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Multitasking Levels, MTConnect and Additive Mrf. Part of Tech Center Event

A recent open house at Mazak’s Chicago-area facility included not just various machines but also various ideas for thinking differently about machining.

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Mazak’s recent Midwest Technology Center Event at its Schaumburg, Illinois, tech center gave attendees access to about 22 different milling, turning and multitasking machine tools. It also showcased various ideas related to deploying those machines effectively. Some of this involved technology particular to Mazak but some also involved technology broadly available throughout the industry.

An example of the former is Mazak’s idea of the “levels” of multitasking. The company has gone beyond helping customers identify whether or not multitask machining (turning, milling, and drilling in a single setup on a single machine) makes sense for a given job, and now instead looks to identify the different applications that are suited to each of the five levels of multitasking machines. Signage at the event identified multitasking machine tools according to what level each machine represented.

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Machines and machined parts were labeled according to the multitasking levels they represent.

Smooth Technology was also on display. This is the company’s term for its system of control unit, machine hardware, and programming and processing software that combined achieve both efficient machine motion and an efficient experience for the machine user. Various machines at the event were shown equipped with Smooth Technology­—a reminder that the unseen engineering of the control system is liable to be just as great a factor in the effectiveness of the machine as the kind of hardware engineering that is more obviously visible at an open house event like this.

Another idea that was on display was the promise of leveraging MTConnect, the broad-industry standard for sharing machine tool data. Mazak has used the information available through MTConnect to improve machine utilization within its own production in Kentucky. A presentation at the event by company vice president of manufacturing Ben Schawe detailed this, while on the event floor, a real-time display showed the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) in real-time for Kentucky production machine tools. On this display, the bars were not all green. Yellow and red bars also appeared, indicating where a machine has dipped into a low level of OEE for any of a number of possible reasons, perhaps routine or perhaps noteworthy, just like in any production shop. The point of the display was not to boast about Kentucky’s productivity, but instead to illustrate the kind of intelligence that is now possible in the pursuit of greater efficiency.

A prominent display also detailed the company’s new hybrid additive manufacturing machine—combining CNC machining with additive manufacturing. I spoke about additive manufacturing at this event. That presentation gave me the chance to ask the audience, “If, in addition to subtracting material, you are now free to add material within the same cycle, then how does this change your sense of how to make the part?”

The hybrid machine is so new for the company that it did not have one available to show at this event. The company says its National Technology Center in Florence, Kentucky, will soon receive the machine, and will soon begin to experiment with it in cooperation with customers.

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The additive manufacturing demo part included Inconel features grown onto a steel turned part.

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