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
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
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
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
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.”
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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,
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
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.”
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
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.
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,
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.
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
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,
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
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
“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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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
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
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,
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 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.
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
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.