In this article, Steven Lucas of LVD highlights the key factors that have changed bending automation.
Today’s bending automation software has considerable intelligence built in. Depending on the software, the operator can create and simulate 3D-designs.
The landscape has changed for robotic press brake bending. Advances in machine, software and robot technology have made bending automation more practical for a broader range of fabricators across Asia Pacific as they look for ways to optimize workflow, shorten turnaround time and lower their per-piece cost.
Just a decade ago, bending automation meant a significant investment—in the cost of the automation and in the support required to realize an efficient and consistent bending process. Six key factors have changed bending automation:
Today’s programming software for robotic bending is more powerful and much easier to use than the software of 10 years ago. This has resulted in simplified CAM program preparation, creating robot trajectories, machine setup and operation. Programming a robotic press brake can be handled completely offline with no need to physically teach the machine setup or bending of the first part. In contrast, in some automated press brake operations, robot teaching required approximately one hour per bend. This eliminates considerable downtime and ensures that the throughput of the bending cell is not interrupted. The software automatically generates the robot’s movement, directing it from one bend to the next to form the part and then to offload or stack the part. The software is able to calculate a complete collision-free path – generating the robot’s trajectory through all positions.
More than programming the robot, software with CAM 3D virtual production simulation capability provides a complete walk through of the robot and press brake functions so the user can check and visually confirm the bending sequence before bending begins. Before a piece of metal is formed, the process is verified, avoiding costly mistakes and material waste.
Flexible Robot Gripper
An example of a bending cell that permits both robot and manual operation for greater flexibility.
The robot gripper is a critical component of a robotic system. Gripper designs of the past did not have the flexibility to accommodate the many part geometries of bending. That meant investing in a number of different grippers to handle different part geometries and taking the time for gripper changeover, which could involve multiple changeovers per part. New gripper designs are much more adaptable. The gripper in Figure 1 is a patent-pending universal design that fits part sizes from 30×100 mm up to 350×500 mm and handles a maximum part weight of 3 kg. This adaptive design enables the user to process a series of different geometries without having to change the gripper. It’s possible to make bends on three different sides of a part without regripping. Use of a universal gripper not only saves on investment cost but also saves costly change over times between grippers, keeping production continuous and uninterrupted.
Capable Industrial Robot
The use of industrial robots worldwide is on the rise. The International Federation of Robotics estimates the supply of robots to be 521,000 units in 2020, more than doubled in just five years. While the automotive and electronics industries are the leading users of robots, the metals industry is a growing application.
Robots themselves have also improved in terms of capacity and reliability. One of the world’s leading robot manufacturers offers more than 100 industrial robots with a payload from 3 kg up to 2.3 tons and maximum reaches up to 4.7 m.
Fast “Art to Part”
This universal gripper (patent-pending design) makes it possible to bend on three different sides of a part without regripping.
Another advance in robotic bending is a faster design to part process. The press brake bending cell in Figure 3 takes 10 min for CAM generation of the bending and robot program, and 10 min for set-up and first part generation—a total of 20 min from “art” to “part.” That’s a result of the tight integration between the press brake and robot, and easy to use, intuitive software.
Better Process Control
Real-time in-process angle measurement technology adds advanced process consistency to robotic press brake bending. An angle monitoring system can adapt the punch position to ensure precise, consistent bending. In the system pictured,
digital information is transmitted in real time to the CNC control unit, which
processes it and immediately adjusts the position of the punch to achieve the
correct angle. The bending process is not interrupted and no production time is lost. This technology allows the machine to adapt to material variations, including sheet thickness, strain hardening and grain direction, automatically compensating for any changes.
In the past, fabricators have tended to “over automate.” Despite advances in function and flexibility, a robotic bending cell still represents a sizable investment. In order to generate a healthy ROI, it’s important to ensure that the ratio of the cost of the automation is not more than twice the cost of the stand-alone machine. Getting this ratio right keeps the direct cost of the part at a sensible level—the direct part cost is not “loaded”—and the user does not need large volumes to make the process cost-effective.
Also, worth considering is the versatility of the system. A bending cell that has the flexibility to operate in stand-alone mode when batch sizes are too small to benefit from robot automation will be more productive and profitable and, therefore, easier to justify. In this scenario, the user can operate the robotic bending cell lights-out overnight or after-hours and during normal business hours, can choose to work in either mode (with the robot or with the robot parked). In the bending cell shown (Figures 5 and 6), programming is handled with 3D bending software so that the same program can be used for bending with the robot or for manual bending.
Is Bending Automation Right for You?
What jobs are best for a robot? Surprisingly, it’s a fairly broad range of applications, including high-volume repeat jobs, low-volume jobs that are reoccurring, and jobs that are heavy duty. The flexibility of today’s bending automation technology makes it possible to run a variety of bending jobs profitably.
New bending automation products, such as LVD’s Dyna-Cell, eliminate the need to teach the robot, which greatly simplifies robotic bending. Current bending cell designs are also much more affordable than past models, both in the cost of the press brake and robot and the cost of operation and maintenance of the cell.
In the Asia Pacific region, as manufacturers are encouraged to adopt automation and Industry 4.0 initiatives through government loans and grants, bending automation offers fabricators a way to address issues such as shortage of labour, higher cost of wages and quality control. If you think bending automation may be your solution, it’s best to consult with your equipment supplier.
Strength tests on samples taken from parts consisting of 4,000-5,000 spot welds on a vehicle are an indispensable part of the automobile manufacturing process, which is costly and time and labour-intensive. Toshiba has developed a system that allows testing to be carried out automatically by robots in a non-destructive manner, and is poised to spark a massive revolution in manufacturing in the automotive industry.
As cars become lighter and stronger in recent years, high-strength steel sheets known as ‘high-tension materials’ are increasingly being used. The properties of these high-tension materials make it hard for chisels to be inserted and returned to normal once they are deformed. The welded spots are often destroyed in the course of inspection.
Tapping on technology for medical use and power generation plants, Toshiba developed an ultrasonic testing device known as Matrixeye, the world’s first 3D SAFT (Synthetic Aperture Focusing technique) inspection equipment with phased array function. Matrixeye allows welds to be inspected non-destructively and inspection to be performed automatically by robots.
The challenge in non-destructive inspection technology was creating structures for automating spot welding inspections through robot control. The tilt estimation engine is a new technology that automatically adjusts the measurement angle of the inspection probe. Based on the ultrasound reflection data measured by the Matrixeye, it estimates the tilt of the welded part and then a robot automatically corrects the angle of the inspection probe. Through this, inspection time is shrunk from 30-40 seconds for human beings to approximately seven seconds.
As the concept of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) develops in the future, the number of public vehicles will most likely increase as well. To support this coming era, factories will be expected to put structures in place to enable them to provide high-quality vehicles in a speedy fashion. Toshiba is carrying out verification tests with a goal of launching this spot welding inspection technology within a year, and for the technology to be adopted in other fields of manufacturing too.
Machines of GEORG’s “precisioncut robotline” series cut and stack transformer cores by means of a robot in a fully automatic process. The machines can produce complete closed and open cores, with or without top yoke. Available in different sizes and configurations, the machine series covers the full range of distribution transformers from 100 kVA to 10 MVA and up to 2,000 mm center length.
The new “GEORG precisioncut TBA 300 robotline”, which GEORG is going to present for the first time at the trade fairs in Dubai and Chicago, is designed for the cutting of laminations of up to 300 mm width and up to 1,250 mm or 1,700 mm length. The machine’s “bigger brother” – GEORG precisioncut TBA400 robotline – is already been successfully in operation at leading transformer core manufacturers for the cutting of laminations up to 440 mm wide and up to 2,000 mm long.
Alexander Tschoeltsch, Head of Sales at GEORG’s Transformer Lines division, sees new perspectives for manufacturers of distribution transformers who still use separate cutting machines and manual lamination stacking processes. “While stacking with the same high precision as the TBA400 model, the new TBA300 robotline is a lower-cost, high-efficiency variant for the cutting and stacking of smaller-width laminations. As both operations – cutting and stacking – are combined within one unit, robotline machines operate with short cycle times, generating a correspondingly high output. Another important aspect is that a robot’s performance is always the same – it works with the same high precision and speed day in, day out.”
Like all the other GEORG TBA machines, the new TBA300 robotline can operate within different digital set-ups and integrates perfectly with Industry 4.0 environments, enabling highest degrees of automation in connection with supporting logistics solutions, such as the automatic transport of the coils and the finished cores by means of autonomously operating transport platforms.
Tschoeltsch adds: “Today we are not only machine manufacturer. Beyond that, we work closely with the users of our machines in optimising their complete process chains in order to achieve maximum profitability for our customers – our partners.”
Market outlook 2020: The year 2019 has been quite a challenging year for the manufacturing industry, with geopolitical tensions impacting investment decisions and shifts in manufacturing centres, and trends such as e-mobility, Industry 4.0, and additive manufacturing creating industrial transformation. In this Outlook 2020 special, six industry leaders share their thoughts on what to expect in 2020, how the industry will develop, new opportunities and market drivers, and how to navigate through the challenges and issues from these dynamics.
HEXAGON MANUFACTURING INTELLIGENCE
Lim Boon Choon, President, Asia Pacific, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence
The year 2019 was a time of economic uncertainty in global manufacturing. But the Asia Pacific region is well placed to capitalise on new opportunities in 2020, as increasing adoption of disruptive technologies shows organisations are facing market challenges by pursuing innovation-driven competitiveness. The growing recognition of the efficiency and operational excellence to be gained from digitised metrology offers long-term, sustainable investment and expansion in the Asia Pacific market.
The Growth of the Smart Factory
Increasingly connected enterprises will be a continuing trend throughout 2020 and beyond. The digital transformation of quality is a central part of this smart factory vision. Approaches to metrology data are maturing, and companies are focused on gaining actionable insights from real-time data. Growing demand for data analysis software is expected, and the adoption of platforms offering advanced big data and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) capabilities will enable far more predictive and proactive manufacturing.
Across the region, new business models will emerge with the prevalence of cloud computing, connecting quality systems to machines throughout end-to-end processes and across factories. Streamlining the analysis and communication of metrology data is essential to breakdown operational silos and drive growth by enhancing product customisation capabilities and throughput.
The trend of automating metrology operations will continue to grow with the increasing adoption of robotics, measuring cells, and automated part loading, enabling manufacturers to scale up their autonomous capabilities. And as manufacturers look to increase their application flexibility, demand for non-contact 3D scanning technology will increase.
Driving Additive Manufacturing Capabilities
Additive manufacturing, also known as industrial 3D printing, is still emerging in sectors such as medical, transportation and logistics, construction, aviation, automotive, and shipping. But according to research from Thyssenkrupp, 3D printing is expected to create $100 billion in value in the ASEAN region by 2025. Quality will play a central role in expanding this developing process, with technologies such as 3D scanning and computed tomography (CT) for measuring internal geometries. Additive manufacturing is a key area of strategic importance for Hexagon. The recent acquisition of CT software provider Volume Graphics adds advanced measurement capabilities to Hexagon’s already comprehensive solution portfolio in the additive space, which also includes software for generative design and additive process simulation.
The expected widespread adoption of smart technologies suggests 2020 will mark a major step forward on the industry 4.0 journey.
Meir Noybauer, Business Development Manager, ISCAR
Throughout the year 2020, the industry as we know it will shift towards smart factories with IoT (Internet of Things) cyber connectivity, and AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics technologies, that will most likely be developed in the main industrial hubs as part of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0).
Additive Manufacturing and other advanced manufacturing technologies will continue to grow and replace conventional methods for machining automotive, aerospace and energy parts, and facilitate new opportunities for complicated part designs that were previously unrealizable.
The global search for clean energy and low-emission mobility is leaning towards newer and harder materials, which challenge ISCAR to develop advanced machining technologies, such as SiAlON ceramics and super alloy materials, while using high and ultra-high coolant pressure to boost productivities to higher levels never seen before.
The medical sector will be one of the emerging industry segments, with sophisticated implants using advanced materials and machining technologies jointly developed by ISCAR engineers and leading medical implant companies throughout Europe, the US and Eastern Asia.
The automotive segment will continue to be a global industry leader, while transitioning from conventional combustion to small hybrid-high efficiency engines and electric e-drive cars and implementing other clean mobile technologies, specifically for electric charging infrastructures which have not yet been applied in many countries.
Stefano Corradini, Group Director, Sales & Marketing, Marposs
The year 2020 appears to be one of the most challenging years of the last decade, both in the Asia Pacific and worldwide.
The combination of trade wars and their impact on several geographic areas and market sectors, social turmoil in various countries, and many technological changes as consequence of increased environmental concerns, may have a significant negative effect on the general economic situation.
Automotive Manufacturing Evolution
Being a significant part of Marposs business somehow related to the automotive sector, we see the evolution from internal combustion engine (ICE) to electromobility as one of the biggest driver of the economic uncertainty. We prefer, anyway, to see this as an opportunity to offer our existing and new customers an extended panel of solutions, which are moving from our traditional measuring sector to a broader concept including several type of testing equipment (mainly leak test using different type of tracer gas extended also to fuel cells), as well as inspection applications (non-destructive, vision, and similar), and control systems to monitor the whole manufacturing process of the core components of the NEVs/BEVs (new/battery energy vehicles), such as battery cells, modules and packs, battery trays, and electric drive units (EDU) including electric motors; and end of line testing.
We are willing to become a preferred partner of BEV manufacturers and suppliers as we have been for decades for traditional combustion engines, offering them our technical know-how, our innovation culture, and our worldwide organization for sales and after sales.
Steve Bell, General Manager, ASEAN, Renishaw (Singapore) Pte Ltd
Smart manufacturing technologies increase visibility and transparency to manufacturing operations, allowing manufacturers to get the overall picture of their productivity and competitiveness, to make faster changes in response to market-based threats or opportunities. This requires a range of intelligent process control solutions throughout the factory, to ensure high standards of repeatability. The key is going digital—connecting physical manufacturing processes with the digital technology to make decisions about process improvement on the shop floor, or on mobile devices.
Flexible and Customised
Additive manufacturing plays a major role in the Industry 4.0 revolution, allowing manufacturers the flexibility to build highly customised parts. Renishaw’s additive manufacturing technologies continue to evolve, aiming to provide users the flexibility to use, change and manage different metal materials, enables users to adapt to meet market demand and configure processes to achieve optimal performance.
Focus on Automotive Industry
Ensuring businesses are equipped and ready to navigate the evolving automotive manufacturing landscape, Renishaw’s manufacturing solutions provide the speed, flexibility, and ease of use to help companies adapt their production capabilities for the evolving electric future. From multi-sensor rapid scanning of machined castings to material analysis of fuel cells, we will continue to support customers on the road from internal combustion engine (ICE) to electric vehicles (EV).
SIEMENS DIGITAL INDUSTRIES SOFTWARE
Alex Teo, Managing Director, Southeast Asia, Siemens Digital Industries Software
The maturity of manufacturing supply chains in Asia has undoubtedly exerted pressure on the metalworking industry to be more competitive than ever. Demand for steel in Asia is expected to rise by an average of 1.5 percent in 2020, and will likely see effects such as rising operating costs necessitating the move for businesses to look for technology driven solutions to relieve some of these operational strains. In particular, Southeast Asia is an exciting region for growth, with markets such as Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore making strides in realising their Industry 4.0 visions through digitalisation. In 2020, we also launched a Technical Competency Hub in Penang, the first in the region, which serves as a platform for Siemens to help companies, especially SMEs, begin their digitalisation journey in order to meet the needs of the new economy.
Using digital twins, manufacturers will be able to explore more economical and structurally enhanced materials. By leveraging physics-based simulations, supported by data analytics in an entirely virtual environment, the expansion of production capacity in Asia can be further encouraged. This means that manufacturers can optimise their choice of materials by testing and analysing combinations of different metals and alloys digitally before using additive manufacturing technologies such as powder bed fusion to produce these components faster and more reliably, reducing the need and cost for real prototypes.
Siemens’ end-to-end additive manufacturing solutions cover CAD/CAM/CAE models that enable product design and simulation of production processes and planning, preparation, and verification of the print jobs. Simulation and 3D modelling allow for advanced complexity of design and quality, ultimately resulting in fewer distortions and errors. The goal is flawless execution when parts come out of a factory, ready for certification. The full additive challenge covers the entire value chain: product design, production process, and performance.
Using customisable solutions for pressing, transporting, positioning and press safety, in combination with simulation for the entire spectrum of metal forming, businesses can proactively advance with components working seamlessly together. This collaboration increases the cost-effectiveness of all production processes in all sectors, reducing energy costs.
The economic environment for the international and German machine tool industry remains difficult now and in the coming months. After eight years of high economic activity in the international machine tool industry, global demand for capital goods has calmed considerably after the fourth quarter of 2018. The reasons for this have already been identified and discussed many times. The economic distortions, in particular the trade war between the United States and China, are boosting the already sharp drop in demand. The increasing protectionism at all levels is affecting world trade and international supply chains. Finally, the structural shift in the automotive industry towards new drive technologies is causing further problems. It is still questionable at what pace and extent development is progressing and which technologies will be used in the future. The entire scenario is unsettling the industry worldwide. Companies have become very cautious, and they are shifting their investments.
Because of these, incoming orders in the international machine tool industry fell sharply in all regions in the first nine months of 2019. According to initial estimates, orders worldwide fell by 21 percent. Asia declined by 24 percent, while Europe lost 19 percent of its orders. Contracts in America, which is particularly the United States, held up best, if we can say so. They went down 18 percent in comparison to the previous year. In Germany, with its high dependence on exports, incoming orders fell by 23 percent by October in 2019, the most recent available data. This applies equally to domestic and foreign orders.
Markets to Stabilise
Oxford Economics, the VDW’s forecasting partner, expects this trend to stabilise in the best case scenario for 2020. At 2.5 percent, global economic output is expected to be slightly below the increase in 2019. With 2.1 percent, industrial production will grow more strongly than the current year. This also applies to investments. Stabilisation is also expected for the whole German economy. Industrial production, which is expected to shrink in 2019, is likely to turn slightly up again. This means that incoming orders in the machine tool industry will probably go through the bottom in the course of the coming year.
Machine tool consumption, a late indicator, will remain negative in all regions. Asia is the exception. Manufacturers can draw new hope from the fact that the election results in Great Britain have now provided certainty about the island’s exit date from the European Union. Then, the negotiations on a tariff agreement can begin and hopefully lead to a good end. There is also movement in the trade conflict between the United States and China. Should a consensus be reached, the world economy will reach new momentum as well.
In this article, James Taylor, General Manager, APAC at OnRobot, provides his insights on breakthrough gripper technologies that are bringing collaborative automation to a broader audience.
People, cars, our homes, almost everything is more connected than ever before, and that is also true of industrial automation. This age of unparalleled connectivity spurs expectations for faster and more scalable production, but for businesses it is no longer just about automation itself. Instead, the focus has shifted to collaborative automation, wherein multiple tasks of differing magnitude and difficulty can be automated to achieve greater productivity and cost effectiveness than was previously possible.
The market for collaborative automation is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 60 percent, reaching US$12 billion in less than ten years1. Similarly, collaborative robots (cobots), robots designed to work alongside people, have seen increased demand. The International Federation of Robotics reports that annual installations of cobots surged by 23 percent from 2017 to 20182.
Here in Southeast Asia, the industrial automation and process control market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.1 percent to reach US$4.4 billion by 20233, signalling the great potential of the industry.
Collaborative applications typically involve humans, robots, robot accessories and objects interacting on varying levels to automate various tasks. These characteristics make collaborative applications easily deployable, reducing costs. The objects or raw materials which come in a variety of forms, shapes and sizes, are a particularly important component in this workflow, which means that modern industrial automation must be able to accurately sense, identify and manipulate them.
End effectors, or End-of-Arm Tooling (EOAT), are the physical interfaces between the robot and collaborative application. These smart and versatile robotic tools empower robots to perform adaptive, higher precision and more intelligent applications that in the past were too complex to automate.
More importantly, these advanced tools enable collaborative applications, bringing employees and robots together, working safely side by side with to the user-friendly nature, intuitive programming and safety features of EOAT-fitted robots.
Since these applications demand that objects be handled in extremely flexible and autonomous ways, poorly selected EOAT incapable of meeting those demands can severely limit an application’s collaborative potential, leading to process delays and harm to the production line.
Modern grippers, however, are up to the challenge. They are designed with state-of-the-art gripping techniques and able to have each step of a gripping task programmed well in advance. Importantly, this means the grippers know the correct angle, precision and force to apply while handling an object before the task even begins. Applications such as pick and place, weld, deburr, apply material, load and unload can all be done with this EOAT.
Asia is expected to purchase 67 percent of all grippers. This demand will support the gripper industry to double its sales by 20234.
TOP INDUSTRY 4.0/AUTOMATION ARTICLES FOR THE MONTH
Force-based gripping technique, which is useful in applications such as packaging and palletising, machine tending and assembly, enables flexible production with minimal downtime. In-built force/torque sensors have integrated force control software and proximity sensors with optical technology that help grippers detect an object’s location, even when it is not precisely positioned. This technology is well-suited to collaborative applications since the gripper can “see” and “feel” the objects using its built-in force/torque sensing. This is true for OnRobot’s RG2-FT Gripper, the world’s first intelligent gripper. The touch-sensitive two-fingered hand can quickly and efficiently pick and package small, delicate products such as food or agriculture produce without squashing or breaking them.
OnRobot grippers are designed to seamlessly integrate with collaborative applications and are built for easy “plug-and-produce” automation. At Rosborg Food Holding, Denmark’s largest producer of herbs and mini plants, an OnRobot RG6 gripper seamlessly packs cut herbs. The automated packaging solution is so intuitive that staff without robot experience can easily switch the solution to packing other types of products by simply changing settings on the robotic arm’s touch screen. The RG6 robot gripper’s software is installed in the robotic arm similar to how an app is installed on a smartphone5.
These grippers can be attached to any robot, and end users can control the gripper using the software panel’s embedded programming. This is advantageous for both large businesses, as well as for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) seeking agility and cost-efficiency as their low-volume, high-mix production needs change.
Grippers Boost Machine Utilisation
Computer numerical control (CNC) machines are expensive, priced as high as US$1.1 million. Hence, manufacturers are constantly looking at ways to get the most out of these machines. A single gripper is often used in CNC machine tending tasks. This method means the machine is left idle for a long time, having huge cost implications for the business. Instead, manufacturers can use dual grippers to maximise production.
OnRobot’s RG2 or RG6 dual grippers boost machine utilisation. While one gripper removes a processed part from the machine, the second picks the next raw part to be loaded into the machine, reducing cycle time, improving efficiency and increasing output. Danish gear manufacturing company, Osvald Jensen cut its production cycle time by 12 seconds or almost half the time using OnRobot’s dual grippers6.
Advanced Intelligence in Modern Tools
The collaborative application determines the EOAT type, and in turn, the intelligent features in the EOAT arbitrate the automation quality.
For example, if a robot is tasked with picking up a plastic sheet, its grippers will be equipped with pneumatics or vacuum cups. For applications that need a two-finger gripper, the wise choice would be a gripper that is easy to install and programme, and also, cost-effective. However, if the product mix changes are frequent, a gripper with an adjustable stroke and gripping force would be best.
Advanced EOATs will be able to satisfy these disparate needs and adhere to the end-user’s long-term interests. Average intelligence in robot accessories is no longer sufficient—to create the agile, hyper-connected and collaborative environments envisioned by Industry 4.0, these accessories must have elevated intellect.
A New Era of Automation
The new direction in industrial automation is about adding intelligence to end-effectors so that the robot can become smarter. Adopting advanced EOATs with intelligent sensors and inbuilt software will help producers to be more agile, connected and collaborative. They will also open doors to new automation possibilities, bringing robotics to a broader audience, to new industries and to SMEs that would have in the past considered it out of reach. Southeast Asia has the potential to capture productivity gains worth US$216 billion to US$627 billion with the adoption of these Industry 4.0 technologies7.
The days of large, centralised productions are over, and automated processes are too costly to be rebuilt with every modification or design change. Today, businesses need flexible, highly adaptive automation solutions. Therefore, intelligent tools that make automation more collaborative, cost-efficient, scalable and connected should be prioritised. This new curated range of advanced EOATs is finally helping to deliver the promise of remote-controlled automation to industry players in the region.
Airbus has acquired industrial automation company, MTM Robotics which deepens Airbus’ commitment to expanding advanced robotics capabilities within its manufacturing processes.
“We are pleased and excited to become a part of the Airbus family and look forward to further integrating our products and approaches into the Airbus industrialisation chain, “said MTM founder, Mike Woogerd.
The acquisition is the latest chapter in a trusted, ten-year-plus relationship between the companies, with multiple MTM light automated robotics systems currently in use at Airbus manufacturing facilities. While MTM will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Airbus Americas, Inc., headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, it will continue to serve other customers in the aerospace industry.
The acquisition marks the latest step for Airbus in its industrialisation roadmap, aimed at leveraging the time- and cost-saving benefits associated with using robotics in the manufacture and assembly of its commercial aircraft.
“The competitiveness of tomorrow will be determined by both designing the best aircraft and by building the most efficient manufacturing system, in parallel,” said Michael Schoellhorn, Airbus Chief Operating Officer.
“Automation & robotics are central to our industrial strategy. We are very happy to welcome MTM Robotics as a family member and take a step forward on this exciting endeavour together,” he continued.
“Airbus and MTM Robotics each believe that tomorrow’s automation in aircraft manufacturing can and must be lighter, more portable and less capital intensive,” explained Vigié. “By joining our efforts and skills, we are well positioned to establish industrywide standards for the factory of tomorrow,” said Patrick Vigié, Head of Industrial Technologies at Airbus.
As we move into 2020, we take a look back at the most popular Industry 4.0/Automation and Additive Manufacturing articles for 2019. For your enjoyment, here is the list of the top 10 Industry 4.0 and top five most read Additive Manufacturing articles over the past year.
K.S. Chong of Yamazaki Mazak Singapore Pte Ltd speaks about the impact of automation in the metalworking equipment industry. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
K.S. Chong, Senior Director, Solution Engineering, Southeast Asia Headquarters, at Yamazaki Mazak Singapore Pte Ltd, speaks with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News during the recent Industrial Transformation ASIA-PACIFIC 2019 event in Singapore, about the latest trends in the machine tool industry, and how automation can help solve bottlenecks and issues on the shop floor.
Give us a brief background on your company, and your role.
K.S. Chong (KS): Yamazaki Mazak is a Japanese machine tool builder. We produce various types of CNC machines for the metal cutting industry, anywhere from two-axis to nine-axis machines, multi-spindle, multi-turret machines, serving various industries such as automotive, aerospace, semiconductor, and energy, to name a few.
My role is basically to help in before- and after-sales activities such as time study, demonstration, and also turnkey projects. I also help with the proposal of equipment and solutions for the customer’s manufacturing needs.
From your perspective, what are some of the top challenges being faced by manufacturers in the region?
KS: At this moment, I would say manpower—getting skilled manpower is a big issue for most of the manufacturers in SE Asia. Though they have the jobs or the money to buy the right equipment, getting the skilled manpower or engineers to run the machines or to design or make the fixtures or the process—that is one of the big challenges today.
What about from a manufacturing or technology standpoint?
KS: It is manpower. Humans make machines work. Without good, skilled manpower, it will be difficult to run an efficient manufacturing operation.
What is Mazak doing to help customers alleviate this issue?
KS: We are well known for making machines with our own conversational type CNC controller. We understand that our customers are facing problems to find skilled machinist or engineers to operate eg complex five-axis machines. So, we are building a lot of intelligence into the CNC control to make the machine more intelligent and easier to operate and program. That way, the customer will not need to rely on very high-skilled or high-level engineers to run their manufacturing operations.
What are Mazak’s latest innovations in metal cutting machines/technologies?
KS: CNC control technology has now advanced to embrace Artificial Intelligence (AI) with deep learning capabilities; making the manufacturing process more intelligent and efficient. More sensors are being employed on machine tools to monitor the operating condition of the machines to improve manufacturing process
What is your approach when it comes to industry 4.0?
KS: Basically, we encourage our customers to try and adopt IoT solutions such as machine status monitoring, in order to collect data on their machine utilization, so that they could address issues such as machine downtime, so as to keep their machines in the optimum operating condition.
By adopting IoT or Industry 4.0 strategies into their manufacturing process or operations, they will be able to get a faster return on investment.
What new industries are emerging right now?
KS: I think at the moment, there’s been a lot of hype on 3D printing and additive manufacturing; this is a very new area. Traditional manufacturing industries who used to use metal cutting machines to produce their products are now trying to explore hybrid additive manufacturing technologies to manufacture those high-value or high-mix, low-volume products.
We saw that trend globally. Therefore, since 5 years back, our headquarters in Japan has already developed several new hybrid additive manufacturing machines.
What is your take on the e-mobility trend?
KS: Our core business is producing CNC metal cutting machines. As far as e-mobility trend is concerned, it is actually using less metal or plastic parts as the traditional engine is replaced by an electric motor. This means the demand for machining becomes lesser. Actually, I would say it is something that we need to be concerned of—how we are going to find new segments to cover for this shortfall. The manufacturing landscape for the automotive industry will be quite different in the coming years due to e-mobility.
Talks about electric vehicles have been going on for a long time, but there seems to be no massive production or adoption of it especially in southeast asia. Majority of the vehicles will still be those driven by conventional engines.
KS: Correct. Most of these ASEAN countries do not have a good infrastructure yet, such as charging facilities. Also, due to the living conditions of Southeast Asia, which is much cluttered and high density, it is also difficult to implement those infrastructures.
What opportunities are you seeing here in the region?
KS: The opportunities, I would say, would be in the adoption of new technologies such as hybrid additive manufacturing and IoT to complement the current traditional manufacturing processes.
How would you describe the level of manufacturing technology for job shops here in ASEAN?
KS: In Singapore, I would say it is quite matured; but of course, this is a dynamic world. New technologies are coming almost every year, every day. So, industries or SMEs need to be dynamic to adopt these new manufacturing technologies.
What is your outlook for the industry over the next year or two?
KS: There will be a lot of challenges, especially now with this global uncertainty, slow down of the global economy. So, it is anyone’s guess what is going to happen in the next two years. As the saying goes, ‘what goes up must come down, and what goes down must come up’. So, there is a good possibility that those segments that are not doing well today or this year, will slowly recover in the coming years.
According to report by Persistence Market Research, the global welding equipment market expects the market to witness strong growth during the forecast period 2017-2024. The global market for welding equipment is estimated to reach close to US$ 19,200 Million revenue.
The manufacturing and fabrication industries are evolving constantly. This is resulting in the companies seeking out new technologies to stay ahead of competitors. Use of new materials in various industries is driving the need for welding automation. Companies are also moving towards acquiring new solutions to offer quality product and increase productivity. In response to this, welding equipment manufacturers are bringing in advanced technologies to help companies’ better serve their customers. Manufacturers are developing welding solutions that can serve both small scale and large-scale companies. Modified short-circuit MIG is being integrated into welding machines, ensuring better control and to create high-quality and uniform welds.
New materials such as high strength steels, advanced high strength steels, and increased use of stainless steel and aluminum in fabrications are creating the demand for new welding technology as per the material being used. Hence, a welding system for specific materials is also being developed by manufacturers in the global welding equipment market. Rising trend towards automation is also resulting in the development automated welding equipment for wide range of application. Information management system for welding is also gaining popularity. This system collects and provides information arc-on time, and performance based on voltage and amperage. This help companies to collect data on the performance of welding in real-time and track both quality and productivity.
Arc Welding Technology to Lead the Global Welding Equipment Market
Based on the welding technology, arc welding technology is expected to see a significant growth in the market. By the end of 2024, arc welding technology is projected to surpass US$ 8,500 Million in terms of revenue. Meanwhile, resistance welding is also projected to witness impressive growth during 2017-2024.
On the basis of a level of automation, compared to the manual welding equipment, automatic welding equipment is likely to register the highest growth during 2017-2024. Automatic welding equipment is expected to exceed US$ 13,000 Million revenue by 2024 end.
Based on the application of welding equipment, automotive & transportation sector is expected to gain maximum traction in the global market for welding equipment. Towards 2024 end, the automotive & transportation sector is estimated to reach nearly US$ 3,800 Million revenue.
Asia Pacific to Lead the Global Welding Equipment Market between 2017 and 2024
Asia Pacific is likely to dominate the global market for welding equipment during the forecast period. Asia Pacific is estimated to reach close to US$ 6,600 Million in terms of revenue. Increasing infrastructure and construction activities in the countries like India and China are driving the demand for welding equipment. Moreover, the automotive industry in Asia Pacific is also witnessing a substantial growth, thereby, fueling the demand for welding equipment. Growth in the steel industry owing to the increasing demand for steel in for product manufacturing in different industries is resulting in the growth of the welding equipment market in the region.
Key Players in the Global Welding Equipment Market
Some of the prominent players active in the global market for welding equipment are DAIHEN Corporation, Colfax Corporation, The Lincoln Electric Company, Fronius International GmbH, Obara Corporation, voestalpine AG, Arcon Welding Equipment, Panasonic Corporation, Sonics & Materials, Inc., Rofin-Sinar Technologies, Nelson Stud Welding (Doncasters Group, Ltd.), Amada Miyachi, Inc., and Illinois Tool Works, Inc.
Airbus has inaugurated its highly automated fuselage structure assembly line for A320 Family aircraft in Hamburg, showcasing an evolution in Airbus’ industrial production system.
With a special focus on manufacturing longer sections for the A321LR, the new facility features 20 robots, a new logistics concept, automated positioning by laser measurement as well as a digital data acquisition system. These will further support Airbus’ drive to improve both quality and efficiency while bringing an enhanced level of digitalisation to its industrial production system.
“By embracing some of the latest technologies and processes, Airbus has begun its journey to set new standards in A320 Family production. This new fuselage structure assembly line is an essential enabler for the A320 Family ramp-up. Increasing the level of automation and robotics enables faster, more efficient manufacturing while keeping our prime focus on quality,” said Michael Schoellhorn, Airbus Chief Operating Officer.
For the initial section assembly, Airbus is using a modular, lightweight automated system, called “Flextrack”, with eight robots drilling and counter-sinking 1,100 to 2,400 holes per longitudinal joint. In the next production step, 12 robots, each operating on seven axes, combine the centre and aft fuselage sections with the tail to form one major component, drilling, counter-sinking, sealing and inserting 3,000 rivets per orbital joint.
Besides the use of robots, Airbus is also implementing new methods and technologies in material and parts logistics to optimise production, improve ergonomics and shorten lead times. This includes the separation of logistics and production levels, demand-oriented material replenishment as well as the use of autonomous guided vehicles.
The Hamburg structure assembly facility is responsible for joining single fuselage shells into sections, as well as final assembly of single sections to aircraft fuselages. Aircraft parts are equipped with electrical and mechanical systems before eventually being delivered to the final assembly lines in France, Germany, China and the U.S.