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All the machines are on consignment from the various companies and manufactures for a set time. The members want to showcase their latest and greatest, so the machines are rotated frequently.

With new members joining monthly, a dozen or so research projects in house, and a new 32,000sq.ft. additive center coming online, the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center Research and Development (OMIC R&D) in Scappoose, Oregon has a lot going on as 2022 nears its end. Their vision is “to provide solutions to metals and other manufacturing challenges while preparing the industry’s workforce through on-the-job learning and serving as a catalyst for regional economic prosperity,” but October for them means holding one of the largest manufacturing day events in the country.

“In 2019 we hosted around 400 students and 50 vendors at OMIC R&D,” tells business development manager Josh Koch. “We are hoping to make this first ‘back-in-person’ Manufacturing Day a special one with at least the same number of students and 70+ exhibitors. This year we are doing something a little different, utilizing our campus facility as well as the OMIC training center across the way at Portland Community College. We are offering two group sessions and coming together for lunch at OMIC R&D then switching facilities. Students will interact with manufacturers at both locations showing what is possible in manufacturing. We have people and companies coming from out of state and even internationally to meet and talk with students.” 

OMIC R&D works to decrease runtime by optimizing cutter geometries and parameters. Tests are done to help companies understand their new process.

“For us it isn’t about finding future employees,” adds executive director Craig Campbell.  “But really inspiring the high school and middle school students by exposing them to amazing opportunities in manufacturing and opening their minds to things and ideas they’ve never imagined.  We have some jaw dropping technologies here.  Whether it is our robots and cobots or our massive mill-turns, it leaves an impression on people of all ages. Students watch TV and get an idea what it is like to work in a hospital or a lawyer’s office, but they aren’t going to see any examples of manufacturing, so they have no real idea what is possible. Unless they are predisposed by having a relative or family friend in manufacturing, they have never googled 5 axis machining, let alone seen a 3D metals printer in action. Vendors bring in these interactive displays to show off their cool stuff and give students a chance to experience how it works, while letting them know where the job opportunities are, and what kind of salary they can expect. We need to find or create an easy pathway for students to join the manufacturing industry. It can be anything from taking a course at the community college or making sure that their CTE instructor is teaching them what they need. We partner with the local schools, assess their needs and help them get resources to support their programs.”

“We group students in two groups typically,” continues Urmaze Naterwalla, head of research & development. “Those that have a baseline of knowledge that manufacturing things exists out in the world and the ones that have no idea at all. We are very proud of how we showcase our trade. We do it in the right way, at our state-of-the-art facilities, and not just a tour in a dingy run-down machine shop with oil on the floor and chicken wire. That isn’t the way we want the industry represented, it isn’t a good sales tool to draw young engineers or apprentices into the industry. The gleaming, fun, exotic, clean, and challenging aspects of manufacturing are a much better way to get them hooked on this as a career path. Once they show just the slightest interest, the lure of technology takes over. I often joke with them, but it is 100% true, that there is more technology in the edge of a cutting tool than there is in the latest cell phone in their pocket. It takes a while, but as they learn more they understand and believe me. It also doesn’t hurt that we have machines and instrumentation from Zoller, Mahr, Haimer, Renishaw, Wenzel, and ATOS that back me up with data.”

Urmaze Naterwalla, Head of R&D for OMIC R&D, explaining to a customer edge wear after a milling cut on the WFL M50 Millturn.

OMIC R&D is modeled after the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (AMCR) established with Boeing at Sheffield University in England. AMRC was founded to help manufacturers of any size become more competitive by introducing advanced techniques, technologies, and processes, and to carry out world-leading research into advanced machining, manufacturing, and materials that are of practical use to industry. Since OMIC R&D’s inception in 2017 the goal is to mirror that and bring scientists, engineers, industry leaders and academic experts together to innovate, experiment, discover, and teach in the Pacific Northwest.

OMIC R&D is a member-based institution with three tiers depending on their annual monetary or in-kind contributions. Membership spans the entirety of metals manufacturing, design software, tooling, coolants, lubricant, product manufacturers and machine tool manufacturers, the whole gambit. “Most of our members are involved with aerospace & defense, transportation, infrastructure, metals, or machinery,” tells Craig. “Associate memberships are designed to allow for smaller companies to be able to rub shoulders and shake hands with the giants of our industry with a lower cost buy in. Companies generally become members for two reasons: those who are looking for answers to their problems, and those that are looking to provide products as the solution to others’ problems. We become the delta between the two.”

Werner Lueken, Director of Tool Inspection Solutions for Zoller, working with OMIC R&D to inspect cutter hone on some in house produced cutting tools.

“A good example of this is our new 32,000sq.ft. additive innovation center,” continues Josh. “We are moving everything 3D printer related out of the current building and into its own additive manufacturing lab, doubling the size of our campus, and putting Oregon on the map as a powerhouse in the world of 3D metals printing. Most of the center is geared towards printing metals, but we will also include polymers and hybrid machines as well. The goal is not for a member to come to us with a part and ask can I 3D print this? We won’t sell them on OMIC R&D being for example the home of laser powder bed fusion 3D printing and tell them their part is perfect for that process. Our national uniqueness lies in us exploring multiple avenues of additive manufacturing and offering multiple possible solutions from a variety of different manufacturers. Representative machines from numerous manufacturers will be onsite allowing our teams to study how best to create the part and share our findings with our customers.”

The OMIC R&D campus is impressive, and it comes as no surprise they do a lot of show and tell. You walk out onto the shop floor and see a ton of different equipment set up in neighborhoods. All the machines are on consignment from the various companies and manufactures for a set time. The members want to showcase their latest and greatest, so the machines are rotated frequently. It is a showroom, and a fully operational research space. OMIC R&D have clean white floors, space around the machines to teach groups, lighting conducive of filming. Everything you need to put the machine’s best foot forward and allow them to educate, innovate and collaborate.

Left – Topography of a honed edge as inspected on the Zoller Titan under the blue light edge camera. Right – Right – Inspecting worn cutting edges during a cutting tool test.

“Our focus is on applied research which means fitting research solutions diversity into production environments, or informing production what not to do,” explains Urmaze. “We try not to do research that only ends up in a library. I often say that research feels incomplete if we don’t pass on the message of the research by teaching what we’ve learned. At the very least we are educating the customer on what to do, or what not to do. Remember, research doesn’t necessarily mean a successful outcome. “Don’t do this” is very valuable. You never want to hear those words, but it is still valuable knowledge.” “We not only rely on our people to find solutions, but also our membership collaborative,” adds Craig. “If you are having a tooling issue for example, we can reach out to our tooling members and say we have this problem, what do you advise to solve it. Josh and Urmaze know the strengths of our seven cutting tool manufacturer members and will know which to go to first. One of them might be better in certain areas than the others, and we look to them initially.

OMIC R&D have no shortage of impressive machine tools onsite and ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice, but one of their most exciting neighborhoods is centered around tooling and inspection. With tools like an Anca TX7 grinder, Haimer balancer, Haimer Power Shrink, Haimer VIO LINEAR and UNO Presetters, Atos 5 3D scanner, Wenzel LH 1210 CMM, Zoller PomBASIC optical tool inspector, and the Zoller Titan automated tool inspection and measurement machine it is no wonder OMIC R&D have published articles on everything from the progression of drill wear in surgical drilling (The Unknowns of Surgical Drilling) to Why Binderless CBN Inserts Turn Titanium Faster. “Testing criteria are dynamic and often need adjustment as data is collected. This can be tough for employees of production mindsets to accommodate,” laughs Urmaze. “Our bread and butter come from a testing product, alloys, materials. Catalogs and sales pitches on how to run a tool rarely work in real world scenarios, you always must dial it into the operation. We test and submit our findings, always looking for that reliable repeatable performance.”

OMIC R&D host one of the largest Manufacturing Day events in the country. More than 400 students and 70 companies come together to learn and inspire.

OMIC R&D have one of most sophisticated cutting tool inspection machines in the world and are more than happy to put it into use. “We believe that Zoller is the industry leader when it comes to cutting tool inspection machines and the Titan is the best of the best,” touts Josh. “The Titan is feature rich from their automation down to what you can see and inspect. We are talking 7th place decimal type of resolution. Titan has a quiver full of different scanning features with optical, lights, and lasers. You can see every aspect of the tool. For me the coolest thing is we can look at the topography. We can take a 1mm section of a honed edge and split that down 100 times and put 200 points on every slice to get 3D topography off that tool. Why would we want to do that? Couple of reasons. One of our first projects with the Titan was looking at how hones relate to cutting forces, torque, machine drawn power, and wear characteristics. We ground tools in house on our Anca grinder, putting different levels of hone on them. We tested them in a variety of different ways to see how hone affected certain parameters and how hone wears over time in those parameters. We also use it for verification purposes. Customer says your tools are making my parts wrong, what have you done to your tools? The answer is nothing, but as an independent third party we can back up that statement with proof.”

Inspecting insert geometry of a turning tool on the Zoller Titan

“The elegance of doing independent third-party testing at OMIC R&D is that it naturally highlights the reality versus the perceptions of new product introductions,” continues Urmaze. “The reality is there have only been a handful of huge gains in the last 10-15 years. A few of the key improvements come from the material integrity of the substrate, like molecular level of purity, and consistency of the grain. We’ve seen improved processes prior to coating to get maximum adhesion to the substrate. Edge preparation and hones are vastly improved over the last decade comparable to a steak knife vs butter knife. Hones are tailor made for the process and can make or break an operation in efficiency. The big leap isn’t that you can make hones, blacksmiths can do that. The leap is that you can now make .0001 or smaller hone or a complex conjured surface like a helix, or millions of helixes and be consistent. If one isn’t consistent, it throws everything off. We can measure for that level of quality control. The buyers in these shops are not inspecting these cutting tools to the nth degree. They are trusting the quality of the incoming tools. Consistency is important, not just for a few tools, but for the life of a program. Early engagements are all fun with the best sales pitch and test data, but you find out quickly who the good tooling manufactures are. From my experience in automotive, aerospace, die and mold, the highest priority reoccurring theme is repeatable, reliable performance, not cost. When you have repeatable, reliable performance you reduce your cost. In certain industries a tool failure can be astronomical. You could have forgings worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most shops would rather have the tool be very consistent for 25 years and cost a little more. The companies who can deliver on that are very few. That’s where research comes in to verify that stability.”

OMIC R&D’s mission is to “develop and apply advanced metals manufacturing technologies and processes for industrial competitive advantage and academic growth, while inspiring and educating the next generation’s manufacturing workforce.” “At our applied research and development facility we learn, teach, and report,” concludes Urmaze. “Sometimes the solution is right in front of us and other times you exhaust every avenue to find it. Our membership collaboration with its diversity of product solution, support of technical experts, and sharing best-practice with tribal knowledge makes us look good. When you can send out a message with the subject “help experts” and information comes in, we look good. Our members trust us because of this.”

OMIC facility which focuses on subtractive technologies as well as metrology and robotics.