January 25, 2023
As the machine tool industry faces a serious labor shortage, more and more users are demanding automation, labor savings, and standardization of operations in the field of grinding as well. To meet these demands, manufacturers are offering various solutions, such as the use of industrial robots or automatic measuring instruments. Some manufacturers are also proposing value-added applications in addition to the grinding machines themselves. This article provides an overview of the strategies of Japanese grinding machine builders as they navigate the challenges of 2023.
According to the Japan Machine Tool Builders’ Association (JMTBA), orders for NC grinding machines in the first half of 2022 increased by 35.2% year-on-year to 55,856 million yen. While the first half of the year was strong, an overall slowdown in orders for machine tools was expected in the second half of 2022. However, grinder manufacturers reported no stagnation in orders and will continue to push sales efforts in 2023 as they did in 2022.
Grinding machine manufacturers introduced a number of new products in time for JIMTOF2022, and products focusing on work automation, labor saving, and standardization were particularly noteworthy. Labor shortage is an issue not only for Japan, but for the entire world. The demand for products that contribute to work automation, labor saving, and standardization is growing every year.
Okamoto Machine Tool Works is promoting the highly efficient grinding process with its “PSG127CA-iQ Series” CNC precision surface grinder.
The key to this efficiency is the “MAP grinding” function, which uses a probe installed inside the machine to measure the surface irregularities of the workpiece and grind only the areas that need it with pinpoint accuracy. This function reduces work time and improves efficiency by eliminating the need to grind the entire workpiece, and extends the lifetime of the grinding wheel. It also eliminates the need for human judgment, leading to standardization of operations.
Toyo Advanced Technologies offers an automated gear grinding line that combines its “TGG-26-2W” gear grinding machine with the “TVG-20C-2S” multitasking grinding machine that processes the inner diameter and end faces of workpieces. The key feature of this solution is the industrial robot for loading and unloading workpieces between the two machines. This enables a seamless connection between the internal diameter and end face grinding process to the gear grinding process, eliminating the need for operator intervention.
To improve efficiency and standardize operations, some manufacturers are proposing to add value to their machines through various applications. One example is SHIGIYA MACHINERY WORKS, which adds even more capabilities to grinding machines with its “SHIGIYA Plus”. The SHIGIYA Puls lineup includes features such as “DANKILESS”, which compensates for thermal displacement, and “MAKASET”, an automatic teaching system for cylindrical grinding machines. The company plans to expand the lineup in the future.
Many exhibitors at JIMTOF2022 commented that the in-person event, which was held for the first time in four years, allowed them to gain insight into which products were in demand and understand the needs of visitors. In terms of sales strategy after JIMTOF2022, some manufacturers plan to hold private shows or exhibit at trade shows organized by trading companies, but most exhibitors said they would focus on following up with visitors who had a positive impression of their products at the show. A person in charge of Toyo Advanced Technologies said, “We will improve the performance of our products based on feedback from exhibition visitors and user demand”.
Companies need to look not only to Japan, but also to other countries. Okamoto Machine Tool Works is also focusing on expanding its sales strategies to other countries, that is, they will focus on accumulating knowledge first in Japan, and then customize products to meet local demand in other countries. The company plans to exhibit at the 18th China International Machine Tool Show (CIMT2023) to gain further insight into local demand and response.
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