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Hannover's EMO '93: mergers, slow economy steal spotlight from technology.

The European Machine Tool Exhibition is recognized as a showcase of metalworking technology. But this year, technical innovation at the Hannover, Germany, event took a back seat to talk of corporate restructuring, mergers, marketing alliances, and the economy in Europe. Especially as firms, mostly from Germany, scramble to survive the economic backlash of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and of communism in Eastern Europe.

"In all the years I've been in this business, I've never seen it this bad," confided Henk Los, president, Walker Magnetics Group headquartered in Holland. Los is also treasurer of CECIMO, the federation of metalworking associations from 12 European countries that sponsors the every-other-year metalworking extravaganza. It's set for Milan, Italy, in 1995.

The depressed economy was reflected in the size of the exhibition. It covered 148,398 sq meters in 18 buildings of the Hannover Fair grounds and included 1,957 exhibitors from 38 countries. Even so, that was down by about 18% in exhibitors and 20% in space. Several exhibitors admitted to Tooling & Production that they felt traffic through their booths was down by 30% from the last show in Hannover four years ago. Most observers feel the final visitor count will fall far short of the expected 200,000.

The shortfall at the exhibition was not unexpected. As the Italian Machine Tool Assn (UCIMU) pointed out, the exhibition in 1991 in Paris came on the heels of a record year of world machine tool production in 1990 of $44 billion. In two years, however, it had slipped 22.8% to $34.3 billion. "The 1993 edition of EMO...coincides with the most severe period of sector recession throughout the world," the Italians reminded the world media covering the exhibition.

Recognizing that the recession reflects not only economic reality, but a basic restructuring of the metalworking industry, many companies in Europe are forging new alliances. Press conferences were called to detail the merger of Maho and Deckel, two German machine tool giants. That combination has, in turn, forged a marketing alliance with another German firm, Gildemeister. All three firms are active in the US market and the restructuring has brought a change in the management of Maho's US operation in Naugatuck, CT. Donald Firm, who headed up sales for Mazak, has assumed the presidency of Maho US.

Other changes that made news at EMO: Traub and Hermle forged a marketing agreement which will lead to the two firms cooperating in their sales efforts. Korber AG, which already controls two German grinding machine makers, Blohm and Schaudt, announced it bought a controlling 25% interest in Jones & Shipman, the British grinding machine maker that acquired the Brown & Sharpe grinding operation not too long ago. Korber also said it is looking into picking up four Eastern European grinding machine makers.

Even US firms were getting into the action. Brown & Sharpe, now basically a manufacturer of metrology equipment, announced it was merging DEA, the Italian CMM manufacturer, into its fold. Latrobe-based Kennametal called the press together to talk about its purchase of Hertel, a German tool maker, to strengthen its position in the European market. Finnish punch press manufacturer, Finn-Power International, which has a US marketing base in Chicago, announced it bought 50% of Samat, an Italian forming and bending machine manufacturer, and plans to bring its products into the US market.

Recessionary pressures also bring new meaning to value as it is described in the marketplace. As one German official described it, the mindset has to shift from building machines that are as good as technically possible to only as good as is needed in the marketplace. Several EMO exhibitors reflected that philosophy by what they were showing.

Mikron is marketing in Europe a low-end vertical machining center being built by Haas Automation in California. Cincinnati Milacron introduced the Arrow 500, a vertical machining center priced to compete at the low-end of the market. Voest Alpine showed its M-30 large turning center. Its modular design permits the buyer to add spindles, turrets, and other features to the extent that he needs them. It's the same idea Monarch introduced in the US two years ago with its Ultra-Center design. Index was pushing the same concept in its booth.

Other "novelties", as the Europeans put it, introduced at EMO were prompted by the trends to make equipment smaller, faster, and more productive. They included:

* A patented gage developed by Belgian press builder, LVD, for a press brake. The gage computes and compensates for the spring-back in metal in a bending operation. It eliminates guess-work and permits setup using only one test piece. That's an advantage particularly when producing short-run lots in this era of just-in-time.

* A 50 W YAG laser option on Traub's TNC 30 mill-turning center. The machine, equipped with two turrets and an opposed spindle, is particularly suited for small workpieces with complex contours. The laser is integrated into the machine so as not to restrict any of the mill-turn functions of the operation.

The machine's CNC controls the parameter amplitude, frequency, and pulse duration of the laser. Fiber optics concentrate the impact point to 0.2 mm diameter. Traub claims the laser permits these operations: cutting contours, even sharp edges, which are not viable for milling operations; burning out small bores; high-precision welding; fusing off burrs; sectional hardening; removing surface segments; engraving and marking.

* Kaltenbach pushed the CNC capability of saws to a new level. It introduced the KKS-401 with CNC controlled output and input grippers which permit tip and tail work on stock simultaneously, thus eliminating the need for a second setup.

Kaltenbach also announced an alliance with a Spanish saw manufacturer of horizontal and vertical configurations. The saws will be marketing for as low as $20,000.

* A permanent magnetic chuck designed for EDM work. Developed by Walker-Hagou of Holland, it features a low, 2 mm, magnetic field eliminating any adverse influence by the magnetic field on the spark emission process. It also introduced a magnetic chuck with no distinct pole division. Key is an all-steel top plate which distributes the magnetic flux uniformly over the entire surface.

* The concept of up-side-down vertical turning is catching on. Emag showed three sizes of its VSC series. Rather than the conventional vertical turning configuration with a stationary spindle on the bottom, the machines utilize a multifunctional portal slide carrying the machining spindle. The spindle is used to carry components to and from a built-in conveyor and to a swing-away gauging probe, eliminating load-unload devices. 12-station disc turret includes driven tools as optional.

Index was also showing its new V-200 with a new air-cooled spindle that's used to load and unload parts. Its two turrets can hold up to 28 tools.

* Ewag of Switzerland unveiled Ewamatic 106 designed for grinding cylindrical and tapered hss or carbide tools with either straight or spiral flutes. It features a unique horizontal star-shaped support with six grinding spindles and six axes. The Num CNC control stores several grinding programs for economical batch production. Loading can be manual or via automated robot.

* Hermle, German manufacturer of precision manual universal milling machines, introduced an automated version dubbed the UWF 1202 H. A push of a button causes the vertical head to swing and lock into place or to swing away (just as a manual version as opposed to the swivel-head design) making the horizontal spindle become available. It's equipped with a horizontal or vertical tool changer and a pivoting rotary table for addition of A and C axes for complete five-sided machining.

* Two years ago at EMO in Paris, Emco Maier introduced the Emcoturn 425, which permits parallel machining of two parts simultaneously. In Hannover, it took the next step in unveiling the Emcoturn 465, which permits machining of two individually adaptable workpieces mounted on two opposed head-stocks. Each spindle has a C-Axis. Two 12-tool turrets can handle live tooling for turning, milling, drilling and thread-cutting. Tool change time is 0.1 sec. It also offers a pallet system, gauging station, and gantry loader.

* The race for more hits per minute among punch press manufacturers reached fever pitch at EMO. Finn-Power reported it now can speed along at up to 1000 hits per minute, while across the aisle, German manufacturer Trumpf claimed to have moved into the 900 range. Trumpf also has a new tool for scribing and marking which permits 1700 hits per minute.

* In the EDM arena, machine capabilities were being extended. Mitsubishi EDM was touting the fact that it can mirror-finish areas up to 40 times larger than previously possible. Sodick was also claiming improved mirror-finish capability.

Charmilles Technologies claims to have something it called EDM milling capability and introduced an experimental unit. EDM milling combines the techniques of conventional milling and sinker-EDM using standard cylindrical electrodes and is "well suited to machining mold cavities with difficult geometries and close tolerances."

Across the hall, Agie announced that its 50 and 70 series machines which feature the Agie Pilot can now cut at 28 inches per hour, considerably faster than previous models. It also introduced the 250 SF+F (super finish and fine wire) which can utilize wire as small as 0.001 inch and up to 0.013 inch in diameter. It can thread a 0.002 inch diameter wire into a 0.010 inch diameter hole automatically.

* Peter Wolter, lapping machine manufacturer, introduced an automated loading device for unattended operation. It also unveiled a wheel with the abrasive built-in, which can be used with a honing oil rather than the more-conventional liquid lapping abrasive.

In the same area, Sunnen showed its EC-3500 Power Stroked Honing Machine. It has a two-stage feed pressure with twice the force of previous honing machines for maximum stock removal. The machine has a wide range of pressure adjustments that permit fine tuning of the operation being performed and finishing at a lower pressure. Spindle speeds are infinitely adjustable to 3000 rpm, as are stroke rates up to 500 strokes per minute.

* In the gear-making hall the race toward smaller footprint machines and simplified automation was in full swing. Gleason introduced its Phoenix 125 GH CNC gear hobber. It features a Y-axis carrying the work-head column rather than the more traditional design where the Y-axis is integral with the hob head. Loading and unloading is simplified, while good rigidity permits high speeds and feeds.

Down the hall, Germany's Pfauter unveiled the Favorit, a gear-making machine featuring rigidity, simplified loading/unloading, and a chip design that permits dry cutting at very high speeds. Its PH 280 honing machine's rigid construction and 11 kw tool drive permits stock removal rates and finishes eliminating the shaving cycle, permitting finishing of hardened gears in one step.
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Title Annotation:Management Update; European Machine Tool Exhibition
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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