MMS Blog


Manufacturers today want to achieve higher machining productivity without compromise to machine or workpiece. This is why they have increasingly applied mass-damper devices to overcome vibration. A tuned-mass damper is a component suspended within a machine or structure that is designed to resonate out of phase with the unwanted vibration, absorb its energy and minimize the vibratory motion.

The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) offers a showcase for disruptive technology, but this year’s IMTS faced disruptions of a different sort. Indeed, this was the most harried and challenged installment of the biannual show I can recall. The approach of a hurricane compelled many from the Carolinas to leave the show early or not come at all. In Chicago where the show takes place, hotel employees on strike chanted and beat percussion instruments in front of major downtown hotels throughout the entire week. There were also the small challenges adding to the flavor of this year’s show. One was the failure to find graceful accord between cab lines and the positioning of rideshare stations, resulting in a confusion that prompted drivers to encourage attendees to find them at a nearby hotel instead. And inside the convention center, the debut of a new format for booth numbers required long-time attendees to recalibrate their navigation of the show (though not a difficult recalibration, as it turned out).

Yet if any of the challenges had any effect on the success of the show, you wouldn’t know it from the numbers. The largest manufacturing event in North America had its largest year yet—another point that, like all the points above, I do not need to tell you if you were there. The record attendance is the reason you often had such difficulty making your way down the show aisles.

“There’s gold in them thar hills!” This phrase dates to the gold rush of 1849. Today, more than 160 years later, these words are a stirring call to attention, usually to an opportunity that leads to higher profitability. This is exactly the vibe I got when visiting some of the leading companies in Silicon Valley—important companies that see a golden future for manufacturing, both figuratively and literally.

Recently, the board of directors of AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology sponsored a mission to Silicon Valley. I was a guest on this journey. The goal was to explore what many consider to be the “mother lode” of new technology developers, the source of many transformational technologies that focus on digitalizing the manufacturing industry. Here are some brief reports on the companies we visited. If you are going to “stake a claim” in this new territory, these are the transformational technologies and mindsets to watch.

Mazak is further expanding its multitasking technology with the new VC-500A/5X AM HWD multitasking machine on display in the company’s second Additive Manufacturing booth 432000 in the West Building. The machine incorporates a “hot wire” additive manufacturing technology developed in collaboration with Lincoln Electric, the company that designs, develops and manufactures arc welding products, robotic arc welding systems as well as plasma and oxyfuel cutting equipment.

Here’s how the process works: As with conventional welding, an arc torch melts metal wire directly onto a base material and/or part. The two materials (wire and workpiece) can be dissimilar. This enables the machine to generate exceptionally precise sealing coatings or produce near-net shape part features while the workpiece has been mounted for machining, the company says. The method can also be used to repair costly, complex components such as impellers, turbine blades, or tool and die parts.

“The concept is to emulate jig grinding equipment,” says Robb Hudson, CEO of Mitsui Seiki USA, when describing a new family of Vertex five-axis hybrid vertical machining/grinding centers in booth 338519. Hudson explains that this concept is literally a “new spin” on milling/grinding hybrids, because the machines can apply a part spinning process that produces tangential planetary work spindle alignment, much like the U-axis motion of jig grinding equipment. Combine this with high speed 3+2 or full five-axis milling that is capable of 0.0003-inch (5.5 µm) precision, and the result is a machine that can carry out critical applications such as lights-out machining of die/mold, optical and tooling components, Hudson says.

The Vertex Hybrid G 55-5X machine on display has two larger siblings in the family, the 75-5X and the 100-5X. The show machine is demonstrating its capabilities with a combination of milling and grinding operations on a D2 steel plate, hardened and heat-treated to 60 to 62 HRC. A form milling tool is roughing and pre-finishing corner relief, followed by a form-grinding wheel for finishing. After a rounded triangular pocket is milled in the part’s center, a variety of grinding wheels form critical step features.

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