The Importance Of “Inspired Creativity”

JIMTOF 2006 emphasized that manufacturing know-how—the capacity for “inspired creativity in making things”—is fundamental and essential.

Article From: 2/1/2007 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Aerospace machining is becoming more important in Japan because of the country’s growing involvement in the next-generation jet fighter programs and commercial jetliner production. OKK’s VG5000 five-axis, 50-taper machining center has a box-shaped structure designed for rigidity and compactness. It features high torque at low spindle speeds but is said to hold accuracy at speeds as high as 12,000 rpm. It also provides for automation (a programmable pallet changer is standard.) These features reflect a typically Japanese approach to this application.


Citizen introduced the Cincom HL01, which represents the company’s move into chucker-type machines for high-precision part production. With a compact footprint, it has features to control thermal displacement and an automatic loader with a parts palletizer. Minimizing floor space, stabilizing machine temperature and adding automation were common themes in the displays at JIMTOF.


Sub-miniature cutting tools must rotate at very high spindle speeds to achieve adequate chip loads during high speed machining, but checking a tool for runout at these speeds is a challenge. BIG Daishowa (represented in the United States by BIG Kaiser) showed the Dyna Vision, a system that uses a high speed CCD camera with a lens that can magnify an object as many as 600 times. According to developers, the system can detect runout in 0.1-micron increments, thus making it more accurate than a laser-based system.


A machine’s footprint is a major concern in floor-space constrained shops, but Japanese factory managers also worry about “air rights” taken up by a machine. The height of Mori Seiki’s NZ-S1500 CNC lathe for small-diameter shaft machining is deliberately kept low so that operators can see each other and stay in touch with collaborative efforts to speed work flow.


A peek behind Yasda’s YBM7T machining center shows duct work that is part of the machine’s optional thermal control system. Temperature-controlled oil circulates throughout the main structure of the machine to protect against changes in ambient room temperature. Chilled coolant circulating through the spindle and showering the cutting zone counteracts thermal effects in those areas. Keeping the machine’s temperature stable enhances its inherent accuracy.


The vision system on this Fanuc robot allows it to find and pick up workpieces randomly placed in a tub. The robot detects when the tub is empty and moves it out of the way automatically.


Subminiature end mills under high-powered microscopes were common at the booths of cutting tool manufacturers. This display at Mitsubishi Materials was typical. Many displays like this emphasized the accuracy of the tool-tip radius. Near perfect radius is essential to reliable performance when the results of high speed machining are measured in microns or fractions of a micron.


This fuel cell part is being roughed on an EDGE3S ram EDM from Makino. The workpiece is 64 Rc. It will be finished on a high speed mill to achieve a ±1 micron tolerance on the straightness of the channels and to ±2 microns on flatness.


This highly detailed 3D praying mantis was machined on a Mori Seiki NH4000 DCG horizontal machining center by Nissou Kougyou Co., Ltd., of Kyoto. As an entry in Mori Seiki’s “Cutting Dream” machining contest, this work won the silver prize in the die/mold machining category.

A unique aspect of the Japan International Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF) is that each show features a major theme that exhibitors are encouraged to rally around. In November 2004, the theme was “nanotechnology” (see JIMTOF Puts “Nanotechnology” Under Magnification). In November 2006, the theme was “monozukuri.” This interesting Japanese word needs a little explaining. Literally, it means “thing making,” “workpiece production” or “production process,” depending on the context. However, the overtones of the word imply the spirit of skilled craftsmanship and pride in making things very well. A good translation of monozukuri in this sense might be “inspired creativity in manufacturing.”

The two levels of meaning associated with this word made the theme doubly appropriate for this machine tool show. On one level, this theme reaffirms the national importance of manufacturing. Japan has seen much of its basic part production move to overseas factories. This trend threatens to undermine the country’s economic foundation, which has long relied on the potential for wealth creation inherent in manufacturing. Restoring the preeminence of manufacturing aims at helping to secure Japan’s long-term economic well-being.

On the other level, this theme has a message for young people in Japan. They are shunning careers in manufacturing because they find the lure and glamour of other high-tech occupations more attractive. Manufacturing is increasingly perceived as a bit too gritty. Appealing to the creativity and intellectual challenge connoted by monozukuri is an effort to offset this, encouraging talented young people to see value in manufacturing careers. “Making things” has a vital human element that can be as exciting and fulfilling as information technology, computer science or design engineering.

Exhibitors interpreted this theme in various ways. Some showed how new machines and equipment enhance productivity (sheer part-making capacity). Others focused on machining concepts for transforming advanced designs into reality (creative product innovation). Many displays could be seen as expressions of both interpretations.

More than 154,000 visitors are reported to have attended the show, a record for this event.

We present here a sampling of interesting developments gleaned at JIMTOF. These represent both basic productivity enhancements and ventures in innovation.

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