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Metal Forming, Fabricating/Lasers, and Gear Generation


Bend, cut, burn, shape, weld anything!           


Manufacturing parts from metal involves more than making chips. In the Metal Forming, Fabricating/Lasers pavilion and the nearby Gear Generation pavilion, visitors can check out the latest developments in these fields.

Waterjet cutting technology, according to Stephen R. Light, president and CEO of Flow International Corp. (Kent, WA), is making significant advances. "Waterjets continue to expand their capabilities and become mainstream manufacturing tools," says Light. "New jet manipulation technologies and software that remove taper have made the process and the parts it can produce more accurate. We're seeing applications that previously would have required the accuracy of a high-quality machining center or EDM become waterjet applications."

And another barrier to wider acceptance of waterjets on the floor is also being overcome, Light believes. "We are seeing the machines become faster. This increase in speed is being driven by the ability of the process to cut high-quality parts faster than before, and the fact that more and more manufacturers, especially those in Europe and Asia, are using waterjet systems in high-production applications. In such work, overall cycle time is critical, and traverse speeds are just as important as actual cutting speeds."

Job shops and contract manufacturers, long-time users of waterjets, will continue to be a focus for Flow International. "Waterjets are not leaving this market segment behind," says Light. "The software that programs and controls waterjets is becoming increasingly powerful and enables users to quickly convert drawings or even concepts into actual parts."       

Trends in materials applications also favor the use of waterjets, Light believes. "Composites and plastics are increasingly finding their way into manufactured products as they replace metals. Waterjets are well-suited for cutting these sorts of materials because they cut without heat, cut with very low contact forces, and use very few tool setups to cut almost any shape in any type of plastic or composite. As a result," he observes, "they don't burn the edges of the materials, eliminate concerns about toxic fumes, simplify fixturing, increase flexibility, and are easy to use. No extensive tooling or knowledge of how to apply them is required with waterjets, and edge quality is usually better than with conventional processes."

Light suggests that attendees take a look at new jet manipulation technologies at Flow International's booth, such as the company's Dynamic Waterjet system, as well as software that removes taper and makes the process and the parts it can produce more accurate while increasing cutting speeds.

"We also encourage attendees to examine not only abrasive cutting applications of hard materials like metals and composites, but also high-speed, pure watercutting of softer materials such as insulation, gasket materials, foams and rubbers. We see these as some of the fastest growing segments of waterjet technology, especially overseas," he remarks.

The future of waterjets remains with the standard machine, Light insists. Special machines designed to meet the needs of specific customers will remain a secondary market. "We build a standardized machine so our customers can realize the benefits of serial production. Serial production allows us to offer much better customer support and technical service than custom equipment, and allows many people in the organization to offer proven, well-developed technical support and customer service.

"No customer wants to own an unsupported prototype. They buy machinery to make money reliably. When there is a problem, and even when there isn't, they want competent support. Serialized production enables that. And with our wide variety of machines and options, we're able to offer our customers machines that can drill miniature holes in marbles, cut plates of 4" [102-mm] thick stainless and titanium, or cut 60' [18-m] wing and fuselage sections of Airbus A380s and Boeing 7E7s."       

Advances in laser technology continue, and applications for lasers in manufacturing continue to multiply, observes Michael Zakrzewski, vice president, Bystronic Inc. (Hauppauge, NY). "As compared to their use primarily as prototype or short-run production machines just one decade ago, lasers are increasingly being chosen for the normal production of sheetmetal parts," he states. "Innovations in machine dynamics, higher-power resonators that provide improved cutting speeds, improved cut quality, and reductions in operating costs, have led to a greater acceptance of laser cutting for general production purposes in North America."

Reductions in cycle time (with software developments that allow the machine, control, and laser resonator to be more fully integrated) combined with reductions in machine setup and programming time have increased parts-per-day productivity to a level that's comparable to--or even higher than--turret punch presses in many applications, Zakrzewski asserts. He says that improvements in automation, many of which provide users with greater flexibility and cutting reliability when processing in a lights-out environment, generate more profit for sheet metal fabricators.

At IMTS, says Zakrzewski, "attendees will have opportunities to review the latest in laser-resonator technology. This area will share the limelight with programming software innovations that will most likely hold the greatest value for users. Greater savings can be achieved when users can fully and seamlessly integrate the entire process chain--from part development, automation, and laser cutting all the way through to bending. Laser manufacturers who are serious about software know that process chain integration is critical in reaching high levels of efficiency. Sheetmetal fabricators achieve higher productivity and profitability through significant reductions in material waste, programming/setup time, and overall operating costs."

In the Bystronic booth, show visitors can expect to learn about the company's new 5200W laser resonator with ARC (Adaptive Radius Control). This technology promotes full control over the laser beam's characteristics, so it can be optimized for a variety of material types and thickness. "Visitors can also expect to see the latest version of our Bysoft programming software, with Bybend for integrated cutting and bending," Zakrzewski states. This allows the programmer to handle all of the part development for manufacturing in one, integrated software package.

John Cheung, CEO and co-founder of Omax Corp. (Kent, WA), sees developments that may expand the value of today's waterjet equipment. "The trend is to add abrasives to the waterjet to form an abrasivejet that can cut virtually any material including glass, steel, and materials up to several inches thick," says Cheung. "The development of advanced motion control systems has allowed the use of abrasivejet to evolve from near-net-shape cutting to precision machining, so that parts can be made the first time and repeatedly. It has allowed abrasivejets to become part of the just-in-time manufacturing process as well as tools for rapid prototyping and small quantity manufacturing."

IMTS 2004 visitors to the Forming & Fabricating pavilion will see innovations that make abrasivejet machining more accurate and cost effective. "These innovations include new high-pressure pump technology for faster cutting speeds, lower energy and water consumption, new Z-axis capabilities for taper reduction and 3-D part profiling, and other accessories for remote operation, picking up part location, and drilling capabilities," says Cheung.

At IMTS, OMAX will introduce its newest product offering; super-precise abrasivejet machining that holds part precision to about ±0.001 to ±0.002" (0.03 - 0.05 mm). Also on display will be the latest generation control software, Tilt-A-Jet taper removal cutting head, and labor saving accessories.

"There will always be a need for special waterjet/abrasivejet machines," Cheung observes. "However, abrasivejet machining and cutting technology is still in its infancy, and standard machines provide many benefits. The learning curve and cost associated with standard machines is normally less than special machines, making it easier for customers and machine suppliers to adopt the technology. Technology improvements in the past three years have made standard machines more versatile, and this versatility is growing the abrasivejet industry."

Builders of more traditional equipment are also continuing to innovate, and improve their products. Greenerd Press & Machine Co. (Nashua, NH), a builder of hydraulic presses and arbor presses, for example, will exhibit at IMTS 2004. The company's President, Tim Dining, says trends in metalforming are driving press design.

"End users are even more discriminating in their new capital equipment purchases than in the past," says Dining, "so they're looking for more versatility and flexibility in their machines. This might mean enhanced hydraulic features--such as separate blanking and forming modes--or even integrated impact dampening in a hydraulic press. It also often means more functionality in the press' controls. The press control is being used more than ever before as a master control for a variety of ancillary forming and fabricating accessories, beginning with--but not limited to--the die set itself."

At IMTS, Greenerd will exhibit the company's upgraded Electronic Press Control. "Beginning with our proven standard using Allen-Bradley hardware and customized programming," says Dining, we have improved the overall graphical user interface and functionality of our product." Some features of the new control include process graphing, remote communications, and improved help screens.

Special machines and unique designs are important to US makers of metalforming and fabricating equipment, in Dining's opinion. "It's vital that US machine builders produce special machines and unique designs to provide the best possible, value-added manufacturing process solutions to our customers. While the US market is no longer the largest consumer of machine tools in the world, it still has some of the most sophisticated buyers. Our domestic buyers will not settle for universally standard features and commoditized machines for every application. The evolving product and performance specification requirements from our domestic market will help us to maintain a competitive edge both at home and abroad."       

Rolf Biekert, president and CEO, Trumpf Inc. (Farmington, CT) says, "trends in new laser product development are aimed at improving process productivity. For industrial lasers this often corresponds directly to the relationship between beam quality and output power for a given laser or family of lasers. New beam quality records are being set for both high power CO2 and YAG lasers."

"The decision to use lasers for a particular manufacturing operation should be driven by the three key advantages offered by lasers: speed, improved quality, and greater flexibility. When examining the growing variety of lasers, IMTS attendees should consider the power level, spot size, and wavelength of the laser, which determine its performance, capability, and appropriateness as a tool for different materials and applications."

At IMTS 2004, Trumpf will introduce the HLD 4002, the first 4-kW disk laser, to the North American market. The disk laser opens up a whole new field of applications in remote welding with solid-state lasers. Trumpf will also highlight a new laser beam source, the Trumpf TCF 1. It's a diffusion-cooled CO2 laser and has an output of 2 kW. The TCF 1's beam quality makes it suitable for processing thin sheetmetal as well as nonmetallic materials.

"In the laser marking field, Trumpf will introduce a new generation of diode-pumped marking lasers for applications with high power and cycle time requirements," says Biekert. "With a wavelength of 1064 nm [infrared], the VMi marking laser is well-suited for applications involving depth engraving, metal annealing, and IC marking."

When asked how important laser welding may become in the US automotive industry in the near and medium-term future, Biekert sees both opportunities and challenges. "Incorporating a new welding process into automotive design and obtaining program approval takes time," he observes. "Projects are underway in subassembly welding as well as inline body shop applications. However, laser welding in the United States is being implemented on a relatively small scale when compared to European and Asian automotive manufacturing. US automotive manufacturers are slowly and very cautiously implementing laser welding. The medium-term future for laser welding in US automotive industry will be driven by the success of the current projects.

The following are representative of the products scheduled for exhibition at IMTS 2004.




Product Previews

Diode-Pumped Marking Lasers

VectorMark impact (VMi) series marking lasers operate at 1064 nm (infrared) and are well-suited for depth engraving, metal annealing, and IC marking. These lasers can mark a variety of workplace shapes and materials, including components made from metals, plastics, and ceramics. The laser allows text, serial numbers, 2-D codes and barcodes, logos, and drawings to be applied to surfaces.

Trumpf Inc.
Ph: 860-255-6000

Abrasive Waterjet Accessories

Retrofittable accessories featured at IMTS will include: Tilt-A-Jet Cutting Head to virtually eliminate taper; Precision Optical Locator, which uses video technology to locate parts in tool and die applications; Automated Drill Attachment for reliability when piercing composites and laminates; Maxjet 5 Cutting Nozzle, which is said to deliver precise alignment with longer nozzle life; and Manually Adjustable Tilt Nozzle for cutting one-dimensional bevels to an angle of 45º. Company will also demo enhancements to its proprietary intelligent motion-control software called the Intelli-MAX Technology Suite.

Omax Corp.
Ph: 800-838-0343

Waterjet System with Shuttle Table

Called the Byjet, this waterjet system machines flat sheet, tubular, and profiled materials. Said to be the only waterjet on the market with an optional shuttle table and material handling system, it employs AC direct drives for positioning accuracy at high acceleration rates. The system's optional rotary axis makes it suitable for tube cutting applications. The high-precision-tool (HPT) cutting head provides increased precision and optimal abrasive flow.

Bystronic Inc.
Ph: 800-247-3332

Gear Production

Company will show machines to manufacture bevel and cylindrical gears, including the model P 90 horizontal hobbing machine designed for dry hobbing, model 245TWG high-speed threaded wheel grinder with auto loading, P 600 G profile grinding machine, the Phoenix II 275G bevel gear grinding machine, the GMX gear inspection machine, and CBN-plated grinding wheels and shaper cutters.

Gleason Corp.

Gearless Gear Shaper

Eliminating worm and wormgear drives to the cutter spindle and worktable removes their inherent inaccuracies and lost motions. This makes the Fellows HS650 gearless gear shaper more than 100 X more accurate on the transmission accuracy of the cutter and work axes than its Fellows FS Hydrostroke predecessors. It's rated for 650-mm diam external gears and 635-mm internal diam gears, 12.7 module (2 DP), with face widths to 200 mm, and a maximum helix angle of 40º. The machine will swing 1000 mm.

Bourn & Koch Inc.
Ph: 815-965-4013


Model P-50 ironworker's standard features include: low-rake flat-bar knives; automatic urethane hold-downs on punch strippers and bar, plate and angle shear; and split dovetail slide mountings on punching and bending attachments. Front-and-rear five-position joystick controls, 14 punch-and-die sets, remote electric foot switch, limit switches; and a set of round bar knives, plate shear knives, angle knives, and coper knives also come standard. Single-operator ironworkers range from 36 to 120 tons (33 - 109t), and dual-operator machines come in sizes from 35 - 120 tons (32 - 109t).

Piranha div. of Mega Mfg.
Ph: 800-338-5471

Waterjet Machining Center

Model WMC2 waterjet cutting machine can handle high-production, high-speed cutting, as well as the low production rates and high job variations commonly found in job shops. It's available with either the latest generation of FlowMaster PC or Siemens CNC control. Users can select an optional multihead Paser ECL Plus cutting system or dual head dynamic waterjet capability for high productivity. The machine can be equipped with various pumps and cutting heads, so users can select the right equipment for today's application, and upgrade later.

Flow International Corp.
Ph: 253-850-3500

Turret Ironworker

Model 5014-M is a 50-ton (45 t) ironworker that can punch a 13/16" (21-mm) hole in a 3/4" (19-mm) plate. Its three-station revolving turret accepts as many as three pieces of tooling that can be changed quickly. It comes standard with an angle shear that can shear up to 4 X 4 X 3/8" (104 X 102 X 9.5-mm) angle iron and a flat bar shear that can shear 3/4 X 4" (19 X 102-mm) to 14 X 14" (356 X 356 mm). The unit's rectangular notcher will notch up to 2 1/2 X 3" in 5/16" (64 X 76 X 7.9-mm) material.

Scotchman Industries Inc.
Ph: 800-843-8844

CNC Gear Grinding Machine

An eight-axis gear-grinding machine, the Model KX120 is equipped with a BWO 900 CNC, and is intended for hard-finishing operations on gears and shafts. The unit is equipped with a direct-drive 12,000-rpm high-speed grinding head, and the grinding process uses Kapp CBN-plated grinding worms. The tool consists of a hardened, ground steel body galvanically plated with a single layer of CBN. This machine can be equipped with one of the builder's automation systems, and it can also use profile wheels for form grinding.

Koepfer America LLC
Ph: 847-931-4121

Laser Cutting System

The HyperGear 2-D cutting system's intelligent functions include: automatic torch and nozzle changing plus automatic setup of focus lens position, nozzle-to-material distance, and beam adjustments. Patented Nanosecond PREviews 640 PC control and Hyperlinear drives allow fast cutting with good accuracy. Other features include an intelligent maintenance notification system and quick-change piercing gun. The 4000-W and 2500-W machines can process material from thin painted galvanized steel up to 1" (25.4-mm) mild steel and come with a 5 X 10' (1.5 X 3-m) bed.

Mazak Laser Corp.

Press Control

Based on the company's standard unit, which uses Allen-Bradley hardware and customized programming, this new electronic press control has an improved overall graphical user interface and improved functionality. Control features include process graphing, remote communications, and intuitive "help" screens.

Greenerd Press & Machine Co. Inc.
Ph: 603-889-4101 ext. 251

Plate Positioning Table

Semi-Paxy CNC-controlled plate positioning table is an X-Y coordinate positioning table utilizing a programmable PC-based CNC controller with true touch screen. It can be factory-fitted onto any Geka ironworker or single-end punch with a 20" (508-mm) or larger throat. It features X-axis travel of 40" (1016 mm), Y-axis travel of 15.75, 19.75, or 25" (400, 502, or 635 mm), a positioning tolerance of ±0.003" (0.08 mm), and an RS-232 port for downloading. Optional equipment includes X-axis travel to 220" (5.6 m).

Comeq Inc.
Ph: 410-933-8500

Rotary Draw Bender

ErcoBender rotary draw mandrel bending machines produce repeatable, accurate bends in tube or pipe to 3" (76-mm) diameter. Three models are available with bend speeds to 12 rpm. Brush-free induction drive motor accommodates 0 - 180º bends with centerline radius as tight as 1 X and 1.5 X material diam. Machine workhead can produce right or left bends and offers 4' (1.2-m) of material clearance for custom-bending applications. Programmable control with removable smart-card memory provides bend-program storage.

CML USA Ercolina
Ph: 563-391-7700

Spinning Machines

Model PNC 100 series heavy-duty spinning machines with combined playback and CNC control features will run sample parts during the show. The control gives operators operations of programming, including: playback, CNC online, CNC offline, or a combination of playback and CNC.

Leifeld USA Metal Spinning Inc.
Ph: 719-282-9061

Electromechanical Presses

Precision servo press system consists of three major building blocks: servo mechanical actuator EPM, EDC-Compact servo press controller, and Tox-Ware servo press software suite. Servo press systems come in the force range from 5 to 200 kN with standard 300-mm stroke. Servo mechanical press actuator comes in compact and inline configurations. The EDC compact servo press controller is a single-axis press, one-box design controller and comes standard with Profibus or Interbus, and Ethernet TCP/IP interfacing, RS 232/485, and discrete I/O connections. System ships with servo press software suite Tox-Ware, which is designed to be platform-independent.

Tox Pressotechnik
Ph: 630-393-0300 ext. 209

Laser Marking/Engraving

Systems include the FOBA G-series 3-D engraving system and FOBA Vario series. G-series laser machining centers engrave 2 and 3-D features on complex curved surfaces. They process hardened tool steels, graphite, and nonferrous material, and are designed for workpieces to 100 kg. Movements are 300 mm in X and Y and 500 mm in Z. Vario is for product mixes in fixtures and trays or long production runs. Laser selection depends upon application, and the standard Vario marking field is 110 X 110 mm (enlargeable to 290 X 290 mm).

Ph: 617-283-4364


This article was first published in the August 2004 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. 

Published Date : 8/1/2004

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