Some economy about Italian machine tools


Based on sources of Gardner Business Media and UCIMU Industrial association

Do you know how industrial is Italy? Let us see it in figures:

According to 2015 global metalworking machine tool consumption was USD 79,1 billion with the big down of 11,8% than it was in 2014. The full global Europe consumed USD 21,1 billion of machine tools. Italian industry is on the 6th place in global world consumers (after China, USA, Germany, Japan and South Korea) and on the 2nd in Europe (after Germany). In figures Italy consumed USD 3,136 billion with the increase of 9,4% than 2014. For 2016 global machine tool consumption stays at USD 79,9 billion which is nearly the same. Italy also takes 6th place for the year.

According to 2015 Italy stays at 6th position in global world of machine tools import with main import value USD 1,470  billion which is 47% of main consumption (First 5 places in world for import – China, USA, Germany, Mexico, Russia).

According to 2015 Italy stays at 4th place in the world for machine tools production (USD 5,797 billion) and 2nd in Europe after Germany. At first three places of top producers are China, Japan, Germany.

Export of machine tools in Italy is 3d place of global world (after Germany and Japan) with export value of USD 3,641 billion. Main consumers of “Made in Italy” machinery are Germany, USA, China, France and Poland.

In year 2017 different economic analysts expect the small but stable grow with the consumption inside Italy, production rise and the export value. Let us wait and see!

Waterjet cutting


There are a lot of talking what are the differences, advantages and disadvantages of different cutting technologies. Unfortunately, even sales managers of manufacturers companies do not have all the information and try to offer for the potential customer the machine he doesn’t need.

Waterjet is the technology to cut the materials with the water flow (for very soft materials) or water with the sand (which is normally common for the most applications). For waterjet possibilities there are no any differences with the materials – it could cut mostly all from plastic and resin till the hard metals.

Normally the use of waterjet cutting machine for classic sheet metal fabrication is very low. There are some applications and industries where you can’t work without the waterjet, for example to cut granite for indoor use. What are the main advantages? The first and important for some industries like aerospace that waterjet cutting doesn’t affect any material heating and change of the structure even for cutting edge. So this is the main difference between laser and plasma cutting. Second is the big thickness of materials with the clean and precise cutting edge. Imagine what does it mean to cut 50-100 mm thickness with the plasma and how big will be the burrs after melted metal. Moreover because of the technology there are no limits for metals, like, for example the situation with CO2 laser cutting when the degree of reflection for non-ferrous alloys is very high.

Not the main but important – with waterjet you can cut several sheets to put as the package. For sure as for the thickness of cutting you should consult with the manufacturer but sometimes it is the possibility to make the speed boost for the production. Moreover lots of waterjet cutting machines offer the swiveled cutting which means the cutting of tilted head for desired degrees.

Disadvantages? The main one is the speed because the waterjet cutting is incredibly slow. For this reason waterjet can’t be the competitive solution for thin materials and standard sheet metal fabrication workshop. If you do not have any special applications there are no reasons to study waterjet technology because it is for other things. Moreover you should consider about the maintenance because, for example, waterjet is very sensitive for water quality so you should be prepared for special installations to use it.

Offline software and tools


Why you need any additional software, pay money for it if you have the same in your CNC control? The answer is simple enough – besides operator there could be other people who need to work with bending technology. All manufacturers of CNC machines normally have the software as offline package to install at different place for preparation of programs for the machine. It could be necessary first of all for engineers to develop and project the part and to leave to the operator the standard work to control the machine. For small companies engineer and the operator could be the same person but if there is the engineers department usually there are different people with different work tasks. Moreover on the market there are independent software manufacturers to offer independent software packages for the most common machinery. For example, for press brake market there are around 5 manufacturers to sell the software with nearly the same possibilities.

At first as we said the software is great to offer the programs preparation outside of the machine. At second software can increase the possibilities of the machine as well, for example to make 3D simulation of press brake bending if it is CNC control only with 2D visualization possibilities. Or to perform auto-nesting (optimization of parts position on the sheet metal to reduce the percentage of waste part) for CNC cutting machine – laser, plasma or waterjet. At third somebody could require some separate functions, for example to go to the tool library to verify the availability of necessary tooling for the new order.

It is also clear that outside of operator and engineer there are other staff to check the production flow, machine status control and availability of production for the order. Even sales manager should know how to calculate, for example tonnage for the press brake in production to understand if it will be enough to perform the order. Sure thing in future with the grow of Industry 4.0 of these questions will be fully integrated – customer will get the information about the machine, if the tooling is necessary the order will automatically go to the purchase department and software will allow to run immediate production of possible and the drawing doesn’t need the intervention of the engineer. But today all the actions are separated and to realize them all in the most convenient way – is the task for software to present all necessary functions for necessary departments. Today mostly offline software is the engineering software to make the program but it is sure that tomorrow the winner of the competition will be the manufacturer who will implement inside more and more necessary management and production flow functionality.

The era for industrial robots


Everybody knows that the robotic automation came first of all from automotive. It is reasonable – lots of welding operations, mass product, necessity of high speeds and repeatability, so everything to start the great robot integration. Automotive is the biggest, richest and the most lovely customer for any robots manufacturer and usually all their “key” or “gold” customers are automotive factories.

Next things are hazard, hot and danger environments. Why to use human and to pay great additional costs for hard work if it is much better to replace the job with the robot? For this reason robots came to all the hard environment technologies: forging equipment, foundries and steel mills automation, work with big concentration of gases, dusts etc. This is the great replacement which makes the cut of human work in hazard operations on the factory and realizes non-stop 24 hours production.

After that robots came to all operations which require repeatability, mass production and clear cycle – the general industrial automation. But anyway even if the modern robotic arm could be programmed to give you the glass of beer, write or play piano we can’t forget the main purposes of robots: welding and loading-unloading operations. There are much more industrial solutions, for example even milling with robot but the first two are the most used and the general one.

But there is too much information about robots so we do not want to talk about general things. The one phrase of this note is – “today is the new era of industrial robots”. Why? Robots made a great jump to come from the special welding lines and transfer systems for automotive with budgets for dozens of millions Euro to the position that even small workshop can came to the robot use. Do you know what the start of the price is when you can think about purchasing of robot? If you will go to used machine tools market you can see the offers with the start price of ten thousand Euros for working and not the ancient robot arm. Yes, it is not the final investments – you need a lot of things in addition: to realize the application, to buy or to manufacture the clamps or holders for your operation, to make programming, probably to buy the other software package, to buy safety devices etc. etc. But you can’t think that the robots automation is something incredible expensive and for this reason – untouchable for small manufacturers. For sure prices for new robots much higher, the complete system from the manufacturer or robots integrator could be valued with the several hundred thousand Euros, but…

Production of robots for the market is really massive, modernization of big factories makes possibilities for replacements of hundred robots for the big lines and the availability of them on the used machines market, manufacturers try to reduce prices to be competitive etc. Robotic arm last years is not something futuristic from the future but the standard industrial tool like any other CNC machine. Great possibilities and functions together with the risen human salaries make robots the great investment; moreover for robot instead of the machine tool you can change the function and application. And moreover the price possibilities on the used market can help to the small companies also to touch the advantages of the great automation generation.

photo credit: jurvetson FANUC Robot Assembly Demo via photopin (license)

Future of the workshop – Industry 4.0


Last exhibitions show the grandest promotion of Industry 4.0 and digital manufacturing. What it means for the workshop?

Till today industry made a big grow with digital solutions – numerical systems and CNC controls offer flexible possibilities not only for standard control of the machine during the working cycle but exchange of the information to control the machine in global chain of the workshop. Yes, all additional things have nothing for small workshop but imagine what means to develop the digital chain for the big factory!

Parts with the passing of the stages with the barcodes and control of each location of the part, flow management, machine status management, global network for engineers and technical specialists for import and export of parts, personnel control, cloud technologies – all the things for develop most modern factory which you could imagine.

Industry 4.0 is closely connected with the Internet, wireless data transfer technologies, clouds and digital solutions. Sure thing any industrial computer can offer network data transfer but the question is not to operate the machine but to create the virtual factory with the possibility to manage everything only with your display from any place of the world.

Most of manufacturers today offer the advantages of the Internet service and diagnostic but in general today this is the one future only for the global network connection. Modern drawings are made in 3D CAD but are situated only inside the network of the factory or the single computer of the engineer.

The future offers more global solution with including of the manufacturer, customers and producers together with the machine, flow and production activities in global chains where the customer can control the flow of his order, manufacturer can control the machines, automatically orders customer can send directly to the machine for production, global control from the management side and as the result  – the clean and very effective relations between all the parties with much less involved people but the global transfer of the information. People there are not the workers but the operators of manufacturing world and who knows, probably involved also in new generation social networks dedicated to the new material flows.

Original and non-original tools


All the producers of machine tools, in particular tube bending machines, punching machines or press brakes offer the possibility to purchase original tooling together with the purchased machine. The advantages are quite simple – under original tooling the manufacturer tries to convince about the high quality of tooling and absence of any faults or problems for the customer. Moreover it is better to get the machine with tooling from one hand, so like the “key turn purchase” where you can start the production immediately after receipt of the machine.

So if everything so good why customer should study the “non-original” tooling not marked with the manufacturer of the machine? The answer is also simple – 90% of manufacturers do not have the real production of the tooling, sometimes they do the project and drawings development but the manufacture takes place outside. Moreover it is the question of the investments – “original tools” are totally more expensive against other competitive offers for these types.

Yes – every manufacturer is not the reseller – finally they are responsible for the machine and tooling is the important part of it. Moreover sometimes, like for tube bending tools it is not just the way for simple installation of tooling on the machine but the question of fine adjustments.

Sure thing if the customer requires from the manufacturer of the machine the guarantee to make his parts with required precision and quality the manufacturer can’t guarantee nothing without supply of tooling from his hands. So it is good for everybody to buy tools and the machine together. But in a lot of cases it is not so important and moreover not so complicated for the customer if he buys his second or third machine. In this case we can also help and offer – high quality press brake tooling, punching tools, tube bending tools from Italy to produce the quality parts.