Building [Of] The Future

This machine tool builder’s new R&D center shows where the industry is headed. Several key trends are apparent. 


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In May 2009, Mori Seiki hosted a grand opening celebration of its new Digital Technology Laboratory (DTL) facility in Davis, California. The building and the organization within reflect significant trends of the future—environmental concerns, global integration, rapid product development and an emphasis on computer software—that this company is following.

Since its launch in 2000, DTL has been helping its parent company speed up and improve both the design of machine tools and their application to customer needs. The new facility expands and enhances this capability. It has 70,000 square feet of floor space for testing labs, offices, showrooms and training areas.

The building itself follows the environmentally conscious design that office buildings and manufacturing facilities are likely to copy as concern about climate change and sustainable use of resources gains momentum. For example, the design uses natural light and sunshine to provide illumination and energy. Other features help minimize the structure’s impact on the environment. In fact, the building won a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold certificate, the highest rating granted by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Also inside are technology features that enhance testing and research such as a dedicated thermal isolation chamber, vibration damping floors and a digital communications network. Worker well-being has not been neglected, either. A Japanese-style tranquility garden and an exercise gym are two features addressing these interests.

Although Mori Seiki has kept its manufacturing operations largely concentrated in Japan, it has decentralized its R&D, engineering and software design efforts. For example, machine tool designs are analyzed, tested and refined at DTL in California. Likewise, Mori Seiki’s Machining Technology Laboratory in the Chicago area works on innovative cutting tools and machining techniques. I’m told that differences in international time zones let engineers work round-the-clock by collaborating digitally across the Internet.

Not to be overlooked is DTL’s attention to software issues. DTL is leading the company’s development of automation controls, simulation and collision detection, postprocessors and remote machine monitoring.

It is significant that the company made this event an opportunity to introduce several new machine tool models. These include the NMV3000DCG, a multi-axis VMC for high-precision machining in a mid-sized format and the NT1000, the smallest multitasking machine in the company’s lineup.

Judging from the steady stream of product announcements I see from Japanese, European and American builders, Mori Seiki is not alone in maintaining impressive new product development efforts. This tells me that progress in manufacturing technology has not been completely stifled, despite the slump in machine tool sales. When the acquisition of new capital equipment gets back on track, as it surely will, manufacturers will be able to leap ahead with this new technology.