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EMO Hannover 2007 gives boost to machine tool sector: special to tooling & production.

Speeding the production process, increasing machine efficiency, and improving quality were among the key interests of attendees and exhibitors at EMO Hannover 2007.

About 166,000 visitors came to Hannover, Germany, in September to buy machines, place orders, and find out about the latest developments in the world of metalworking. This is 4 percent greater than EMO 2005, which ran for eight days. Even the number of exhibitors--2,118 exhibitors from 42 different nations--was up 5 percent, and the amount of occupied floor space was 12 percent larger than 2005, covering 180,000 square meters.

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Other important indicators for EMO Hannover, celebrating its 30th year, were also positive. More than 37 percent of trade visitors came from abroad, representing a total of 80 different nations. The number of visitors from Western Europe was up sharply, particularly from Switzerland, France, Italy, Sweden, and Austria. The biggest contingents of visitors from overseas were from India and the United States.

The number of attending executives rose to nearly 60 percent of overall attendance. As Ruben Baranowski, managing director at Iscar Germany, notes, "all the key decision-makers were present here." And a much higher percentage of attendees had purchasing authority at their companies compared to EMO 2005. More than one-third of all visitors attended EMO Hannover for the first time.

The general assessment among EMO exhibitors was very positive. More than two-thirds of them say they were more than satisfied with the run of the show. Exhibitors could reach all their key industrial target groups, especially automotive manufacturers and subcontractors, the mechanical-engineering industry, and the entire spectrum of metalworking and metal processing.

Increasingly, Asian companies have chosen EMO for introducing new products and processes. Nearly 30 percent more Asian companies exhibited this year. China boasted 86 exhibitors and, for the first time, exceeded Japan's 79 exhibitors.

Although it is estimated by the German Machine Tool Industry Group that China and India are about 15 years behind Germany technologically, those two large machine tool consuming countries are certainly on their way in terms of improving production.

Market concerns

Key topics seen in the stands included multipurpose/multitasking machines, new tooling materials and high-speed cutting, process simulation as a means of increasing process efficiency, and complete part-processing on a single platform, including loading, part transfer, tool change, verification, and unloading complete parts. The goal was to speed the process, improve quality, increase machine efficiency, and permit extended unmanned periods of machine operation--each of which supports greater return from capital investment and lower total cost of ownership.

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Machine builders and controls developers also promoted their service capabilities, recognizing the increasing complexity of the technology, and therefore the need for support. Service is also an effective way for manufacturers to build long-term customer relationships in a very competitive environment worldwide.

Healthy order rates

EMO Hannover 2007 gave the international machine tool sector a big boost. According to the official exhibitor survey, this year's EMO show generated an order volume of 4 billion euros ($5.5 billion). More than half of all exhibitors were anticipating a positive influence on subsequent German and European sales.

"Gildemeister experienced an additional upswing in orders at this event," reports Dr. Rudiger Kapitza, chairman of the Management Board of Gildemeister Aktiengesellschaft, Bielefeld, Germany, the biggest exhibitor at EMO. "We had ambitious targets for EMO and succeeded in reaching them. The response by trade visitors to our 14 international product premieres and newly designed machine was excellent."

The second largest exhibitor at EMO was MAG Industrial Automation, which staged its largest exhibit ever, providing visitors a glimpse of the newest global source of advanced machining technologies, from Fadal vertical machining centers to Giddings & Lewis horizontal boring mills and powertrain manufacturing systems.

Mori Seiki announced its plan to build vertical machining centers for the European market, beginning this fall at its Le Locle Switzerland plant. It acquired the plant when it bought Dixi Machines in January. It built a new assembly hall in which to produce its NMV5000 DCG series machines at the rate of five to 10 per month. The company says it is confident it will reach its 2008 sales target of 1.17bn euros ($1.6 billion). That's up 19 percent over 2006.

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Aside from the launch of the its new products, the big news from Haas Automation at this year's show was undoubtedly the official introduction of the Haas Technical Education Centre (HTEC) program for Europe. Already a resounding success in America and Canada, the Haas Automation Europe HTEC program aims to create long-term alliances with European vocational training and technical colleges, universities, and other manufacturing technology institutions.

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"We intend to establish 200 such alliances in Europe by 2012," says Haas Automation Europe Managing Director Peter Hall, a fierce advocate of grassroots investment and a co-founder of the HTEC program in the

United States. "There's a worldwide shortage of skilled young people, including here in Europe. We want to help excite them, and show them how rewarding a career in manufacturing technology can be."

Technology galore

As the leading innovations forum for the metalworking industry, EMO Hannover 2007 showcased a wide variety of innovations.

One problem addressed in a number of showcased solutions involves the reduction of nonproductive cycle time. Reduced tool change time, reduced part-handling time, and virtual simulations of the setup procedure and machining cycle are seen to considerably reduce the cost of machining.

And the integration of control systems into the manufacturing process was another hot topic at this year's show. This year, machine tool manufacturers teamed up with software providers to present brand new approaches to enhancing customer productivity by optimizing the production process in terms of criteria such as production time or surface quality.

All new DMG machines have been united under a common brand name with uniform design characteristics. Among them are the superior surface materials in matte white and partly in high gloss black, as well as the DMG LightlLine that expands over the height of the entire machine.

The "New Design" is marked by increased visibility with approximately 40 percent and (in some cases) up to 80 percent larger safety-glass panels. Most other manufacturers block the process behind sheet metal, but DMG says its users can now directly experience high-tech machines, claiming that the experience of the machining process leads to a strong identification with the events that take place in the work area, consequently leading to increased quality.

The new CTX Series universal machine from DMG is available on three platforms with ten different models in 24 different equipment variations. The CTX Series is modular with a universal platform design, starting with a standard machine and ranging to the high-end milling/turning center with a tool magazine, a fast turret and driven tools, and six-sided machining on the main and counter spindles with a Y-and a B-axis.

Builders of large bore-mill and vertical turning lathes said that nearly 30 percent of current orders were from Europe's wind turbine generator markets, which require big, accurate machine tools to manufacture the large parts.

At the other end of the machining scale were a number of nano-machines. Kern, Eschenlohe, Germany, introduced the high-speed Pyramid Nano machining center capable of [+ or -] 0.3 micron accuracy throughout its 500mm X and Y travels. KMT displayed its Nano ID and OD grinders which use an X-Theta slide system, replacing the usual X-Y-Z axes, which produces a circular grinding feed movement.

Even if they were not in the nano category, several machine builders showed off compact versions of their technology, offering customers access to productive concepts at a more affordable price. Index-Werke, Esslingen, Germany, introduced its Speedline A100 and A200 compact production running machines, which feature up to four cross-slides. Vertically arranged over the machine bed, up to four tools can be in the cut at one time.

Mikron introduced an improved version of its Multistep, which combines the productivity of a linear transfer system with the changeover flexibility of a machining center. The concept is based on individual, fixed dual-spindle modules used either in stand-alone mode or expanded up to four modules. The advantage of this design lies in the chip-to-chip time below 1 sec. The flexibility needed for the machining of geometrically complex workpieces is ensured by up to 144 precision tools. 51/2 sides of the max 200x200x200mm large parts can be milled, drilled, threaded, recessed, knurled or engraved without reclamping. Six-side machining is possible using the automated reclamp during process.

A very stiff FEM-designed B/C axis with a roundness precision of 2[mu]m running at speeds of up to 500rpm makes smaller turning work possible without reclamping the workpiece. Even assembly operations such as insertion and pressing of bushings and pins can be integrated. The Multistep is suitable for complete machining of small and medium series in the automotive and supplier industries, for hydraulics and pneumatics, fittings, medical technology as well as in general machine and apparatus construction.

Skill shortage?

Beneath the high technology and positive vibes at EMO was a developing concern that in five to 10 years a growing shortage of manufacturing and engineering skills will become acute. Several major machine tool builders are investing in tech centers and service divisions around the world that will provide not only customer service but also engineering and basic training. Siemens emphasized its service packages as support for its customers' profitability. The company also showed how its UGS NX CAM software is used as a machine tool simulator to test CNC programs off-machine.

In addition, machine tool builders were seen to be providing technology that reduces the need for operator skill and involvement in the manufacturing process--such as virtual machining and fully integrated part processing on a single platform. These same technologies also make machining more appealing to a generation accustomed to computer and video games.

The next EMO will take place in Milan, Italy, in 2009.
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Title Annotation:news & analysis
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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