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New controls/automation company, Infimatic, is launched by MAG-IAS.

A new machine-control and factory-automation subsidiary of MAG Industrial Automation Systems (Sterling Heights, Mich. and Goppingen, Germany) was officially unveiled at the EMO in Hanover, Germany, this week.

Initially entering the marketplace with a simple computer numerical controller and associated drives and a manufacturing-execution-system software package, the new division, Infimatic, L.L.C. (Hebron, Ky.) is nevertheless being organized to eventually take on the largest competition in the machine-tool-controls field.

As a business unit, Infimatic started to coalesce about a year ago, as MAG-IAS was sorting out its various holdings. Beginning with the 2005 purchase of Cincinnati Machine from Unova in the U.S. and with acquisitions from ThyssenKrupp and IWKA in Germany, the new owners of such entities as Lamb and Hessapp and Giddings & Lewis were finding a large internal body of controls talent that could be tapped. Moreover, says an insider, they saw a machine-tools business that was overwhelmed by Siemens and Fanuc but that was not necessarily getting the most modern controls technology. Also, because the established controls providers had a near-monopoly, MAG-IAS top management figured, design engineers were having to install extra control features that weren't needed or to settle for less-than-optimal packages.

So the builder's owners started assembling controls veterans from various M AG-IAS subsidiaries, many of which had a tradition of building their own controls even as they were transitioning to offering machines equipped with Fanuc or Siemens or Heidenhain. These engineers were tasked with coming up with a set of priorities for new CNCs that would not have a legacy of now-outmoded designs, according to MAG-IAS president Robert Wassmer.

The head of MAG-IAS's holding company, Mo Meidar, put the developing controls company under the leadership of Gabi Azran, who had experience at a large systems integrator near Tel Aviv, Israel. Importantly, the new unit was given its own name. Whereas the other four divisions of MAG-IAS now unified all carry a part of the mother-company's name (MAG Advanced Technologies, MAG Powertrain, MAG Special Machines, and MAG Maintenance Technologies), the new, fifth division was simply dubbed Infimatic. That was on purpose, explains Pete Tecos, who is Infimatic's VP of sales and marketing and who came from the Fanuc organization. Infimatic will be the most independent portion of MAG, he says, and right from the start it is willing to supply CNCs and other products to outside machine-tool builders.

The first CNC offering, the Freedom NC200, is a three-axis controller with a modular configuration and adjustable to every machine type lathes, grinders, etc. Developed for broad application in consultation with professors at two European institutions, it was nevertheless created with one particular problem in mind: to replace an aging Fadal CNC. One of the offerings on Fadal machining centers was an older, Fadal-designed and -built low-end control, which was no longer able to be supported.

As the fledgling Infimatic team was designing the control, it started looking for a competent hardware provider that was not already involved in the metalcutting-machine business. B&R fit the bill nicely. Bernecker & Rainer Industrie Elektronic Ges. m.b.H. (Eggelsberg, Austria) is a 26-year-old firm that specializes in control systems, industrial PCs, operator interfaces, and I/O systems. With annual sales in excess of $330-million, it has outlets around the world and a customer base that spreads across a large range of industries.

So the hardware that forms the Freedom NC200 package came from B&R. "But all the software is developed by us, and we can implement it on any other hardware platform," stresses president Wassmer. (It's a relationship not unlike the long-standing one between Yamazaki Mazak and Mitsubishi Electric.)

Among the Freedom NC components Infimatic sees as important are Vericode, an NC editor with real-time syntax and semantic verification; ServoScan, which recognizes servo-system components and automatically uploads associated parameters to the CNC; and EcoVerter servo system, a power supply with integrated regeneration unit that regulates energy requirements. Part of the Infimatic policy, explains marketing VP Tecos, is to partner with third-party applications that will complement the technology. So the demonstration at MAG-IAS's booth at the European world show this week included a Gibbs CAM system and an automated 3D optical scanner.

Within the same booth, two MAG Fadal vertical-spindle machining centers were running under Freedom control. Those MCs are available for sale equipped with Fanuc 0-line and 18-line CNCs, too. "Our general strategy is to offer a global controls selection, and as we move into Infimatic we'll continue to offer the customer's choice of control," explains Mark Logan, VP of business development and marketing for MAG Advanced Technologies, a sister division to the new Infimatic.

The new stand-alone division won't be just NC. The EMO display also showed off a software package called the Freedom eLog, a Web-based shop-floor control that monitors machines' progress in real time and gives a current overview of production via graphs and tables. Based on developments at Cincinnati Machine started a decade ago, the eLog now can analyze trouble and even send a text message to a manager's cell phone.

Right now Infimatic's first control is intended for lower-end applications, and with more functions it could be developed into something for the mid-range, says MAG Industrial Automation Systems president Wassmer. But for upper-level applications there would be a different platform. And that will come in the future.

"When you have a baby, you wish him all the best. So we're trying to give our baby all the best, to grow the baby," according to Gabi Azran, president of the new subsidiary. "From the technical perspective, I believe we can cover the entire MAG range of machines; it will take us two or three years to do it, though.

"As for builders outside of MAG, it's a different story than just technology ... more marketing, more relationships," Azran continues. "Give us time. Even God needed seven days to build the world."

Infimatic L.L.C., Hebron, Ky. 859-534-4883

MAG industrial Automation Systems, Sterling Heights, Mich. 586-532-3140.

B&R Industrie Elektronic, Eggelsberg, Austria. 43-7748-6586-0.

RELATED ARTICLE: Remember when it meant 'fancy cast wheel'.

... and a set of lightweight magnesium-alloy--"mag"--wheels meant lowered unsprung weight and better handling for your Mustang? No longer. And not for machine tools.

When the term "MAG" appeared on a slide during a Makino briefing at EMO, eyebrows raised. "It stands for Makino Aerospace Group," explained executive vice president Shun Makino, "and we've been using the phrase for more than five years, way before that other machine-tool builder got started."

And in the first edition of MAGazine, the promotional publication just issued by MAG Industrial Automation Systems, its president Dr. Ing. Robert Wassmer dismisses the oft-asked question, "What is MAG?" It's "only the name of the brand," he writes. "What is much more important is what we stand for," his editorial column continues, and it goes on to extol the history and quality traditions associated with Ex-Cell-O, Cross Huller, Cincinnati, et al.

For the uninitiated, as the company was being put together over the last several years by a New York financial holding company, MAG stood for Maxcor Acquisition Group. Nowadays, by our reckoning, it stands for the sixth largest machine-tool company in the world.
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Publication:Metalworking Insiders' Report
Date:Sep 21, 2007
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