabilities is the best way to ensure the best weld quality in metal forms. Thankfully, with the arrival of the IDEAL welder, Marlin Steel now has a welding machine with the ability to handle welds on the X, Y, and Z axes.

Benefits of 3D Welding

Marlin Steel Ideal Welding Machine - 10 ft tablesBecause the IDEAL welder can move in three dimensions, it can perform all of the welding actions that are required to complete large parts (10’ feet x 4’!). This ensures a consistent quality of welds from the first part that goes into the machine to the last.

Unlike people who get fatigued after performing repetitive tasks for hours on end, an automated welder will never miss an intersection. Not only that, but automated welders can complete weld operations much faster than a human can, reducing the chances that blisters and other heat stress deformities will occur.

Also, because the machine can move the welding head vertically as well as left and right, there is no need for a human operator to move the piece being welded, which means there is no downtime as the part is manually adjusted so that the welder can reach a specific intersection. Less downtime equals more welds being completed, which means more parts being finished per hour than what would be possible if the machine required manual assistance to reach certain intersections of the parts being welded (and far more than doing it by hand would).

For many parts that require a high level of precision in the final dimensions of the product, the IDEAL welder is perfect for performing welds. Not only does an automated welder never miss an intersection that it’s been programmed to weld, but with the minimal deformity of the welds made by this machine, large-scale welding of parts for a product line can be made almost effortless. Every weld done by the IDEAL welder will be consistent, from the first weld to the 10,000th weld, so delicate parts with specific shape requirements can be mass-produced using one of these machines.

Bringing an IDEAL Level of Safety

One of the biggest benefits of a 3D welding capable machine is that it provides a greater level of safety than a standard machine that needs manual adjustment and assistance in completing complex welds.

With a machine that only welds along a flat plane, human operators have to step in and help the machine by hand flattening the part. Sometimes they warp the part too much one way or the other and certainly stress all the welds almost breaking them.

With a 3D-capable welder, the operator can safely stay away from the part being processed, and minimize his or her exposure to welder-related work injuries.

In short, the three-dimensional weld capabilities of the IDEAL welder makes weld jobs quicker, more consistent, and safer than ever before. To learn more about our new automated welder and how it affects the manufacture of your wire forms, contact Marlin Steel today!

Controlling the IDEAL Automated Welder

 

Ideal Automated Welder - Marlin SteelFor any piece of automated manufacturing equipment, whether it is a metal wire bending arm, a precision laser-cutter, or an extraordinarily sophisticated welder with multiple adjustable welding heads, it takes both hardware and software in order for the machine to work right.

The control mechanism for the Versaweld CSR102-1230-3-MFDC NC Jig Welding System from IDEAL is no exception to this rule. In fact, this revolutionary new welding machine possesses two different sets of controls: one for controlling the motion of the machine (CNC) and a separate, dedicated control for the welding heads themselves.

Controlling the Machine

The CNC controller for the machine itself is a SINUMERIK 840 DSL 32-Bit-Microprocessor from Siemens. What does this particular controller do? It enables:

  • Digital control of up to 32 axes. Basically, it can control every joint of the machine at the same time, in different directions.
  • The ability to store 500 different motion programs on an included 1 gigabyte flash card.
  • Teach-in operation for programming the travel of the machine’s parts.
  • Program testing and correction.
  • Diagnostics of current production run.

These are just a few of the capabilities of the machine controller that the IDEAL welder uses to control the movements of the machine’s arms while in operation. This device boasts a LCD display with an alphanumeric keyboard to make it easier for the operator to program operations manually when needed.

This control mechanism also sports a USB-based interface to allow the import or export of data.

Controlling the Welder

The operations for the welding heads are managed by a separate control mechanism than the one responsible for the movement of the “arms.”

Ideal Welding Machine - Marlin Steel

The weld controller is responsible for controlling:

  • Weld, squeeze, and hold time,
  • Memory for weld programs,
  • Up and Down slope,
  • Pulse weld operation; AND
  • Heat percentage (current intensity).

By placing these operations on a separate controller, the IDEAL welder is able to have millisecond-fast operations for the welding head, even as the arm is in motion.

The controller for the welder is a Medium Frequency DC (MFDC) Welding Controller. It is the 1,000-cycles technology of this controller that enables the welder to achieve its 2/1,000 of a second weld speed, allowing for a higher-quality surface finish of welded parts and reducing spatter, sharps, and other undesirable deformations to a welded part.

Overall, the highly sophisticated controllers and the software that run them allow the Versaweld NC Jig welder to fulfill a variety of welding tasks that would be deemed impossible for other machines. With the unit now on the Marlin Steel manufacturing floor being the only one outside of Germany, we are in a unique position among American manufacturers to bring quality engineered quick with the best quality welds.