Automated cells were front and center at Methods Machine Tools’ “Metal Storm” event, which also highlighted machine models that represent a new direction for the company.
Associate Editor, Modern Machine Shop
Not a single attendee at Methods Machine Tools’ “Metal Storm” open house event last week in Sudbury, Massachusetts could compete with the golfing robot in the picture above—at least not in terms of consistency. One person reportedly managed to sink more putts in a shorter amount of time, but even that talented golfer wasn’t able to achieve anything close to the robot’s approximately 99 percent accuracy. Not to mention the fact that unlike any human, this tireless little mechanical putter could hit shot after shot indefinitely until mechanical wear or some external interference put a stop to it.
Recognizing how such advantages can aid U.S. manufacturing competitiveness doesn’t require a great leap of logic, and the robot putting display proved an elegant and entertaining centerpiece for an event focused in large part on automation. More specifically, many of the displays seemed to focus on dispelling what the company views as misconceptions about automation. For example, in the cell pictured below, the rail-mounted robot loads and unloads milling, turning, EDM and measuring machines; switches out grippers and machine chucks to accommodate different parts; and performs peripheral functions such as deburring—and not necessarily in any set order. The “big idea” here is twofold: First, automation today means more than just pairing a robot with a machine. Second, it does not require high part volumes or low part variety to work properly.
A related theme was the use of multitasking machine tools. Seminars and demonstrations on Nakamura-Tome turn-mill machines emphasized the benefits of churning out complete parts in a single clamping. Like robots and other automation, these machines improve productivity by, in part, virtually eliminating duties that previously required operator attention—in this case, change-overs and multiple fixturings.
Also notable is the fact that a few of the machines on display marked new directions for Methods. For example, the reshoring phenomenon and a push toward larger parts, especially in energy-related fields, have increased demand for larger horizontal machines and boring mills that the company traditionally hasn’t offered. Similarly, the Feeler FT series lathes feature box ways and larger quills to enable heavier cuts than their linear-guide FTC series cousins.
In all, the event was a virtual mini trade show, with the machine tool product lines complemented by offerings from various suppliers of cutting tools, fixturing and other peripherals, all rounded out by a series of technical seminars. For more information on products and technology from Methods, visit methodsmachine.com.