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Small machine tools for small workpieces

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The industrial micro manufacturing is changing! The trend is moving away from the one-dimensional mass production to an increasing variety of products coupled with falling numbers and shorter innovation cycles. Today’s ultra-precision machines are rarely operated economically under these conditions. Here, in micro manufacturing the demand rises for new, size-adjusted machine tools that operate more economical and ecological than before. These needs can be derived from a consideration of simple parameters, such as the installation space, size of the working space and need for operating power or the moving masses of machine tools. These parameters are in considerable disproportion to the volume or mass of small workpieces of only few millimeters with structures in micrometer range.

This is where a completely new concept of industrial micro production is set, which was developed in the Priority Program SPP 1476 ”small machine tools for small workpieces” funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Under the coordination of Institute of Production Engineering (LaFT) of Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg, 18 leading production technology institutions of various German universities investigated on new machine tools for micro production.

The idea of the SPP: We make the machines so small, light and flexible, as they can be to be rebuilt and converted for changing needs in shortest times. Therefore the machine tools are introduced and positioned to the workpiece depending on the machining task – and not vice versa as before. What is new is that their work space can interfere with the space section of the workpiece. This allows multiple machines to work simultaneously on a workpiece and, as required, placed flexible side by side, one above the other or in a row. Nevertheless, the technology works accurately and precisely.

Just like a Lego game, companies can respond to changing ideas, processing technologies and requirements at any time. If new parts are needed, they can be easily attached to the machine via multifunctional interface. So an ad hoc change between micro tool spindles, laser processing optics or EDM electrodes is possible. The control operates via a laptop or PC. It also followed by the idea of Open Production – the user community constantly develops the system further. The advantage of this completely new technology: it not only saves time, resources and space, it uses a worker more targeted and effective. The first prototypes are developed. With mass production of such a machine, costs drop down to just under a fifth of conventional production systems.

The aim of the Priority Program is the development and prototype testing of scientific methods for building new machine tools for micro production, which are adapted to characteristic technological and technical parameters of the corresponding micro workpiece. In the Priority Program the main focus is on machine tools for material removal process utilising mechanical (machining), thermal (laser), electro thermal (electrical discharge machining) and electrochemical energy. These new machines have technical, economic and ecological benefits. They enable production of complex parts with higher accuracy from a large range of materials and are also characterised by a higher inherent variability in structure and location of the installation site. Economic and ecological advantages are realised by low costs and lower consumption of resources for the development and operation of the machine. In particular, steep improvements of the mentioned properties are achieved by bringing down the critical size of the developed manufacturing equipment.

After falling below a certain size, small machine tools enable the introduction of new or known but still unused machine tool technologies and elements. As opposed to today’s evolutionary development of the machines, these technologies enable innovative leaps, i.e., revolutionary steps in the development and operation of the machines.

At the Hanover Fair desktop-size machine tools are presented, which were composed in exemplary configurations of the newly developed tool, feed and additional modules. The modules have been designed so that different machine tools can be assembled and disassembled ad hoc and task oriented from the mentioned modules.

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China’s steel industry star continues to shine

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China is here to stay among the world’s leading industrial nations. It is easily the world’s biggest producer of steel, not to mention the biggest consumer. The lion’s share its steel demand comes from the construction industry, mechanical engineering and automotive manufacturing. China is also an extremely dominant player in the foundry industry, a major consumer of aluminum and copper, and a big producer of important non-ferrous metals and rare earths. These vital economic statistics are well catered for in the exhibition program of Metal + Metallurgy China, one of the world’s foremost trade fairs for foundry technology, industrial furnaces and smelter and rolling mill plant and equipment. Companies from all around the world use Metal + Metallurgy China as a springboard into the Chinese market and as a platform for managing relationships with existing Chinese customers and partners.

Metal + Metallurgy China, the biggest trade show of its kind in Asia and the second-biggest worldwide, is a mega-cluster comprising four main constituent shows: the China International Foundry Expo, the China International Metallurgical Industry Expo, the China International Industrial Furnaces Exhibition and the China International Refractories and Industrial Ceramics Exhibition. Staged over four days, from 31 March to 3 April, at the newly built China Expo Complex in Shanghai’s Hongqiao district, this year’s Metal + Metallurgy China attracted 61,349 visitors, including buyer delegations from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Iran. It featured a total of 1,026 exhibitors from 20 countries and regions and spanned 67,000 square meters (721,000 sq. ft.) of display area. The show was last held in 2014 in Beijing, and these pleasing results are testimony to the great progress the show has made since then.

This year’s exhibitor lineup featured a great many industry heavyweights, such as I.M.F., DISA, Savelli, Sinto, Fondarc, Morgan, Eirich, ABP, Inductotherm, Capital, Insertec, Primetals, Andritz, Fill, Exone, ASK, Ebner, Kao, Fuji Electric, Paul Wurth, Grenzebach SH, Changzhou Hidea, Zhiheng and Magma. The German Pavilion featured an array of innovative casting and metallurgical products by Uni-Geräte GmbH, ASK Chemicals, Küttner and Drache; and the Chinese Pavilion was home to numerous leading companies from Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Nanjing, Wuxi, Changzhou, Xuzhou, Ningbo, Qingdao, Wuhan, Fujian, Dalian, Jinan, Zhengzhou and Changsha.

 

Metal China

This year’s show featured a restructured exhibition layout that put the focus squarely on the international exhibitors with a view to fostering global competition, lead generation and dialogue. The restructure also added a new section dedicated especially to robotics and automation technology – a reflection of the increasing worldwide demand for industrial robots and the growth of the automation sector generally. The new exhibition area showcased a comprehensive range of robotics solutions for the casting and metal industry. World-leading robotics and automation specialists, including ABB, Fanuc und KUKA, used the exhibition area to present the latest in versatile, high-speed, high-precision robotics technology and to stage an eye-popping contest for automation technology that attracted a great deal of visitor interest.

Metal + Metallurgy China 2015 also hosted a variety of industry summits, forums and technical seminars, including the China International Steel Summit, the 7th Chinese Foundry Summit, the China International Thermal Processing Technology Forum, the 3rd China International Refractory Production and Application Conference, and the 13th International Steel Market and Trade Conference. These events yielded quality dialogue on current industry trends, with top experts, company representatives and international industry leaders discussing how best to facilitate stable, sustainable growth in the metal and metallurgy industry in today’s complex macroeconomic environment. Several international exhibitors, including Avure, Paul Wurth, Primetals Technologies and FLOW-3D Cast, used the summits, forums and seminars to give company presentations.

Metal + Metallurgy China 2015 was organized by the China Iron and Steel Association, the China Foundry Association, the Chinese Mechanical Engineering Society, the Metallurgical Council of CCPIT, the Industrial Furnace Institution of CMES, and Hannover Milano Fairs Shanghai Ltd, the Chinese subsidiary of Deutsche Messe AG based in Hannover, Germany.

This success of Metal + Metallurgy China 2015 was underscored by the extensive coverage it received from CCTV, Shanghai Television, the Xinhua News Agency, China News Service, Economic Daily and many other media organizations.