See a slideshow of some of the technology viewed at the 2010 edition of Bi-Mu, the biennial Italian manufacturing technology trade show.
Associate Editor, Modern Machine Shop
Although FPT is known in the United States primarily for smaller machines designed for the mold and die industry, the company’s core business consists of boring and milling machines such as the Spirit, which is designed for the energy, shipbuilding and other large-part industries. Like other models from this company, the Spirit is fully hydrostatic, incorporating a custom system designed to compensate for pressure differences in the hydrostatic fluid during axis movement. Combined with a completely enclosed RAM and saddle, this reduces friction and improves accuracy and stability, the company says.
Many Italian builders focus on flexible, customizable solutions for large part machining. One example, Pama’s Speedmat floor-type boring and milling machine, features a modular design with a selection of axis travels, spindle power, tool and pallet changers and more. The machine is also available with a range of attachment heads, including universal, facing, turning and angular configurations.
Like most Italian-built boring and milling machines, FPT’s Spirit is available with a variety of interchangeable spindle heads like the one shown here, which provide the flexibility to adapt to differing jobs production requirements.
Fidia offers standalone milling heads that can be incorporated into any builder’s machines. This model’s asymmetrical design—note how the right side of the head is smaller than the left—provides users with additional flexibility to avoid collisions when reaching into pockets. Other notable features include a direct-drive design and a custom, internal liquid-cooling system.
Large machines require large accessories, such as this massive rotary table from Rotomors.
Rotomors also offers a variety of rotary tables similar to this one, which enables full inner and outer machining of bearing rings for wind turbines and similar components in one setup.
Gerardi says its Double Zero Point automatic positioning and clamping system enables fast, easy and repeatable positioning of vises, tombstones and other fixtures on machine tool work tables with a single ground, calibrated screw. Unlike the company’s original Zero Point system, the Double Zero Point compensates for differences in pitch and features double centering, which provides higher radial resistance for improved rigidity.
Trevisan specializes in machines designed for oil-field and other energy applications that provide an alternative option for large, unbalanced parts typically produced on vertical turning centers. A key feature of these machines is a U-axis slide with multiple tool positions. Shown here mounted above the milling/drilling spindle, the U-axis enables users to hold the part stationary and rotate the tool around turned features instead. This alleviates imbalance issues and enables machining in fewer setups, the company says.
A model of a Trevisan machine cutting a hub for a wind turbine.
This valve body is one example of the type of part for which the Trevisan machine is designed. With multiple bores and flanges, this component would require as many as five setups when machined on a lathe, compared to only 1 with the Trevisan machine’s U-axis spindle, the company says. Additionally, such a part might spin out of balance when chucked in a lathe.
In many industries, high-volume part production is increasingly taking a back seat to smaller batch sizes and more varied part mixes. In response to the resulting demand for increased flexibility, workholding supplier OML offers the Vari-Clamp vise, shown here. The vise uses a floating mechanism of moveable jaws and different gripper forms to allow the clamping of virtually any shape, including irregular, round, elliptical, rectangular, curved, stepped, and slanting workpieces.
Likewise, many manufacturers are increasingly utilizing five-axis machines, which can present unique manufacturing challenges. Fixturing, for example, can be difficult—the part must be held both securely and in a configuration that enables the machine spindle to access it. OML’s solution is the Genius vise. In addition to holding the workpiece high enough for machine access, the vise maintains rigidity by incorporating a telescopic screw located close to the workpiece. This prevents the jaws on either side from bending outward when stressed under high clamping forces.
Improved controls, stations with multi-spindle turrets, modular components and other such features are driving a trend toward more flexible transfer machines designed for production of smaller, more varied batches of parts than their traditional counterparts. Buffoli says its Omni-Flex Tri-Center, shown here, can reduce cost and floor space requirements compared to using multiple CNC machining centers for such jobs.
Each station within Buffoli’s Omni-Flex Tri-Center can be configured for turning, boring, milling and other operations to produce a certain part feature. A finished part drops out each time the machine indexes.
Porta chose an unusual, cost-saving approach to displaying the capabilities of its Multicenter transfer machine. Behind the very real loading station and robot is a video display of the work envelope mounted within a representation of the machine’s frame.
According to Porta, each modular unit around the rotating table operates like a separate CNC machine, enabling the Multicenter to outperform groups CNC machines for producing a varied mix of medium- to high-volume jobs.
Top Automazioni’s barfeeders are designed to significantly reduce the cost and time associated with change-overs to accommodate different-diameter bars. Whereas most barfeeders require a skilled technician to spend as much as an hour and a half changing the guide channel and pusher, Top’s models can be changed over in as little as 90 seconds via PLC-adjustable guide channels that adapt automatically to the new bar diameter, the company says.
Instead of a removable guide channel, this Top Automazioni barfeeder uses a series of steady rests to support the length of the bar. Via the PLC, these steady rests quickly and automatically adjust to accommodate different diameters.
With approximately 3,000 machine tools displayed in an exhibition area measuring more than 90,000 square meters, the 27th edition of Bi-Mu was too big an event to cover in its entirety. While the slides that follow offer only a cursory glance at the huge array of technology on display, it’s worth highlighting some notable examples that illustrate a few broader trends apparent at the show: namely, flexibility and automation. This is evidenced by a prevalence of interchangeable spindle heads and other modular components; transfer machines that can take on smaller batches of more varied parts; and workholding solutions that reduce setup and fixturing time.