MACH – the ultimate barometer of recovery

Posted on 2 Jun 2010 by The Manufacturer

Biennial MACH, the biggest UK manufacturing trade show, is a well-timed yardstick for the recovery of UK manufacturing. Formal interest and orders placed at MACH will give machine tool manufacturers – from ABB to Yamazaki Mazak – a good prognosis of companies’ order books in 2010/2011. TM asks some of the exhibitors for their views on manufacturing recovery and reports real optimism following a tough period, plus we review the new MACH Education and Training Zone. See you at the show! By Brian Davis and Will Stirling.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics in mid-May showed a 2.3% jump in manufacturing output during March, the biggest month-on-month rise in almost eight years. The ONS showed that output rose in 12 of the 13 manufacturing sub-sectors.

Is this a sign of sustainable recovery or a peak before more trouble in 2010? Andrew Smith, KPMG’s chief economist, says: “The surge in output in March, coming after a chunky gain in February and combined with buoyant survey evidence, suggests that the manufacturing recovery is building momentum. Transport equipment has led the improvement but other sectors are also strengthening. To put this in perspective, manufacturing is still some 10% down from its peak.

But it looks as if the weak pound is indeed benefiting exports and output.”

A very good barometer for manufacturing strength on the ground are trade shows, like MACH 2010.

Orders of and ‘registered interest’ in machine tools, automation systems and software at this show will give the industry a sound impression of how OEMs and subcontract manufacturers are faring, and their confidence levels looking to 2011. While exhibitor numbers are down on 2008, this year is a very different business environment to that two years ago and, as a sign that business confidence is rising, more exhibitors have signed up to MACH in the last 3-4 months than in any previous MACH.

“There has been a late surge, which is atypical, but it shows better business confidence and that they prioritise this show in their marketing budget,” says a spokesperson for MTA, the show organiser.

TM asked some exhibitors about their expectations for MACH and if they see signs of wider recovery.

Yamazaki debuts seven new machines
“Prospects for UK industry are looking very encouraging,” says Damien Cleugh, European marketing manager, Yamazaki Mazak. Yamazaki (stand 5348) is in bullish mood with the launch of seven new machines across the metalcutting range with turning centres, machining and a new multi-tasking series. New turning machines include the Slant Turn Nexus 550M, Megaturn Nexus 900 and the UK-built Quick Turn Smart 350.

“We’re not just talking about facelifts,” says Cleugh.

“We believe people are looking for greater productivity and versatility from machining centres, with significant increase in machining capacity.” Mazatrol Smart control offers significantly faster ‘conversational’ programming compared with traditional EIA/ISO CNC systems, for two-axis turning and three-axis milling operations. Some functions, like Y-axis and 5-axis machining, have been stripped out for ease of use and a cost effective solution.

Yamazaki also addresses a key trend towards ‘one hit’ machining with pioneering ‘Done-in-One’ machining, particularly in the Integra range. The Integra J series is claiming to take multitasking to the next level. Mazak’s new Hyper Variaxis 630 multi-surface 5-axis machining centre makes its debut at MACH 2010, along with the Horizontal Center Nexus 6000, a machine targeted at the general subcontract and automotive sectors, providing high productivity in a compact competitively priced machine.

Siemens launches innovative CNC
Siemens (stand 5569) is cautiously optimistic about the market.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel but most companies are simply maintaining capacity, having run down stock and desperate to restock as the market turns up,” says Andy Hodgson, UK sales manager for motion control at Siemens IA&DT.

“People are looking for machines that offer flexibility and diversification.

There is definite demand for five-axis one-hit machines, like the Sinumerik 840D,” he adds. “Traditionally engineers used DIN standard G-code programming, which was time consuming, complex and esoteric. Today it is high level five-axis machining in concert with CAD/CAM leading up to full PLM with programmes like Siemens NX and the Teamcenter suites of software.” Siemens will be demonstrating the full scope of product at MACH 2010, with its latest Sinumerik 828D CNC machines, targeted at the job shop market and small batch sizes, including ISO code programming, shopfloor communications, interactive animated elements, automatic measuring cycles and production-status text messaging. Siemens ShopMill and ShopTurn offer graphical assist, easy-touse interfaces for generating small batch sizes and one-off components.

Hardinge Bridgeport debuts compact 5-axis VMC
Hardinge Bridgeport (stand 5475) has repositioned itself to offer ‘premium’ quality machines, says UK sales manager Simon Rood. “We see demand for a higher level of machine tool technology, with multi-cutting tools on one turret offering reduced cycle times, reduced part cost and increased quality.” Hardinge Bridgeport is to launch a compact, 5-axis vertical machining centre (VMC), the GX250 5AX, which offers a very small footprint and a 20-tool capacity magazine and high speed cutting capability of up to 20,000 revs/min. The new Hardinge collet ready spindle GS51A CNC lathe for fully automated machining will also be demonstrated.

Mori Seiki sees the upturn
“There’s a definite upturn and it’s coming from a host of industries – aerospace, hydraulics, automotive and general engineering,” remarks Steve Finn, VP Sales at Mori Seiki UK. Finn reckons “customers are looking at top-end technology for increasing throughput with less cost and effort. ‘One hit’ is very important, and the general theme is latest technology at affordable cost.” Mori Seiki (stand 5310) will be showing the latest NH horizontal machining centre NH4000 fitted with a Fanuc robot. Step over to the Renishaw stand (5439) to see the NMV5000 DCG dynamic rigid directive drives, and a DuraTurn machine demo on the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s MANTRA vehicle (stand 4470).

Both the NT1000 and the NMV3000 are fitted with Mori Seki’s new MAPPS iV high performance operating system, which incorporates CAM software for programming 3D parts, as well as interference checking.

New Fanuc CNC Series Oi controllers
Fanuc NC UK general manager Andrew Myhill also sees an upturn on order-books in all areas. Fanuc (stand 5470) will be exhibiting the latest generation of CNC Series Oi controllers, extending axis capability, with high performance machining functions and compatibility with the latest Machine Directives for safety and environmental performance. There will also be demonstrations of showing the how machine control links to an M1Oi six-axis Fanuc robot loader.

Maximising machine utilisation
Measurement technology is a competitive marketplace for users of machine tools and co-ordinate measuring machines (CMMs), but with the anticipated growth in advanced manufacturing, Renishaw is wellplaced.

Marc Saunders, Renishaw’s UK general manager says: “With many manufacturers looking to get the most from their existing assets, we’re focusing on new systems that allow the capabilities of both three-axis and five-axis machine tools to be quickly assessed, plus products that increase machine tool automation, improve process control and allow advanced onmachine part verification.” For visitors wanting to improve their off-line measurement capabilities, Renishaw (stand 5439) will be showing a new 5-axis probe head for touch-trigger measurement and will talk about its growing retrofit service for CMMs. This includes MODUS, the company’s first metrology software. Utilising technology developed for the award winning REVO measurement system, the new PH20 probe head offers unique ‘head touches’ for rapid touch-trigger measurement, and fast infinite 5-axis positioning to guarantee optimal feature access. “The new PH20 probe head is exciting in that it accesses our new technologies for most existing users of CMMs, with parts measured up to three times faster than current touch-trigger systems,” Saunders says.

Renishaw will also demonstrate a range of new motion control products, including a new 1nm resolution incremental encoder, and an absolute optical encoder for rotary and linear applications that is capable of 10 atoms resolution at 220mph.

PLM at the cutting edge
“The education phase in Product Lifecycle Management [PLM] is over, particularly for larger companies,” claims Richard Tinsdeall, VP (UK) at software company PTC. What’s more, PTC reported 61% year-on-year revenue growth in the UK small and medium-company sector from Pro/Engineer and Windchill ProductPoint suites, rebounding well from the economic downturn.

“We are starting to see PLM move beyond traditional product data management (PDM) to represent more full use of PLM to sustain more flexibility in business models,” says Tinsdeall.

“Larger companies are using PLM to support outsourcing operations for “design anywhere, build anywhere” strategy.” PTC (stand 5394) will be demonstrating Windchill 9.1 which includes new modules – Manikin, Spark Analysis and others, alongside Pro/E Wildfire 5.0 and CoCreate 17.0, a robust 3D CAD modelling solution. New product analytics in Windchill will enable companies to understand the environmental impact of new product designs.

New CAD and CAM releases
Delcam (stand 4010) marketing manager Peter Dickin sees distinct investment in high-end, multitask machine tools “aimed at doing more in a single, one hit operation.” Delcam is launching the latest version of Powermill, featuring a 64-bit operating system running on Windows 7, “so you can programme more quickly and machine more efficiently,” he says.

A new version of PowerInspect for inspection will be released and CopyCAD reverse engineering software which incorporates Parasolid 3D modelling software. Integration of Parasolid means CopyCAD can act as the reverse engineering front end for CAD systems based on Parasolid, SolidWorks, and Siemens PLM’s Solid Edge and NX software.

Verisurf (stand 5548) is releasing a new version X4 with automated inspection routines and a new graphical operator interface for ease of use.

Gordon Drysdale, director of SolidCAM UK (stand 5395) sees increasing demand for integration between CAD and CAM systems, in a bid to become leaner. The latest version of SolidCAM iMachining, intelligently maps the toolpath for greater metal removal.

Education & Training Zone

MACH 2010 targets young aspiring engineers
For the first time ever MACH 2010 is targeting young people with the aim of inspiring a new generation of engineers and technologists. The Education and Training Zone is sure to excite interest with a range of educational tours for 14-16 year olds, and a wider focus on students studying manufacturing and engineering diplomas.

The star attraction will be a 1:1 version of the Bloodhound Super Sonic Car (SSC), which will attempt to smash through the World Land Speed Record at 1050mph on the Haskeen Pan in South Africa next year. Richard Noble and members of his engineering team will be on hand to describe key features of this British-built hybrid rocket car.

Bloodhound SSC (stand 4771) has gone through 10 design evolutions and features a 1000kg EJ2000 Eurofighter Typhoon jet engine and 200kg rocket – sufficient to develop 47,500lb of thrust, equivalent to 180 Formula One cars. 3,600 primary and secondary schools have already signed up to the Bloodhound Education Programme. Some pupils have said they are “blown away” to be involved in such an exciting project.

Kids are also likely to be thrilled by Formula Gravity (stand 4476), high-tech boxcar racers which are being built at 50 schools and colleges. Here the world land speed record stands at 100km/hr, “admittedly without an engine and racing downhill at Beachy Head!” explains ex-science teacher David Ackroyd. “Formula Gravity gets boys and girls involved in design and engineering together with Loughborough University and industry partners Vauxhall, Michelin and the Daily Telegraph. The project offers a 100% achievable goal for kids and encourages interest in engineering.” The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and Boeing are wheeling in a specially equipped HGV, called MANTRA, with the latest advanced manufacturing technology.

AMRC (stand 4470) demonstrations include a Mori Seiki multi-axis lathe, virtual assembly/ of a Rolls-Royce jet engine using Virtalis 3D, and displays of tooling optimisation, damping and post-machining inspection, in partnership with Sandvik Coromant.

ABB (stands 4475, 5395) is to debut a small 6-axis IRB 120 robot with the new IRC5 compact controller, and has introduced the RobotStudio educational package which allows up to 50 students to programme virtual robots with free-of-charge licences. ABB should also excite interest in the main hall with their ‘Fanta Can Challenge’ using two IRB 1600 6-axis robots.

Young visitors will also be able to strap into a VR glider on the British Gliding Association’s simulator.

Filling the young engineering skill gap has never looked more appealing.