The 60th edition of Bi-Mu, the biennial Italian manufacturing trade show, attracted nearly 60,000 attendees and more than 1,072 exhibitors from all over the world to the Fiera Milano exhibition center in Milan, Italy. Although international in character, an Italian show is the perhaps the best place to see Italian technology. Here are a few notable examples spotted by MMS.
Associate Editor, Modern Machine Shop
Attendees stream in on the fourth day of Bi-Mu to see approximately E450 million worth of technology from 1,072 exhibitors. Although MMS focused mostly on Italian companies, more than 41 percent of those exhibitors hailed from abroad.
Italy is the world’s third largest exporter of machine tools, most of which are made to order, with a variety of options and configurations available to suit different customer needs. Large offerings are particularly prevalent. Said to be well suited for the aerospace industry—a common target of Italian builders—Breton’s Ultrix 1200 Evo accommodates 6,000 kilograms and is the smallest machine in that line. In addition to five-axis machining, aided by automatic changing of angle heads and spindles suited for both rough and finish machining, the machine offers full turning capability and customizable pallet-changing configurations.
The kind of customer that appreciates plenty of machine options is likely also looking far beyond the machine itself, and Italian builders like MCM have plenty of experience with integrating and automating other processes. In addition to performing milling, grinding and even turning, the HMC shown here is paired with a robot-mounted laser for additive manufacturing and thermal workpiece treatment. MCM also acts as an automation integrator, with options ranging from a twin-pallet system to a full FMS. More unusually, the company has a separate division, MCE Solutions, that has been dedicated specifically to developing process control and management software since the early ‘90s.
Italian machines trend large, and large machines require large workholding. Designed with thin-walled rings in mind, particularly for wind energy applications, this example from Rotomors features a 2+2+2 configuration, in which the 6 jaws are divided into three, mechanically linked pairs. This linkage enables evening out clamping forces between the jaws to ensure secure gripping without distorting round, thin-walled parts. For instance, as soon as the pad of paper shown here is removed, that jaw will move forward while its twin relaxes in order to keep clamping forces even.
Three-axis machines were a rare sight on the show floor, and contouring operations demand workholding that helps lift the part of the table. Designed for softer materials like aluminum, Gerardi’s Compact Grip five-axis workholding vises also offer a wide selection of jaw profiles shaped for different materials. Adding to versatility is the capability to mount the same jaws in different configurations on the vise body to accommodate different-size parts. The self-centering vises also feature single-piece bodies and come ready for integration with zero-point systems also offered by the company.
Alberti showcased its Aquaflex (silver) angle heads. Driven by coolant, these models enable users to target specific rpm speeds, a capability not shared by their pneumatic cousins. Also on display was the company’s new aluminum line of angle heads (blue), which are designed specifically for use on lighter-duty machining centers.
Even for heavy hogging of tough materials, many machines on display used smoother-cutting electrospindles rather than belt- or gear-driven models. Mandelli, part of Gruppo Riello Sistemi, showcased a power curve for this five-axis titanium-milling head that revealed plenty of low-end torque (S1 rating is 1,200 Nm). Meanwhile, two separate axis motors ensure sufficient force behind the swiveling motion of the head. The company’s iPuma Reality software—just one part of a broader process monitoring and analysis suite—makes motors and other machine components readily visible for troubleshooting or maintenance.
Virtually every machine tool builder at the show had an offering related to the “Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT).” For its part, Pama highlighted the latest version of its Predictive Production Management suite, PR2. Paired with a CNC front-end designed to operate like a smartphone, this software is designed to monitor every machine in a plant, including non-Pama machines. Leveraging machine-mounted sensors, the system collects and analyzes data on machine utilization and uptime, alarm conditions, maintenance schedules, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and more while also providing finger-tip access to manuals and various job-specific documentation.
Jobs, a member of the Fair Friend Group (FFG), enters the realm of hybrid additive/subtractive manufacturing with the Laser Speeder. Developed initially for use at a major European automotive manufacturer, the machine employs the company’s existing high-speed milling technology along with an interchangeable laser cladding head and all the guarding and exhaust needed to work with metal powder.
Although additive manufacturing technology was relatively well represented at Bi-Mu, this machine has the distinction of being home-grown in Italy. Sisma, a manufacturer of industrial lasers, only recently moved into powder-bed sintering, and the company hopes to establish a presence for this technology in North America within the next few years.
Formed in an early ‘90s merger of Italian (Autoblok) and German (SMW) brands, SMW Autoblok showcased steady rests with the hydraulic cylinder fully contained within the body. This is thanks to the company’s double-CAM technology, and it is said to increase capacity by 30 percent in the same machine compared to traditional steady rest configurations (visible on the table behind the unit) with protrusions on the back.
Barfeeders from Top Automazioni offer the capability to not only store multiple diameters, but also switch between them in seconds, automatically, without any manual bushing adjustments. Booth representatives say the two most popular models in North America, Magic and X-Files, now operate electrically rather than pneumatically in order to accommodate a greater range of bar sizes.
Marketed under the brand Eurotech in North America, CNC turning centers from Biglia come in largely standardized lines, a contrast to many Italian builders. Perhaps that’s because there’s little capability that could be added to models like the B436 Y2 Rapido, which comes standard with subspindles, live tool turrets and more to enable complete machining from barstock in a single setup.
Here's a look at some of the technology spotted at the 60th edition of the biennial Italian manufacturing technology exposition.