MMS Blog

Metav, the Düsseldorf, Germany-based show that takes place biennially in February, faces the burden of occurring only a few months after the world's biggest metalworking show, EMO Hannover, and a few months before world events such as AMB, the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) and the Japan International Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF). As a result, exhibitors use the show to connect with customers from Northern Germany and don't necessarily present world-introduction solutions.

Therefore, for my coverage of the event, I focused on what is new in clamping technology, toolholding and workholding—areas in which customers are increasingly benefiting from solutions designed for the age of Industry 4.0. Exhibitors had a number of intelligent workholding and toolholding solutions for automation and networked manufacturing up their sleeves. Digital-workflow data collected from these “smart” devices can be used to manage process flows, and productivity can be increased by performing the appropriate analysis and data processing. Similarly, some new clamping technology generates data that can contribute to process-flow optimization. For example, tooling and maintenance times can be reduced in advance and the machine time can be used for production instead.

Click through the slideshow above to see a sampling of some of those technologies I spotted at the show.

If you are connected to the surface finishing industry through machining or manufacturing materials, then Cleveland, Ohio, is where you will want to be June 4-6 when the community gathers at the Sur/Fin Manufacturing and Technology Trade Show and Conference hosted by the National Association for Surface Finishing (NASF).

“With more than 80 technical presentation and over 180 experts in the industry on hand, Sur/Fin is the place to learn, meet and discover all the latest in technology and innovations,” says Matt Akin, chairperson of the Sur/Fin Conference.

One of the key benefits of using a horizontal machining center (HMC) is the option to mount workpieces on a tombstone. Multiple workpieces can be mounted per side. Indexing the tombstone on the machine’s rotary table makes another set of workpieces accessible for machining. The more sides on the tombstone, the more sets of parts that can be machined without operator attention or idle time for a pallet change. The productivity gains can be substantial.

KME CNC (Irvine, California) has added some new twists and turns to this scenario—both literally and figuratively speaking. Literally, new twists and turns are represented by the rotary capabilities of its five-axis tombstones. These tombstones provide programmable rotary platters enabling the HMC to do five-sided machining. The machine’s three linear axes can combine with the coordinated rotary indexing motion of the platters and the rotary motion of the machine’s worktable to reach five sides of each workpiece on the face of the tombstone—and do some operations with all five axes moving at once (of course, the orientation of the cutting tool in the horizontal spindle cannot be programmed, so this is not five-axis machining for contours or sculptured surfaces). These rotary platters add greatly to the flexibility of the HMC’s machining capability, applications manager Jerome Mel says.

By: Timothy W. Simpson 15. April 2018

Why Does My AM Part Cost So Much?

Last month, we started talking about the costs of additive manufacturing (AM) and why the slope of the “conventional” manufacturing cost curve decreases exponentially with increased production volume while the AM cost curve remains flat no matter how many units are produced. This month, we dig deeper into these costs to help better understand the economics behind AM.

• Machine cost and hourly usage rate: Machine costs are starting to decrease, but a single laser powder-bed fusion system with a typical build volume (10 by 10 by 12 inches) still costs between $400,000 and $800,000. These costs will continue to drop as multi-laser systems become more readily available, build volumes increase (for example, GE is working on a system with a cubic meter of build volume) and competition intensifies. Right now though, you are basically looking at $1 million by the time you add in all the ancillary equipment, explosion-proof vacuum, sieving station, filters, maintenance agreements and more.

Days after President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, Dr. Heinz-Jürgen Prokop, chairman of VDW, the German Machine Tool Builders’ Association, said that he believed the president’s initiatives to increase U.S. domestic production would have a positive impact on global machine tool sales as I noted in this blog post. Conditions one year after President Trump took office indicate that Mr. Prokop was right.

Per VDW, the German machine tool industry recorded a 4-percent rise in production output in 2017 compared to 2016, with production values reaching 15.7 billion euros. According to Mr. Prokop, one of the major drivers for growth was foreign deliveries. In 2017, 71 percent of machine tools made in Germany were exported, an increase of 8 percent as compared to 2016. While China remains Germany’s biggest export market, the Americas’ demand for German machine tools increased by 20 percent as compared to the previous years. The United States, Germany’s second biggest export market, took delivery of German machine tools worth 1.12 billion euros (up 20 percent compared to 2016). For incoming orders, Mr. Prokop is optimistic that the United States will follow a moderate growth path, also thanks to the government’s tax cuts. However, concerns about protective tariffs on imported goods and a strong euro remain, Mr. Prokop says.

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