Advanced Technology Solutions
By Jim Lorincz
Designers, builders, and distributors of material-removing machine technologies continue to be challenged by productivity-hungry industries ranging from medical, automotive, energy, and aerospace to general engineering. For contract manufacturers or quick-response job shops, the challenge is to match the level of technology to a bewildering array of one-off or short-run workpiece demands. For volume production manufacturers, solutions can be measured in terms of cost per piece, flexibility, and machine uptime.
Where better to find the technology for making parts ranging from the micro to the macro than IMTS 2012? There is virtually every type of horizontal, vertical, universal, multitasking, five-axis machining or turning center—with labor-saving automation if so desired—to be found beginning September 10 in Chicago.
Multitasking Promises Productivity Improvement
"We consider IMTS to be the single largest marketing event for North America every two years," states Brian Papke, president, Mazak Corp. (Florence, KY). And that from a machine tool builder executive who regularly schedules open-house technology events that draw thousands to his manufacturing facility to see the latest machine technology under power and at work manufacturing his company’s own products. "IMTS is the event where US and North American manufacturers can see the most technology solutions available with demonstrations, automation, and control capabilities. It’s not enough for us to show individual machines. We demonstrate them with the third-party accessory capabilities supplied by our Value Inspired Partners [VIP] as total solutions that can improve their productivity. This is especially important to our customers who have a continuing need to fill the gap in the availability of skilled labor with automated solutions."
Mazak will exhibit an advanced multitasking cell technology similar to one that will be used in the Kentucky manufacturing plant. The new cell incorporates Mazak’s modular Palletech system, which allows dissimilar machine tools to be integrated into the same manufacturing cell, with an Orbitec 20 large-part machining center and a full five-axis Integrex i 630V. The cell at the plant will include an Integrex e 1060V with an Orbitec and two Horizontal Center Nexus 8800 machining centers. "We intend to put the cell to work making housings for our integral motors on our turning machine headstocks," Papke explains.
In machine product development, Mazak is going both smaller and larger. "The reason for smaller is that the medical equipment manufacturers want machines with a small footprint, while the energy industry wants a machine with the biggest throughhole you’ve got." Mazak QTN450 turning centers with a 10" (254-mm) diameter hole and 160" (4-m) bed length is currently the largest machine Mazak makes in Kentucky. Mazak will exhibit more than 22 machines at IMTS 2012, eight of which are designed in Kentucky and will be manufactured in the expanded facilities in the United Staes.
"Without question the economy is still expanding, even as the number of manufacturing jobs have remained stagnant or declined, pointing to a huge need for better productivity and automation, which is our mainstay," says Bryon Deysher, president and CEO, Methods Machine Tools Inc. (Sudbury, MA). "Strike while the iron is hot" is how Deysher describes the open house Methods held with over 50 machines under power, just three short months before IMTS. "There’s a lot of cash on the sidelines, resources and capital assets, and it’s the right time to show the technology solutions we have available."
Machining Solutions Integrate Automation
Methods Machine Tools will showcase automation, robotics, and multitasking capability at IMTS 2012. "Automation and robotics hold the keys to success for manufacturers ranging from job shops to major OEMs who have to address the lack of skilled qualified personnel today and develop the workforce of the future," Deysher says. "Automated, turnkey solutions have been a long-term growing trend in terms of justification of capital investment and a major growth portion of our business over the last five years. It’s what sets us apart from our competition and is really one of the strengths of our company. We’re known for taking on the tough jobs."
Methods will emphasize multitasking in both lathe and machining center lines as well as hard metal machining. The following are but a few of an extensive lineup of machines and automation Methods has slated for the show. The Nakamura WY-250L high-speed two-turret multitasking turning center will be showcased. It features the Fanuc 31i-B controller working in conjunction with Nakamura-Tome’s Intelligent Programming Systems PC-based control for fast processing speeds and a high degree of functionality. The Matsuura MAM72-100H five-axis HMC featuring a high-torque spindle for cutting large, complex, hard-to-cut parts will also be exhibited, as will a line of Fanuc EDMs with new features designed to improve accuracy, speed, finish and efficiency, such as a new Fanuc 31iWB Control and Ai Pulse Control.
Jeff Reinert, president, Index Corp. (Noblesville, IN) believes that the current trend toward multitasking processing capability fits right into his company’s technology and addresses the little-understood impact of overhead cost due to floor space, utilities, insurance, et al, on profitability. "Volume manufacturing for too long has been a line of multiple machines with parts transferred from one machine to the next. This introduces error buildup, generates scrap, and negatively affects quality," says Reinert. "We have studied manufacturing practices and can demonstrate the impact of overhead cost on cost per piece. Today, more and more of our customers are starting to understand how multitasking can favorably affect setup times, but also improve part geometries and the cost of the parts they make."
At IMTS 2012, Index will exhibit its three-turret automatic lathes with Y axes, a main spindle and a counterspindle. "Our C machines are designed for high production with high accel-decel rates which dramatically shorten cycle times. We’ll also be exhibiting our six and eight-spindle multispindle turning machines that feature liquid-cooled carrier drums that can produce high volumes of high-precision parts with better surface finishes. For example, one of our multispindle turning machines is currently being run off by a fuel injector manufacturer." Also at the show will be the Index R Series turning/milling center that features two independent five-axis subsystems each with one motorized milling spindle and one assigned workspindle. Each subsystem can completely and simultaneously machine complex bar or chucked parts.
Aerospace Industry Ready for Takeoff
The commercial aircraft business is taking off again. This time, according to Donald Majcher, vice president technology and innovation partnership at the Ohio Aerospace Institute (Cincinnati), the airlines are projecting a need for about $2.4 trillion worth of aircraft by 2028. And that spells good news for the supply chain as the larger companies have pushed more and more of the requirement for parts and subsystems down to smaller companies. "Aerospace demands advanced technology that is flexible enough for the small production runs that are typical of the industry, and there’s a lot of opportunity for small to mid-sized manufacturers when you consider that 80% of what flies on an aircraft is made by small business," Majcher says.
Entry to the market, however, is challenging for parts makers, because requirements are numbered in the hundreds of thousands rather than the millions and there are costs associated with certifications, safety, and mentor/protégé programs. "The successful companies in this area are usually in multiple markets and are able to develop technology that can increase the functionality of machined parts to handle higher stresses, reduce weight, and last longer."
Majcher, who recently presented to SME’s Annual Meeting in Cleveland, cites these promising areas of advanced technology. "The UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] market will amount to a $25 billion market, ushering in a whole new suite of technologies focused on manufacturing, high-strength lightweight materials, and innovations in sensors and electronics. Additive manufacturing [AM] will see applications expand to include ceramic-matrix composites, in addition to metals and plastics. Finally, the NextGen program for bringing the nation’s air traffic control out of the 1950s and into the 21st Century will require advances in avionics, including advanced sensors, electronics, and actuation technologies. Over the next five years an estimated $11 billion will be spent on the effort," Majcher concludes. ME
This article was first published in the August 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.