November 1, 2022
In response to the growing demand for automation and productivity improvement against the serious labor shortage, there were many manufacturers exhibiting their products with the theme of “Automation” at IMTS2022.
FUJI exhibited its automation systems with the theme “STEP UP TO FUJI AUTOMATION”.
The demonstration of “ANW300” opposed twin spindle lathe combined with a vertical articulated robot and an Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) attracted the visitors’ attention.
The combination of these systems enables unmanned workpiece transfer and loading onto machine tools. Eiji Ochi, the president of FUJI MACHINE AMERICA said, “There were many visitors interested in automated systems regardless of their industry, showing that labor shortages are a big issue for the manufacturing industry as a whole”.
In addition to the combination of machine tools and robots, there were many exhibits proposing automation by connecting loaders and other peripheral equipment.
Matsuura Machinery exhibited its “MX-420 PC10”, which combines the vertical 5-axis machining center (MC) “MX-420” with the auto pallet changer (APC) “PC10”, for the first time in North America. Yuto Matsuura, General Manager and director of the DX Promotion Office, commented, “It was our first time to exhibit this machine in North America, but the response from visitors was positive and made us feel confident. Automation is a must because labor shortages are everywhere. One of the most significant changes lately is that users in North America are now also demanding compact models, taking space efficiency into consideration”.
ENSHU demonstrated the vertical MC “GE30V” connected to an optional loader and stocker. The standard model’s axis travel (X×Y×Z) is 600×600×400 mm, but by connecting a loader, the Y axis travels an additional 200 mm to handle large box workpieces. The optional auto-tool changer can be used to add up to 40 tools. It automates loading and tool changing of large box workpieces.
KITAMURA MACHINERY exhibited its 5-axis vertical MC “MedCenter 5AX” equipped with an optional APC. Managing Director Minoru Umeno emphasized, “Since the APC can be attached afterwards, it can respond to the need for further automation after the MC has been installed”.
AMADA MACHINERY demonstrated its “HPSAW-310” band saw connected to the loader “Take-out System” to show how it can improve work efficiency and automation. The “Take-out System” uses a roller conveyor to load long workpieces onto the HPSAW-310. The bundled conveyors are lined up in two rows side by side, instead of a long-connected conveyor, and the entire conveyors path slides sideways, enabling the next material bar to set up and changeover to be automated. “Cutting speed of the HPSAW-310 is approximately four times faster than that of general-purpose machines. By automating loading, we can further increase production efficiency without manual labor,” explained Tetsuro Sekine, General Manager of Sales.
Some manufacturers promoted productivity improvement as a solution to the labor shortages, besides automation.
OKUMA unveiled the “VT1000EX,” a vertical CNC lathe suitable for difficult-to-cut materials such as titanium and stainless steel, for the first time at an exhibition in the U.S. “This machine, capable of cutting difficult-to-machine materials with great power, is a symbol of what the U.S. market is looking for,” proudly stated Harumitsu Senda, Managing Director of OKUMA. The new vertical 5-axis MC “GENOS M560V-5AX” was also exhibited. It contributes to labor saving through highly accurate 5-axis machining. Mr. Senda analyzed, “At the Japan International Machine Tool Fair (JIMTOF) we will present concepts and advanced technologies, but at IMTS, our main focus is on proposing machines that can be used immediately on the manufacturing site”.
NIIGATA MACHINE TECHNO exhibited its horizontal 5-axis MC “HN63E-5X” for machining aircraft parts and difficult-to-machine materials. Yukio Tamura, president of the company, emphasizes, “In addition to heavy-duty machining, which has been our forte, we have also been certified to the rigorous AS9100 standard (a quality management system standard for the aerospace and defense industries). We intend to promote these strengths”.
ROKU-ROKU SANGYO, which participated in the Mitsubishi Electric booth, exhibited its “Android II” microfabrication machine, along with sample mirror-finish workpieces. Mitsuru Kaitoh, president of the company, said, “To attract visitors’ interest, we display sample workpieces too. Mirror finishing has not yet spread widely in the U.S., so there is potential for growth in this field”.