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Metalcutting: Productivity Options Proliferate


Milling, turning, and multitasking solutions are waiting to be found at the Metal Cutting Pavilion

By Jim Lorincz
Senior Editor

IMTS 2008 visitors to the South Hall at McCormick Place will go with a variety of expectations and goals, but none more pressing than improving their competitiveness in domestic markets. They'll be able to "kick the tires" of the most advanced technology in Machining Centers and Cells, Multitasking Machines, and CNC Turning Centers available and compare their competitive choices, apples to apples, HMC to HMC.

They will see metalcutting technology at work demonstrating ways to process parts of every conceivable size, shape, and material in lot sizes of one to production runs of hundreds, thousands, and many more. Processes will deliver cutting tools from every conceivable direction and angle, vertically, horizontally, and increasingly, simultaneously, to remove metal from bars, billets, slugs, forgings, or castings to produce precision-engineered parts.

As might be expected, there will always be surprise introductions, but current trends suggest that the following categories and classes of machines will be much in evidence:

  • Large machines, with long X-axis reaches, large work envelopes and capacities will be shown for oilfield service, aerospace, power generation, mining, and construction equipment, among others.

  • Small machines, Swiss turns, and very small micro milling machines, will be shown for precision machining of highly engineered components for medical device, connector, telecommunications, and automotive applications.

  • Multitasking machines will proliferate, some more turning platform than milling, some more milling platform than turning (a more recent development). They will incorporate a widening array of processes from the familiar turning, milling, and drilling to grinding, deburring, and on-machine tool monitoring for done-in-one processing, whenever possible.

  • Five-axis machining centers continue to increase in the ease with which they are programmed, set up, and used, while becoming more affordable.

  • Automation, on-machine and between machines, and cellular configurations will be shown as manufacturers increasingly demand turnkey solutions from builders and distributors that improve cycle time, reduce cost, and make untended operation a more efficient productivity option.

The goal of any and all of these technology developments is productivity improvement, something that US manufacturers can already point to with some pride.

"American manufacturers are very productive, among the most productive in the world," says Glynn Fletcher, president, AgieCharmilles (Lincolnshire, IL). "There are many reasons why this is true, but certainly one reason is that the successful companies are very good at what they do. They understand the importance of investing in and applying innovative technology in their manufacturing operations," says Fletcher.

"Our brand promise for the last year or so is 'let's achieve more' both for our customers and their customers. We believe that those who succeed in this are the most innovative. They include companies like Apple, GE, Nike, Medtronics, Hewlett Packard, Johnson and Johnson, and Boeing. They are all early adopters of technology who leverage it to their advantage, and they're all our customers, too, by the way," says Fletcher.

AgieCharmilles will exhibit automation solutions for milling and EDM with combinations of equipment ranging from an entry-level pallet changer to a robot on a tracking system connecting a five-axis, high-speed milling machine with a turn-while-burn wire EDM. Also being shown is the HPM 600 HD milling machine with large-capacity chip removal, and a five-axis UCP 600 Vario with pallet changer machining parts for a race car. Smart Machine modules for monitoring heat influence on machine performance as well as monitoring vibration will be shown.

"In manufacturing, there's a very upbeat mood," says Brian Papke, president, Mazak (Florence, KY). "Business is good, but manufacturers want to be careful about what they do. I think there's concern about the economic climate due to everything you read in the media related to consumer issues, such as housing, financial services, automotive, and consumer durable goods. Generally, manufacturers have been profitable. Cash flow has been good. The low value of the dollar has made them confident they can be successful in a global economy," says Papke.

"If you can show them productivity improvement, they are willing to invest. The average price of a machine is probably going up, not because prices are going up, but because machines have more capability, such as multitasking types of machines that incorporate more operations into a single machine. In fact, the productivity is rising much faster than the price. Also, automation is becoming more important, for example, adding a pallet changer, or a larger tool changer, or a Palletech-type system, or a robot load/unload system," says Papke.

For applications engineering and developing solutions, as well as training, Mazak has eight Technology Centers in North America and 30 worldwide. "The Technology Centers give us an opportunity to work with customers and suppliers in developing solutions for all of our machine technologies," Papke says. For example, Mazak has more than 30 five-axis models. "Most of these can be combined with some form of automation, and many of our multitasking machines include five-axis machiningcenter capability," he states.

Among the machines to be exhibited, Mazak will introduce the Integrex i-150 multitasking center for done-in-one machining including turning, multiface, multiangle, and full five-axis contouring. Machine configuration features a single, horizontal main spindle with a 15-hp (11-kW) main spindle and 5000 rpm for turning and C-axis control. The 6" (152-mm) through-hole chuck can handle 2.56" (65-mm) diam bar. A 10-hp (7.5-kW), 12,000-rpm milling spindle (20,000-rpm optional) is mounted in the vertical rotating B axis with a range of -10 to +190°. "With a small footprint, this machine represents a future direction with designs suited to specific industry segments, such as small aerospace or medical equipment components in the case of the i-150," Papke says.

"Advances in technology at the show will focus on heavy metalcutting machines from builders, and new cutting-tool technology," says Scott Walker, president Mitsui Seiki USA Inc. (Franklin Lakes, NJ). "These advanced combinations are aimed at machining metals such as triple-five nickel titanium and harder alloys, as well as machining and drilling materials such as composites, carbon fiber, and plastics," he explains. "I expect there to be a lot more multitasking machines capable of milling, grinding, and turning, with hands-off operation and measurement capabilities. Also, visitors will see a lot more high-speed DD [direct drive] motor technologies for A/B rotary axes that have traditionally been gear-driven."

Mitsui Seiki will introduce its fiveaxis CNC VLD-300 CNC laser drilling machine that is capable of drilling a 0.060" (1.52-mm) diam hole 0.080" (2.0-mm) deep every 0.6 sec. Typical applications are jet-engine components and blades and exhaust manifolds in which thousands of these small-diam cooling airflow holes provide radiator-like cooling. Also being shown is the HU63-5X five-axis HMC for milling triple-five nickel titanium. A Vertex VMC will be shown with a Fanuc robot and automated palletized system for load/unload capability for several machines.

MAG IAS will occupy a 2500 m2 booth to showcase its broad spectrum of machine capabilities ranging from VMCs, and HMCs, to the machining of larger prismatic parts on portal mills and large boring machines, as well as vertical turning centers and CNC lathes. "Technology displays will focus on total solutions capabilities and advanced materials processing of titanium, CGI compacted graphite iron, and composite materials," says Mark A. Logan, vice president-business development, MAG Americas (Hebron, KY).

Highlights at MAG IAS will include:

  • Significant new product introductions, global platforms that can be produced anywhere in the world, and common designs,
  • Heavy focus on technology with new control systems, five-axis, multifunction, multitasking, high-speed, and processing knowledge.
  • Advanced materials processing including titanium, composites, and CGI.


MAG Maintenance Technologies, which provides aftermarket life-cycle support for all MAG brands and others, including parts and service, machine certification, application engineering, process optimization, along with high performance tooling solutions will be featured prominently in the main booth. "The twin focus will be Life Cycle Support and Lowest Total Cost of Ownership services," says Logan. In addition, Maintenance Technologies will have an exhibit booth in the West Hall where a DRILLUNIT machine and components solutions will be exhibited. There will also be a full roll-out of the Infimatic CNC control system.

Among the machine highlights at the MAG IAS exhibit will be a new VMC family with traveling X axis spindle and fully supported Y axis for machining aluminum, steel, and titanium from MAG Cincinnati; the VMC 4525 for precision machining of molds with the Infimatic Freedom NC200 control and VMC 6535 HTX aggressively machining titanium from MAG FADAL; and the VTC 1000 for job shops, bearing manufacturers, valve and pump makers, automotive and aerospace contractors and other producers of large turned parts from MAG Giddings & Lewis. In addition the new MAG Cincinnati HyperMach H-4000 aerospace plate milling machine will be introduced featuring linear motor technology, high speed five-axis machining, MQL technology, and full automation capabilities.

Hydromat Inc. (St. Louis) will introduce a new machine concept for production runs with rapid cycle times featuring a part range from 2 to 10 in. (51–250-mm) cube. "The Icon 6-250 Productivity Center is a true innovation in precision metalcutting. This is a newly designed six-pallet, multiaxis machining center with up to eight machining units with integrated spindle motors—four horizontal and four vertical units—on four machining modules with index drives. This results in up to eight tools in the cut at once and continuous four-axis interpolation capability," explains Bruno Schmitter, Hydromat president. "The Icon combines Hydromat's 30 years of proven rotary-transfer production technology with flexible machining-center principles for precision-machined parts in applications such as automotive, trucking, motorcycle, and earth-moving equipment," says Schmitter.

Edge Technologies, a division of Hydromat, will exhibit its full line of FMB bar feeders from the larger 2–3" (51–76-mm) bar stock all the way down to 0.8-mm bar for Swiss turning machines, as well as its own Edge Technologies brand. "Our strength is in applications work, in understanding today's technology, whether it's the smallest sliding-headstock Swiss machines or the largest fixed-headstock lathes," says Schmitter.

The Tornos Multispindle by Hydromat division will premiere the new MultiSigma 8x24 along side the new MultiAlpha. Hydromat's EPIC R/T CNC rotary transfer machines will be shown.

"The US is a very good place to manufacture today, says Schmitter. "Manufacturing activity is quite brisk here because of the low dollar. Transplant operations, including Siemens, Bosch, ZF—all the big German companies—are starting to look for component parts and assemblies here. This is especially true when it comes to larger assemblies, component parts for cars, or other large devices because of transportation costs. And it's part of the trend that is true around the world that companies are increasing their commitment to sourcing local content for their products," Schmitter concludes.—Jim Lorincz

Product Previews

  Cells and Machining Centers (PDF)  

  Milling, Drilling, and Boring (PDF)  

  Multitasking Equipment (PDF)  

  Turning Machines and Centers (PDF)  


This article was first published in the August 2008 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.

Published Date : 8/1/2008

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