What a Week for Metalworking

Turning Point

One of the highlights of being a trade magazine editor is the opportunity to get out of the office and visit shops and shows.

One of the highlights of being a trade magazine editor is the opportunity to get out of the office and visit shops and shows. Shops are the incubators of applied technology while shows are a source of new technology waiting to be applied.

I recently returned from a week in Hannover, Germany, where I attended the EMO 2011 trade show. By far the largest assemblage of metalworking and manufacturing technology in the world, this year’s edition did not disappoint.

Staged under the slogan “Machine Tools and More,” the 6-day event featured the latest machinery, solutions and services for every conceivable aspect of metalworking. For those of us involved in metalworking, it’s a veritable tour de force with some 2,037 exhibitors from 41 different countries all putting their best foot forward to demonstrate how manufacturing gets it done.

The many and varied supporting events made our visit to EMO even more rewarding. Conferences on topics such as sustainable manufacturing, aerospace technologies and talent recruitment punctuated the exhibition with interest and debate.

If there is any doubt that metalworking manufacturing is global, EMO puts those doubts to rest. Of the 140,000 attendees, more than 40 percent were from outside Germany, representing more than 100 countries.

One of the new announcements at the show was a precision micro-machining technology project. We’ve all seen the trend toward miniaturization as a technology driver in numerous industries that you participate in. Industries such as biomedical, electronics, aerospace and automotive increasingly depend on higher geometric accuracies and micro-structured surfaces to meet the need for improved performance and reliability.

Called the Integ-Micro project, it is a 4-year undertaking funded under the seventh EU program with the goal of responding to ongoing challenges in micro-machining. New hybrid, reconfigurable, multitasking machines developed within the project offer breakthrough solutions to enable efficient production of complex 3D micro parts faster and with more accuracy. The integration of different high-precision techniques on a single workholding configuration is expected to result in the reduction of multiple handling and plant floor space. I’ll be reporting more on these developments in future issues of Production Machining.

No trade show is complete without some new product and process developments. EMO did not disappoint on this front, either.

It’s been my experience that really new technological developments tend to fall outside the biennial cycle of major expositions. Sure, there are updates to existing platforms at every show, but introducing very new ideas seem to run in longer time frames than 2 years.

We hit the timing right at this year’s EMO. Several precision machined parts players had world premiers of new machines. One that rocked the house is a new concept in multi-spindle machines that blends sliding headstock Z-axis actuation in a six-spindle platform. I prepared an article on this Tornos Multi-Swiss on page 28 of this issue.

There were several other new developments, but in order to do them justice I plan to report on them individually in upcoming issues of the magazine. Keep an eye out for further articles about what we saw at EMO.

The EMO fairgrounds are huge, with exhibitors housed in various halls. There are 27 total halls on the grounds. It’s kind of a mini-city with streets, transport buses, shopping areas and eateries. Happily, it didn’t rain this trip because there is little or no shelter when walking between the halls.

This year’s award for 800-lb booth gorilla goes, hands down, to DMG/Mori Seiki. Exhibiting together for the first time, the company took up an entire hall—some 90,000 square feet. It was very impressive, as were many of the other stands.

The EMO Hannover venue is unique and well worth a visit. Seeing our industry decked out in its Sunday best confirms what we know, which is metalworking is critical, viable and doing well. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could only get our mass media news outlets to take a look and pass the info to their audiences?  