Interview with an Innovator: Mark Moll

Each quarter, we sit down with a Designetics innovator to talk about his or her career, what makes Designetics special and topics relevant to his or her field. This month: Technical Manager Mark Moll.

What is your title and how long have you worked at Designetics? Give us a bit of your history…

I’m the Technical Manager. I’ve been with Designetics about six-and-a-half years now. I started in March 2013 doing Assembly Sheets, Catalog and some minor IT things like the website and creating forms. It was about six months into the first year when they were looking to get going with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) in the machine shop.

I made mention that I had experience with CAD/CAM in high school and college, but I hadn’t done anything with that since then…but that I would help where I could. Well, they gave me the opportunity and once I knocked the rust off, we were able to get moving on the implementation, which led me to looking over the machine shop.

Over the next few years I also took on the automation equipment as well as the CAD department as we grew that. The machine shop stands on its own now, but the others certainly keep me busy.

How has CAD impacted manufacturing at Designetics and why?

It has a part in almost everything we do—from parts and equipment that we manufacture, to internal machines that we support, it all starts with a drawing. It’s very valuable to have the ability to design something and be able to verify it on the computer before using any other resources.

We can design tooling and verify the fit with a 3D printed part, all without making one chip in the machine shop. This allows the machine shop to continue working on other projects without having to make this new design once, or again should any changes be needed.

How has CAD/CAM changed over the years?

It’s more automated and advanced. A lot of the improvements have come along through making things easier for the user. Like most technology, the improvements have been to automate repetitive tasks. This allows the designer to be more efficient with designs and reduce the amount of clicks it takes to get tasks done. There has been leaps and bounds technologically with regard to creating complex shapes that both reduce the amount of material needed and still provide a product that is suitable for the job. Designers have the capabilities to create these parts easier.

With regard to the CAM software, along with the CNC machines, the evolution has risen to the point where they are processing millions of lines of code in a short amount of time. The complex designs that previously took hours to program can now be programmed quicker and in fewer and fewer commands.

Do you see Designetics taking advantage of Computer-Aided Manufacturing more?

Yes, we are always looking at different ways to make this happen. We have a pretty good group in that we look at each project—even projects we’ve done previously—and think about how we could do it better. Keeping up to date with not only the software updates, but learning the capabilities of the new updates, equips us with the knowledge base to look at things from a new angle.

How will technology shape Designetics in the future?

I wish this was a straightforward answer, but it’s not…technology keeps improving and continues to come up with better ways to do things. So, you don’t really know what else is possible. What we must do is to stay current with the evolution—continue to learn as many things we can and see where it fits for us. We must use technology to stay efficient and come up with creative solutions for new challenges. You might see something today that is great—but not an immediate need—but maybe months or years from now, it may be a great solution.

Technology continues to make our lives more efficient, so we must harness that and use it in all aspects of what we do. From tools and methods to improve the assembly process to taking out the trash, any use we can have for a better way to do something, we should look into it. We can never settle for the saying “That’s the way we’ve always done it” but approach it with new ideas.

Do you see more clients embracing technology in their processes?

Yes, and mostly because it is becoming easier to implement…and we must make sure that we keep our product in line with those improvements. Everyone wants to create more parts in a shorter amount of time, so they look at all possibilities to do that. When we look into a project, we want to make sure we understand the whole picture so we can provide the equipment that gives the customer the best solution to meet their needs. We also need to continue to educate ourselves on the new technology that is being used and see where we can implement in our product or ensure that our product can work with it.

Do you see more automation happening in manufacturing?

Absolutely, and we’re seeing it now. A big trend now is the collaborative robots that can work safely side by side with a person. These robots, or “cobots,” can do the repetitive, fatigue-inducing tasks, which frees up the operator to do tasks that robots cannot do. Any way that we can take repetitive tasks and automate them, it just frees up time to do more important tasks or just more tasks in general.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to break into the CAD/CAM field?

Get educated, but don’t forget the basics. Take a blueprint reading class to understand how to read drawings. Take a machining class to understand how to make things. There is so much more to CAD/CAM than just drawing and programming. If you’re designing a part, you need to understand what it is for and how it’s made. It’s very easy to get lost in a design and create this awesome part that would work but is impossible to make.

Also, be diversified with your learning. Learn more than just one CAD program or one CAM program. They all basically do the same thing, but its beneficial to flex the muscles and try more than just one. The more flexible your skills are, the better you set yourself up to be flexible in your career.

Where do you see Designetics going in the next five years?

I think it has a lot to do with what we’ve already talked about—technology and automation. (It’s about) finding new creative ways to use these tools in not only our operations in-house, but into our product. We must make sure we are delivering a product that is useful and incorporated with technology that supports current trends. I am really looking forward to where we go and the new opportunities we will see and create.

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