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FABTECH 2018 Draws Big Crowd, Targets New Technology

Chris Mahar
By Chris Mahar Operations Manager, SME Media
Alan Rooks
By Alan Rooks Editor in Chief, Manufacturing Engineering
More than 33,000 people attended FABTECH 2018 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

Bolstered by a strong economy and lots of new technology for attendees to see, FABTECH 2018 welcomed more 33,755 attendees from 75 countries to Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center November 6-8. With more than 1,500 exhibiting companies occupying more than 650,000 net square feet of exhibit space, FABTECH offered visitors the chance to network and learn while exploring three exhibit halls full of new products, technology and manufacturing innovations. The event highlighted several emerging technologies, including additive manufacturing, as well as the latest in automation systems, fiber laser cutting machines, press brakes and more.

“The week was full of excitement and enthusiasm and the introduction of leading-edge technology showed manufacturers there is a lot to be optimistic about in the year ahead,” said John Catalano, SME senior director, FABTECH. “We were thrilled with the high turnout in Atlanta and hope that everyone that participated in FABTECH 2018 left feeling inspired by the ideas, insights and new connections made at the show.”

For the second year, FABTECH kicked off with the FABx Tech Talks, a TED-style of short inspirational talks given by leaders across a variety of industries. Although not all the speakers represented manufacturing, their message for how to serve customers, engage employees and drive innovation can serve the manufacturing industry well. Speakers for 2018 included Dennis Adamovich, CEO, College Football Hall of Fame; Julia Crews, Sr. change management training consultant and Ignite Women Leaders founder; Charlie Covert, vice president of customer solutions, UPS; Shawn Cole, vice president, Delta Cargo, Delta Air Lines Inc.; Dan Kara, vice president, robotics, WTWH; and Aaron Kaufmann of Shifting Gears (Discovery Channel), and owner of Arclight Fabrication.

Focus on Trade

Attendees had access to panel discussions and keynotes throughout the show.

On Nov. 7, FABTECH featured an “Expert Panel: State of the Industry.” The panel, which focused on issues and challenges facing the U.S. manufacturing industry, was moderated by Ben Harris, director supply chain ecosystem, Metro Atlanta Chamber. The panelists were Chris Kuehl, managing director of Armada Corporate Intelligence, and Rosemary Coates, executive director, Reshoring Institute.

According to Coates, “U.S. manufacturing is hot, hot, hot, and we are bringing back advanced manufacturing operations that are high tech and clean.” However, she said that that U.S. tariffs on foreign countries, particularly China, and particularly on imports of steel and aluminum, “have caused a lot of chaos, with companies trying to figure out what their strategies are.” Prices of steel and aluminum have risen sharply.

Steel and aluminum importers are very concerned about bringing in parts in from around the world. U.S. steel and aluminum producers are overbooked, and many won’t take a quote, saying that they don’t have the additional capacity to make additional parts for the next 18 months.

As to the cost of the tariffs, “Some companies are passing them along to customers, some are absorbing the cost, some split the cost, and some are desperately trying to source the products in the U.S. at a competitive price. She noted that some companies that are manufacturing in China are moving to other countries, such as Thailand, Vietnam, and even Myanmar.

Keuhl noted that “China is a very different economy; they don’t play by the same rules, and never have, so it’s been a source of frustration. With that tariffs, there is a lot of stop and go. It is confusing for steel and aluminum. First, there were tariffs on all countries producing steel and aluminum,” but now most countries have been given exemptions, and a new version of NAFTA may exempt Canada and Mexico. Trade is likely to change markedly with China, he said. “China’s challenge is to find a replacement for U.S. purchases, and we have to find other sources than China.”

Other panels throughout the week focused on advanced manufacturing and the Generation X and Z workforce. The Advanced Manufacturing Panel, moderated by Dave O’Neil, vice president of SME Media, featured Dan Kara, vice president of robotics, WTWH Media; Charlie Covert, vice president of customer solutions, UPS; Jonah Myerberg, co-founder and CTO, Desktop Metal; and Michael Walton, industry solution executive (manufacturing industry), Microsoft. While Thursday’s Manufacturing and the New Generation Workforce panel was moderated by Jonah Stillman, Gen Z ambassador and best-selling author, and featured David Stillman, generations expert and best-selling author; Jacob Wilson, CEO, Morrison Industries; and Lee Ann (Schwope) Cochran, VP, sales and marketing, PRADCO.

All told, FABTECH 2018 offered attendees more than 130 expert-led presentations and sessions, making education a key focus of the event. On the exhibit floors, manufacturers displayed and provided demonstrations of a wide variety of fabricating equipment, including the following.

Trumpf Booth Features Three Pavilions

Trumpf Inc. (Farmington, CT) held a press event that showcased its three separate pavilions: Forming and Fabricating, Tube & Pipe, and Additive Manufacturing. In the Forming and Fabricating Pavilion, Trumpf highlighted its TruConnect manufacturing system by producing a customized part. FABTECH attendees received live production updates as Trumpf fabricating machinery, automation solutions and supporting technologies kept information and processes connected. In addition, the TruServices team discussed how Trumpf supports equipment throughout its lifecycle with financing options, training, consumables, tooling, service and other solutions.

Also on display was the TruLaser Cell 5030, which comes with a solid-state TruDisk laser, flying optics, NC controller and motion unit. The cell delivers a production increase of over 200% compared to typical hybrid machines while saving 50% in operating costs, according to Trumpf. Advanced processing technology developed for the company’s five-axis product line ensures high cut quality, process reliability and flexibility, according to Trumpf.

Other products featured included:

  • TruMatic 1000 fiber, Trumpf’s first entry-level punch laser combination machine with a solid-state laser. It has a modular design that enables users to add to it as business grows. The Delta Drive moves both the electric punching head and the laser along the Y axis while the sheet moves in the other direction. This increases machine dynamics, productivity and process stability and enables material handling options such as the SheetMaster Compact. The machine’s integrated protective housing, a requirement for safe laser processing, automatically moves out of the way during punching.
  • TruLaser 5030 fiber with a 10 kW TruDisk laser offers high processing speeds and reproducible, high part quality, even for complex contours, according to the company. Trumpf highlighted the new TruLaser 1030 fiber with a LiftMaster Compact, and PartMaster, as well as the TruLaser 3030 fiber with a 6kW TruDisk laser and TRUMPF’s Highspeed Eco technology.
  • TruBend 3100 press brake, TruBend 5130 press brake with ToolMaster, the compact electric TruBend 7036 press brake and the TruBend Cell 7000, for automated bending of small parts. The hydraulic TruBend 5130 features a press force of 141 tons, a six-axis back gauge, and two patented angle measurement systems for maximum precision in bending. The I-Axis enables the machine to shift the die bed from one position to the next for hemming, multiple radius tools, or multiple height tools all in a single setup.

ABB Features Live Additive Manufacturing Welding

The Robotics Business Unit of ABB Inc. (Auburn Hills, MI) featured several demonstrations. In a live additive manufacturing (AM) operation, its IRB 2600 robot was dressed with Lincoln arc welding equipment. Rather than joining two surfaces, the live AM robotic cell produced various metallic objects such as a vase, goblet and other cylindrical parts. The AM concept used welding as the medium of deposition. The welding deposition method can be from any of the traditional and hybrid processes including lasers, with each process having its own characteristics of deposition and integrity.

Simulation was another key part of the ABB booth. One challenge is taking readily available CAD data and turn it into a metal printing process. Robotics-based additive processes offer one of the best platforms due to the inherent flexibility of motion and processing power, according to ABB. RobotStudio, ABB’s simulation programming software, imports CAD data and turns it into fully functional robot programs. ABB has developed a software enhancement (known as an “Add-in”) specifically for AM applications. Add-in is independent of the process and welding equipment. This approach provides a platform open to the broadest group of designers and manufacturers. In principle the CAD model is imported into RobotStudio, and based on the geometry of the CAD component the appropriate paths are generated for the robotic process to follow. The software bundle reduces the myriad of steps previously required to achieve the same product by more traditional methods of manufacturing. An ABB robot can produce the desired near net shape and a component’s bionic derivative in a much compressed time period.

ABB’s Robotic Inspection II system.

ABB also featured an IRB 6700 dressed for Spot Welding. The IRB 6700 is available with LeanID, a dressing package that integrates the most exposed parts of the dress pack into the robot, making it easier to program, providing a more compact footprint and expanding cable life due to less wear and tear. The fully integrated Spot Welding Function Package features an electric servo gun with parallel arm movements controlled by the IRC5 robot controller. ABB Electrode Tip Dressers are available for a range of horizontal and vertical dressings. The parallel arm movement enhances the rigidity of the arms to guarantee process quality, offering a wide range of welding solutions to meet a variety of spot weld applications. The IRB 6700 is designed to withstand the harshest working environments and is available with ABB’s ultimate Foundry Plus 2 protection system. In addition to enhanced speed, payload and accuracy, the power consumption has been lowered by 15%, total cost of ownership has been reduced by up to 20%, and maintenance has been optimized, doubling the time between service intervals, compared to comparable robot models.

ABB also featured its Robotic Inspection System (developed through collaboration between ABB and NUB3D, which ABB subsequently purchased); IRB 2400 with Laser Welding and Laser Cutting Heads.

Murata Machinery USA Demos New Fiber Laser, Spring-Style Punch Press

Murata Machinery USA Inc. (Charlotte, NC) performed live cutting and punching demonstrations of the LS3015GC fiber laser and the Motorum M2044TS turret punch press. Released late last year, the Muratec LS3015GC fiber laser is designed with a more compact, high-rigidity frame and features a reduced footprint on the shop floor while preserving stability for edge quality, according to the company. The unit’s low power consumption reduces operating costs and maintenance time compared to CO2 lasers. The LS3015GC is engineered with an upgraded drive and integrated flying optics system and can cut both ferrous and nonferrous metals including steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass, and bronze.

The Motorum M2044TS is one of Muratec’s 22-ton, spring-style punch presses. This machine uses a servo-electric punch drive system, which incorporates the latest ram drive design for simple and reliable processing. Its large turret provides more stations for greater flexibility and increased productivity, and its smaller table is sized to accommodate limited floor space.

Both machines are equipped with Murata Machinery’s proprietary HMI Intelligent Control Interface, which enhances machine production time by minimizing the setup time required by the operator, according to Murata.

Amada America Unveils Two National Debuts at Press Event

Amada America Inc. (Buena Park, CA) held a press event on Nov. 7. Amada presented its second-generation Fiber Laser Welder (FLW) on video, since it is too large to bring to a trade show. The FLW now uses Amada’s ENSIS technology, which optimizes the laser mode and Beam Parameter Product (BPP) based on the material thickness being processed. The 3 kW fiber engine offers variable beam control, which changes the shape of the beam to suit specific applications. The FLW unit offers complete control over the welding process, numerically controlling the focus, speed, and power of the laser.

Tim Brady of Amada America explains the features of the EML AJ at a press event.

Amada also announced the national debut of its ENSIS 9 kW Laser plus Cycle Loader. The machine is designed for high-speed stable cutting over the entire range of machining, from thin to thick sheet metals, which has been made possible by the evolution of AMADA’s ENSIS technology and the expansion of oscillator output from the conventional 3kW to 9 kW/6 kW. High quality cutting over the thick material range is achieved by overcoming problems related to fiber lasers through reduced dross and bevel, and improved surface roughness.

In a second national debut, Amada launched its EML AJ Punch Fiber Laser Combination machine, which offers punching and laser technology in one unit. A servo electric punch drive and a high punching force offers new levels of flexibility and energy efficiency, according to the company. Tim Brady of Amada noted that the EML AJ “is the perfect machine” for customers looking for a machine between lower and higher end of Amada’s offerings in this area. It is based on a very popular Amada COlaser machine that offers similar features, and customers have been asking for years for a fiber version, Brady said. Among other features, the machines offers a four-nozzle automatic nozzle changer and a floating brush table.

Bystronic Showcases Material Handling System

Bystronic Inc. (Elgin, IL) exhibited its ByTrans extended 4020 compact material handling system for loading and unloading Bystronic laser cutting systems. The larger format 4020 (6′ x 12′ material size) of its ByTrans Extended compact material handling system offers higher machine utilization, process efficiency, expanded operations and reduced labor costs, according to the company. Loading and unloading of materials takes 75 seconds, making the system faster than the shortest cutting plan. The short cycle time, which is independent of the thickness of the metal sheet, ensures greater overall throughput.

ByTrans Extended offers complete accessibility and optimum operation in a small, inline footprint and handles all sheet thickness up to ¾”plate. Available with two raw material locations and one unload location, the second raw material location can be for unloading automatically sorted parts. Benefits include fast job processing; much higher machine utilization for a slightly higher investment; two cassette design, making the machine system more autonomous; flexible use for storage/return transfer and also for large parts removal as well as the preparation of plastic protective separators placed between the metal sheets by the system; and entry into lightly-manned parts production.

Miller Electric Highlights Wide Range of Machines and Equipment

Miller Electric Mfg. LLC (Appleton, WI) featured a range of new products, from welding machines to safety equipment. Its new XMT 350 FieldPro system with Polarity Reversing eliminates the need to swap leads between welding processes. Quick-Select technology, with the touch of a button, automatically selects the correct polarity, lead outputs and weld parameters.

The Deltaweld 350 MIG welding power source and Intellx series wire feeders are designed to bring pulsed MIG welding to more welding operations. Delivering 350 A at 60% duty cycle, the Deltaweld 350 replaces the Deltaweld 302 MIG welder. The new power source is available in two models: one with new ArcConnect technology, which links the Deltaweld to the new Intellx feeders, and a second model with ArcConnect and a 14-pin connector, which allows the power source to be used with existing feeders. Large displays with controls in one place ensure that no feature or function can be enabled without the operator having a constant visual notification.

The company’s new Supplied Air Respirator features a C50 air regulator that can cool air entering the helmet by up to 50°F, while its BreatheAir Filtration System can convert compressed air into Class-D breathing air while monitoring for carbon monoxide (CO). ZoneFlow technology has been added to the SWX-ZF weld fume extractor, reducing the extractor’s footprint. The stationary wall- or column-mounted extractor has a capture distance of up to 5′ deep and 4′ wide, according to the company. Miller also provided a sneak peak of a few new products that you’ll hear more about in January.

Hobart (Troy, OH), a subsidiary of Miller, showcased its FabCOR Edge metal-cored wire. The new wire is designed to improve deposition rates and travel speeds compared to solid wires, according to the company. It is well-suited for applications in robotic and mechanized welding, heavy equipment manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and mining applications, and for welding non-alloyed and fine grain steels; and will be available in 0.035-, 0.045-, 0.052- and 1/16″ diameters on 33- or 50-pound spools, 60-pound coils and in the company’s 500- and 750-lb X-Pak—a precision wire payout drum for automatic and robotic welding.

FANUC Offers Expanded Line of Collaborative Robots

FANUC America Inc. (Rochester Hills, MI), a supplier of robots, CNCs and ROBOMACHINEs, has expanded its line of collaborative robots to five model variations that offer payload capabilities from 4-35 kg. It demonstrated the compact CR-4iA at the show by having the collaborative robot provide lanyards to attendees. The robot used iRVision to locate lanyards hanging on a rack, pick a lanyard and present it to a guest.

The new six-axis CR-15iA is FANUC’s latest in a series of collaborative robots that offer payloads from 4kg-35 kg. Like the other FANUC collaborative robots, the CR-15iA has a sensitive, built-in sensor that allows it to work safely alongside people. The CR-15iA offers a 15 kg payload and 1,441 mm reach, providing a mid-range option in FANUC’s collaborative robot series. All of FANUC’s power and force limiting collaborative robots are painted green to distinguish them from the standard yellow FANUC robots.

FANUC’s 2018 cobot lineup.

FANUC America also demonstrated its evolving smart, connected Industrial IoT manufacturing technologies, including FANUC Intelligent Edge Link and Drive (FIELD) system and Zero Down Time on ROBOT-LINKi (ZDT). The FIELD system provides an open platform that collects machine data and monitors the operating status of manufacturing equipment in real time. Third-party application developers can create and sell FIELD applications that improve equipment efficiency, production throughput, and process quality using an industrial API interface to access the data and perform analytics. ZDT on ROBOT-LINKioffers either a cloud-based or on-premise solution to purchasers of FANUC robots. ZDT offers predictive analytics that can prevent unexpected downtime by identifying component failures in advance and recommending proper intervals for routine equipment maintenance. Today, nearly 18,000 robots in industry are operating with ZDT’s cloud-based solution.

FANUC America also demonstrated robotic laser welding. A FF3000 Fiber Laser and two robots mounted inside a Class 1 safety enclosure handled and welded thin steel parts. First a FANUC M-10iA/12S robot picked coupons from servo-driven part stacks and loaded a weld fixture mounted to a two-axis servo positioner. Next, an M-20iB/25 robot welded the parts. A laser head with robot-controlled beam wobbler manipulated the fine focused beam into a weave shape pattern.

ShopFloorConnect from Wintriss Measures OEE

Wintriss Controls Group (Acton, MA) showcased its automation and safety controls along with ShopFloorConnect, the company’s overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) monitoring and data collection software. ShopFloorConnect is focused on OEE to maximize return for manufacturers, offering automatic report distribution and equipment downtime reasoning. Customers define a preset period of downtime after which a machine operator is prevented from restarting the machine until they select a reason for the downtime. Beyond downtime tracking, ShopFloorConnect also tracks uptime and part counts. Certain machines and setups are enabled for automatic downtime reasoning, while the next version (6.0) will feature expanded measuring parameters. The software runs on an on-premise server; however, the company is exploring a cloud-based solution. Data can be integrated with existing ERP systems.

BLM Group USA Demonstrates LT7 Laser Tube Machine

BLM Group USA ran live demonstrations of its LT7 Lasertube machine capable of 3D cutting. The LT7 is designed to improve productivity and accuracy through innovations in tube management and handling, according to the company. The machine features a 3 kW fiber laser that provides a broad working range for cutting round, square or rectangular sections up to 6″ in diameter. Special sections and open profiles can also be processed.

Loading chains can be extracted from the rear standard bundle loader within seconds, providing the flexibility to load a single bar or open section quickly and simply. The loading and unloading systems also adapt to accommodate short and long parts with tube supports throughout the process. At the end of each production batch, the LT7 automatically configures itself for the next batch for quick changes in production, regardless of the new sections to be made—round, square, special and even open profiles. No manual adjustments are necessary. This advantage results in higher output and a lower cost per part, according to the company.

Two software programs used with LT7 Lasertube—Protube and Artube—help keep production under control and bring design ideas to life. The Protube monitoring system helps users make accurate time and cost estimates based on processing time for an entire production batch. Artube is a 3D CAD/CAM software that allows users to move from a design idea to a part in one click.

BLM Group USA also demonstrated its E-TURN all-electric tube bender, capable of fixed and variable radius bending in right- and left-hand automatic cycles. The all-electric drive ensures precision control of the 15-axes movement, providing consistency, high accuracy, perfect quality bends and zero scrap, according to the company.

PFERD Introduces Range of New Metalworking Solutions

PFERD Inc. (Milwaukee, WI), a manufacturer of abrasives, brushes and power tools, introduced several new products for grinding, milling and surface conditioning applications. The company presented new featured products from its line of metal cutting and finishing products such as files, burs, brushes, grinding and cutting wheels, and power tools. The company discussed its PFERDVALUE initiative, which focuses on products designed to increase labor efficiency, operator health and safety, and overall process optimization.

Among others, PFERD’s new products included an adjustable holder for car body files; the Ceramic SGP STEELOX, a 1/8″ thickness grinding wheel in 4.5, 5, 6, and 7″. diameters, primarily for cutting and light grinding in the pipeline industry; CC-GRIND-STRONG grinding wheel a combination of stacked coated discs with a bonded abrasive support; and the OMNI cut carbide burs for aggressive removal on steel, stainless steel, non-ferrous metal and cast iron.

PFERD also featured the new ceramic SG COMFORT in 4.5 and 5″ diameters, a hybrid grinding wheel for steel that combines a top layer of coated abrasives and a rough grinding wheel for high stock removal and maximum economic efficiency.

PFE-131 PFERD featured its full product line at FABTECH 2018.

Coldwater Machine Displays SpinMeld Capability

Coldwater Machine Co. displayed assemblies joined through its SpinMeld friction spin welding system. The samples illustrated the joining of pins to sheet, brackets to sheet, pins to tube, and other shapes as well as a variety of dissimilar materials joining. such as powdered metal to low carbon steel; aluminum to aluminum; aluminum to nickel; stainless to aluminum; silver to copper; and boron to aluminum to carbon. SpinMeld systems reduce cycle times and defects compared to traditional welding or joining techniques, according to Coldwater. Shafts, valve bodies, pistons, brackets and airbag inflators are among the components well-suited for SpinMeld production. Coldwater also offers SpinMeld production services for short run and prototype parts.

Coldwater Machine’s SpotMeld process.

SpinMeld joining offers numerous benefits, including higher quality joints with high hardness, a very small heat affected area, and no coarse grain formation, according to the company. The systems are also extremely energy efficient as 95% of the mechanical energy is transferred into heat. SpinMeld is also environmentally friendly, eliminating the need for filler metals, fluxes or shielding gases. The SpinMeld systems are available as stand-alone vertical or horizontal machines that can be integrated into a work cell or an automated processing line. Rotational speeds are available from 2,000 to 23,000 rpm and forging forces from 335 to 12,000 lbf. The systems can be designed with a maximum weld area of 0.992 in2 (640 mm2).

Coldwater also displayed its SpotMeld system, focusing on the joining of aluminum sheet materials. SpotMeld is a Refill Friction Stir Spot Weld (RFSSW) process that can weld lightweight materials such as aluminum (1000 – 7000 series), magnesium, non-ferrous and dissimilar sheet material. It provides an alternative to single-point joining processes like resistance spot welding, laser welding and riveting without adding additional weight to the structure, and its produces a weld that is near original material strength. The SpotMeld system can currently join a stack-up of materials from 0.8 mm to 8 mm, weld dissimilar aluminums in one stack and join multiple sheets across the edge of a panel.

ESAB Showcases New Versions of Multi-Process Welder

ESAB Welding and Cutting Products (Annapolis Junction, MD) showcased a variety of new products from ESAB and its subsidiaries. Its Rebel EMP 285ic multi-process welder for MIG, Flux-Cored and DC Stick and TIG welding is now available in one-phase and three-phase versions. The one-phase model accepts 90-270 V primary power, provides a rated output of 285 amps at 40% duty cycle and maximum output of 300 amps/36 volts, while the three-phase version accepts 460-575 V primary, provides a rated output of 285 amps at 50% duty cycle and has a maximum output of 350 amps/36 volts.

For plasma beveling applications, the company has optimized its iSeries high-precision plasma systems consumables. The new design, with a more pointed nozzle and shield cap, narrows the torch profile to enable tilting the torch at greater angles, and moving the torch closer to the plate to maintain optimum arc lengths without collisions. Automated beveling is possible with the DMX Beveller, its compact design eliminates the need for breakaway crash protection—detecting a torch crash without added components and automatically resetting itself after a collision.

Victor, an ESAB brand, introduced its EDGE 2.0 ESS32 series of medium-capacity single-stage cylinder regulators with a lifetime warranty. Available for all common gases, including acetylene, LP (propane), oxygen, air, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and inert gases, the EDGE 2.0 series features patented SLAM (Shock Limitation and Absorption Mechanism) technology that permits the knob to absorb the impact in the event of a cylinder fall.

Dallas Industries Offer UnderLoop Compact Feed Line

Dallas Industries (Troy, MI) highlighted its updated UnderLoop compact feed line. Compact lines are designed to fit in a smaller space; however this reduced form requires them to run a little slower than traditional feed lines, making them less suitable for servo presses. A majority of the company’s feed lines are being installed fully automated as customers look to boost process control. Beyond the compact line, the company is seeing further refinement in products suited for high-strength steel rolls and servo presses as these technologies mature in the market.

FABTECH 2019 in Chicago

FABTECH 2019 is scheduled for Nov. 11-14, and will be held at McCormick Place in Chicago. Registration begins in spring 2019. For more information, click here.

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