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23 April 2005

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Some years ago I designed a remote manufacturing cell for use by Caterpillar in delivering spare parts overnight anywhere in the world. The main concern in those days was Komatsu and their like ignoring US patents and simply copying anything sent by blueprint to any job shop anywhere in the world. To use advanced technology and to prevent technology theft, I came up with a system to transmit the drawing in CADDS 4X, later Catia and UG, to a machining center where the part would be cut in wax, then investment cast, the part finished and delivered to the customer within hours, anywhere in the world.

The first site to use this technology, with a very small bite, not the whole ball of wax, was Turbotec in Tijuana, still operating under Caterpillar's wing.

These mini-factories were to be floated up appropriate rivers and then sunk into the mud for stability. On board were the basic tools and materials in various forms. For example, in a traditional job shop you would stock .5", .75", 1" and so on in order to have the right material for minimum machine time. But in my shop we carry only 1", 2" and so on because a chunk can be cut then molten, then poured into the ceramic mold made through investment casting. For sheet stock, only a few of this and that is enough when making replacement parts if the broken part can be used.

It was one of my more interesting projects during my whole Mfg. Eng. career.

I certainly appreciate the value of a small, flexible, adaptable shop where you can make a tool if you don't have one!

Wayne

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