EMO 2017: A Sneak Peek

EMO, the world’s largest metalworking show will be back in Germany September 18-23 with the theme of “connecting systems for intelligent production.”

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In June, I joined journalists from 25 countries to preview EMO 2017, the world’s largest metalworking show, which returns to Hanover, Germany, September 18-23. The preview event included presentations from 35 exhibiting companies describing some of the new technology that must not be missed. Plus, looking back at the last EMO held in Hanover four years ago, it becomes clear that the past four years have brought significant changes to the metalworking industry.

The principal focus of EMO 2013 and its theme “Intelligence in Production” was to improve machinery concepts, control technology, and software, tools and processes. With a continuous stream of innovation in these fields, the functionality of intelligent production systems has been upgraded since 2013. Customer requirements, such as changing batch sizes, an infinite number of different product variants, new materials, requirements for sustainability in production operations, and more, constituted additional drivers for innovation. To handle these complex jobs, the demand for communication capabilities has been rising. “Intelligence in Production” accordingly ensured that modern-day production systems were being integrated into a company’s entire IT world.

This year’s show will feature solutions that are not only integrated into a company’s IT world, but are connected and networked: machine tools communicating, analyzing and using the available data and extracting the relevant information from that data to generate added value for the manufacturer and its customers. This can be data from the machine tool that provides a foundation for new service offers in condition monitoring and predictive maintenance, and in the best case, even directions on future machine developments. The same applies to data that is generated by intelligent tools. Moreover, data from automation and part handling can ultimately supply information for logistics in production, and data from measurement engineering and quality management for intelligent process control.

“Experts expect networking to trigger a quantum leap forward in terms of improving productivity and competitiveness among users in all sectors,” says Carl Martin Welcker, EMO general commissioner. According to Mr. Welcker, EMO 2017 will generate important impetus for implementing the much-discussed concepts of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT). “We have long since implemented digitalization in the machine tool itself,” Mr. Welcker says. “Digital images for simulation, for instance, have likewise been possible for quite a long time.” Now, the task is to network the entire production operation and the complete added-value chain, he adds.

In a consistently networked manufacturing line, flexible production is possible with optimized sequences, so that even last-minute orders in small batch sizes can be handled. Complete networking of the entire production line with real-time communication and control will maximize added value for companies when they implement horizontal communication from receipt of the order all the way through to dispatch, Mr. Welcker explains. “Within the value-added chain, it’s important to network not only the component suppliers, but also the logistical partners and the customers involved to maximize productivity, flexibility and efficiency.”

Nevertheless, there are still many challenges, including secure storage and transmission of data as well as legal aspects related to data ownership and protection. According to show organizer VDW, Germany’s association of machine tool builders, trendsetting strategies to tackle these challenges will be presented at September’s show.

Apart from solutions for digitalization and networking, EMO also features new machine concepts, accessories and tools. Some of these will be affordable standard machines as well as special machines for the highest-quality demands in large-scale and mass production, integrating a great variety of automation solutions from the simplest pallet changer to fully automated storage and handling systems.

Because shops and plants are so much alike in the challenges they face, the solutions on display in Germany are highly likely to be applicable to prospective buyers no matter which country or continent they call home. Of course, most of the U.S. suppliers of manufacturing technology exhibit at this show, too. According to organizer VDW, 75 U.S. exhibitors have already registered, covering 67,565 square feet of floor space.

All in all, 2,050 companies from 45 countries have already signed up to exhibit at EMO, which covers more than 1.9 million square feet (177,000 square meters). I cannot wait to see it all. Let the show begin!