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US Manufacturing Roars Back at IMTS 2012: Show Highlights

Attendance Tops the 100,000 Mark


Shortly before the show floor opened, exhibitors were already hard at work. Demonstration machines were powered up and checked, brochures and business cards were stacked, candy bowls were filled, ties and skirts were straightened. Throngs of attendees waiting in the hall could be heard chatting, and the exhibitors’ put more hustle into their steps as it looked like IMTS 2012 would be a great show.

Then, the security people started zapping attendee badges and the first wave of attendees rolled onto the show floor. Showtime!

IMTS visitors explore new products.When it was all said and done, registrations reached 100,200 at the Industrial Automation North America and International Manufacturing Trade Show, which ran from Sept. 10–15 at McCormick Place in Chicago.

The event used 1.248 million ft² (116,00 m²), featured 1909 exhibiting companies and hosted visitors from 119 countries. Industrial Automation North America, which debuted at IMTS 2012 as a co-located event, was Deutsche Messe’s first-ever industrial technology event in the US and featured a range of automation products and solutions, as well as conferences and educational training.
“Deutsche Messe as the organizer of Hannover Messe and AMT as the owner of IMTS combined have become a powerhouse,” said Peter Eelman, IMTS vice president, Exhibitions and Communications.

The show was a testament to advanced manufacturing techniques and the new innovations that are coming along with them, but it also highlighted some new horizons  and challenges being faced industrywide.

It was difficult, for example, to ignore the impact and promise of Additive Manufacturing (AM) processes and the emphasis it received, especially in the Emerging Technology Center. AM—as some exhibitors, such as ExOne (Pittsburgh, PA) showed—can do things that conventional material removal processes can’t do and, rightly, is regarded as the wave of the future in precision manufacturing for a variety of large and small plastic and metal workpieces. With AM, internal passages and voids can be designed into workpieces built up layer by layer, simply through the magic of 3-D CAD models and produced without the necessity of CAM programming. Bending tools around corners isn’t really the forte of conventional machining processes.

The technology emphasis, however, remained on traditional material removal processes, principally represented by chip-cutting technology, as well as the latest developments in lasers, waterjet, and even old standby EDM and plasma processes.

In conventional material removal processes, spindles turn tools and/or workpieces and speeds and feeds determine how efficiently material can be removed with the aid of literally thousands of related tooling, workholding, and processing products. Heat, chips, and swarf must be removed to ensure a quality machined part, which is inspected by the latest noncontact laser and optical measurement devices. CAM programming derived from 3-D models maps out the most efficient toolpaths for optimum production.

The buzz at IMTS was highlighted with an incredible array of machine tool technologies, including five-axis machining, multitasking with mill/turn machines, high-speed/high-torque machining, high-pressure coolant, and sophisticated CNC control.

3DGageThe advance of robots headed the list of automating innovations that include tried and true bar feeders, gantry loaders, and flexible manufacturing systems. Wherever possible, savvy technology exhibitors provided opportunities for hands-on or visual experience of production solutions in action. Visitors were invited to view the ability of Collaborative Manufacturing to produce a car on-site, increase their cutting tool IQs at the Smart Shop, talk the talk of networked and connected shop devices through MT Connect, or, like the NIMS students in attendance, experience virtual welding with their own hands.
Throughout the show, much attention was also focused on workforce shortages and what companies, industry groups and even technology was doing to address the growing problem, which many view as a crisis.

Workforce Shortage In the Spotlight

From the NIMS Skills Center and its interaction with 9000 student visitors, to workforce conference sessions featuring government, organization and industry authorities, it was impossible to miss the attention focused on the issue.

On the opening day of the show, SME revealed a national action plan, “Workforce Imperative: A Manufacturing Education Strategy.” The strategy calls for coordinated, standardized efforts aimed at preparing a skilled workforce for high-tech manufacturing jobs.

Indeed, IMTS revealed that various organizations are working to correct misperceptions about manufacturing, tap the talent of military veterans, incentivize R&D, invest in community colleges and advanced manufacturing curricula, develop modular and portable skills certifications and launch fellowships and internships to give national recognition to manufacturing careers.

Throughout the show, students were linked to hands-on experiences at companies’ booths, including DMG / Mori Seiki, Fanuc Robotics, Mazak, Sandvik Coromant, Seco Tools, Southwestern Industries, Lincoln Electric and 3D Systems. Seeing first-hand the innovations designed to inspire future careers was awe-inspiring even to those knowledgeable on the skills-gap issue: “manufacturing is not stuck in the ‘Laverne and Shirley’ days.”

For its part, Hyundai WIA (Carlstadt, NJ) held a press event at the show in which it donated its latest generation VMC, a F400 Value Master, to the Humboldt Park Vocational Education Center (HPVEC) of City Colleges of Chicago.

Does such enlightened self-interest pay off? Well, Peter Loetzner of EMAG LLC USA (Farmington Hills, MI) noted during the German-based company’s press conference that EMAG keeps its employment pipeline filled through apprenticeship and training programs. Of the company’s approximately 1800 workers worldwide, 175 are either apprentices or trainees.

Indeed, the decision point for following a college vs. skilled trade career path is around age 14, according to one IMTS conference speaker, who discussed using technology learning tools to enthuse as well as educate students, especially those in the secondary school pipeline.

“We need to help teachers drive students to the careers where there is a skill and worker shortage. That means engaging young people to use technology in a way that educates them,” said Deanna Postlethwaite, marketing manager, Lincoln Electric Co. (Cleveland).

With 43.7% of all students using digital textbooks, there is a receptive audience for technology-based, hands-on interaction. Postlethwaite believes showing students that the technology they play with is implemented on the shop floor is a definite plus in encouraging the skilled career path and showing that “manufacturing is not a cubicle.”

Students Engaged Throughout IMTS

One of the real-world application cells in the Fanuc Robotics booth was “co-owned” by SME student member Amanda Nixon. She majors in mechanical engineering at Kettering University (Flint, MI) and is a temp/co-op at Fanuc’s Rochester Hills, MI, facility. Impressions of her first visit to IMTS were that “it was a lot bigger than I thought it would be, and there was also a larger variety of companies than I was expecting.”

Nixon explained that the Fanuc booth had 15–20 different demo cells, some with multiple robot implementations. After ideas for the demo cells took shape in March, the design-program-test-approve cycle took four to five months.

“It took that long because most of the cells for IMTS were brand new and had a lot of custom parts that needed to be made for the full functionality of the cell,” she explained. The cell Nixon helped design and program featured a new robot model that was introduced for the first time at the show—the LR-Mate 200iD intelligent assembly robot.

“I was considered partial owner of the cell along with a senior engineer. The owners of the cell did most of the work, along with a few other people who helped throughout the process. We had some things outsourced to other companies so that we were able to meet our deadline,” she added.

“The robot’s job was to pick light sockets off a Flexomation feeder at random and insert them into their fixture. Fanuc’s 2D iRVision was used for the robot to pick the parts that were fed at random. A recirculating system was designed so the robot could continuously go through parts during the show without stopping. The point of the cell was to show the speed of the new robot and to market its new capabilities.”

Other Highlights from IMTS 2012:

Multitasking Machines Have Kentucky Roots

Mazak’s exhibit booth which was designed to mimic its award-winning aesthetic machine design featured the latest offerings in its 3-4-5 grouping of manufacturing resources: one that encompasses Mazak’s 3 levels of control, 4 levels of automation and 5 levels of Multi-Tasking. Automating devices include bar feeders, gantry loaders, robots, and Mazak’s Palletech manufacturing system. Multitask machines and five-axis machine highlights included the Vortex 1060V/8 vertical machining center for processing large complex components in single setups and the Variaxis i-700 machining center, among the new machines exhibited. Of the 22 new machines Mazak debuted at IMTS, eight were designed and manufactured at the company’s Florence (KY) HQ and plant. One of those Kentucky-built machines was the QUICK TURN NEXUS 450-II MY Multi-Tasking Machine featuring Mazak’s LVM (long vertical milling) option.

New Portable Gage

With its new lower-cost 3DGage portable CMM, Verisurf Software (Anaheim, CA) is hoping to help college instructors teach model-based inspection techniques to CNC programming students. The 3DGage is priced at about half the cost of Verisurf’s original Master3DGage portable arm to make it more affordable to university and college programs, according to Dave Olson, Verisurf director of marketing.

The smaller 3DGage is geared toward students enrolled in STEM or CNC courses and is powered by the latest Verisurf X software for teaching students reverse engineering and the latest model-based measurement techniques. “You’re teaching them how to probe and inspect,” Olson added. “Professors have been teaching model-based machining for years. Why are they not teaching model-based inspection? We’re also developing an online training program that will be starting late this year.”

Assembled from a precision-machined aluminum base and joints with carbon-fiber tubing to minimize temperature effects, the standard 3DGage has a 1.27-m  hemispherical working diameter with positional accuracy of ±0.23 mm.

A Real ‘Stitch in Time’

Want to cut weeks—not days, weeks—from the time it takes to make heat-treated components? That’s the possibility Greg Hyatt, VP Engineering and, chief technical officer at DMG / Mori Seiki (Hoffman Estates, IL), held out at the company’s soiree during IMTS.

Hyatt said DMG / Mori Seiki is developing a process it calls “grind hardening” that heat-treats a workpiece using special grinding wheels instead of sending it out for heat treatment. No more waiting for parts to be shipped to a heat-treating facility, treated and shipped back. It could all be done on-site in a traditional machine tool, saving time, money and fuel for transportation.
You can be sure this is a development we’ll be keeping our eyes on.

Aerospace, Powergen, Precision Apps Targeted

Mitsui Seiki (Franklin Lakes, NJ) introduced its HU100A-5XL horizontal machining center for heavy-duty machining applications for aerospace, powergen, and other precision industrial applications. The HU100A-5XL line is based on standard modular components that can be arranged to meet specific customer requirements. Heavy-duty milling with a 6000-rpm spindle or high-speed machining with a 12,000-rpm spindle can be chosen for workpieces weighing up to 11,000 lb (5000 kg). Equipped with the latest Fanuc 30iM control, the HU100A-5XL features automatic workpiece fixture measuring and compensation, noncontact laser tool setting, and 3-D tool compensation.

Job-Shop Control

Aiming for the job-shop market, CNC developer Siemens Industry Inc., Motion Control Business (Elk Grove Village, IL) showed its new Sinumerik 808D control for entry-level milling and turning machines. With a more affordable price, the new control will target three-axis machine tools, particularly in the Asian market.

Designed for the highly competitive, high-volume machine tool market, the 808D features up to three-axis plus spindle control capability in milling or turning applications, and is offered as a package with Siemens Sinamics drives and Simotics motor solutions. At IMTS, Siemens demonstrated the new CNC on a knee mill.

Available for OEM and retrofit installations, the control is said to be easy to use, featuring the Sinumerik Operate interface, and also very easy to set up. Commissioning is made easier with a ready-to-run PLC program. “This is as close to plug-and-play as you’re going to get out of the box,” notes Randy Pearson, manager, end-user support, Siemens Industry Inc.

The control features the embedded Linux operating system, making it stable and free from virus issues, Pearson adds. Standard features are a 7.5" LCD color screen with 640 × 480 resolution, selectable function keyboard, and rotary dials for speed and spindle override.

Honing in on a ‘Mighty Midget’

Sunnen Products Co. (St. Louis) displayed the petite but powerful Stinger 609 V8 engine produced by Conley Precision Engines Inc. (Glen Ellyn, IL). Displacing 6.09 in.³ (99.8 cm³), the engine actually runs and is for sale in normally aspirated and supercharged forms.

Conley estimates the base version will produce 5.5 hp (4.1 kW) and the supercharged model will hit 9 hp (6.7 kW). While these numbers themselves aren’t impressive, hold them to the standards of their full-size brothers—output per liter—and they aren’t too shabby. The normally aspirated unit cranks out 55.11 hp/L (41 kW/L) and its blown big brother produces 90.2 hp/L (67 kW/L). By comparison, the base 2.5-L engine in the 2012 Toyota Camry, America’s best-selling car, generates 71.4 hp/L (53.2 kW/L).
Gary Conley uses Sunnen honing equipment to produce his mighty midgets.

Faster CAM Rendering

With the new GibbsCAM 2012+ package, Gibbs and Associates (Moorpark, CA) has included a Multi-Axis Rendering option free with each seat of the software. Formerly a $2000 option, the rendering system is said to boost rendering speeds up to 33 times faster and provide significant accuracy improvements for rotary milling applications, especially when displaying toolpaths with continuous changes in both tool position and orientation.

Improved gouge and tool interference checking for tilting tools shows customers programming errors before they become costly mistakes on the shop floor. “We are pleased to be able to offer our customers such a valuable option free of charge,” said Bill Gibbs, president and CEO of Gibbs and Associates and Cimatron North America. “A picture may be worth a thousand words, but being able to catch a tool collision before it gets to the shop floor can save customers thousands of dollars.”

Automated Production Applications

Production technology combined with automation was the focus of Makino’s (Mason, OH) lines of machines from large four and five-axis VMCs and HMCs, grinders, and EDMs, to precision micromachining capabilities. Production machining demonstrated single-piece part flow through an automated cell was accomplished using both horizontal and vertical milling of a crankshaft case. Additional automotive applications included Makino demonstrations of cylinder boring and honing and transmission valve EDMing. A series of popular Lunch-and-Learn events featured presentations by Makino customers.

Methods Machine Tools Features Range of Tools and Solutions

The Sudbury, MA-based Methods Machine Tools showed off more than 35 machine tools and automation solutions at its crowded booth during IMTS. That included a full range of precision machine tools such as Matsuura, Nakamura-Tome, KIWA-Japan, FANUC, FEELER, Exeron and Current.

A particular highlight was the new FEELER FT-Series High Performance CNC Turning Center, which featured a new all-boxway design to significantly increase cutting capacity.
“For increased productivity, the new FT-Series design provides customers with exceptional cutting capacity,” said Paul Hurtig, FEELER product manager, Methods Machine Tools.
The FEELER FT-Series includes four models, the FT-200, FT-250, FT-350 and FT-350L.

Delcam Salutes Lifetime Products Inc. as its 40,000th Customer

CAD/CAM solution provider Delcam recognized Lifetime Products Inc. (Clearfield, UT) as its 40,000 worldwide customer at a press conference at IMTS on September 11, 2012. Delcam Lifetime Products manufactures sports equipment such as basketball equipment and kayaks as well as lawn furniture and storage sheds. The company employs over 1300 workers in 2.6 million ft2 of facilities spread over 21 buildings. Lifetime Products Mold Design Engineer Dennis Norman said that Delcam’s PowerMILL CAM package “intrigued us” with its functionality and speed at calculating toolpaths. Lifetime made 30 molds in Utah last year and expects to complete 36 in 2012, Norman said. Delcam North America President Glenn McMinn presented a plaque to Norman, saying that Lifetime Products is “a true US success story.”

SB Machine Tool Shares the JapanTec 5X-410 Machining Center

James Yeakley, Houston-based regional sales manager for SB Machine Tools (Schaumburg, IL) shared information about the JapanTek 5X-410 Machining Center to curious visitors to the company’s booth at IMTS, noting the machine’s five-face/five-axis capability. In contrast to a conventional articulating spindle head, the 5X-410 features a complete 120° (90° ±15°) tilting spindle head to achieve five-face/five-axis performance. Complemented with a double-wormgear-driven pallet and extended linear strokes in X, Y, and Z axes, the 5X-410 offers four machining capabilities on a single machine: five-axis; five-face; horizontal; and vertical machining—all with automated pallet changing. Unlike cradle or trunnion types, the machine maintains original strokes and part size/weight envelopes while offering better accessibility.

The JapanTec 5S-410, available in the US exclusively from SB Machine Tools.

Okuma Debuts Five-Axis HMC, Hosts Partners

The centerpiece of Okuma’s (Charlotte, NC) eight new machines was the world debut of the MU-10000H five-axis horizontal high-torque, high-speed machining center. Equipped with the THINC OSP P200MA control, the machine is a fully integrated five-axis machining system capable of handling a maximum workpiece weighing in at a hefty 500 lb (227 kg) with a 59" (1500-mm) diameter and 44" (1118-mm) height. The machine was exhibited with a VB 5ax100 Tombstone City fixture on a trunnion table with a 1-m square pallet.

Many of Okuma’s 42 Partners in THINC third-party suppliers of everything from intelligent gages, software, tool management systems, cutting tools to automation including robots were available to help visitors shape their manufacturing systems. In the Okuma CARE section of the exhibit booth, attendees were invited to register their machines, update information to receive service and warranty notifications and get a free Okuma user kit. A leader in technology, Okuma is the owner of 416 patents, offers 95 highly intelligent machines and has been awarded 32 worldwide awards for innovation and technology.

OKK USA Displays its Highly Rigid VM-76R at IMTS

The latest edition to the OKK USA Corp. (Glendale Heights, IL) VM line of VMCs—the VM-76R—was demonstrated at IMTS by Sales Manager Masaya “Sugi” Sugimoto, who touted the machine’s new levels of rigidity and accuracy and expanded work area. Sugimoto explained that to achieve a 20% increase in rigidity, the VM-76R features a newly optimized rib shape and location, and a thicker 1-ton (0.9072-t) casting. Y-axis pitch has been increased by 80 mm to reduce deflection by 30% and improve accuracy. The machine is equipped with a No. 50 spindle taper for heavy-duty cutting and larger tool capacity. An optimized ATC function adjusts ATC speed for heavy weight and larger diameter tools.

Job Shops Have Wide Machine Choices

For job shops, Haas Automation (Oxnard, CA) exhibited its usual plethora of milling and turning machine technology including its UMC-750 five-axis 40-taper vertical machining center featuring an integrated dual-axis trunnion table. The UMC-750 can deliver 3+2 machining or full simultaneous five-axis motion for contouring and complex machining. Though large high-speed, high-torque/low-speed, and five-axis machines were on the top of everyone’s list of machines to see, MC Machinery Systems exhibited its new lines of general-purpose vertical machining centers. The Diamond Cut series of VMCs marks MC Machinery’s entry with milling machine technology for the shop floor, following its well-known presence with EDM, waterjet, and laser technology. Models are available for drill/tap, die/mold applications, heavy-duty machining of large parts, and general-purpose machining.

NPT Taps Feature New Emuge Flute Form Design
Emuge Corp. (West Boylston, MA), best known for its tapping technologies, showcased a new line of NPT Taper Pipe Taps that feature a newly developed flue form with variable skip tooth geometry. The advanced flue design optimizes chip flow and clearance and lowers tapping torque, which is ideal for materials that produce long, stringy chip formations.

“The new flute design on the Emuge NPT taps allows for improved chip flow and chip clearance, which results in longer tap life than conventional pipe taps that often prematurely fail due to severe chipping of the cutting teeth or total breakage due to chip clogging,” said Mark Hatch, product director, Threads and Taps at Emuge.

ISCAR’s Product Onslaught

ISCAR (Arlington, TX) announced the biggest new product lineup in its 60-year history—a wide range of innovative and problem-solving products that are branded “IQ” as part of a post-recession marketing campaign. For example, ISCAR will begin offering the Dove IQ Turn, Dove IQ Drill, Dove IQ Mill and Dove IQ Grip as part of the “High QLine - Machining Intelligently” product launch.
Jacob Harpaz, CEO of ISCAR and president of the IMC Group, excitedly pitched the new products to more than 500 employees, distributors and members of the media during a day-long educational session at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, which featured a dance troupe during intermissions.

Harpaz said the company is driven by a desire to be first in the market with new products. He noted that the company continued to invest in research and development throughout the recession, a move that enabled ISCAR to remain competitive with new products as the economy started to lift.

ISCAR sees growth potential in the heavy-duty market, holemaking and by offering innovative improvements to the tool life and the efficiency of its existing products. Many of the improvements, Harpaz said, reflect ISCAR’s commitment to helping its customers reduce costs on an on-going basis. “We are not talking about one time,” he said.

New Systems for Cleaning Coolant

Machine downtime in the factory costs manufacturers dearly with lost production time. With its new mobile fluid recycling system introduced at IMTS, Eriez Hydroflow (Erie, PA), aims to boost manufacturers’ bottom line by reducing unnecessary machine tool downtime and improving machine coolant recovery.

The new SumpDoc from Eriez Hydroflow is a mobile inline fluid reclamation system that includes sump cleaning and filtration in a portable system that uses its own propulsion system to move the unit between machine tools in the factory. 

“The number one goal is keeping machine tools in production,” says Barry Nehls, Eriez Hydroflow general manager. “Some people have referred to this as ‘dialysis for machine tools.’”

This article was compiled by ME Media’s Senior Editors: James Lorincz, Patrick Waurzyniak, James Sawyer, Michael Anderson. Editor in Chief Sarah A. Webster and SME’s Senior Editor for Journals and Technical Papers, Ellen Kehoe, also contributed.


Published Date : 11/7/2012

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