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Posted by: Peter Zelinski 2. September 2014

Three Reasons Machine-Tool Automation Is on the Rise

At next week’s International Manufacturing Technology Show, Makino says it will demonstrate the broadest range of automation possibilities it has brought to any IMTS so far. Six different approaches to automation for unattended loading and unloading of machines will be operational in the company’s booth. Why so much attention to automation? Mark Rentschler, Makino’s head of marketing for the Americas, says automation is increasingly important to machining facilities for at least three reasons.

First is the skills gap. Among high-value manufacturers across all industries, finding qualified, skilled personnel is a challenge. This is perhaps the most obvious reason automation is in demand. However, a second factor is the ongoing move, also throughout various industries, toward higher-mix and shorter-leadtime production. The right automation system is an aid to rapidly shifting between part numbers, Mr. Rentschler says.

The third factor he cites is the increasing sophistication of North American manufacturers. Variables in a manufacturing process are sources of expense. Machine tool automation saves cost by eliminating variation in setup time (which otherwise would depend on the fluctuating pace of a human operator) and variation in machine utilization (which otherwise would be subject to the operator’s breaks and interruptions). This connection between variation and cost is something the largest manufacturers have long understood, but now a significant portion of smaller manufacturers appreciate this as well.

The different automation solutions shown in the booth will include well-known options such as robot loading and pallet systems for individual and multiple machines, plus options that are more unusual, such as:

  • A die/mold cell devised in conjunction with Erowa. The cell (shown) will include machines for graphite milling, hard steel milling, wire EDM and sinker EDM, all fed by a robot. Steel blocks enter this cell, and finished mold cores or cavities leave.
  • Five-axis automation. Because automated loading and unloading require automatic workholding able to repeatably clamp and position the work, five-axis machining is considered challenging to automate. The company’s a51nx-5XU machining center will be seen using a workholding device that is essentially an inverted 50-taper toolholder receiver. Workpieces mounted on this taper will be loaded into the machine by a device resembling a toolholder.
  • Aerospace automation. The company’s a61nx-5E machinining center will be automated with a multi-layer pallet pool applied in a context where it might not be expected. High-power, high-speed machines cutting aluminum aerospace workpieces achieve short cycle times that require workpieces to be delivered to the machine quickly. The demonstration will show how modern pallet-pool automation provides the speed to achieve this.

Makino’s free Lunch & Learn program also returns to IMTS this year. The company says it has doubled the space available for the lunches featuring presentations by successful manufacturers.


Posted by: Mark Albert 29. August 2014

Visualizing a Record-Breaking Contribution

Cutting tool manufacturer Sandvik Coromant is planning to set a new Guinness World Record at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS). The record will represent the impact of manufacturing on the U.S. economy. Specifically, the company says that the manufacturing industry contributes more than $65,000 to the U.S. economy every second.  

On September 10, the world’s largest coin mosaic will be unveiled to help raise public awareness of the importance of manufacturing and show that manufacturing is a viable career option for present and future generations. The world record-breaking mosaic is intended to visually represent this amount in both design and total value of the coins.

The mosaic will be constructed in Soldier Field’s South Parking Lot A-2, located outside the East Building of McCormick Place at the IMTS Show. The mosaic will be available for viewing starting Tuesday, September 9 and will continue until the grand unveiling ceremony Wednesday, September 10 at 10 a.m.

“We want people to understand just how much money manufacturing contributes to the U.S. economy every second and this mosaic will be a fun way to visually bring that to life,” says Eduardo Martin, President Market Area Americas Sandvik Coromant. “It also helps the next generation of workers realize the vast opportunity that exists within our industry and see manufacturing as an advantageous career choice.”

To provide additional opportunities for students interested in careers in manufacturing, Sandvik Coromant, with help from several industry sponsors, will make a large donation to The Manufacturing Institute. This donation will help students take advantage of STEM education and help fund its summer camps, as well as other initiatives including “Dream It. Do It.” and “STEP Ahead,” a women-in-manufacturing initiative.

“We were excited when Sandvik Coromant approached us with their idea and we encourage all show attendees and anyone in the area to stop by to learn more about the wide variety of career opportunities in manufacturing,” says Jennifer McNelly, president of The Manufacturing Institute. “We hope this effort will help future generations to see the manufacturing industry as a great career path and encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities that STEM-education provides.”

Following the unveiling ceremony, Sandvik Coromant and event sponsors Amazon, Haas Automation, Gene Haas Foundation, Okuma, Doosan, Blackhawk Industrial and Quality Mill Supply will present a check to The Manufacturing Institute to support its mission.

To donate to the cause, click here.


Posted by: Emily Probst 28. August 2014

Case Study: Chip Conveyors Keep Production Running Efficiently

While machining large workpieces made from ductile iron for the heavy truck and military drive train markets, Acurate Gage of Rochester Hills, Michigan noticed an iron sludge buildup in its coolant tanks that required frequent maintenance and machine downtime. By incorporating four Chip Disc Filtration (CDF) conveyors from Hennig to run in tandem with its Niigata SPN 701 HMCs, the company was able to reduce downtime for maintenance.

Hennig’s magnetic chip disc filtration system caught the attention of the team at Accurate, because change-over seemed relatively easy compared to the traditional drum screen filtration systems. As Accurate’s Engineering Manager Mark Tario says, “Replacing the drum filter screen is not an easy task, in fact, it can be downright miserable. The Hennig disc arrangement seemed much easier to operate and maintain. The incorporation of rare earth drum and scraper assembly inside the conveyor appeared to be a great solution for minimizing the amount of cast iron fines reaching the coolant tank side of the system.” Mr. Tario notes the heavier-duty mechanical components and drive chains used on the Hennig conveyor could provide greater wear life and reduce likelihood of downtime.

Downtime for maintanence was perhaps Accurate’s biggest challenge. Machining cast iron creates considerable problems, such as the frequent need to replace conveyor chains, drum screens and other mechanical components that get infiltrated by the iron files and lock up.

Accurate found Hennig’s conveyor chains to be stronger and not need frequent repair and replacement. The discs can be removed and cleaned on a workbench rather than reaching through narrow access ports to wrestle with a drum-style filter. This entire process takes as much as two hours and screen replacements can be done in 30 minutes or less, Mr. Tario says.

Accurate has already installed four Hennig systems, just received an additional three and plans to purchase two more in the near future. 

To see video of this installation, click here.


Posted by: Peter Zelinski 27. August 2014

EOS North American User Day Comes to IMTS

This batch of parts produced through direct metal laser sintering
was made by one example of an EOS user, C&A Tool.

At next month’s International Manufacturing Technology Show, various new developments reflect IMTS attendees’ heightened interest in additive manufacturing and the sizable number of exhibitors offering additive manufacturing services or technology. This category has now added its name to a pavilion: This year the North Hall will house the Fabricating/Laser/Additive Pavilion. In addition, a new event has been added to the show: the half-day Additive Manufacturing Workshop September 9.

One other significant additive manufacturing development is this: EOS, the maker of additive manufacturing machines for metal and plastic parts, has for the first time brought its North American User Day to IMTS. The recurring event that gathers together users of EOS laser-sintering technology will take place Wednesday, September 10, and is open to both EOS customers and IMTS attendees. Speakers will include Dr. Hans Langer, the company’s founder and CEO, as well as companies offering solutions related to additive manufacturing such as MicroTek Finishing, Shapeways and Within. To register or learn more about either the EOS North American User Day or the Additive Manufacturing Workshop, visit this page.


Posted by: Derek Korn 26. August 2014

Okuma Launches “myokuma.com” App Store

The open architecture of Okuma’s THINC-OSP control makes it possible to easily install computer applications that allow for myriad conveniences right at the CNC. In fact, the company is introducing its new app store at myokuma.com. Okuma users can download a range of helpful apps to their THINC-OSP controls that have been created by Okuma’s own engineering staff as well as its distributors’ engineers and customers.

The online store provides apps for CNC control functionalities that increase productivity and streamline machine tool processes. Apps will be added on an ongoing basis, and users can even create custom apps that address their individual needs. Examples include:

  • Machine alert. Monitors machine alarm status and automatically send an email, text or phone message to the user when an alarm condition is activated.
  • Part flip monitor. Checks the chuck clamp status to be sure the operator has opened/closed the chuck before cycle start is pressed for Op20 of the part flip program. This reduces the chances that a part will be scrapped.
  • Visual assistance support. Displays helpful on-demand images for the operator at any point in a part program or process. The images assist with machine setup, visual part inspection and other functions.
  • Scheduled maintenance. Shows a reminder of the scheduled maintenance needed for the specific machine where the application is installed. This prompts the user to complete daily inspection tasks that maintain optimal machine performance.

This new app store will be demonstrated in the company’s IMTS Booth S-8500. Attendees who participate in the app store demos will be entered to win one of six Microsoft Surface tablets (one winner each day).


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