Machining For Dummies
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Cloud computing is beginning to play a big role in manufacturing. One example is Machining Cloud, a company that has joined forces with leading cutting tool, toolholding, and workholding manufacturers to present electronic product data to its users. No more looking up dimensions in paper catalogs. No more redrawing and modeling tools in the CAD system. Assuming the products you use are available (and most of them are), just log on to the website or tablet app and start downloading the appropriate files.

Machining Cloud isn't the only one doing this. At least a few of its partners (and one or two notables that have declined to join the Machining Cloud club) have developed their own solutions. Whatever way you go, all these platforms are big timesavers. More important, downloadable electronic models of machining components eliminate the risk of fat-fingering a cutter dimension or virtually misassembling a toolholder, either of which might make for a really bad day.

The cloud doesn't stop there. The CAD/CAM system where you use these tooling models might also be in the cloud. An increasing number of software providers are "hosting" their wares in the cloud, giving customers greater flexibility and ease of use without the heavy investment common up until recently with any software system.

For most of these providers, it's a pay-as-you-go solution (that is, a subscription), eliminating the need for onsite servers, software updates, or a team of IT people to "feed the machine." Just log in and go. Perhaps best of all, the work begun during the day can be brought home (oh, goody) or to the hotel room for personnel who travel. All that's needed is an Internet connection and a computer or smart device. That's what the cloud brings to the table.

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Kip Hanson finished school in 1979 and got a job at a small machine shop in Minneapolis. Over the next thirty years, he worked his way up and eventually moved into manufacturing consulting and freelance writing. Today he has nearly 600 published articles across dozens of magazines and websites, covering everything from machinery and tooling to metrology and 3D printing.

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