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Multitasking Machines = Increased Efficiency, Better Quality

Jul 01, 2023

Build parts faster is the mantra of manufacturers and job shops everywhere. And IMTS exhibitors in the Metal Removal pavilion are more than up to speed on the directive.

The South Building of Chicago’s massive McCormick Place houses some 200 suppliers of metal processing equipment, specializing in everything from additive measurements to Zoller measuring units. Demonstrations throughout the pavilion will focus on “one-and-done” setups using machines with myriad capabilities.

Reducing setups means doing more with every setup, which is precisely where multitasking machines fit in. These versatile units combine cutting with turning, milling, drilling, tapping, deep-hole boring, hobbing, skiving, broaching, grinding, and surface preparation. Meanwhile, so-called hybrid multitasking machines can add laser, friction-stir welding, additive, and hot-wire welding capabilities. No time is lost when parts move between workstations, freeing up operators to perform other tasks.

“IMTS 2022 embodies the multitasking concept, as there is no more efficient way to learn about multiple new technologies than a visit to McCormick Place,” said Peter Eelman, chief experience officer, the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), which runs IMTS.

Adoption of hybrid systems will accelerate when large manufacturers design parts that require internal structures, predicted Jim Kosmala, vice president of engineering and technology, Okuma America Corp., Charlotte, N.C. “That will inevitably occur because mechanical engineers understand the strength, weight, and performance benefits of additive designs.”

Okuma’s offerings include the MU-8000V Laser Ex super multitasking CNC machine that combines five-axis subtractive capabilities with laser metal deposition technology for AM, hardening, and the coating of workpiece blanks—including many that multitask.

It isn’t just large companies. Small shops also can benefit from integrated subtractive and additive technology, said Greg Papke, who serves as vice president of sales and marketing of Mazak North America’s Advantec division, Florence, Ky. “Small shops are gravitating to their first multitasking CNCs and robots to increase productivity, reduce setups, reduce the programming time, and eliminate redundant operations.”

Mazak is showing its new Syncrex Swiss-Style machine at Booth 338300 in the Metal Removal pavilion. Syncrex machines, which come in four-bar capacities ranging from 20-38 mm, are available in seven-, eight-, and nine-axis configurations—a nine-axis model with full B-axis contouring is also available. The machines feature Mazak’s Mazatrol Smooth CNC Control, which enable fast, easy job setups, according to Mazak Corp. President Dan Janka. The company’s Swiss Set-up Assist and Dynamic Chip Control features also help reduce set-up times and part production.

One of the prerequisites of efficiency is that machines actually operate—and it’s the only way companies can make money. “Manufacturers have to assure production and keep spindles turning regardless of business challenges,” said Gunther Schnitzer, president of Hermle USA Inc. of Franklin, Wis. The company’s IMTS demonstrations in Booth 339119 will focus on CNC systems with integrated automation or automation-ready machines that enable fewer people to produce more parts. This includes combined systems that can handle fixtures as well as raw materials, Schnitzer said.

Hermle will show CNC machining centers, including the C 250 that offers five-axis production, plus a wide swiveling-range of workpieces, the exploitation of the full traverse range, and the large collision circle between the table sections. The C 250 has the largest working area about the installation area and is constructed for everyday use.

Hermle will show a C 250 outfitted with the new TNC7 control from Schaumburg, Ill.-based Heidenhain Corp. The unit is described as intuitive, task-focused, and customizable. It supports users from initial design to final machining, from one-off jobs to serial production, and from simple slotting to complex contours. The control platform lets machine manufacturers adapt the user interface to their machines.

Meeting a product launch date is critical for any project. But when you’re working with NASA, launches are even more critical—and literal.

Just ask Mitsui Seiki USA Inc., Franklin Lakes, N.J., which helped craft critical components on the James Webb Space Telescope. “Our machines cut the beryllium mirror segments for the JWST,” noted COO Bill Malanche. Mitsui’s booth (338700) will highlight the company’s contribution to the mission.

Mitsui Seiki also will showcase its vertical machining centers, including the PJ812 for machining critical medical, optical, electric vehicle, mold and die, and aerospace parts. For smaller workpieces, the company will display the PJ 303X, which is a five-axis machining center that can process 20-kg workpieces measuring up to 230 mm tall and 280 mm in diameter. The IMTS model will be equipped with a Renishaw spindle probe and a Dynavision vision system.

Nathan Turner, president, of Fastems LLC in West Chester, Ohio, looks forward to the return of an in-person event where visitors can ask questions, touch machines, and even build a part. “People can see the benefits of automation and learn more about how it can help them optimize their manufacturing operations.”

Visitors can find Fastems at Booth 339186, where the company will introduce the Flexible Pallet Tower FPT. The machine is described as a compact automation solution for automatic pallet changers and five-axis machining centers with 300-630-mm pallets. A library of machine interfaces allows for plug-and-play installation for more than 90 machine tool brands. The FPT is controlled by Version 8 of Fastems’ Manufacturing Management Software that provides a single-view user interface with drag-and-drop production order for FIFO, and an order-based production scheduling mode with optional ERP integration.

Absolute Machine Tools Inc., Lorain, Ohio, and Productive Robotics are exhibiting a lineup of collaborative robots at Absolute’s booth (338519). To give attendees a better understanding of how easy it is to use and integrate these robots into manufacturing processes, there will be an area designated for visitors to get hands-on experience with the collaborative robots.

“Productive Robotics systems, such as the OB7 line of cobots, support Absolute Machine Tools’ commitment to providing affordable, easy-to-use automation solutions to all sizes of manufacturers and allow for the ability to upskill the workforce they currently employ,” said Courtney Ortner, director of marketing for Absolute Machine Tools.

Absolute Machine will also team up with Mitsubishi Electric Automation (MEA), Vernon Hills, Ill., to introduce the LoadMate Plus Machine Tending Robotics Cell. Jointly designed and built by the partners to fill the gap between collaborative robots and industrial robot automation cells, the LoadMate Plus cell can handle 20-kg payloads with reaches up to 1,388 mm. The automated robot machine tending cell will be demonstrated with the Absolute Machine Tools Seiki KT-420L CNC Mill/Drill/Tap Center.

GF Machining Solutions LLC, Lincolnshire, Ill., will highlight its EDM technology at Booth 338329. Featured products include the CUT X 500, which delivers pitch accuracy as low as 1.0 µm, and CUT P 350 Pro wire-cutting EDM machines for precision part generation.

Rounding out GF Machining’s lineup of live demonstrations is an automated cell featuring its ultra-high speed Mill 400 U and the Form P 350, a die-sinking electrical discharge machining unit. Each can feature a Fanuc robot. The machines showcase the company’s Uniqua human/machine interface, which has more than 600 pre-programmed cutting processes. The booth also will feature System 3R’s WorkPartner 1+ modular pallet connected to a GF Machining’s LASER P 400 U laser texturing machine.

With artificial intelligence (A.I.) adaptive control technology, the new SV12P and SG12 sinker EDMs from Mitsubishi EDM/MC Machinery, Elgin, Ill., reduce electrical consumption and take the guesswork out of estimating machining time. The proprietary A.I. technology makes logical use of condition-monitoring data. For example, these new machines can diagnose real-time problems within the burn and directly modify specific parameters for a stable and accurate output.

Because the technology analyzes current sensor data to determine optimal conditions, it reduces overall electrode wear and costs. By monitoring these parameters, the machine operates more efficiently and can more accurately predict machining times, according to Mitsubishi EDM/MC. At IMTS, the SV12P will be outfitted with Erowa Robot Compact 80 milling and sinker automation. Showgoers can visit the company at Booth 338129.

Gundrilling can make “impossible holes possible” for complex medical devices, according to Unisig GmbH, Menomonee Falls, Wis. Demonstrating this is the Unisig UNE6-2i that features two independent high-speed spindles and available onboard integrated automation. The machine’s high accuracy allows it to drill hole diameters from 0.03-0.25" (0.8 -6 mm) and depth-to-diameter ratios from 20:1 to more than 100:1 in workpieces up to 11 lb (5 kg). With a 28,000 rpm total drilling speed and a 3,000 psi (207 bar) flow-based coolant system, the UNE6-2i combines exceptional process control with an intuitive smart control interface, the company said. Visitors can find the company at Booth 339159.

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Larry Adams