Some economy about Italian machine tools

2017.06.22

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

2017.06.21

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

2017.06.20

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.

For what do you need the punching products?

2017.06.19

Usually all are interested what is the application for this or this technology. Let us talk about punching… Very small explanation – punching is a process of metal fabrication with the use of punch which goes with the necessary force inside the part to perform the cutting. As you can understand punch has the geometry of hole so the hole will be the same as the punch. The force to perform the punching called punching force or necessary punching force if you want to calculate what tonnage you need for your task.

We speak about sheet metal punching as the main process but there are more similar processes: tube or profile punching, structural parts punching etc. Punching is performed for sheet metal with the use of punching press which could be general just as the unit to perform the hit of punch and low positioning of die, stamping press which is usually the part of forming process or coordinate punching press – press with the table where the part of sheet metal will be positioned where it is necessary to make the punching.

Punching press is the most used technology for sheet metal together with laser for metal cutting. The differences are that the punching press needs punching tool for the work and laser – not. Punching tool at least has two main positions – punch as the tool to perform the hit and the die on the low position to support the material at the working area. Punching is the cheapest technology to make the holes at sheet metal.

What is it for? It is clear that in general there no final products after punching at all. But the punching is the main operation to get the unfolded part for future bending. And after the bending it will be the product for lots of different applications: electric or other equipment metal cabinets, metal furniture units, metal boxes, safes, arms boxes, metal shelfs, panels for elevators, architecture and design, metal doors, bar and restaurant kitchen furniture, ovens, medical furniture etc. The other part is perforation – process with the making of lot of same holes in the sheet. The use of them could be the architecture panels or panels to perform the normal ventilation, for example top panels of the subway or railroad wagons.

Tube bending fitness

2017.06.18

Because lot of people are interested what could be created with tube bending in general life without opening covers of aircraft engine we will continue… What industry is massive, mainly tube bended and rich enough to invest with the most modern tube bending machines? For sure it will be gym and fitness equipment manufacturing. Just imagine how many cities, how many gyms, how many units inside…

Some statistic figures: in US there are more than 34 thousand fitness centers, the quantity for worldwide: around 153 thousand. The market revenue for gym and exercise equipment is around $ 2 billion USD. Under some researches gym and fitness equipment market worldwide is expected to reach $11.9 billion by 2020. And the great percentages of materials in equipment unit are the bended tubes. So you can imagine how huge this production branch!

Market leaders work with real high production so the tube parts are not the subject for manual bending technologies. Usually companies purchase electric multi-axis CNC automatic benders to make the parts with the highest speed with the best repeatability and the quality. In general, tube geometries are not very complicated but requirements for non-availability of surface deformation, scratches or tube ovality could be very high.

Manufacturing of gym and fitness equipment doesn’t require any serious special developments and complete changes of the technology. As the engineering stage everything is very near to the ideal today so the next supplier of the machinery will be the company who will offer high speed full-electric for the best price. For sure the industry is adapted for automatization solutions but this will be outside of the machine.

Press brake tools from Italy

2017.06.17

Historically Italy had a big quantity of separate press brake manufacturers. Lots of them are unknown outside of Italy; lots of them closed, came to bankruptcy or were sold so today Italy lost the big potential and the leading place for press brakes manufacturing.

In spite of this Italy has the top place for the production of press brake tools with the dozens of strong and professional companies, known worldwide. Good quality, competitive prices, short delivery times make Italian tools the powerful competitor even against the Asian products. Hundreds of brand names including the press brake machines manufacturers are used for sale of Italian tooling all over the world. Why Italy is so powerful on this market even today? Together with the heavy background it is necessary to say Italy is one of the strongest players for different metal parts production by turning, milling and grinding operations.

As the country of lots of private and family businesses Italy grew with the growing of small workshops (in Italian “Officina meccanica”) and even today there are huge quantity of Italian sub suppliers for different kind of products. So finally press brake tools are the one of the final products which had a start in workshops. Horizontal cooperation also helped to grow – for example today almost all manufacturers of press brake tools use one or two the same partners to make the tool hardening outside of the main production.

The last word is the technical school. Italians like engineering, want to be engineers and have a lot of engineers to achieve the power at the industrial market. Without any doubts – tooling “Made in Italy” is the mark of the quality.

 

The era for industrial robots

2017.06.16

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)

Combination sheet metal punching machines

2017.06.15

Thirty years ago all leader manufacturers for sheet metal machinery sold laser and punch combination machines. The advantages of such machinery are incredible high – you have a standard punch with fast speed and standard punching tools but some travels or cuts could be made my laser. In this case you are free with any part solutions – you do not need to punch the edge as the straight line but can do any wave or other figure cuts without any problems. Do not have the right tool to punch? You do not need to order it if the time is limited – run the laser. This more interesting machine for jobshop production with different orders – you can’t know what tools you should need for the tomorrow order but you can do it.

From other hand the maintenance of combination laser-punch machines was also high. You have tools, you have hydraulic for the punch, you have laser and all beam transfer system together with necessity for all gases. Moreover the price for this types of the machines was really expensive so it will be necessary to calculate very well the price for the laser freedom possibilities.

Next thing is punching and shear cutting combination machine. Operators usually understand what is the duration of life for slitting punching tool, their costs and how long it could be in high production. So to speed the time punching and shearing machines are used to perform the side cuts not with the punch but with the blade. This technology gives the boost of speed but for sure costs of such machines are very high for investments. Market for this kind of the machines is very low because these machines are perfect if the production is with thousands of equal pieces every day. But for mass products like refrigerator panels, washing machine sides, electrical cabinets etc. the solution is perfect.

New generation machines came together with the start of fiber laser integration. Together with modern, powerful and high-speed servo electric punching technology the installation of fiber laser is much easier because of the simple way from the source and the maintenance for this kind of the machines much more simple. So the new combinations of punch and laser system are really powerful units with low consumption, green technologies and the same effective use for different style of applications.

 

Tube bending parts as basic architecture product

2017.06.14

Today designed applications and special orders are very popular in the world. Many agencies in Germany and Switzerland use really expensive and high-end technology tube bending machinery for architecture and designed tubular parts for outdoor and indoor use. With the new fashion for modern “metal and glass” buildings the tubes could be also the main part for the elegant constructions. Could be even not the part but the really monuments as in some US cities. Tubing is very popular not only for different handrails but for street furniture too. Unique pieces of stainless steel made by imagination of project engineers are the pretty part of the modern cities. Tent-like solid constructions, all circular stairs railings, roof covers – you just need to look around the best modern constructions in your city and study if they have tubes inside.

To move out from the classic street we can view the custom made boat railings. Expensive boats are every time the special and individual work so the railings (and as you can consider there are a lot on the boat) are every time different too.

What is the most interesting moment in tube bending? The classical 3D tube bending offers the movement of tube with any direction with some limitations and restrictions. But anyway it is the subject for any fantasy and idea to realize, just necessary to have the necessary tube bending tools according to your application. Usually companies involved in architecture use classic draw tube benders together with section benders (3 roller machines) because with them you do not have the necessity for tools of every radius of tube.

Tube bending part is much simpler to achieve than the classic metal construction parts. This is the reason why architecture moved to tube bending. To bend profiles more complicated for free-form solutions, other structures like bars – more complicated for machinery and realization.

The photo is the sculpture “Brain” by Paolo Matroian

 

Future of the workshop – Industry 4.0

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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.