This slideshow offers examples of some of the technology spotted at this year's iteration of TIMTOS, Taiwan's biennial machine tool exhibition.
TIMTOS was split over sites: the Nangang Exhibition Hall, shown here, and the Taiwan World Trade Center.
That Fair Friend Group (FFG) occupied one of TIMTOS' more expansive booths demonstrates the company's growth, which mirrors that of the industry as a whole. Here are the results of three separate mold machining tests conducted on a 3+2 mill available from Fair Friend Group Europe, which was established last year with the acquisition of Italian machine tool builders JOBS, Sachman, Rambaudi and Sigma. The component at the bottom left corner represents the Mercedes Test, which checks finish quality; the long component in the middle represents the BMW test, which checks dynamic quality and speed; and the tall component at the upper right corner represents an accuracy test conducted by rotating the machine head.
Jimmy Chu, Chairman of FFG, says the group plans to make additional acquisitions and continue to grow its market share abroad. In the United States, FFG’s second largest market, the group is known for its Feeler line of machines, which are available through Methods Machine Tools (Sudbury, Massachusetts).
FFG’s Feeler line includes not only HMCs and VMCs, but also automation accessories like this pallet system. The six stations shown here can each hold a separate component, thereby making the system useful for manufacturers seeking a flexible approach to automating production of different parts in relatively low batch sizes.
Many Taiwanese builders offered equipment with simultaneous five-axis machining capability. This shot, however, wasn’t taken at a builder’s booth—it’s a demo of tool-centerpoint control and other CNC features from the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), a nonprofit R&D organization funded by a combination of manufacturers and the government. The organization reports that Taiwanese builders have been working to develop their own CNCs to alleviate the costs and regulatory hurdles associated with importing them from Japan and Europe.
Many machines at the show offered linear guides. Dah Lih’s DMT-630 direct-drive, five-axis HMC, for example, uses linear guides in its CAE-analyzed moving column for speed and rigidity. Other notable features include compatibility with multi-pallet changers, thermal compensation functions, and direct-drive worktable and swiveling head. Dah Lih products are available in the United States from Maxtec Machinery (El Monte, California).
Akira Seiki, a joint U.S.-Taiwanese firm, sets apart its line of VMCs with technology it calls relative movement (RMV). Available on three-axis through full five-axis configurations, RMV moves the rotary table upwards at the same time the spindle moves downwards along the Z axis. According to the company, this provides smoother, faster machining because the inertia of the two moving components counteracts each other.
Tongtai's new T51-USA VMC is designed for ultrasonic machining, in which the tool vibrates rapidly in a vertical direction as it rotates. According to the company, this provides smoother surface finishes as well as faster cutting of hard, brittle materials, such as ceramic and glass.
According to the company, the machine's non-contact power supply and signal-transmission capabilities eliminate restrictions on spindle speed, which can reach 20,000 rpm. Additionally, the CNC automatically adjusts vibration frequency between 15 and 45 kHz depending on the size and shape of the tool and other application variables.
Tongtai machinery is available in the United States from Absolute Machine Tools (Lorain, Ohio).
A notable trend at TIMTOS were offerings that combine multiple processes on one platform. This prototype from Tailift, which is known for its forklifts as well as sheet-processing equipment and machine tools, integrates a laser head with a four-axis VMC to enable users to perform part marking and hardening in addition to machining. Booth personnel also mentioned plans to possibly equip the VMC with a laser sintering head for additive manufacturing capability.
Rather than locking the milling spindle for turning operations, Quaser's new MT-250 five-axis milling and turning center features its own dedicated turning turret. According to the company, this improves rigidity and machining speed because the turret is less bulky than the milling spindle and moves in close to the workpiece. This configuration is also said to simplify programming.
Booth personnel said the machine will be released next year in the United States, where the company is represented by YMT (Brea, California).
The TW-400HV from Topwell Machinery Co., represented in the United States by Kent Industrial, offers both vertical and horizontal spindles, each equipped with its own 24-tool magazine. According to the company, the ability to change automatically between horizontal and vertical modes reduces setups by providing access to five part faces while also conserving floor space. Large front and side doors provide easy access to the workzone, and the machine is optionally available with linear guideways instead of ballscrews.
Victor Taichung’s Vturn Q200 turn-mill features twin spindles and three turrets. Engaging the third turret for lengthier operations is said to improve overall productivity by keeping production balanced between the two spindles. The company is represented in the United States by Fortune International (Somerset, New Jersey).
YCM highlighted the DV30T drilling and tapping center, which features twin spindles that can operate simultaneously or independently. According to the company, this configuration improves productivity in high-speed, high-volume machining applications while conserving floor space.
More than 90 percent of YCM’s sales consist of vertical machines, but the company aims to change that starting this year with a new line of HMCs, said Bryan Chen, chairman and CEO. He noted that one reason the company has chosen this route is because Taiwanese suppliers of rotary tables, ATCs and other accessories have significantly improved quality control and product reliability while maintaining relatively low costs.
Like the company’s vertical offerings, the new NH 450A HMC shown here emphasizes speed and acceleration. Roller guide ways provide rapid traverse rates of 2,326 ipm on all axes, and acceleration tops 1G. The machine’s contact surfaces are all hand-scraped.
Export levels of Taiwanese machine tool components were nearly equal to those of the country's machine tools, in part because of recent progress in quality and sophistication, according to both show organizers and various exhibitors. Booth personnel at GSA Technology Co., a manufacturer of rotary tables and tool turrets, said the company implemented 5S systems, just-in-time practices, T.O.C. (Theory of Constraints) and other production changes in the years following the 2008 financial crisis.
For its part, rotary table and toolchanger manufacturer AutoCAM claims its use of roller gears rather than worm gears lends its tables a competitive edge. Compared with the bronze wheel typical of worm-gear designs, the roller gear's steel cams are said to reduce friction, backlash and maintenance while improving speed.
Mason Chang, general manager, said builders employing the company’s products include Haas, which uses its rotary tables, and Hurco, which uses its automatic toolchangers.
Although CNC lathe manufacturer Chia Chyun’s biggest market is the United States, few here are likely to know the name. That’s because like many Taiwanese builders, the company’s products are marketed under an established brand—in this case, Ganesh Machinery (Chatsworth, California). This shot depicts the workzone of the company’s CY252 MB, a twin-spindle, twin-Y-axis turn-mill. The B-axis live tooling station visible toward the back of the workzone rotates 360 degrees.
Designed for mirror-finish grinding to surface roughness of Ra 0.02 um, Chevalier’s Ultimate 2040 features a hydrostatic spindle as well as hydrostatic, linear-motor X-axis guideways.
Notably, data from show organizers shows grinding exports from Taiwan increased by 57.7 percent in 2012. This increase was driven mostly by China and the United States, to which grinding exports grew by 109.7 percent and 67.6 percent, respectively.
Represented in the United States by Absolute Machine Tools (Lorain, Ohio) EDM manufacturer Accutex is moving to linear motors for all of its latest EDM offerings. Among those offerings is the AP-4030 wire EDM, which features a compound table design that is said to improve accuracy and rigidity. Rather than sliding across one another, as is the case on a many machine tools, the machines' X-axis table sits directly on the base for full support by the casting, while the Y axis moves in a separate column.
The holes in this part were produced on a recent addition to Chmer’s line of small-hole EDM drilling equipment: the AD5L. In the United States, such equipment is increasingly in demand for drilling cooling holes in jet engines and gas turbines. Typically, these holes are round after EDM drilling, and the part is transferred to a separate sinker machine to impart the necessary shape. However, the AD5L’s CNC software enables the machine to burn the complete hole in one setup. Each hole on this workpiece took about a minute, the company reports. EDM Network is the exclusive importer of Chmer machines in the United States.
Large machine tool offerings were well-represented at TIMTOS. One example is You Ji’s VTL2000, a vertical turning lathe with a 2,000-mm-diameter table that accommodates workpieces as heavy as 10,000 kg. The company is represented in the United States by Absolute Machine Tools (Lorain, Ohio).
Large offerings weren’t restricted to milling and turning machines. Luren Precision’s LFG-8040 vertical gear-profile grinding machine accommodates workpieces as heavy as 5,500 pounds and ranging in size to 31.4 inches in diameter.
Asia Pacific Elite Corp. (APEC), a subsidiary of Tongtai, is a brand new line in the United States represented by Absolute Machine Tools (Lorain, Ohio). This model, the XYZ five-axis, gantry-type machining center, is designed primarily for two applications: automotive dies and molds and aluminum aerospace structures. To that end, the machine is available with three different modular heads with varying spindle speeds and either HSK63A or HSK100A tapers. Both the X and Y axes feature linear guides, while the Z axis employs double ballscrews. As opposed to using linear motors in all axes, this configuration keeps the bridge size as compact as possible without sacrificing rigidity, acceleration, or resistance to backlash, the company says.
Taiwanese manufacturers continue to advance capabilities. The gallery below depicts examples of a number of trends I spotted at TIMTOS 2013, including:
Complex Motion. Rare was the machining center supplier that didn’t offer a model with more than three axes, and most supplied equipment capable of full simultaneous five-axis moves. Increasingly, machine axes aren’t traversing via ballscrew, either—linear motors seemed ubiquitous on the show floor, appearing in equipment ranging from HMCs and VMCs to grinders and EDM equipment.
Multiple processes, one platform. Turn-mill machines were also a common sight at the show, and the range of offerings included more than just lathes with live milling and drilling tools. In addition to subspindles for part hand-off, notable offerings included machines with more than two turrets to balance production between the main and subspindle and Y-axes for off-center milling and drilling, among others. This trend extends beyond just turn-mills--one supplier, for instance, showcased a VMC with integrated laser marking.
Advanced control technology. More so than simpler configurations, five-axis and turn-mill machines depend on CNC features such as tool centerpoint control, robust simulation, machine monitoring and so forth. Taiwanese builders like YCM, Chevalier, Chmer and Tongtai, among others, are increasingly developing their own such features rather than sourcing from elsewhere.
Component suppliers step up. King Wang, chairman of TAMI's machine parts & elements committee, said Taiwan's machine parts and component industry has made considerable progress during the last few years. In fact, total export value for this sector amounted to nearly as much as machine tools themselves. Additionally, TIMTOS 2013 marked the first time that the Machine Tools Industry Awards for Excellence in Research and Innovation included a category specifically for machine components.