Impressions of JIMTOF

This show is characterized by an emphasis on practical solutions and forward-looking concepts from global leaders in machine tool technology.

The Japan International Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF) is promoted as the premier machine tool R&D show. Exhibitors are encouraged to save their most important new developments for this show. These new developments are often represented by new models introduced there, but many builders also include displays that present the engineering efforts that are moving these technology offerings forward. JIMTOF is a distinctive show and left me with these distinct impressions.

A strong theme. This year’s theme was Monozukuri DNA. Monozukuri might be translated as craftsmanship, but as I understand it, the Japanese word clearly emphasizes the connotation of expert skills applied with dedication and zeal, not simply the plying of a trade. This show was intended to inspire craftsmanship as the key to the future in the way that DNA carries the genetic code that predicts emergent traits and qualities. Japan is very much aware that promoting and preserving its highly skilled workforce is linked to its survival as a manufacturing economy.

Attracting young talent. The theme of Monozukuri DNA is clearly aimed at young people whose interests and skills are in demand for metalworking and machining. Japanese metalworking companies are competing with other manufacturing companies for recruits as well as trying to lure young people from careers in non-manufacturing professions.

Additive manufacturing. One of the developments that may attract young talent is additive manufacturing, which generated considerable interest at JIMTOF. Several builders were showing an additive process (metal cladding with lasers) integrated with CNC machining platforms as an extension of the multitasking concept. Other builders had integrated a machining process into a selective laser sintering machine. In these cases, a high-speed, three-axis milling head was programmed to profile the edges of a part after a certain number of successive layers had been built up.

Five-axis everywhere. Builders were not overselling five-axis machining, but there were few who did not include this capability on at least one machine in their portfolios. The range extended from giant gantry mills with five-axis heads for aerospace applications to machines for micromachining of miniaturized mold cavities for the computer and telecommunication industry.

A revolution in CNCs. On many machines at this show, the big control box with CRT screen and multiple panels of pushbuttons has been replaced by what appears to be a super-sized smartphone. The user interface offers the same touchscreen navigational features, options for customization and networking capability.

What to expect at JIMTOF 2016. Planners are focusing on substantial new exhibit space to be constructed, currency exchange rates that make a visit more affordable, and more opportunities to sample Japanese culture and cuisine. Of course, the main draw again will be the promise of first-time introductions of technology that point to new directions in manufacturing concepts.