Soraluce Tech Days Highlights Multitasking, Automation and Productivity

The machine tool builder launched new innovations at an event hosted at its Limburg, Germany, Center of Excellence earlier this month.

Machine tool builder Bimatec Soraluce, part of the Danobat Group, welcomed more than 800 European, American and Asian customers to its Technology Days celebration November 14-18. Soraluce is a manufacturer of large milling, turning and boring machine tools, with work envelopes ranging to 8 meters high and 90 meters long. Custom and turnkey solutions are among the company's specialties. Its primary markets are Germany and Italy, but its machines are used around the world for large-part machining applications such as oil and gas equipment, industrial vehicle engine blocks, and tool and die work.

Though Soraluce is headquartered and manufactures its products exclusively in Spain, its annual customer Technology Days event takes place at the company's Center of Excellence in Limburg, Germany. Renovated in 2012, the building boasts 2,500 square meters of showroom and machine demonstration space plus offices and a service center. The 2016 Technology Days celebrated the 25th anniversary of this location, established in 1992.

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In addition to observing this milestone and honoring key employees and customers, Soraluce used the event to unveil new technology and emphasize three core themes: multitasking, automation and productivity. 

1. Multitasking. Soraluce specializes in large gantry-type machine tools for milling, boring and turning of large parts, with its smallest model accommodating workpieces 1.8 meters tall and the largest 8 meters. The company offers dedicated multitasking machines as well as those that can be equipped for multitasking. The TA-M 20 milling machine launched at Technology Days, for example, is also equipped for turning work with a rotary table and a device that enables the spindle to be clamped in place for stability.

Another Soraluce offering for multitasking is its series of changeable heads. The company offers 30 standard heads and 70 special ones that are all designed and manufactured in-house. The heads enable switching to a different quill spindle, diameter or length without removing a large part from the machine. Available varieties include a fixed horizontal boring head, facing head and angular heads. The heads can be changed out in as little as 2 hours, the company says. Two new models, the H100 and H200T for five-axis machining and multitasking operations, were rolled out during the event.

2. Automation. While there were no robotic arms or palletized cells on display at the Center of Excellence, Soraluce does offer automated solutions, and its machine tools have features to support this. The FP 10000 floor-type milling-boring center shown at Technology Days (pictured in the third slide, above) has an open architecture that could easily accommodate pallet changers, a robot and tool arena, or other automation, says David Gonzalez, sales director.

Certain machine functions also incorporate automation. For example, a new DAS system on display monitors and corrects for the vibration generated during milling. As Mr. Gonzalez says, there is "no magic fixturing solution" to solve chatter. So, rather than try to eliminate chatter mechanically, DAS automatically adjusts for detected vibration by applying a counterforce. The system is said to reduce machine maintenance while protecting tools and retaining accuracy.

3. Productivity. Soraluce demonstrated innovations to improve productivity and profitability, a number of which related to machine maintenance. The company's changeable heads, for instance, could be used as spare spindles in the case of a machine crash to keep the machine tool up and running.

Another is Smart Machine, Soraluce's answer to Industry 4.0. This machine monitoring system tracks machine data related to axis position, vibration, ambient temperature, coolant temperature and pressure, alarms, and more, and generates reports on energy consumption, tool utilization and other key metrics. The system can monitor multiple machines, even those in different locations. For example, during Technology Days, a demonstration Smart Machine display showed the data for two machine tools: one in the Limburg center and a second in the company's Bergara, Spain, headquarters. In addition to being accessible to the customer via desktop computer or tablet, collected data is also reported back to Soraluce via the cloud for diagnostic and preventive maintenance purposes.

Beyond hardware and software innovations, the company also highlighted updates focused on the "soft factors," says Thilo Borbonus, technical managing director. The largest machine tool on display, the FXR 16000 floor-type milling-boring center, showcased a High Performance Cabin (HPC) that has been enhanced with operator comfort and safety in mind.

The cabin is raised, lowered and moved laterally with electronics (less hydraulics means less maintenance, Mr. Gonzalez says) to bring the operator up to the machine spindle for tool changes and maintenance tasks. The cabin is fully enclosed and can be equipped with air conditioning and filtration so that operators are not exposed to metal dust that can be generated in applications such as cast iron milling, for example. It has a full door and window that can be opened to give the operator access to the interior of the machine, as well as a fold-out balcony so that he or she can get directly underneath the spindle. (See the seventh photo in the slideshow above.)

Aside from its functionality, the HPC also features touches like surfaces inside the cabin finished to mimic a car interior, and a built-in stereo system. Small additions like this can improve employee comfort in the workplace, and can help with employee retention, Mr. Borbonus says.

Other announcements during the event included the launch of Soraluce Academy, a program designed to promote knowledge and training for Soraluce customers, suppliers and employees. Participants will be able to test ideas and projects, anticipate upcoming challenges, and implement solutions, Mr. Borbonus says. Programming is offered in both Bergara, Spain, and Limburg, Germany, and will include industry-specific stand-alone seminars, workshops and master classes with a practical emphasis.

To see and learn more from Soraluce Technology Days, click through the slideshow above.