The size and scope of a show like IMTS makes it impossible to cover everything of interest, but here's a taste of the technology and trends we were taking note of this year.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker was the keynote speaker for the opening ceremony. “There are three key reasons why ‘Made in America’ remains the best brand in the world: our people, our business climate and our capacity to innovate,” she said.
Finishing touches were made Monday morning at the Emerging Technology Center (ETC). This year, the ETC featured a number of projects from Oak Ridge National Laboratories, including additive-manufactured medical implants and body parts; a 3D-printed Shelby Cobra; and the Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) project. AMIE pairs a hybrid electric vehicle and a high-performance building (the large structure in the center of the ETC) that produces, consumes and stores renewable energy.
Part of our magazine’s “Top Shops Showcase” at our booth included a hall of fame of sorts for past Top Shops benchmarking survey award winners. A total of 16 winners machined their company logos for us to display, yielding an impressive collection of workpieces with a variety of different shapes, sizes, finishes and machined features.
DMG MORI went beyond demonstrating automation to showing the different options and trade-offs in automation. An elaborate working demo in its booth showed the same part being machined in four different automated scenarios in order to compare the cost, return on investment, footprint and production rate of each. Those options included a robot-loaded machining center and turning center, as well as a pallet-fed five-axis machine and a nine-axis mill-turn system.
The Tongtai iVU-5 VMC shown by Absolute Machine Tools operates as a dual-function machine. It can run as a conventional machine available in either a three-axis or a five-axis version, or it can perform as a rotary-type ultrasonic-assisted machining system for processing extremely hard, brittle materials such as silicon carbide, tungsten carbide, ceramic and even glass.
Unlike the better-known flatbed linear motors, the linear shaft motors in ANCA’s TX7 Linear tool and cutter grinder put the energized coil in a tube-shaped component that is “wrapped around” the permanent magnets in the rod-like shaft. The benefit of these motors is smoother acceleration and deceleration, with no backlash or cogging to negatively affect tool surface finish. The superior cutting tool finish that results supports faster cutting cycle times and longer tool life for end users, the company says.
The angular black box inside the automatic toolchanger of a Makino DA300 five-axis VMC is the company’s new Vision BTS (broken tool sensing) system. When the camera flashes, it records the shadow of the tool to verify that it is present and unbroken. There is no need to delay operations on the worktable or take up space in the workzone for a separate device to detect a broken or missing tool.
Emuge claims its new Punch Tap tool, which combines broaching and tapping operations, is in a category by itself when it comes to helical thread forming. Developed in collaboration with automotive manufacturer Audi—the only manufacturer licensed to use it for the next two years—the cutter plunges into a predrilled hole, turns 180 degrees, then retracts, a motion that reportedly takes less than half a second and leaves a completely machined thread in its wake.
This iPad is displaying one of the apps available on RedViking’s Argonaut manufacturing execution system (MES), presenting live machine monitoring data remotely in a graphic visualization. The platform, which is hosted by RedViking in the cloud, enables shops to install client software on phones, tablets and PCs, eliminating the need for specialized IT staff and in-line PCs, and enabling centralized access to multiple manufacturing software functions. The system currently has nine apps, ranging from OEE management and reporting to automated work instructions that take feedback from the PLC to update instructions for the operator in real time. The company is also working with other developers to provide third-party apps in the future.
Yama Seiki displayed a new FANUC CR 35iA collaborative robot tending its GLS-3000YS machining center and changing out Rohm Captis-AF collet chucks. What made this particular display interesting was that it opens the opportunity for customization and reconfiguration of the manufacturing process with minimal downtime and cost. The robot can change out workpieces while running one job, then switch to a new job that requires a different bar diameter by changing the collet to the appropriate size. The robot can then go back to changing out workpieces.
IMTS 2016 offered ample evidence of the increasing acceptance of MTConnect, the open-source, royalty-free communication protocol designed to make it easier for machine tools and other pieces of shopfloor equipment to talk to one another and to other computer programs that process shop data. For example, LNS America’s eConnect is said to provide the ability to share data in real time between a machine’s CNC and LNS barfeeder using the company’s Parts Library function, which stores as many as 500 part programs.
There are various B-axis turn-mill machines that have automatic toolchangers (ATCs) to tend their milling heads. Hwacheon now offers its C1 series CNC lathes with Y-axis motion and an ATC that tends its “three-stack” turret. In addition to tool stations that can be used to perform operations on either the main or subspindle, the turret has six stations with Capto toolholder interfaces to accommodate automatic tool change-out, like on a B-axis turn-mill, VMC or HMC. This offers increased flexibility to job shops that encounter a diverse array of workpieces and small batch sizes. See a video of this machine here.
Demonstrating the promise of enterprise-wide data integration at a trade show is difficult. Siemens perhaps did as well at this as could be done. The company’s multiple booths were together organized into a virtual production facility illustrating an unbroken digital thread from the planning department through production through inspection. The part the company used to illustrate this thread was the body of a small aerial drone, which could be seen in various phases of processing throughout the company’s larger booth.
Several builders showed machines that combine subtractive and additive processes. This is Mazak’s version, the VC-500 AM “hybrid multitasking” VMC. Here, the additive head has deposited new material on a rotary cutting die. The cutting edges will be subsequently machined to restore their sharpness. The company says this machine is priced to make this technology attainable for test centers, R&D departments, universities and forward-thinking manufacturers. It costs a fraction of hybrid machines that until now have typically had $1 million price tags.
A range of collaborative robots—robots that use sensor technology to work safely alongside humans—was present at the show. Universal Robots says that by choosing accessories, end-effectors and software solutions through its Universal Robots+ program, both distributors and end users get high security and predictability that applications will run well from the start, simplifying and saving time in the integration process from automation concept to operation. In addition, Universal Robots+You is a free-of-charge developer program, offering a marketing and support platform for the increasing number of UR-robot application developers.
A new offering from Spring Technologies is NCSIMUL CAM, which enables a part to be moved from one machine to another of similar capability without reworking or reposting the original NC program. Gilles Battier, CEO, eyes a display simulating an array of CNC machines on a shop floor. Clicking on the selected machine icon automatically generates the tool path for optimal machining of the part geometry on that machine.
Additive and subtractive manufacturing come together in this milling cutter from Komet. Growing the cutter body through metal 3D printing (the cutting edges are brazed on) allowed for a milling tool with a larger number of flutes and a larger number of coolant holes through the tool. Komet says the use of 3D printing will also make it much easier to customize tools for special applications.
Some machining jobs require custom cutters that might have unique diameters, multiple stepped features and other non-standard characteristics. Walter Xpress is the cutting tool manufacturer’s online quoting service that speeds the procurement process for these tools. Once logged in, users input information related to tool type, workpiece material, feature geometry data and more. Once completed, they receive a confirmation email in 30 minutes or less containing price quote, approval drawing and 3D CAD model. This service is offered for solid carbide and indexable-insert drills and milling cutters.
One future step in the maturing of collaborative robot technology is the development of end effectors designed specifically for those types of “human-friendly” robots. For example, Schunk’s Co-act line of grippers and actuators uses technology to prevent possible injury while gripping or when coming in contact with a person while providing sufficient force so as not to mishandle a workpiece. Gripping force limitation can be activated for certain applications. Plus, gripper software evaluates and processes signals from the device’s environmental sensors, in essence providing the gripper with artificial intelligence capabilities.
The Otto 1500, an autonomous self-driving vehicle (think Google driverless car, but for the indoor manufacturing floor), is equipped with a lifting mechanism that enables it to roll under a 3,300-pound payload, capture it and transport it to another location autonomously. The robot forms a “mental map” of the shop floor using laser scanners and can find its own way from point A to point B safely. The robot can even be fitted with a robotic arm for machine loading/unloading. Simon Drexler, Otto Motors director of industrial solutions, says some of its clients are treating it like a sort of mobile cobot, navigating and moving with and around its human partners. Watch a video of this robot in action here.
The Additive Manufacturing Conference returned this year, having been launched at the previous IMTS. Originally a half-day workshop, the conference this year was a one-and-a-half-day event in which 480 registrants came to hear 20 speakers discuss the application of AM to industrial production. The AMC next year (a non-IMTS year) will be held in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Like the more than 115,000 show registrants, the editors of Modern Machine Shop did their level best to see as many of the record-number 2,407 exhibitors at this year’s International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), a show in which additive manufacturing, data-driven manufacturing and robotics were prominent trends. However, therein lies the challenge of creating a comprehensive post-show wrap-up. In fact, the size and scope of IMTS makes it impossible to create such a report that would do the show justice. Therefore, we instead provide you with the following collection of interesting discoveries we unearthed at the show.