Here are a few examples of the networking contacts that I made at the “Making Manufacturing a Priority” event sponsored by Seco Tools in Troy, Michigan on January 8, 2013 for Automation Alley.

Don Graham is Seco’s manager of education and technical services. He told me about some new materials and new processes that Seco is investigating. One of these new materials promises to greatly decrease the weight of components used in the “hot section” of a jet engine. The material, however, is one of the most difficult materials to machine Seco has ever encountered, so it is a real challenge to a cutting tool developer. One of the new processes is laser-assisted machining, in which preheating the workpiece material with a laser just in front of the cutting tool presents interesting new possibilities for metal removal strategies.

Likewise, Tim Aydt and Don Halas, two Seco product managers, shared some innovations they’ve been working on. For example, Tim (a turning specialist) talked about how insert coatings developed for milling applications are proving valuable for turning inserts, enabling one insert grade to turn workpieces with a hard outer layer and a softer core underneath. Don (a threading and grooving expert) told me about changes in the exploration for natural gas that are putting cutting tools developed for aerospace into oilfield applications to cut special thread forms. It seems that strongly acidic conditions deep underground require the kind of alloys (and machining processes) normally used on aircraft components and jet engines.

Later, near the beverage bar, I met Don Jasurda, whom I met years ago when Don was with a CAD/CAM company. Don is now VP of Sales for Dimensional Control Systems, Inc., in Troy. This company provides metrology optimization services for large manufacturing companies. In addition to renewing our acquaintance, we discussed his company’s plans to make its technology available to smaller manufacturing companies and job shops. I promised to get the news out when the new products are launched because the underlying concepts put advanced metrology in a fresh perspective.

In the break room where a hot buffet was being served, I sat down with Gary and Lisa Seidl. Lisa is Seco’s marketing communications manager. Gary’s employer, Quick-Built, makes automated machinery for inserting metal components into plastic parts as they come off the injection machine. He and I chatted about how customers in the local area are carefully managing the mix of automotive and not-automotive work.

At the end of the evening, I sat down with Mike Parker and Bob Goulding, two more Seco guys. Mike is Director of Engineering, Marketing & Product Development, while Bob heads Seco’s Component Engineered Tooling group. Bob’s enthusiasm for this part of Seco’s service to manufacturers was effervescent. His group develops entire manufacturing processes (equipment selection, machining parameters, cutting tool strategies, CNC programming and so on) for customers. He was quite proud of some remarkable successes his group has created recently for leading manufacturers in the Detroit area and around the country. I was unaware that Seco provided the service. After listening to Bob, I’d like to develop some case histories about these success stories.

My notes and additional collection of business cards from this event are further evidence of effective networking (for me!). If other attendees were equally effective at networking, we can safely declare “Mission Accomplished” for Automation Alley’s 2013 inaugural event.