Since two significantly down years after the financial collapse in the fall of 2008, machine tool consumption has been quite strong, performing at or above the historical average market. But 2015 looks to be the best post-recession year yet. According to the Gardner Research Capital Spending Survey and Forecast, metalcutting machine tool consumption will increase 37% next year. This dramatic jump in consumption comes after what is estimated to be a slightly down 2013 (-10%) and flat 2014.
Consumption of metalcutting equipment is expected to reach $8.8 billion in 2015. If the forecast proves true, then 2015 would be the strongest year for machine tool consumption since 1998, which had sales of $9.6 billion in real dollars. Moreover, next year could see the U.S. become the number one consumer of CNC machine tools for the first time since 2000.
While the general economy remains mired in slow growth, the four primary leading indicators for machine tool consumption are indicating significant growth for 2015. These leading indicators are:
Money Supply – Typically, changes in the money supply lead machine tool consumption by about two years. The money supply grew at an accelerating rate from February 2013 to June 2014. And, the rate of growth reached its second highest peak in history. This indicates a rapidly growing machine tool market throughout 2015.
Capacity Utilization – Perhaps the most important leading indicator, it usually leads machine tool consumption by 10 months. Durable goods capacity utilization was at 78.6% in July 2014. Based on the correlation with backlogs from the Gardner Business Index, capacity utilization should reach 80% in the next couple of months and remain there throughout 2015. This would be the first time durable goods capacity utilization was higher than 80% since June 2000.
Gardner Business Index – According to this diffusion index from Gardner Research, business conditions at metalworking facilities have improved every month but one since October 2013. Annually, the index has grown at an accelerating each of the last six months. While the index has only been around since 2006, it has shown a high correlation with machine tool consumption. The index leads the machine tool industry by about 10 months.
Durable Goods Production – Production is at an all-time high in the U.S. For 20 consecutive months, durable goods production has set a record high for that month. Production should grow at an accelerating rate through at least the end of the year. Production leads machine tool consumption by about 15 months.
For the last two years, metalworking facilities spent relatively more money on horizontal and/or larger machines. However, projections indicate that trend will reverse itself in 2015. The machine types with the largest increases in spending will likely be either vertical machines or smaller machines of all types. Horizontal machining centers will still be the most preferred machine type, but the level of spending will be fairly flat compared to 2014. Machine types forecast to grow significantly in 2015 include vertical machining centers, vertical lathes, small horizontal turning centers, small horizontal lathes, and certain types of grinding machines. Also, the survey appears to indicate a much greater interest in machines for additive manufacturing in 2015.
The top five industries buying machine tools in 2015 are projected to be job shops, machinery/equipment manufacturers, automotive, pumps/valves/plumbing products, and forming/fabricating (non-auto).
Roughly one-third of the spending will be at facilities with more than 250 employees. According to the Gardner Business Index, these larger metalworking facilities are growing at their fastest rate in nearly two years.
Unlike other capital spending projections, Gardner’s forecast is based on surveying end users about their specific spending intentions by machine type. The projection is then derived from statistical analysis of the end-user sample. The survey has historically been among the most accurate predictors of spending.
Stop by Gardner's booth (W-10) to learn more. Also, be sure to use the digital IMTS directory to help plan your booth visits.
Makino’s control interface simplifies robot integration.
Makino is demonstrating what the company says is the broadest range of automation possibilities it has brought to any IMTS so far. Six distinctly different types of automation for unattended loading and unloading of machines can be seen fully integrated and operational in the company’s Booth S-8700. Mark Rentschler, Makino head of marketing for the Americas, says automation is becoming increasingly important for a growing segment of the company’s customers. There are at least three reasons for this.
First is the skills gap. Among high-value manufacturers across all industries, there is a widespread difficulty in finding qualified, skilled personnel. This is perhaps the most obvious reason automation is in demand, but it is not the sole or even the most significant reason why manufacturers are seeking more automated processes, Rentschler says.
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.
A third factor 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). The 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 six different automation solutions seen in the booth include three well-known options (numbers 1-3 below) and three others that will seem surprising or unusual to many shops (numbers 4-6). They are:
1. A pallet system for supplying various part numbers to an individual vertical machining center.
2. The Makino Machining Complex (MMC) pallet system for sharing and exchanging pallets among multiple HMCs.
3. A FANUC robot for machining center loading and unloading. Makino’s control interface includes features aimed at simplifying operation of an integrated robot, as well as recovery if the robot cycle is interrupted.
4. A die-mold cell devised in conjunction with Erowa. The cell includes machines for graphite milling, hard steel milling, wire EDM and sinker EDM, all fed by an Erowa robot. Because many assume that automation requires volume production, the point of this cell is to illustrate automated production of a type of work in which every workpiece is unique: die-mold machining. In this cell, steel blocks enter, and finished mold cores or cavities leave. Integrating multiple manufacturing disciplines into a carefully designed system provides both cost reductions and throughput improvements that stand-alone machines can’t provide, Makino says.
5. 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 machine is automated using a workholding device that is essentially an inverted 50-taper toolholder receiver. Workpieces mounted on this taper are loaded into the machine by a device resembling a toolholder. The result is secure and repeatable clamping of the part without obstructing the five-axis machining center’s access all around the part.
6. Aerospace automation. The company’s a61nx-5E HMC is automated with a multilayer pallet pool, applied here 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. Modern pallet-pool automation provides the speed to achieve this.
The company’s booth also includes an area dedicated to aerospace engine machining. Various machines focused on this work are featured here, including a five-axis HMC capable of precision grinding, a VMC also equipped for aerospace grinding, and machines engineered for productive machining of coolant holes and root holes.
Doosan’s theme for this year’s show is “Performance Under Pressure,” and the machine tool builder has an interesting activity in its completely redesigned Booth S-8100 to support it. The company is hosting a pit crew challenge where attendees compete to change tires on a simulated NASCAR from Joe Gibbs Racing (Doosan has been a JGR technology sponsor for years).
David Barber, Doosan’s general manager of marketing, says this contest mirrors the company’s ongoing efforts to improve customer support. “Given NASCAR’s level playing field in terms of car performance, it really comes down to the support pit crews give their drivers by getting them in and out of the pits as fast as possible,” he says. “Similarly, Doosan continues to make strides to improve our customer support as evident by our recently launched 24 hour a day/5 day a week service program and increased spare parts inventory to enable quicker delivery of needed components to customers.”
Each pit crew challenge participant will receive a T-shirt or a 3D puzzle of the company’s new Puma SMX 3100 turn-mill, which makes its debut at the show. According to Mr. Barber, this turn-mill series distinguishes itself with a rigid, 90-degree vertical axis and forward-positioned automatic toolchanger for improved milling capabilities as well as enhanced operator ergonomics. In addition, contestants with the best daily time will receive a die-cast model of the new machine, and the person with the best overall time at the end of the show will receive two hot pass tickets to a NASCAR race of his/her choice.
Attendees will also notice a completely revamped booth design, featuring numerous elements playing off of the 18-degree “reliable edge” that Doosan calls the leading blue block in its company logo. Attendees will experience this throughout the booth with angled elements such as the 20-foot-high sign, interior aisles and hospitality structure. “This motif reinforces our efforts to be reliable partners with our customers and our willingness to perform under pressure to support their needs,” Mr. Barber says.
Offline machining simulation is becoming increasingly important as machine shops take on more complex, multi-axis work. That’s why CGTech (Vericut) is demonstrating the results of its new partnership with Kennametal in Booth E-3346. Through this partnership, Vericut software for simulating CNC machine tools has been integrated with Kennametal’s Novo application.
Through Novo, Kennametal makes CAD files of the 3D geometry of its tooling available, which according to Bryan Jacobs, Marcom manager at CGTech, is great for Vericut end users because they need it in order to have accurate simulation. The Novo app enables an operator to use real intelligence to easily build simulated tool assemblies. Through the partnership, Vericut users can now directly download a CAD file of a 3D Kennametal tool assembly and use it within the Vericut software without doing any other manipulations.
“Simulation speed is very important to our customers, but so is the amount of time spent preparing a simulation and its accurate representation of the physical process,” says Bill Hasenjaeger, CGTech product marketing manager. “We continually look for new ways to reduce the time to set up Vericut and ensure it correctly mimics the operations.”
CGTech’s booth features a workstation in which employees demonstrate this new capability using the latest version of Vericut, version 7.3.
Schunk’s Synergy Machine display is designed to show all of the company’s products, including toolholding/workholding and automation, and how well they work together.
When you think of Schunk, you might think solely of workholding solutions. Or, you might even think of automation. However, many IMTS attendees don’t realize that Schunk offers both. This year’s “Synergy” theme in Booth W-2000 is designed to show visitors who might only know one side of product offerings the complete scope of what Schunk has to offer and how perfectly these different products can work together in harmony. The synergy theme carries throughout the booth with different pedestals that show the different product groups working together, as well as videos.
To further illustrate this theme, Schunk created what it calls the Synergy Machine. This display is essentially an assembly line that includes a lathe and machining center. It also demonstrates machine loading and ends with modular assembly. The idea behind the Synergy Machine display is to show all of the company’s products, including toolholding and workholding as well as automation products.
The booth features five interactive hands-on displays featuring all of Schunk’s products for its employees to demonstrate, and visitors can try them out for themselves. One of these products includes the Pronto jaw, which is making its North American debut at the show. This quick-change jaw enables 5-second change-overs.
Schunk is giving away soccer balls in its booth as part of a secondary theme revolving around soccer goalie Jens Lehmann, who played for Germany during the 2006 World Cup. As a goalie with an amazing grip, Lehmann was a clear choice when it came time to choose a brand ambassador for the German company’s gripping products.