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Low tech pushed at Westec.

Was it a sign of the times, or something more? Attendance was down (29,078). The stagnant economy obviously took its toll at the turnstiles. Some blamed the rain storms, something Californians aren't used to. Others said it was the confusion of new construction to expand the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Whatever the reason, exhibitors at Westec seemed to be prepared for the eventuality of fewer potential buyers. They were hawking their wares almost like a fire sale. Several machine-tool manufacturers were introducing new models emphasizing instant off-the-shelf availability, easy to buy, and simple to use. It seemed that high-tech and the introduction of new technologies came in a distant fourth.

Cincinnati Milacron, continuing its pledge to recapture the standard machine-tool market for an America nameplate, introduced a new line--the Talon 208 CNC turning center sporting an 8" chuck with a through-hole capacity for 2" bar stock, a 20-hp motor, 4500 rpm spindle speed, shaft-turn length of 21.6", 12-tool turret, hydraulically actuated tailstock, and an Acramatic 850SX control.

The clincher: the machine was "designed for performance and ease of ownership. . . because of our competitive pricing ($83,000), attractive financing plans, and quick delivery."

Milacron also added to the low end of its Sabre line with a 400H horizontal CNC milling machine and a general-purpose manual grinding machine. The firm also added an OM-V centerless grinder that "combines old-fashioned reliability, simplicity of operation, and today's features in a budget-priced precision machine."

On a more adventure-some note, The Mill announced an agreement with the People's Republic of China for sales and service of Milacron control systems and the foundation for ultimate manufacture of Acramatic 850 controls in China.

Along the same aggressive marketing note that was prevalent at the Western Metal & Tool Exposition, GTE Valenite Corp, Troy, MI, announced an agreement with MSC Industrial Supply Co for catalog and branch sales of its standard cutting-tool products.

The move is seen as quite a departure for the toolmaker, which has traditionally sold direct.

Okuma Machinery Inc, Charlotte, NC, not to be underwhelmed, introduced its new US-built universal CNC two-axis chucker lathe "for the first-time job shop CNC buyer." Dubbed the Cadet, it features a 32-bit CNC control, 8" chuck, 12-station turret, 10-hp motor, and a spindle-speed range of 75 to 4200 rpm. But without any high-tech to tout, John Hendrick, Okuma president, seemed to be pushing the idea that it's easy to operate, will be stocked for immediate delivery, and can be bought with a variety of financing plans. It's available stripped or with two option packages (no mixing options) starting at $69,900.

In its effort to help beef up US manufacturers' low-tech capability, Mazak Corp unveiled "an entry-level CNC machining center for versatile jobshop performance." Dubbed the VTC-41, it is powered with a 15-hp direct-drive motor, spindle speeds ranging to 7000 rpm, and a 24-station direct magazine-to-spindle toolchanger.

Mazak describes the machine as "so advanced it's simple. . . a compact and cost-effective vertical machining center which, for typical installations, can be production-ready within 24 hours of delivery."

Maho Machine Tool Corp, Naugatuck, CT, demonstrated its new "European alternative" CNC lathe. The "alternative" referred to the operator-oriented design, rather than any exotic technology.

Maho claims the Graziano lathes are "elegantly styled and ergonomically designed" including comfortable work area heights, and extra-large windows and sliding doors for easier visibility and accessibility.

As one observer pointed out, within a metalworking world that is having trouble absorbing all the technological advances coming down the pike, the low-tech approach seems to make sense. As Okuma's Hendrick said, there are more than 300,000 manual machines, many more than 20 years old and in desperate need of replacement.
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Title Annotation:Western Metal and Tool Exposition and Conference
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:May 1, 1991
Previous Article:Cash flow vs cost reduction.
Next Article:Technology is key to world class status.

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