A number of the Korean machine tool manufacturers that recently attended SIMTOS, Korea's biennial machine tool show, say they are reaping the benefits of a healthy automotive industry and the booming Chinese market. In fact, the show's organizer, Korean Machine Tool Manufacturer's Association (KOMMA), expects machine tool production in Korea to increase by 10 percent this year, fueled by an export market it anticipates will remain strong.
According to a 2003 KOMMA survey of its member companies, Asia represented 64.4 percent of Korea's export market, while the United States represented 10.4 percent. Though the United States constituted only a tenth of their exports last year, Korean companies say they remain proactive in gaining higher name recognition, as well as market share, in the United States. While most large Korean companies have sales offices in the United States, many small- and mid-sized manufacturers reported difficulty in finding United States distributors.
Industry success was also readily apparent while touring the facilities of three Korean machine tool manufacturers—Doosan-Mecatec, Daewoo Heavy Industries and Hyundai Kia (known in Korea as Wia, or World Industries Ace). All three of these companies reported increasing domestic and export sales, and they are adding capacity to their facilities to meet the demand.
Noting increased customer interest in multitasking capabilities, Korean companies have made strides to complement their traditionally low-priced product lines with flexible, high technology equipment such as mill/turn machines. The machines displayed at this year's SIMTOS reflected this mix of economy and versatility.
Doosan-Mecatec's vertical and horizontal lathes have earned the company a good reputation with its domestic customers. In 2002, it established Doosan Machinery America, located in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Adding to its line of milling machines, the company introduced its Revo VMCs, which are geared towards general machining and die/mold processing. The machines are available in two versions with pallet sizes of 1,220 mm by 610 mm and 1,020 mm by 610 mm. Both models have a 10,000-rpm spindle and a 30-tool magazine with an ATC that offers 1.2-second tool change.
At SIMTOS, Doosan also introduced its Parka line of affordable HMCs aimed at job shops and automotive lines. These machines are available in 30- and 40-taper models with ATCs. Each machine version has a pallet size of 400 mm by 400 mm and rapid traverse of 50 m/min.
Kia Heavy Industries has had a longstanding presence in the United States. In May 2003, it moved into a new office in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The company produces a variety of machine types, including VMCs, HMCs, boring mills, lathes and inverted turning machines. It now offers the MT2500 four-axis mill/turn machine with optional indexing B axis and subspindle. Designed for aerospace and die/mold components, it has a 10-inch chuck and a 65-tool magazine.
Daewoo has had success in the U.S. serving job shops. The company is throwing its hat into the mill/turn machine ring with its MX2500ST. This model was introduced last year, and the company is ramping up its production. Daewoo plans to display the machine at this year's IMTS. By sharing the same design platform as the company's new TT line of two-spindle vertical lathes, manufacturing costs are said to be reduced.
Daewoo also displayed its ACE HP5000 horizontal machining center, which is aimed at automotive processing lines. It features a 14,000-rpm spindle and rapid traverse of 48 m/min.
Two companies that may not be as familiar in the United States are Hanwha Machinery and Hankook. Hanwha has 20 years of experience making Swiss-style lathes, and it has a sales office in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. The company displayed its new STL-32H CNC turret lathe, which is geared toward multitasking jobs in the aerospace, medical and automotive industries. In addition to its nine-position tool plate, it features a ten-station turret that accommodates static or live tooling in any station.
Hankook specializes in large-diameter lathes. The company is now represented in the United States by Capco Hankook America (Carol Stream, Illinois). Its heavy-duty CNC Proturn machines feature an open design for easy load/unload of large parts, such as rolls and oilfield components. The Proturn 90/100 offers maximum turning diameter of 31.5 inches and maximum load capacity between centers of 17,600 pounds. It comes standard with a live tailstock spindle and automatic eight-tool turret.
The 2004 SIMTOS show at Seoul's COEX facility featured 328 exhibitors from 22 countries. Approximately 100 Korean companies were not able to exhibit because of limited space. As a result, the 2006 SIMTOS show will be held just outside of Seoul in the new Korea International Exhibition Center (KINTEX). When completed, the five-story facility will be one of the largest exhibition centers in Asia.