My Week in Switzerland
My main motivation for hopping across the pond earlier this month was to check out a trade show I’ve heard about for the last couple of years. It’s called SIAMS and is biennially in Moutier, Switzerland. The show’s location is literally across the street from machine tool builder Tornos.
It’s a national show, dedicated to the precision machined parts industry in Switzerland and shows off that country’s current technology, especially in the micro and nano manufacturing arena, which of course they are famous for. A highlight for me was seeing how shops and OEMs are using traditional and non-traditional processes to play in the micron and sub-micron tolerance world.
Of course, since I was already in the country and the show is relatively compact, I took the opportunity to visit some other companies and check in. First we drove to visit Studer in Thun. A plant tour and visit with John Richards ensued and discussions naturally migrated to business conditions, which for Studer are quite good. Of course there are concerns for Europe, but John says the U.S. and Asia are still strong. John also says he’s seeing some activity from shops that are traditionally not grinding houses looking to expand into full service machining to provide additional value for their customers. We’ll keep an eye on this trend.
LNS was next, and we had an interesting visit with Tom Boehmer, LNS’ CEO. His message, which will appear as the Last Word column in July Production Machining magazine, is that LNS is moving in the direction of a single source or one-stop-shop for machine tool accessories. Moreover these accessories—bar feeders, chip conveyors, high pressure coolant delivery systems and air purifiers—are evolving into intelligent components that can perform optimally in the shop environment. Basically they are morphing into being able to respond to more than simple on/off commands from the CNC.
We drove to Delemont for a visit with multitasking machine builder Willemin-Macodel and had discussions with its deputy general manager, Patrick Haegli, and project manager Julian Bardullas. Business for this company continues to be strong as indicated by a shop floor full of machines being prepared for shipment. At IMTS, Willemin will show two new bar fed or blanked five-axis machine, one which is targeted at the dental market and a second machine with six to eight axis, multitasking capability. These will be worth a look if you visit the show in September.
And finally, we made a swing by Pfiffner, better known here as Hydromat, for my first visit to the plant in Ulzenstorf. We met with CEO Martine Folini and COO Michael Op de Hopt. The shop floor was crowded with machines in various stages of build. They believe business will continue to improve in spite of the economic concerns in Europe. The rotary transfer machines they are making continue to find applications in no small part because, like the U.S., Europe is experiencing a wave of previously outsourced work coming back to the continent.
Look for additional details on some of the machines we saw in upcoming issues of PM, and be sure to visit these companies’ booths at IMTS to kick the tires yourself.