New machines build upon previous success
The Fabricating & Lasers pavilion of IMTS shows how makers of machine tools have to keep improving their product lineup. For one thing, customer expectations continue to rise.
“They now expect the increase in production because of the fiber lasers and faster automation,” said Mark Milette, laser sales manager for Prima Power North America (Arlington Heights, IL). “They now expect one machine to do the work of two older CO2 machines.” The company said in a written statement it has responded by, among other things, making “optical enhancements to facilitate thicker material and faster processing speeds.”
Increased customer demand isn’t unique to Prima Power.
“We’ve seen demand in the industry from customers to eliminate unscheduled downtime and more predictable maintenance for their waterjet systems,” said Brian Sherick, vice president of North America sales, for Flow International Corp. (Kent, WA). “Customers are looking for technology that gives their business versatility and the ability to take on any projects that come through their door.
“Waterjets had a reputation for requiring a skilled maintenance person to be on staff and it was preventing shops from looking further at waterjet,” he said. “Today’s waterjets have advanced to be faster, more accurate and less expensive to operate than the machines from the past. For most shops, faster cutting results in more parts cut in the day.”
In addition, “Flow has introduced a preventative maintenance plan that will move the waterjet industry away from the break-fix mentality,” Sherick said. “Reliability is what really matters most to today’s fabricators.” The FlowCare program covers all of the maintenance and service for the first two years, according to the company.
Another waterjet company, Omax Corp. (Kent, WA), said in a statement it will demonstrate its new ProtoMAX personal abrasive waterjet system. The company said the system is suited for prototypes and low-volume cutting “of almost any material” around 1″ (25 mm) thick. Omax said the system can be used at small job shops, engineering classrooms, makerspaces and for personal use as well as larger jobs and fabricators “that need occasional water jet capabilities to complement their other cutting systems.”
New Showroom Facility
At BLM Group USA (Novi, MI), the company has opened a new 75,000 ft2 (6,968 m2) facility as a showroom for customers and to demonstrate product improvements. One of the machines displayed during an event in May was BLM’s new LT7 Lasertube.
BLM says the machine can process round, square, open and special profile tube ranging from 12 to 152-mm diameter and lengths of 6.5 or 8.5 m. The company said the LT7’s fiber laser can cut materials and thicknesses from 12-mm mild steel to 4-mm brass.
“Laser machine tools continue to evolve and offer users higher processing speeds, improved efficiency and increased throughput,” said Jennifer Taylor, marketing and public relations coordinator for BLM.
“Material handling and automation features are becoming more common. Users realize reduced setup and/or part changeover times, improving output and expanding the capacity of the system,” she added. “Advancements in machine control make it simpler for intermediate users to operate the machine. Customers want laser machine tools that are flexible, include intuitive features that make it easier to produce their parts and are more efficient for today’s lean manufacturing demands.”
Reaching Out, Collaborating
Companies are reaching out to their customers.
“We collaborate with customers to help them understand (via consultation/training) how to design intelligently, utilizing the joint flexibility granted by laser welding to streamline their process and drastically reduce production costs,” said Brett Thompson, a TruLaser sales engineer for Trumpf Inc. (Farmington, CT). “We realize that a lot of these topics can be complex, and we want to be partners with our customers to help them get the most out of our machinery.”
Trumpf has come out with a new product, the TruLaser Weld 5000, which replaced the TruLaser Robot 5020. The company said it “added a simplified user interface” that makes “programming at the machine a lot easier.” Trumpf has also added FusionLine, “which gives customers the ability to weld gaps that were traditionally too big for laser welding to be successful.”
Some exhibitors are looking to IMTS for additional momentum for new products.
“IMTS is an opportunity for the leaders in the industry to get together and showcase the latest in their technology,” said Flow’s Sherick. “The show is also a great way for Flow to connect directly with our customers and those who are interested in waterjet technology. IMTS gives us the chance to meet people from a variety of industries and present the benefits of waterjet cutting.”
IMTS, BLM’s Taylor said, “continues to be an important show to promote the latest advancements in manufacturing technology. People attending the show expect to see the next evolution of technology that will help them advance their businesses and solve manufacturing problems.”
The company wants to use the show to promote “solutions to challenges companies face in production,” Taylor said. “We want to translate the direct material benefit for the customer.”
Omax said its booth will have live cutting demonstrations of different machines in its product line. The company said software engineers, technicians and application specialists will be available at its booth for discussions on programming with the Omax Intelli-MAX Software Suite, special software features and cutting applications.