EMO 2007: A Winner All Around

It’s probably blasphemous to describe Germans as giddy, but that’s the best word I can conjure for the mood at the recently completed EMO exhibition in Hannover.
 


 There were smiles all around on the faces of exhibitors and visitors at this flagship metalworking show. By almost every measure, EMO 2007 was a success.

During the years of attending metalworking shows in Europe, Asia and the U.S., I’ve noticed the emergence of a pattern of technological developments. The cycle for introducing new technology seems to be more on the order of a 4-year cycle rather than the 2-year cycle most international shows follow.

Often the “new” things at these shows are more incremental than incredible. However, this 2007 edition of EMO seems to coincide with a wave of interesting new premieres. A selection of these is featured in the accompanying photos. Look for detailed coverage of these developments in future issues of Production Machining.

One overarching trend was an effort to address the need to reduce parasitic time in the metalcutting operation. This took the form of faster tool change times, simultaneous cutting with two, three or four tools and increasingly sophisticated offline simulations to speed machine setup and first article prove-out. Keeping the cutting tool engaged in the work to reduce overhead is driving much of this development work.

Application of automation technology continues to drive the metalworking community in Europe. In spite of the strong Euro, wringing costs out of the manufacturing process is ongoing. I also heard the seeming universal lament about the lack of young people turning to manufacturing careers.

To try to counter the “youth gap,” we saw another interesting yet subtle trend from several of the OEM exhibitors using the application of “design” to the ergonomics and aesthetics of machine tools. One major builder contracted a designer to upgrade the company’s machine tool stable.

The results were counter intuitive to an old machine tool guy like me: larger CRT screens on the controls, significantly larger windows on the machine and even a pull-out seat on the CNC for the operator to sit while working the control. Then, I managed to meet a 20-something designer and talk to him about these things.

Basically, his assignment was to create machine tools that have more appeal to a new generation of machinists. Young people like him, he said, are more visual. Therefore, improved working zone visibility and a larger CNC screen are features that fit more naturally into the video/computer world these folks have grown up in. And how about the pull-out seat? “You sit at the computer in your office, don’t you?” he said. If a better design gets more young people into manufacturing, I’m all for it.

To reinforce the importance of next-generation machinists, more than 10,000 young people from vocational and general schools were invited to attend the show. These visits were under the auspices of 24 participating companies that made sure the students were guided around the show to see the breadth of technologies represented.

It’s no wonder the Germans were happy. All of the numbers for EMO were up this year with more exhibitors, more visitors and more international flair, and all of this in spite of shortening the exhibition by 2 days.

The next edition of EMO will be held at a new venue in Milan, Italy, October 5 through 10, 2009. For metalworking shops of all stripes, a visit to this exhibition is worth considering.