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Post-show report: highlights of IMTS-84.

The biennial exhibition of the machine-tool industry--the International Machine Tool Show--conclluded in mid-September with exhibitors and editors giving the event high ratings in almost every respect. Attendance did not quite set a new record for Chicago's McCormick Places East and West and at the O'Hare Exposition Center (about 97,000, according to the show's sponsors, the National Machine Tool Builders' Association). But interviews with hundreds of exhibitors left little doubt that those in attendance were seriously shopping for metalworking equipment, tooling, and new ideas on how to make their operations more productive and more competitive.

Most exhibitors we talked to had a special glow from their order commitments that ranged from at least several, to scores of machines. In addition, the inquiries they were taking home promised to develop into many more orders after the show.

Even though the US machine-tool industry has yet to fully recover from its business slump suffered over the past several years, the high level of interest and requests for quotations did much to generate positive attitudes, if not genuine optimism, about a pickup in machine-tool business in the near future. The show had a record number of US exhibitors either marketing foreign product lines or working under cooperative ventures with foreign builders.

The positive buying mood was explained this way by one exhibitor, "At IMTS-82, people would come into the booth once, walk around, and leave. Now, they looked at a specific machine, left for a while to check out our competition, and then returned to take a closer look. They were ready to buy!"

A small, Swiss builder of a very specialized machine tool complained of a problem he had not experienced for quite some time at a trade show. "With orders for 20 machines, I will now have to go back home and arrange financing, so I can build them all!"

From the standpoint of iron on display and the engineering behind it, IMTS-84 can best be described as innovative. The aim of most exhibitors was to show how to increase productivity, turn out products of assured quality every time, and use state-of-the-art technology to the greatest extent possible.

Although it is not possible to review here the products of every exhibitor, what follows is our assessment of those IMTS-84 examples of metalworking's leading innovations. For a more extensive listing of all exhibits, see Tooling & Production's August IMTS-84 Show Issue with a record number of machine and tool descriptions.


That's what nearly everyone at IMTS-84 was trying to demonstrate--their ability to crowd under the growing FMS umbrella. The phrase "We can be very, very flexible" was heard everywhere you stopped.

People were particularly flexible in defining flexible manufacturing. Everything from simple tooling accessories to massive megabuck monoliths bore the FMS logo. They seemed to be saying that if you really wanted it, they could tailor a system for you with all the flexibility money could buy.

An FMS for today

Certainly, most of the people walking the aisles did not have an application for the major FMS systems on display. Impressive, yes, but to them it was simply overkill. It was beyond the limits of their charge cards. They simply wanted a road map on how to move from the standalone machining centers of today toward the flexible supersystems of tomorrow in simple, easy, and affordable steps.

People want freedom from tooling headaches. They want tools that last longer and cut more chips per minute, and systems that automatically monitor for wear and breakage. They want systems that tell plant management exactly what's going on--a confirmation that everything's running just fine or a warning that they need to get involved right away.

Modular software is an answer to custom tailoring a system to an application. Being able to put pieces of existing field-tested software together, rather than starting from scratch, is a distinct competitive advantage.

Hanspeter Schwartz, president, Jones & Lamson Div, Textron Inc, is confident that starting with a basic FMS cell is the only practical and affordable way to work yourself up to full-fledged systems. "I've heard people say that you should figure on $1 million per machine for a total flexible line, yet an FMS cell can be obtained for less than half that. It's just like CAD/CAM. CAD is well accepted, but it will be a long time before it really starts driving CAM. The only good CAD/CAM examples today are home grown and very proprietary."

According to J&L, the key markets for fully automated FMS cells are aircraft, munitions, bearing, and other automotive-supplier industries. And the key feature they want is the ability to monitor the tool during the cut. The FMS cell must get the part to the machine, load it into the chuck, change and store tools, respond to codes, sense tool wear and offset for it, and also monitor tool condition--not just react to tool failure but anticipate it and correct for it before that happens.

A good example of this was the Kennametal Inc display. It combined a J&L Delta 316B FMC flexible turning center with robotic load/unload, universal programmable interfacing, and a Kennametal tooling system with automativ visual tool-offset and tool-condition sensing. For more information on the tooling system from Kennametal, circle E100, or information on the Delta 316B from J&L, circle E101.

Explains J&L's Schwartz, "The use of video rather than probes here for tool-condition sensing is unique and represents a third generation system. (The first FMS cell, we introduced at the Hanover Show in '81; the second, our block-tool system, at IMTS-82.) This advanced level of tool monitoring is essentially what's on our latest machine that GM Saginaw bought for their factory of the future. It can interface on the high end with FMSs like those at GM or be used as a stand-alone machining cell for job shops that need more automation and control."

Flexible systems

To Cincinnati Milacron, flexibility is a full line of machine tools that can function as stand-alones, modular cells, or full-scale flexible manufacturing systems. The challenge as envisioned by Milacron's James E Kroencke, vice president, machine tools, is to find "real answers to the problems facing metalworking managers today: How to increase productivity, deal with the diminishing skilled-labor supply, reduce inventory, improve quality, shorten lead times, and meet the market demands for variety and change."

The emphasis in their booth was on practical, stand-alone cells with relatively simple technology and low initial cost that could be expanded later into multiple-machine cells or full-fledged FMSs with all attendant material-handling and computer control. Their three-unit flexible manufacturing cell tied together a turning center with 84-tool ATC and ID/OD probing, a vertical machining center, and a horizontal machining center. The machines were linked by a three-axis robot on a 44-ft horizontal track that could interface with a system load/unload station or be extended for additional machines. The demonstration part was a 6"-dia steel tube that was turned (ID and OD, both ends), milled, drilled, tapped, and bored. For more information on the Milacron FMS cell, circle E102.

Horizontal nucleus

Compatibility of a machining center to the FMS environment was stressed at the Ex-Cell-O booth. They fell the wrong approach is taking 1960's "iron" and hanging on FMS accessories because this seldom achieves full FMS potentials and demands significant human attention.

Their FlexCenter Series 20 machining centers feature plug-in peripherals, including multiple pallet-handling systems, multiple spindle-head handling and changing systems, flow-through chip management, and a variety of monitoring and diagnostic systems including vision, Figure 1.

The system shown was based on the 35-hp Model 320 horizontal-spindle CNC machine. It demonstrated rough milling, precision boring, contouring, and the multidrilling and tapping of complex hole geometries. The automatic pallet changer with eight-pallet conveyor presented a variety of pump bodies and transmission casings within the pallet system's 1-m-sq part envelope.

Tool capacity was 256, based on four interchangeable 64-tool tool conveyors that were changed automatically. An elaborate head-changing system consisted of a two-position headchanger that could be linked with either a six-position head-storage turret (not shown) or the virtually unlimited storage system demonstrated with its robot-gantry storage and retrieval of 16 drilling/tapping head arrays. It also included a visual-inspection station to verify all drills and taps in each head configuration.

Other features included visual part identification, zero-backlash contouring table, electronic probing, broken and dull-tool sensing, diagnostics, and high-speed spindle options to 40,000 rpm. For more information, circle E103.

Turn around the clock

At George Fischer Machine Corp, the emphasis was on unattended production in a turning cell, bringing automated manufacturing to low- and mid-volume applications where workpiece variety resembles that of a typical job shop. A gantry robot can pick up disc-shaped parts lying flat in a seven-tier Euro-pallet stack and swing them into the vertical plain for chucking without intermediate depositing and repicking them up. After machining the part on one end for end above the spindle axis and rechuck the part quickly. After machining, the robot presents the part to a postprocess gaging station before returning it to the proper pallet.

The gantry parts loader also changes chuck jaws automatically from a freestanding jaw magazine of up to 12 cassette-type jaw options, Figure 2. A second gantried carriage, on the same guideways as the part/chuck-jaw loader, has double grippers to handle tool changing, shuttling between a 120-unit drum-type tool magazine and a six-position tool turret. Each new tool is automatically gaged by a universal two-dimensional touch-trigger probe, automatically offsetting for differences between command position and tool-edge position. For more information, circle E104.

Prismatic modularity

At Fritz Werner's display, the accent was on a modular response to a family of 2-ft-cube prismatic parts, Figure 3. A DFZ 500 duplex cell of two horizontal machining centers was linked by a gantry robot that also serves a parts washer. This system can handle up to eight different parts in parallel, with a cell computer downloading programs to handle machine, tool, and work changes. The robot loads machine-tool magazines by part number, and worn or broken tools are replaced automatically.

One operator presets tools, sets up workpieces on standard modular fixtures, enters the part numbers into the computer, and sets up the cell for unattended third-shift operation. Machine utilization rates of 90 percent are possible.

Another important capability of this system is graphic off-machine program verification--simulating mill, drill, and bore operations to assure maximum utilization without tying up the cellhs machines for costly cut-and-try programming modification. For more information, circle E105.

Tombstone batching

A Toyoda flexible machining cell tied two 7000-rpm horizontal machining centers to a six-pallet pool accessible to either machine. The system automatically shuttles pallets for loading/unloading, holding, searching, and verifying part programs based on reading encoded pallet information.

Tombstone-type fixturing can vertically stack five different parts within a part family on a single fixture plate. Hydraulic positive-pressure part clamps are de-energized via a closed-circuit system on each pallet for free movement about the pool without the need for hydraulic lines or couplings. For more information, circle E106.

Observed Michael Wicken, executive vice president and general manager, Toyoda Machinery USA Inc, "Few people know that in Japan, Toyoda has designed and implemented over 40 flexible systems. Over the next two years, our major emphasis will be on small machining cells--two to five machines--because frankly, this is where the market will be for the rest of the 1980s."

Flexible assembly

Start of the General Electric booth was a nonsynchronous manufacturing cell, Figure 4, created from scratch by GE engineers in 16 weeks to demonstrate the production of rotor-fan assemblies for dishwashers (and destined for their Louisville Appliance Park plant). Although primarily exhibiting the successful linking of CAD to CAM, it also was flexible enough to be easily reprogrammed to assemble other similar shaft products.

After machining of the rotor, robotic assembly of rotor to shaft, and laser welding of rotor to shaft, the robot palletized this unit vertically for passage into the assembly loop. The assembly operations include adding a hub, washer, fan blade, sleeve, press-fitting hub and fan to shaft, removal of assembly from pallet for visual inspection, and finally reloading on an exit conveyor.

The three-camera visual inspection system verifies rotor contour (including OD to [plus-or-minus] 0.001"), part position, rotor/shaft weld, distance from end of shaft to end of rotor, and then logs and statistically processes the results. A remote FactoryScanner system monitors the entire machining and assembly cell using the GEnet local area communications network. For more information, circle E107.

A beehive of activity

At the Mazak booth, the Mazatrol FMS system inclulded computer-controlled automatic storage and retrieval of 45 pallets from a three-high vertical storage rack serving two machining centers. The machines demonstrated a new Tool-Hive robotic tool storage and exchange technique that can store up to 480 tools in 14-tool-high vertical racks on rollers.

Also contributing to flexibility was the new Slant Turn ATC milling center that combines conventional turning with boring, milling, drilling, and tapping operations--all in a single setup. Two models are offered, 15 hp and 25 hp, with spindle speeds to 3000 rpm and 16-tool ATCs. For more information, circle E108.

Flexible machining

The contribution to flexible cell technology shown by Maho Machine Tool Corp was its FMC 5 HS (high-speed spindle) cell which had an Irobos CNC workpiece-handling robot, an automated pallet changer, a multiple-station pallet-shuttle system, and 120-tool magazine, Figure 5. The center featured multiaxis contouring, tool-life monitoring, photoelectric broken-tool detection, and a turntable load/unload station for random sequencing of workpieces. Several such cells can be interfaced to a host computer. For more information, circle E109.

Flexible gear manufacture

Liebherr Machine Tool introduced a flexible gear-cutting system, which intergrates a six-axis CNC hobber with a material-handling system and a gantry loader/unloader, Figure 6. In operation, a mobile work-storage unit is presented to the system by either a forklift or wireguided cart. Each storage unit can contain up to eight pallets of randomly mixed work blanks.

As each pallet is pulled from the storage unit and positioned underneath the gantry loader, nine photoelectric sensors identify the blanks and their positions. This information directs the gantry loader and machine-tool CNC to execute necessary changeover routines, e.g., swap in a new workholding fixture, replace the hob, change the loader's gripper, enter another gear-cutting program, etc.

For hob changing there isn't enough room in the work area for the gantry end effector to maneuver. Here, the loader must bring a new tool close to the work area, then the machine's CNC moves the hob head out to make the exchange.

Power monitoring is optional for detecting hob wear and triggering tool changes; however, when using titanium-nitride coated hobs, trigger signals usually are too late for optimum tool life. With proper tool management, optimum changing frequencies can be predicted and programmed into the system, making a power monitor unnecessary.

The hobbing machine CNC monitors for tool breakage, electrical and hydraulic failure, etc, and if detected will shut down the operation. The CNC can store 100 part programs.

A complete hardware and program changeover takes about 4 min. The system's flexibility permits cutting single-piece lot runs of unrelated gears, or running a large lot run, completely untended. The concept also can be applied to gear shaping. For more information, circle E110.

Designed for efficiency

According to Tom Shifo, general manager, WCI Manufacturing Systems Div, white Consolidated Industries Inc, their intent at IMTS-84 was to show a complete FMS in microcosm. "The systems we build extend from robot cells through conveyor lines and automated guided vehicles up to those using shuttle cars for extremely large and heavy parts. WCI has made a definite corporate and financial commitment to the future of automated manufacturing, and we realize that future is in the hands of the customers we satisfy today."

The show system combined a 25-hp CNC machining center (OM2A Omnimill), CNC turning center (Bullard 6000), automated stacker crane, tool-management system, and linking automated guided vehicles. Completely unmanned, the system's central controller coordinated all activity in real time. On the Omnimill, telemetry probing confirmed part ID, fixture position, and dimensional features machined to tolerance. A table probe checked for broken tools, and an adaptive control maintained optimum cutting efficiency and sensed tool wear. For more information, circle E111.

In-house it first

Part of a $6-million two-machine FMS system they are installing in their Cleveland plant was demonstrated by Lucas Machine Div, Litton Industries. They estimate they system will cut their production costs by 50 percent, producing machine parts while it serves as an R&D model for future FMS centers tailored to customer needs.

The 20-hp machining center from this FMS was on display, with 31"-sq pallets of 6000-lb capacity and a 60-tool vertical tool drum. The toolholders in the drum are bar coded to verify that the correct tool is in each slot by spinning the wheel one revolution, Figure 7. A pick-and-place robot inserts and removes tools from the drum to automated guided vehicles that link with a digital tool presetter that has an accuracy of 0.005". For more information, circle E112.

Tool warehousing

Probably the best example of total flexibility and unattended operation was the LeBlond Makino FMS where the warehousing of both workpieces and tools is totally automated (each has its own cart system) and of near-infinite capacity. The warehousing of pallets was not displayed but stacking systems in the field approach 1500-pallet capacities.

This is a system designed to manufacture many kinds of parts in small-to medium-sized lots. The tool warehousing system displayed had over 1000-total capacity, stacked in a huge storage carousel 9 tools high (three sets of 3-tool carriers). The 3-tool carriers are automatically retrieved from warehouse storage, reassembled, and loaded into one of five slots in the automated vehicle's carousel, Figure 8. The cart then transfers the assembled tooling to the carousel of the machining center requesting the tooling, loading its toolchanger carousel without interrupting machining cycles. For more information, circle E113.

Low-cost turning

Certainly one of the more remarkable innovations at the show was the MagnaTurn CNC lathe introduced by South Bend Lathe Inc. While not technically an FMS, it challenged directly some of the basic philosophies of highly automated manufacturing system: turning centers don't have to cost $80,000 and they don't need electric servos.

The MagnaTurn's $45,000 price tag is the result of two key developments. Instead of purchasing an $18,000 CNC control, they bought an IBM personal computer (straight off the shelves at Computerland) and integrated it into their machine. What better way to get high computing power at low cost than with one of the highest volume PCs around?

Secondly, they got rid of expensive ball screw drives by developing a proprietary closed-loop hydraulic servo that drives both the spindle and all machine axes. Hydraulics offer high spindle torque at low speed, fast reversals, and no adverse effects of repeated reversals.

According to Jack Durham, president, South Bend Research Inc, their computerized hydraulic system produces 2000 feedback signals/sec, has totally eliminated hydraulic leaks, and has yet to experience a failure of any kind. They see applications in robots and machining centers as the next step. For more information, circle E114.


Quality was what nearly everyone at the show wanted, but you have to be able to measure it before you can manufacture it. Two major trends here were the development of sophisticated (yet user friendly) packages for measuring parts, and the integration of probes into machining-and turning-center automation.

Nearly everyone offered some type of probing option, and some leading manufacturers said they sold three out of four of their machines with probing systems. Noncontact methods of measuring on the machine struggled to compete, but they are still limited to single- or two-plane measurements and can cost up to five times as much as contact methods. Until they can "see" in three dimensions, their special brand of precision will lose out to simpler mechanical probes.

General Electric demonstrated a research development (headed for production use by their Aircraft Engine Business Group) that enables a CNC lathe to use the cutting tool itself to measure part dimensions before it makes the final cut, Figure 9. It is based on piezoelectric sensors in the toolholder. GE hopes to add vision soon to detect broken tools and further reduce the need for operator involvement in automated machining. For more information, circle E131.

At the Jones & Lamson Metrology Products booth, they were demonstrating their Vertic computerized video-inspection station that can measure to 0.000 05" in milliseconds. It has dual floppy disc drives, two 12" video monitors (for simultaneous part viewing and text display), and programming that is operator friendly.

"The Vertic enables a job shop to produce and sell certified parts to automotive and aerospace applications," explained J&L president Hanspeter Schwartz. "That's where the future of the job shop lies. We are dedicated to piecepart inspection with as much automation as the state of the art allows. For more information, circle E132.

"We see metrology as our number one growth industry, not just for J&L, but for Textron. It will have a much higher growth rate than our other machine-tool product lines. It's interesting that our Vertic people were at first dismayed to be by themselves in McCormick West, rather than part of the J&L main-floor exhibit. But the play they got from the pressroom and job-shop people showed that there is a real awakening for easily programmed automated inspection equipment."

At Brown & Sharpe, a recent major decision was to get out of the machining-center business and use their technology in metrology--precision metal measurement instead of metalcutting. So they developed the process control robot (PCR), a pedestal-type automatic highspeed coordinate measuring machine aimed at FMS and machining cell systems, Figure 10. They key to fast measurements and flexibility is being able to move the measuring arm quickly, and they expect to reach fast-traverse speeds of 20 ips soon.

The CMM approach provides independent verification of accuracy, and PCR can measure a wide variety of parts as they are produced, checking all five sides of the part in seconds. It stores data for trend analysis, notifying the system's host computer when processing changes need to be made. Accuracy is [plus-or-minus] 0.0004" anywhere in the volumetric envelop covered by the (up to) seven-axis robotic arm. For more information, circle E133.

At Digital Techniques, they were demonstrating the most popular method of transmitting touch-probe data from probe to CNC: infrared telemetry. They offer a three-element package: a variety of probes with battery-powered IR transmitter, an IR receiver (mounted up to 300 ft away), and an interface board to connect to your CNC control. Repeatability [plus-or-minus]0.000 030" with a 50-mm ceramic stylus and factory-preset force setting of 75 grams.

The probe can be stored in the tool magazine like any other tool and be used to locate parts, sense surfaces, find hole centers, probe for broken drills, assist in tool setting/verification, and measure length, depth, and diameter. For more information, circle E134.

Basic measurement

Quality Measurement Systems Corp demonstrated an interesting measurement system developed by Helios of West Germany. It's a shaft-measuring center for the production shop, Figure 11. Like a precision lathe, it has two slides, a variety of probes, and a digital readout. Measuring resolution ranges from 0.0002" to 0.000 040", depending on the measuring.

Four sizes are available with maximum center-to-center distances ranging from 5.9" to 55" and maximum diameters of either 3.15" or 6.3". The system can measure diameter, length, depth, gear pitch, camshaft profile, taper, grooves, IDs, and copy-template profiles. For more information, circle E135.


This was the year when the flexible fabricating system or FFS really came into its own with stand-alone manufacturing cells displaying an ability to handle a wide variety of fabricated parts. The trend to apply CNC to everything that moves or adjusts--in hopes of boosting productivity or reducing labor-content and operator-skill requirements--was even more evident than in prior years.

This year, robots and robot-like material-handling devices moved solidly into the fabricating business. Mechanical manipulators were used for everything from multiple transfer operations within a manufacturing cell to blank holding during multiple bending on a press brake.

Over the years, many manufacturers of fabrication equipment felt that they were not as well received as some of their chipmaking cousins when it came to show goer interest and buying activity. Even so most of them have hung in there recognizing that even with its emphasis on cutting, being at IMTS was better than not being at IMTS.

This year most exhibitors of fabrication equipment came away from the show with a good feeling as most displays got good traffic. Most visitors came looking to find new equipment to meet real needs and solve immediate problems rather than just looking to learn.

A number of integrated systems and novel individual pieces of equipment help to illustrate the state of the art in metal-fabrication machinery displayed at the show.

System flexibility

Strippit/Di-Arco Houdaille demonstrated a flexible fabricating system featuring the FC 1000 III and Blanking Center CNC Right Angle Shear integrated with material handling/transferring, and parts sorting, Figure 12. Parts of various sizes were punched in a single worksheet and then separated by shearing, all in one continuous operation. An automatic loader moved each worksheet off the supply stack into a ready position while the previous sheet was being fabricated. The turret hole-punching machine was the pivotal component of the flexible system, and featured increased hit speeds, travel speeds, and tooling capacity.

With te blanking center and its CNC/CRT control, parts were nested on the worksheet for maximum yield from each piece of material and matched to worksheet inventory sizes to reduce inventory costs. A parts-sorting conveyor system channeled common parts into holding bins for transfer to further finishing and forming operations, and sorted out all scrap as it came from the shear.

FAB V turret-press software is compatible with the Apple, IBM, and Radio Shack lines of personal computers, and features geometric-shape macro commands, tool sorting and run-time calculations, absolute and incremental offset, and permanent memory for frequently used patterns.

Strippit/Di-Acro also introduced a new, high-powered laser called Laser-tool that adds the versatility of laser cutting to turret hole punching. The laser is the new Turbolase T1500, a high-power carbon-dioxide laser that offers kilowatt-class performance in a compact package. For more information, circle E140.

Rotary flexibility

Trumpf America has added a third axis of operation to its model Trumatic 180 WD CNC punching machine. A new tool adaptor permits the automatic rotation of any tool to any required angle by program command, Figure 13. The Rotary Ram increases the application potential of each tool. The operator no longer has the time-consuming task of setting shaped tools into special die adaptors.

The machine simultaneously positions the punch and die to the required angle at a speed of 200 degrees/sec. The Rotary Ram is programmable in 0.01-degree increments. Indexing is bidirectional through 360 degrees and takes place during material positioning for maximum speed. For more information, circle E115.

Just-in-time fabrication

A CIM-flexible fabricating system, introduced by W A Whitney, includes the 647 ATC-Fab-Cell. The company's message was that "just-in-time" fabrication can be a reality whether complete, unmanned flexible fabricating systems or individual Fab-Cells better serve a particular customer's needs.

They highlighted new software with an automatic nesting system to implement the user's daily fabrication needs in the most cost-effective way. It does this by analyzing machine production rates, labor costs, inventory control, and material utilization cost variables to determine how different parts, in various multiples, can be nested at random for production at the lowest possible cost.

Just-in-time fabrication and appropriate lot sizes (production matched to demand) are made possible by means of the Whitney 647 ATC Fab-Cell system, which includes automatic nesting, automatic feeding of raw material blanks, plasma-arc cutting, an automatic tool-change robot with tool storage/management system for 80 tools, and automatic unloading and sorting of small parts and scrap. For more information, circle E116.

Automated press feed

"A first-hand look at the metalforming shop of the future" was how Tranemo Corp described its display. Center stage was what the firm termed an integrated Flexible Press System (FPS) featuring a hydraulic press with robot parts handling, automated die changing, and computer control. The press can be fed by a combination coil straightener/feeder from the side of the frame, or it can be fed with blanks loaded on a wagon pallet at the front of the press. Blanks are fed automatically by a new robot parts-handling system called the Flexarm 1800, Figure 14.

Developed by Tranemo, the system consists of two electric-drive robot arms; one mounted at the front of the press for loading and a second mounted at the rear for extracting completed parts. Both arms are controlled by an integral computer. Suction cup grippers can lift up to 60 lb. Feed length and speed are adjustable.

The Flexarm system may be used with a broad range of existing mechanical and hydraulic presses. Production capacity is often increased by 40 percent or more depending on the application and volume of parts. When not in use, the robot arms can be positioned away from the work area for manual load/unload operation.

A programmable automatic die changer, on a moving pallet, shuttles to and from the press inserting and removing dies weighing up to 11,000 lb. Since dies are changed from the side of the frame, in-line feeding of multiple press installations is possible. The Tranemo tool-clamping system automatically secures the die to the press bed without using bolts or other conventional clamping devices. Return-flange tooling combines up to eight bending operations into one press movement, making it especially useful in manufacturing panels, doors, and similar components. For more information, circle E117.

Automated blank loading

Schuler introduced a new and more sophisticated third generation loader/unloader called the Handler II-2. This unit is said to greatly increase the potential of automation systems on existing press lines. It can be used with supplementary equipment such as blank loaders, transport units, turn-over devices, and rest stations for total press-line automation. It can also be employed as a device for loading or unloading any press in a line.

Controls for Handler II-2 include a new generation, closed-loop servo-axis package and on-board programmable control logic for operator interface and machine device monitoring. Speed and acceleration are programmable, as is dwell time at travel end points. A major press builder, Schuler manufacturers machines for nearly all areas of metalforming including deep drawing, blanking, minting, perforating, impact extrusion, fluid forming, and metal flow forming to near net shape. For more information, circle E118.

Thickness compensation

Scanam-Donewell introduced a new CNC, multiaxis press brake, which incorporates Y-1 and Y-2 axes that provide control to each end of the ram, individually, by linear scales. Material thickness compensation automatically resets ram travel when material varies end to end. Antideflection mounting of the linear encoders assures [plus-or-minus]0.0005" repeatability of the ram. The brake can be programmed at the control or off-line.

At their IMTS booth, a robot part handler was used to operate the CNC press brake. This unit was equipped with specially designed spring and piston-loaded suction cups to permit the grippers to follow the nonlinear upward motion of the formed blank. The application of robotics to press brake operation is said to dramatically increase productivity while reducing production costs. Robots are available in single-station floor units or as overhead gantry systems to serve a number of machines.

Another interesting product introduced by Scanam-Donewell was a graphics control for the Donewell CNC press brake. The CNC 7000 series control leads the operator through the bending sequence, permitting direct angle programming. It displays the part shape as the operator produces the program. With its 128k memory, the unit can store programs for up to 262 parts with as many as 524 total bend sequences and a maximum of 24 bends per part. For more information, circle E119.

Press features

Behrens Machine Co displayed their new Model 625L turret punch press equipped with an integral Coherent Model EFA-50, 650-W laser-cutting system. This systems also included the Behrens Model IBH user-friendly CNC control and an automatic unloading front parts conveyor. For more information, circle E120.

Summit Machine Tool Mfg Corp introduced a 55-ton hydraulic press brake with what is said to be the most advanced hydraulic cylinder design to achieve an absolute straight line of bend. According to Summit, it eliminates inaccurate bending that is commonly caused by a combination of deflection of the ram and table, and uneven wear on tools in conventional machines. Summit says it has overcome these problems in its family of press brakes by the placement and adjustment of the cylinders. For more information, circle E121.

Rousselle Presses Inc introduced a new line of press brakes which marks its first entry into this type of equipment. Introduced were two, 4-ft brakes with capacities of 25 and 40 tons, and 8, 10 and 12 ft models available in 90 or 135 tons. Rousselle claims a significant design difference in these press brakes is the use of hydraulic cylinders over--not at the ends of--the slide. This deflection-free feature results in a square and parallel workpiece over its entire length. For more information, circle E122.

Hydra-Tool Corp introduced a new press brake and a new shear at their display. The HTC 22-ton, 4-ft press brake uses a single cylinder to power the ram and a heavy torque tube assures parallel movement. The depth positioning of the ram is controlled by two positive mechanical stops that are infinitely adjustable with a handwheel. For more information, circle E123.

A new programmable punch rated at 125 tons, shown by Hill Acme, can handle a variety of plate sizes to 18" X 36" and thickness up to 1". Stroke length is 2" with 30 strokes/min possible in 1/2" stock. For more information, circle E124.

The Peddimat CNC plate-processing center demonstrated by Peddinghaus Corp included both drilling and burning stations in one unit. It can process material up to 2" thick and 24" wide in unlimited lengths. Peddinghaus says that increased productivity is achieved by combining many labor-intensive processes into one fabrication center requiring only one operator. It is designed for one-pass fabrication of connection, gusset, and base plates. For more information, circle E125.


Displays featuring electrical-discharge equipment were among the busiest and best attended at the show. The major emphasis centered on new, more sophisticated control systems to permit greater flexibility in part production and to reduce to eliminate the need for operator attention while the equipment is running. Many manufacturers were also anxious to show off beefed-up power supplies that, they say, will permit the newer machines to remove metal up to twice as fast as older models without measurably affecting accuracy or the finish of the cut surface.

Wire-cutting machines tended to be larger and more powerful with significantly faster cutting rates. New ram machines tended toward smaller units to provide lower cost machines to serve the lighter-duty end of the market and bring EDM within the reach of the smaller shops.

Nearly all new machines feature CNC control. Many ram units offer automatic tool (electrode) changers and are suitable for untended operation.

The Elox Div, Colt Industries, featured a robotized FMS cell using two EDM units to produce a turbine blade from a workpiece blank measuring 3/4" X 1" X 2". The cell includes a high-speed wire-cut system, a vertical ram machine with four-axis CNC control, a multichannel power supply, an automatic toolchanger, and a GMF-M1A robot for loading, unloading, and transferring workpieces.

Production began with the robot loading the workpiece blank into the wire-cut system that trimmed the ends and then cut the blade root section. A skim cut was taken to produce a fine surface finish after the part was indexed 90 degrees.

The robot then transferred the part to the vertical CNC system where a female electrode formed the blade section.

The last step was machining a series of holes into the edge of the blade with a row of fine cylindrical electrodes, after which the robot moved the finished part to a washing station and then to a container.

Other introductions included four high-speed wire-cut machines with power supplies that permit cutting speeds up to 220 cu mm/min; a new, Model SP high-precision wire-cut system for dimensional accuracies to 0.0002"; and a touch-display CRT system for simplified operation. For more information, circle E126.

Filling the gap

According to Randall L Bormann, national product manager, Agietron Corp, "The tool and die shop that doesn't have EDM won't be able to stay in business, and the moldmaking shop that doesn't replace conventional EDM with CNC EDM will be noncompetitive."

Bormann said the latest advances involve four areas: automation of the equipment, greatly increased cutting speed, significant improvements in contouring capabilities, and improved surface quality. "Because much of the expertise we used to depend on the operator for is now preprogrammed into the computer, he only needs to define such working parameters as wire material and diameter, workpiece material and thickness, surface finish requirement, and form tolerance. The computer will not only tell what settings to use, it will recommend several different sets of settings and give the correction values for each setting."

A new series of electrical-discharge machines introduced by Agietron feature improvements in cutting speed, automation, and contouring capability. The cutting speed has been more than doubled with reportedly no loss of cutting accuracy or quality of the cut surface. This increase is made possibe by a new power supply design that controls the spark-producing electrical impulse.

New automation features allow untended multiple-workpiece machining for extended periods of time. The only operator involvement is to set up the workpiece(s) in the machine tool and read the program into the controller. With its pivot-head system, this equipment can cut taper angles up to [plus-or-minus]30 degrees without repositioning of the workpiece. The extended geometry of the computer software allows programming one contour on the top surface of the workpiece and a different contour on the bottom surface. The computer will calculate the required tapers along the sides and the machine tool will precisely follow the cutting path laid out by the computer. For more information, circle E127.

The difficult made simple

In another display, Sodick demonstrated EDMing with simple electrodes, showing what is possible when today's technology is pushed to its limits. These demonstrations relied on four-axis positioning and contouring, automatic electrode redressing, and automatic tool changing.

In one demonstration, the Model CNC-1D cut a multihelical gear using an uncomplicated graphite electrode, automatically changing from roughing to finishing, and from pressure flushing to vacuum flushing during the finishing cuts at each of 12 positions.

The larger Sodick A3C-R cut a spiral groove using an ordinary ball-nosed copper electrode, Figure 15. This pre-programmed operation included redressing of the electrode inside the work tank, thus allowing the same electrode to be used for both roughing and finishing operations. For more information, circle E128.

Toolholding and


Toolholding and workholding devices have undergone only subtle, evolutionary design improvements over the years. Now, the demands of advanced-technology machining systems have speeded up this process greatly. This was the case in many of the chucks, jaw changers, bar pullers, vises, clamps, and toolholding systems on display at IMTS-84.

The advance of automated machining cells and flexible manufacturing systems has pointed up the need for chucks with faster changeover capabilities, and the versatility to handle a wide range of part diameters. Also, since many shops engage in both tended and untended machining operations, these devices should also be capable of fast manual gripping changes.

Show examples

An 18" power-operated universal 3-jaw chuck from New Britain Machine, Figure 16, permits workholding changeovers in 2 min or less; this heavy-duty chuck is well suited to small-batch production runs and frequent changeovers. It features 1-1/2" of master-jaw travel to accommodate up to 3" of change in chucking diameter. Top jaws and inserts are also available to expand gripping capacity to 15". For more information, circle E136.

For fast jaw-changing requirement in automated machining cells, SMW Systems Inc offered new power chucks that allow the automatic simultaneous changing of all three top jaws, by the same robot used for part loading and unloading.

With this system, top jaws are carried on an aluminum pallet, with three slots spaced at 120-degree intervals. The robot grips the pilot on the back of the pallet. This pilot is the same size as the workpiece, so the robot's gripper does not need replacing to begin jaw changeover. Chuck programming is handled through the machine's control and requires no alteration to control software. The system allows the machining of several different parts in sequence without operator intervention. For more information, circle E137.

Even simple workholding items like vises, bar pullers, and clamps can stand periodic enhancing and improvement. The Multivise from James Morton, Figure 17, has three sets of stacked jaw plates, and each individual plate can move backward, forward, up, or down. This enables the vise to securely hold a wide range of odd- or circular-shaped workpieces. It can be used as a jig for short-run applications. Two models are available, with jaw capacities of 3" and 6". For more information, circle E138.

Increasingly innovative toolholders and toolholding systems have emerged to meet the demands for more rapid set-up, higher torque, and faster cutting speeds. New systems configured to both ID and OD applications have also become available.

QCS Tool Systems Div, Illinois Tool Works Inc, claims their QCS toolholder system provides substantial reduction in downtime, higher setup repeatability, absolute concentricity, elimination of trial cuts, increased rigidity, and higher torque and cutting speeds. The system is based on two mirror-image halves of a precision helical-generated gear set. One half of the gear set holds the tool for either ID or OD applications, while the other half is attached to the machine with a retention system that clamps the halves together. When interlocked, the curved gear design is self-centering, and has position repeatability that can be measured in millionths of an inch. The elimination of the shank common in traditional toolholding arrangements results in higher torque transmission, reduced weight, increased cutting speeds, and improved accuracy. For more information, circle E139.

Automated tooling system

GE Carboloy's new MATS modular automated tooling system incorporates toolholders with two industry-standard designs. On the turret end is a rotary-type tool-mounting system known as the CAT V-flange tapered shank, and on the workpiece end, a conventional turning or boring toolholder head. This allows the use of familiar turning-tool configurations and economical precision-pressed indexable-carbide inserts.

MATS components can be applied to both horizontal and vertical turning centers, as well as machining centers, Figure 18. They can be supplied for manual, semiautomatic, or automatic operations. For fully automatic system applications, toolchangers can be supplied in styles for both open-bed and slant-back lathe configurations. Tool-storage magazines for use with fully automatic installations typically contain 72 tool positions. The magazines are removable from servo-indexer bases located at the machine, so they can be handled by robot-carriers or other handling equipment and interchanged among various machines within the plant. For more information, circle E141.
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Title Annotation:International Machine Tool Show
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Nov 1, 1984
Previous Article:Wearsurfacing with PTA: tips for the first-time user.
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