Having just visited EuroBLECH 2018 in Hannover, Germany where there was a big emphasis by exhibitors on digitalisation, artificial intelligence (AI) and Industry 4.0, I did not expect anything less at JIMTOF 2018, especially as the theme for the exhibition was ‘Connected by technology for the future’.
At the previous JIMTOF – The Japan International Machine Tool Fair – in 2016 I reported how those manufacturers of metalworking equipment that exhibited had embraced the beauty and concepts of the rapid move toward smart factories in which smart machines are fully networked.
JIMTOF is always held at the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition grounds, officially known as the Tokyo International Exhibition Centre, which is conveniently linked to an efficient public transport system that will move you seamlessly to downtown Tokyo, and is close to a number of first-class accommodation choices
In one of the press conferences at JIMTOF 2016 that the international press attended I asked Dr. Eng. Masahiko Mori, President of DMG MORI Company Limited, what he thought was the ‘Wow!’ factor of JIMTOF 2016. He was unequivocal in his answer: “The Internet of Things (IoT) and the Smart Factory.” He certainly was correct and this was evidenced throughout the exhibition. Even the organisers JMTBA adopted IoT as the show theme with the title “The Future Starts Here.” The theme for the 2014 show was Monozukuri DNA. Loosely translated the phrase means: “An inspired approach to the art and science of making things should be at the core of our beings”. Now it is all about monitoring and then making decisions.
So what could I learn or expect from the theme for JIMTOF 2018 – ‘Connected by technology for the future’. After all the Japanese OEMS had two years prior already displayed how far advanced they were with the Smart Factory concept – a concept they had already been implementing into their manufacturing processes for many years prior to 2016 – and IoT.
The organisers of the exhibition promoted the six ‘Connects’ as the main features of the exhibition, these being: Connecting cutting-edge technology with the visitors; Connecting the visitors with the exhibitors; Connecting the technology experience with the visitors; Connecting Japan with the world; Connecting students with the future and; Connecting people with a comfortable space.
An international press conference was held on the third day of the show and the media were addressed by Mr Yukio Iimura – Chairman of the Japan Machine Tool Builders’ Association (JMTBA) – seen here in the centre of the picture. Also pictured are Mr Norikazu Shigitani – Chairman of Trade Fair Committee, JMTBA, Mr Tsuneyuki Ishii – Chairman of International Committee, JMTBA, Mr Masayoshi Amano – President of Japan Machine Tool Builders’ Association and Mr Minoru Kogure – Executive Vice President & CEO of Tokyo Big Sight Inc
The Smart Factory concept was very evident at JIMTOF 2018 as was digitalisation, artificial intelligence (AI) and Industry 4.0
The organisers of JIMTOF 2018 also promoted a special exhibit and entitled it ‘Connected Industries Showcase@JIMTOF2018 – A New Era of Manufacturing IoT + Manufacturing = Challenge for Connect’. The special exhibit used an IoT platform and connectd over 300 machines displayed in the exhibition halls as if the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition venue was one big factory. Machine tools, robots, inspection devices and other equipment from 72 exhibitors were connected via Fanuc’s Field IIoT system to form a ‘connected factory’. Monitors in this display area showed the condition of machines throughout the show’s eight halls. However, this really was an example of what is possible by using automatic data transfer.
Held concurrently with JIMTOF is the International Machine Tool Engineers’ Conference (IMEC), which has been hosted and organised by the Japan Machine Tool Builders’ Association for the last 18 occasions of the exhibition. The aim of the conference is to share information on the latest machine tool technology with an emphasis on exploring emerging technologies and innovation. For 2018 the theme of the conference was ‘Future Monozukuri Now into View’ – see above for meaning of monozukuri.
One of the keynote sessions presented at this conference was entitled: Machine Tools Responding to the Changing Production Environment. It is explained that the environment surrounding the machine tools that serve as the bedrock of industry is changing remarkably – more than in the past due to the mutual influence of political, social, economic and technological factors. Moreover, new machine tools that take these environmental changes into account have to be developed, the organisers explain.
The areas connecting the halls were very busy
The aisles in the halls were continually full of activity
This is the dilema of the machine tool industry at the moment, I believe. Developers, researchers, OEMS and manufacturers are all struggling with what is next and how do they keep machine tool technologies evolving? Machine tools are made for manufacturing components with a desired shape and the emphasis has been on precision and efficiency in recent years. The introduction of 5-axis and multi-tasking machines certainly went a long way to account for these demands.
The advancement and development of machine tool control software and the associated CAD/CAM programmes have seen machines become ‘intelligent’, including the operators. Substantial progress has also been made in the actual physical properties of a machine tool that are necessary for machine tools to conduct high precision machining work, both for short and long term usage. These include geometric adjustments and thermal deformation advancements.
Some of the other keynote addresses at the conference included Smart factories utilising IoT and AI and; The current and future of metal additive manufacturing.
Smart factories utilising IoT and AI
In recent years the manufacturing industry has witnessed the dramatic progress of digitilisation and networking typified by Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things as well as the introduction of artificial intelligence. As a result the manufacturing industry environment with machine tools at its core is undergoing huge changes. Currently, the public and private sectors are proactively deploying various measures to realise ‘Connected Industries’ in which new value is created through different kinds of connections.
On some stands it was difficult to get access
Robot capability may soon be taken for granted with easy automation of part measurement. Shown here is a Yaskawa robot tending a CMM
The current and future of metal additive manufacturing
There is growing interest in additive manufacturing (AM) technologies, and the application of various AM techniques in the manufacturing workplace is being pursued. In particular, a marked growth in demand for metal machining using AM is being witnessed.
Machine tools with new functions and structures
The most interesting topic at the conference was: Machine tools with new functions and structures. In order to logically construct the manufacturing environment of the future, there will be a need for new machining functions and innovative machine tools equipped with structures that make it possible to attain these new functions. Discussed in this session was the application of new materials to structural materials, ideal structural design for machine tools, the machining principles and structure design for the latest gear machining technologies, the results of ultrasonic-assisted machining technologies used on difficult-to-machine materials and related elemental technologies.
The collaboration between robots and machine tools – advancing automation
The conference aside one of the most noticeable aspects of JIMTOF 2018 was the use of robots in various situations, both with man and machine in attendance. Why, you ask, because robots have been around for some time in the machine tool industry. The answer is: Full automation with robots is a must going forward if companies want their Smart Factories to operate at maximum performance and productivity. The collaboration between robots and machine tools has therefore attracted much attention in recent years. As have humans working together with robots in factories. Many tasks on the shop floor can now be automated by using robots, which will help to reduce work-related losses as well as contribute to the bottom line.
The automation of various production processes with robots is going to intensify and machine tools in the future will be designed on the assumption that they are used with robots
Cobots are generally used in conjunction with people and use sensor technology to avoid harming people in the same work area. However, there were a couple of examples on show where they were mounted on an AGV for machine tending
Manufacturers will continue to need conventional robots with safety guarding to prevent people from entering the robots’ work area, especially when applications call for high speed or payload capacity, but there are more applications being developed.
For example Makino had its iAssist – an autonomous collaborative robot for the machine tool industry that uses a robot for machine tending – working on its stand. The robot handles workpieces, electrodes, and tools and moves smoothly and changes direction to go from one station to another to get the job done. The robot is mounted on an automated guided vehicle (AGV) that can move autonomously from machine to machine. The AGV uses sensor technology to safely guide it throughout a facility without bumping into equipment or people as it is redeployed from one machine to another.
In a similar situation of automation DMG MORI demonstrated its AGV robot RV3. The RV3 is an autonomous mobile robot that has been developed with the aim of realising automation of logistics in the factory and supply of materials under unmanned environments. Again the AGV has a robot mounted on it which in essence is a collaborative robot or a cobot as they are known. Cobots are generally used in conjunction with people and use sensor technology to avoid harming people in the same work area.
Fanuc demonstrated a number of situations where one or more robots can be used. Dubbed their Robot Corner they had robots moving on an AGV, another collaborating with people without any safety fences as well as those deployed to move heavy loads. Fanuc have separated their cobots from their payload and Scara robots by presenting them in a green colour and not the usual yellow.
CNC machines with robots
There were a number of machines on display that had articulated robot loaders mounted in the machine’s work area for part loading / unloading. The robot operating system does not require teach-in during new job setups, and it can perform collision-free movement while machining on a part is being performed. The robot can store three different end effectors and change over as needed according to the application. Another advantage is that integrating the robot into the machine conserves floor space.
Recently appointed MD of Fanuc South Africa Marc Mahl attended JIMTOF 2018. He is seen with Tomonobu Sakuragawa of Fanuc Japan
Robots were evident throughout JIMTOF 2018. Shown here is a six-axis Fanuc M-2000iA manipulating a section of an airplane fuselage. The payload capacity of this model is 2 300 kilograms but is still not the largest in the Fanuc stable
Fanuc’s Robot Corner included cobot robots working in conjunction with humans
But it wasn’t just the machine tools that had robot applications on display. In the halls where there were mainly exhibitors from the tooling and metrology side of metalworking there were many examples of companies making use of robotic automation.
Another robot application standout was on the Mazak stand where the company was exhibiting its recently launched new laser model – the Optiplex 3015 6kW DDL (Direct Diode Laser). Operating within a cell the Optiflex had a Yaskawa payload robot loading the sheets and then offloading processed components. Referred to as the Mazak Smart Cell automation system, it has been developed to complement machines in the Mazak laser portfolio. The Smart Cell system has a small footprint and compact layout along with an ergonomic design for improved access and ease of operation. The automation cell can be programmed offline and, when in operation, offers detailed reporting of production status and operation, automatic parts separation detection and dynamic kinetics to calculate weight and optimise speed. Most importantly, Smart Cell offers an Industry 4.0 ready solution for laser users and has an open interface to aid further expansion.
DMG MORI moves to Hall 8
In 2016 JIMTOF was one of the first exhibitions to occupy the new Hall 7 at the Big Sight Tokyo International Exhibition Centre. It was mainly occupied by international exhibitors that showcased a wide selection of equipment for the various operations in metalworking. In fact it was a disorganised hall but to give the organisers their due they did recognise this fact and were prepared to change it for JIMTOF 2018. Hall 8 was also new but did not have a single exhibitor in it.
Another robot application standout was on the Mazak stand where the company was exhibiting its recently launched new laser model – the Optiplex 3015 6kW DDL (Direct Diode Laser). Operating within a cell the Optiflex had a Yaskawa payload robot loading the sheets and then offloading processed components. Referred to as the Mazak Smart Cell automation system, it has been developed to compliment other machines within the Mazak laser portfolio
On the busy Mazak stand the Integrex e-1250V/8 AG hybrid Integrex for gear cutting attracted a lot of attention. Mazak is one of the leaders in integrating multi-tasking machining. With this machine gear cutting processes such as gear milling, gear skiving and gear hobbing are ‘Done-In-One’. The new machine also includes measurement functions
2018 saw a completely new approach. Traditionally DMG MORI had occupied a large space in Hall East 3. It must have taken some negotiating to get the company to move to Hall 8 for JIMTOF 2018 but judging by how busy their stand was I am sure it was a resounding success for DMG MORI.
At the same time the organisers took the opportunity to locate those companies involved in precision measuring, optical measuring, testing machines and related instrumentation into Hall 7. Again a very sensible decision as it freed up space in Halls 1 and 2, where these companies were previously located, for more tooling companies to exhibit.
There were many new products shown at JIMTOF 2018 for the first time – too many to mention. On display was the latest technology and equipment from Amada, DMG MORI, Okuma, Kanzaki, Nakamura-Tome, Hamai, Mitsui Seiki Kogyo, OKK, Yamazaki, Yasda, JTekt Corporation, Makino, Toyoda, Mazak, Hitachi, Citizen, Toshiba, Mitutoyo, Mitsubishi, Kawasaki, Yaskawa, Kitagawa, Matsuura, Nikon, Sodick, Kitamura, Brother, Citizen, Enshu, Fuji Machines, Howa, Ikegai, Koike, Murata, Takisawa, Tsugami and Yasda – all machine manufacturers that are Japanese owned.
All the big names in tooling and metrology also had stands including Sandvik Coromant, Iscar, TaeguTec, Mitsubishi Materials, Hexagon, Kyocera, Tungaloy, Walter, Kennametal, Zeiss and Renishaw.
But it was not just about work
The organisers certainly look after their international VIP visitors and treated us to an international dinner that showcased Japanese culture at its best and a special programme to visit the Great Budha in Kamakura. The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which stands on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple. With a height of 11.4 metres, it is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan, surpassed only by the statue in Nara’s Todaiji Temple.
Traditionally DMG MORI had occupied a large space in Hall East 3. It must have taken some negotiating to get the company to move to Hall 8 for JIMTOF 2018 but judging by how busy their stand was I am sure it was a resounding success for DMG MORI. In the photo is Dr.-Ing. Masahiko Mori, President of DMG MORI Company Limited and Christian Thönes, Chairman of the Executive Board of DMG MORI AG on the occasion of the DMG MORI press conference
We also had the opportunity to visit Hase Temple, commonly called the Hase-kannon, one of the Buddhist temples in the city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, famous for housing a massive wooden statue of Kannon – the 11-headed goddess of mercy – before enjoying an 11-course meal of Japanese specialities at Hikage-chaya restaurant.
But it was not just about work. The organisers certainly look after their international VIP visitors and treated us to an international dinner that showcased Japanese culture at its best and a special programme to visit the Great Budha in Kamakura. The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which stands on the grounds of Kotokuin Temple. With a height of 11.4 metres, it is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan, surpassed only by the statue in Nara’s Todaiji Temple
I was one of a select group of international journalists from the USA, Germany, China, Taiwan, Czech Republic, Brazil and South Africa to be invited by the JMTBA to attend JIMTOF 2018. I must thank the management and staff of the JMTBA sincerely as we (the international journalists and editors) were treated royally. I would personally like to thank Ms. Keiko Honda, Assistant Manager, International Marketing Department of the JMTBA for so expertly organising all my travel and accommodation arrangements.
The 30th Japan International Machine Tool Fair is scheduled to open in Tokyo Big Sight for 6 days from November 7 to 12 December 2020.
It will be intereting to see what digitalisation, artificial intelligence (AI) and Industry 4.0 has done to the industry. The automation of various production processes with robots is going to intensify and machine tools in the future will be designed on the assumption that they are used with robots. And of course accelerating technology through IoT connection is going to play an even bigger role.