Manufacturing Equipment Makers Join Forces In Thinc Partnership

Under the leadership of Okuma Corporation, 24 manufacturing companies have come together to put a very different spin on the development of a new numerical control and to establish a special demonstration facility that is also designed to be a training center.

The companies are calling themselves Thinc Partners, and their new enterprise opened May 4 in Charlotte, N.C. The partnership includes toolmakers Kennametal Inc. and Sandvik, robotics manufacturers Fanuc Robotics and ABB, metrology products makers Blum Lmt. Inc. and Hexagon Metrology, and a wide variety of software and machine tool accessory equipment producers. The complete list of the companies involvedin the partnership is available on its Internet site, (

The idea started with the concept of an open architecture numerical control that would use off-the-shelf components supplied by each ofthe partners in the venture so that all of the complementary — and sometimes competing — functions could be integrated seamlessly.

Once the development of theNC was underway, the partners hit on the idea of establishing the joint demonstration and training facility to provide the next step — presentations on how to use the control and how to take advantage of all of its functions, and proceeded with the $X million facility.

The facility is different in that you can see live machine demonstrations — with a variety of tooling, robotics, software and side equipment — from almost every one ofthe Thinc partners and in a variety of combinations despite the fact that several of them compete against each other. They have come together in the facilityto provide answers to manufacturing questions, and they are prepared to address questions as thoroughly as they can.

John Thoren Parsons, inventor of numerical control for machine tools, died in Traverse City, Mich., on April 18, 2007, at the age of 93. He was born in Detroit on October 11, 1913. Best known for his work with Frank Stulen, Parsons envisioned a new world of manufacturing that used part dimensions in digital numerical form to move machine tool axes to the corresponding locations. His concept was named "numerical control" and was the forerunner of today's computer aided manufacturing.

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers recognized Parsons as the "Father of the Second Industrial Revolution," the Numerical Control Society bestowed its Marie Jacquard Award (1968) for his invention of numerical control for machine tools, and he received numerous other professional honors throughout his lifetime for his work, including the National Medal of Technology from President Reagan in 1985. His papers are archived at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

For 40 years, Parsons worked at Parsons Corporation, founded by his father. The corporation moved to Traverse City during World War II as part of the armament industry's dispersal and, at its peak, expanded with plants in Detroit and Stockton, Calif. It produced munitions for WW II and became the largest producer of helicopter blades in the world through an early relationship with Igor Sikorsky. The Traverse City plant later produced the massive fuel tanks for the Saturn booster rocket that launched the moon exploration capsules.

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