Metalforming companies face demanding challenges every day such as increased product variety or continuously reduced batch sizes.
A totally integrated automation system, which can be modularly and gradually adjusted to the relevant requirements, is the basis for flexible and productive manufacturing. This was one of the themes for EuroBLECH 2012, which was held last year in Hannover, Germany from 23-27 October. The exhibition focused on efficient technologies, environmental friendly production methods and intelligent use of materials. In fact the theme of the exhibition was termed ‘For a sustainable future’.
The biennial show covered 84 000m² and featured 1 520 exhibitors from 39 countries. The most important exhibitor countries after Germany included Italy, Turkey, China and The Netherlands. The event has increased by 5% in exhibitor numbers and by 7% in exhibition space compared to the previous exhibition held in 2010.
The organiser, Mack Brooks, said 60 500 international trade visitors attended the 22nd international sheet metal working technology exhibition, which was on par with its previous edition. Of these, 36 per cent came from outside Germany.
It’s been three EuroBLECH shows, or almost six years, since fiber lasers made their big debut in the metal fabricating industry. These solid-state lasers, which rely on semiconductor diodes to pump special optical fibers doped with rare-earth ions for beam production, continue to capture market share. It’s been a learning experience for many.
Fiber laser cutting systems proved to be one of the major attendance draws in 2012 with more than two dozen companies showing laser sheet metal cutters. Many of the big names, as well as a significant number of small and less well-known names, have added fibre lasers to their cutting armoury.
Fiber lasers dominated the 36 laser cutters on display with 26 systems ranging in power from 1.5 to 4 kW on display, with an additional 6 disc laser fiber-delivered systems – leaving the overall impression that CO2 laser cutting, at least at this trade show, was of declining interest. Ferdi Tōngi, president & CEO of one of the industry’s technology leaders, Bystronic, stated that fiber lasers for metal cutting are growing faster than anticipated and this technology is expected to gain 50% of the market.
Among the fiber laser cutting systems on display IPG Photonics continues to be the leader with 14 lasers integrated into cutting systems, Rofin Sinar made a notable appearance with seven of their fiber lasers powering systems, Amada and Hypertherm had 2 each and Trumpf disc lasers powered six systems. Other fiber lasers were scattered throughout the show performing welding, marking and other applications.
The benefits of fast cutting speeds on thinner materials, low energy consumption, the simplicity of fibre delivery systems, compared to the mirror systems on CO2 machines, and, in theory at least, low maintenance, seem to have driven the sector to a technological tipping point.
Fibre lasers could also be disruptive to the established order of the laser market. There were a lot of new entrants on show – with manufacturers coming in from the plasma sector and relative unknowns coming in to attack the new level playing field.
Due to the low efficiency resulting from the generation of CO2 laser, cooling needs are very high, with the consequent increase in energy consumption. On the contrary, a fibre laser cutting machine consumes much less, since it does not need so much cooling, as its generation system is much more efficient. Losses of energy in the generation of laser are much smaller.
As an example, note that a 5 kW of power CO2 laser machine has an approximate consumption of 70 KW, when a 3 kW power fibre laser cutting machine has an approximate consumption of 25 KW. It is considered that a 3 kW fibre machine would be the comparable in its behaviour to one of 5 kW of CO2.
In general you can say that a fiber laser cutting machine consumes 60% less than one of CO2.
The behaviour of a fibre laser cutting machine with thin thicknesses (up to 5 mm thick) is better and more efficient than a CO2 machine. This is mainly due to the fact that the beam wavelength is 10 times lower in fiber than in CO2 (1.06 μm versus 10.6 microns). From 5 mm thick, the behaviour of both lasers is very similar.
Another added advantage of the fibre laser is its best operation when processing reflective materials, like aluminium, brass or copper.
The technology’s short-wavelength, high-beam-quality laser delivered via a fibre has always enjoyed a speed advantage over the traditional CO2 beam, which has to rely on mirroring systems to deliver the laser beam to the cutting surface. However, the mechanics of a machine now are designed specifically to cater to the cutting speed of the fibre lasers.
Because a fibre laser doesn’t require a large resonator cavity or a large chiller, it comes in a small package, which makes it a prime candidate for integration into more traditional machine tools.
Not just fibre lasers
Although the main focus of attention may have been the step change in the laser cutting sector, there was also plenty of incremental improvement in punching and forming.
The wide range of materials, machines, systems and tools on display reflected the complete technology chain of sheet metal working, from sheet metal and sheet metal products to handling, forming, cutting, joining, flexible sheet metal working, tube processing, process control, CAD/CAM systems and surface technology. A great number of exhibiting research institutions complement the event by presenting the latest research projects and providing the necessary foundations for technological development.
At EuroBLECH 2012, the trade magazines ‘Blechnet’ and ‘MM MaschinenMarkt’ (publishers: Vogel Business Media) once again presented the MM Awards, recognising innovations in the field of sheet metal working.
This is the tenth occasion the awards have been given at the EuroBLECH exhibition by the trade magazines. The editorial departments of the special interest journals recognised companies in nine different categories.
Some of the award winners included the Amada Lasbend AJ, Schuler for its TwinServo technology, Safan BV with the SafanDarley Eye technology, DIMECO-Alipresse for the LInapunch MC-E multi-configuration numerical control electric punching machine and Bystronic for its ByAutonom.
The next EuroBLECH will take place at the same venue in 2014. The dates for the exhibition are 21 to 25 October 2014.
Ferdie van der Merwe and Ferdi Potgieter, both from Laser Cut Co
Anton Zackey and Danny Thompson, both from Craft Machine Tools
Anton Zackey, General Manager, Craft Machine Tools
Sitting at Hanover Airport with my colleague Danny Thompson on the Friday afternoon after the exhibition we had an opportunity to reflect on the week gone by. We had both been to international trade shows before so were not taken aback by the enormity of the show in comparison to the recently held South African Electra Mining and Machine Tools Africa. In fact we both thought that EuroBLECH 2012 was smaller than previous shows. We debated whether this was because of the continued economic down turn or simply due to the fact that having experienced past international trade shows we were now sensitised to their size?
Regardless of the size or the effects the economy may be having on manufacturers the world over, the one thing which continued to come to the fore was innovation. Year after year manufacturers manage to produce new and exciting products driven by advancements in technology. I notice a massive incline in automated operations designed to reduce production time and the number of operators. These developments certainly pose an ethical and moral dilemma for the South African market. Business owners are constantly faced with the pressures of increasing production while reducing costs. The automated approach seems logical, especially given the extremely difficult and sensitive labour issues our country faces, and has recently faced in the mining industries. However, given our high unemployment rate business owners feel a moral obligation to employ, after all are we all not responsible in helping our country overcome the challenges it is faced with?
Craft Machine Tools together with Thompson Machine Tools have been in business for over 40 years, none tougher than the past few. Given the dynamic environment and the level of competition we operate in, finding the right products, which offer the right value, at the right price has never been more important. EuroBLECH most certainly provided a platform for the best in the business to showcase their intentions to meet the expectations of the market not only today but ‘tomorrow’. Just like the manufacturers at EuroBLECH strive to meet these expectations through continued product development, Craft Machine Tools will do the same through partnering with the best in the business.
We all travel to EuroBLECH in search of answers, the difference lies in the questions we are asking. I hope all those who travelled managed to find the answers they were looking for.
Interesting facts on the lighter side
1. I decided to measure the distance we walk in one day at EuroBLECH using a fitness app on my iPhone. I began measuring at the entrance of the show grounds and stopped at the end of the day (when we arrived back at the hotel). In one day we walked over thirteen kilometers. No wonder the beer tastes so good at the end of the day!
2. Try the truly local pubs for a beer at the end of a long day on your feet. The beer is just as good but a third of the price.
3. Use the train system. It is surprisingly easy, reliable, a lot cheaper and a great way to meet people.
Anton and Tammy Heunis from Heunis Steel
Robbert van Rijssen of Durma SA, Enrico and Julio Moya of Acrow Racking & Shelving with Byron Gueffroy of Durma SA
Ben TerreBlanche of SigmaTEK
Vaughn Hanwith Hawden of Forest Engineering with Jukka Hakala of CoastOne Oy
Vaughn Hanwith-Horden, Managing Director, F & H Machine Tools
“A terrible economy has forced European metal fabricators to focus on shortening turnaround time on jobs. If they attended EuroBLECH 2012 in Hannover, Germany, in late October last year, those fabricators probably discovered some tools that could help them accomplish their goals.”
“Leading indices indicate that manufacturing output has declined for some time. Certain geographic areas are suffering greatly from very high unemployment rates. Local governments are unable to inject stimulus funds because of skyrocketing debt.”
“So what does this mean for metal fabricators in Europe? It’s time to start finding efficiencies and taking a hard look at the entire metal fabricating process—the time between receipt of the order and shipping the product out. Eliminate as much waste in that process, and you maximize cash on hand.”
“This same principle should apply to our South African fabricators as well, despite all of the added complications that they endure as compared to their European counterparts.”
Malcom Moriarty of Retecon with Andrew Winter and Mathys van Rensburg, both of Robor Baldwins
Andrew Winter, Managing Director, Robor Baldwins
“As a first time attendee to the EuroBLECH exhibition following the Robor acquisition of Baldwins in June 2011, the show provided much insight into the where to and how to of sheet metal and structural steel processing. The sheet metal, structural steel and associated value added processing is new to the Robor group and whilst we have existing capability and capacity, we have plans to change, evolve and grow. We are not an organisation that lets grass grow under our feet.”
“The show is clearly the place to be when considering strategic capital equipment spend for the future, with all the major equipment manufacturers and suppliers physically present and the majority showcasing their latest and greatest to the global steel industry. It’s obviously a question of how much investment and when. Being able to evaluate the equipment and technical specifications of each machine over a number of days and considering the choices available is extremely valuable. You could relate it to being a kid in a candy store.”
“The show creates a platform for business opportunities on all levels and is not restricted to purely equipment and capital plant and equipment investment. All the major European steel mills are represented and the show caters for both formal and informal discussion areas with the various representatives.”
Norbert Häberle of Trumpf with Hans-Peter Neth of Retecon
Hans-Peter Neth, Managing Director, Retecon Group
“Once again Trumpf were dominant and impressive exhibitors. The theme of the stand, which covered an area of 2 760m² and an upstairs area of 210m², was ‘All you need to stay in the lead’.
“Trumpf exhibited an array of new and existing machine tools, laser systems and services, all developed in the interest of flexible and economical solutions for machining, laser cutting, welding, punching, and bending.”
Lasers break record for metal plate thickness
“One of the highlights for me was the Trulaser Series 5000 machines that can cut stainless steel up to 50 millimeters thick. When fitted with the Brightline option, the 2-D laser cutting units also improve the quality of edges on stainless steel plate of thicknesses between 20 and 25 millimeters. These new qualities are made possible by the TruFlow 8000, a CO2 laser with 8 kilowatts of power and a mirror cutting head. The mirror optics remain reliable even in the presence of heavy soiling because there are fewer thermal effects than with lenses. They therefore do not have to be cleaned as often and are subject to less wear and tear.”
“On view for the first time ever was the new SheetMaster Compact in combination with the TruPunch 3000. This space-saving automation unit is absolutely reliable as it loads the sheets and removes both scrap skeleton and micro-joint panels. In the latter the partially punched parts are retained in the sheet by means of tabs.”
“Also on display was the TruLaser Cell 3000, a unique, all-purpose laser machining centre. It cuts and welds in both two and three dimensions, making it suitable for all batch sizes and every application. It was integrated into a process sequence together with the TruBend 7036 brake press and a TruMark 7000 labeling station. Visitors could see for themselves how the TruTops Fab software controls the processing sequence.”
“Another impressive display was the TruLaser Robot 5020 welding cell with the new, automatic rotation changer with turning axes, which represents a high-productivity automation solution for long production runs. Available for the first time at the EuroBLECH was the modular clamping system for laser welding. This is a highly practical approach to chucking a variety of geometries and can be used for everything from fabricating prototypes to producing components in smaller numbers.”
“In addition, the TruLaser Tube 7000 laser cutting machine for pipe and profiles was on display. It is fitted with a swinging cutting head and a flexible discharge station.”
“Another OEM that we represent, Italian manufacturer Ficep, displayed the Gemini HD36, an advanced CNC gantry style plate fabrication centre. The modular design allows for drilling operations, marking, and thermal cutting. In addition, the Gemini HD36 can produce chamfers in a single operation thanks to a new technology swivel head.”
“By nature the storage of sheet metal is difficult, dangerous and expensive. Automated vertical storage is usually an effective solution. Kasto presented a number of solutions appropriate to the needs of the storage of plate and sheet while taking into account the dimensions and the allowable loads on pallets.”
“The Koike stand in Hall 13 showed visitors cutting technology to “touch”. Numerous live demonstrations underlined the high standards of the Koike cutting systems. The highest attention was shown for the new Deltatex gantry cutting machine with the innovative SphereBevel bevel cutting tool. Along with the extensive range of portable cutting machines, the proven all-in-one flatbed cutting machine Gammatec, as well as another new gantry cutting machines Deltatec were exhibited. The Deltatec is the ideal system for thermal cutting with different cutting processes – maximum four oxy-fuel and / or up to two plasma stations. Optionally, different marking tools are available.”
“Overall I was impressed with the technology on display and the number of South Africans that attended the exhibition.”
Jurgen Lecki of Retecon with the two Wolves supporters Malcolm Moriarty of Retecon and Andy Overton of Ficep
Henri Zermatten of Manrepco with his son Dieter
Bernard Goosen and Bruce Hains, both of Zanogen
Richie Shunmungam and Brian Rose, both of Steelbank with Quentin Coetzee of Avax in the centre
Flip Gunter of Precision Press
Mike Cronin of Elquip Solutions
Mike Cronin, Managing Director, Elquip Solutions
“Just like machine tool manufacturers, the trend towards high-strength materials is also posing similar challenges for manufacturers of sawing machines. Behringer is reacting, for example, with high-performance sawing technology. As far as we are concerned, this means not only being able to separate hard-to-machine materials, but also cut them at high speed.”
“For example, the high-performance HBM540A can be upgraded with the Speed Cutting Kit (SC Kit). The results are higher cutting performances, cycle times reduced by up to seven times, constantly high material removal, clean cutting surfaces and short oddments.”
“The HBP510-1208G mitre band saw is also a highly special machine. Because the saw band is sloped at 8° you can achieve clean cutting results even with very wide girders of over 1000 mm and, at the same time the tool is protected. The system universally gives best performance with large but also with smaller girders.”
“The design of the new high-performance HCS 160 multifluid circular saw from Behringer Eisele has been optimised for wet or dry cutting. Capable of high throughputs, the HCS 160 has a number of new features, including a new machine base and optimised chip disposal.”
“The carbide-tipped HCS 160 is the perfect solution for cutting high-alloy, heat-resistant steel larger than 1 200 N/mm².”
“Then there was the innovative HD-X saw-drill line where drilling and milling is done in a single unit. The new HD-X 1218, with additional X axis, offers significantly higher throughput for profile machining and capacity for not only carbide drilling but also milling.”
“Overall the Behringer Eisele and Vernet Behringer new offerings form the ideal mixture of well-proven sawing technology with a high degree of variability and adaptability.”
Helmut Neumann of Inprofile 2000
Helmut Neumann, MD, Inprofile 2000
“It has been my intention for many years to visit this expo and I finally joined the South African group of visitors to Hannover in 2012.”
“As a trained toolmaker (trade test passed in 1958 in Austria) and being active in the sheet metal industry in South Africa since 1967, and from 1983 as founder and MD in companies producing cold rolled profiles, EuroBLECH 2012 was a great experience.”
“The need to modernise some of the aging equipment at our company made every minute spent at the show a challenge to me. The level of advanced technology in Europe is a real eye opener to us all.”
“I had the pleasure of meeting a great number of leading members of companies at the show.
It was good to be together with fellow visitors from the RSA and enjoy evening outings sampling the local beer and food. Eisbein was especially popular with the guys.”
Ricky Camacho, Manny and Jorge Peixoto, all of JP Engineering
Andrew Poole and Garth Haigh, both of First Cut with Philipp Burgener of Bystronic Sales in the centre
Andrew Poole, MD, First Cut
“Bystronic exhibited a number of new innovations at this year’s EuroBLECH. The highlights were from the laser cutting, bending and software segments.”
“No less than three of the innovations came from the laser cutting segment. These included the BySprint Pro 3015 with a six kilowatts source. Previously the BySprint Pro was powered by the ByLaser 4400 laser source or 4.4 kilowatts. Now the system can cut sheets up to 25 millimeter thick.”
“A similar development has taken place with the second innovation, the fiber laser cutting system BySprint Fiber 4020. The machine is now available with three and four kilowatts power source and hence approaches the sheet metal thickness range that until now was limited to CO2 laser cutting systems.”
“The highlight was the ByAutonom, which won the MM Award. The ByAutonom was developed from the beginning as an autonomously working machine, which together with automation modules such as ByTrans, ByTower and Bycell can be used for reduced manning operation. This is also applicable if the type and thickness of the raw material has to be changed.”
“The Xcite was the next exhibition highlight from Bystronic. This is a new press brake that is electrically driven and which had never been seen before. In concrete terms it is some 2.5 times faster than a hydraulic press brake.”
“The Xcite is also very user friendly. The ByVision control package for laser cutting and waterjet cutting machines has been extended for use with pressbrakes. Since this took place, every user can attain the required objective with very few interactions via the 22 inch touch screen. Whereby the level of prior knowledge required is negligible, since: ByVision guides a beginner safely through the programming and supports him with many automatisms. On the other hand it allows professionals to make use of their knowledge and to define their own limits for the bending technology.”
BySoft 7 – Make it easy
“Last but by no means least BySoft 7 is not simply an update, but rather a completely new software generation with numerous new functions and possibilities.”
“In addition to the innovations, a great many tried and tested solutions from all product segments were also on display. Amongst these was the waterjet cutting system ByJet Smart, which was launched in 2011, but could be seen at EuroBLECH 2012 for the first time. “
“Overall the numerous solutions on display for sheet metal processing promises to deliver exciting times ahead for this segment of the metalworking market.”
Hershel Ismail and Luis Fernandes, both of Schuurman Lasercut
Rob Davis from Colcab and Johan Burger from Insulated Structures
Hendrik Koekemoer, Maurius Bezuidenhout and Vaughan Reiche, all of Macsteel Coil Processing
Larry Cohen of Branch Engineering with Mathys Besselaar of Retecon
Andre Visser of Fabrinox
Tony and Andrew Broekhuisen of Aluminium Trading
Terry Rosenberg of Yaskawa Motoman
Terry Rosenberg, Managing Director, Yaskawa Motoman
“Yaskawa Europe showcased the possibilities of robot arc welding in impressive style at EuroBLECH 2012. Its display featured seven robots working simultaneously while being controlled by just one shared control unit.”
“The advantage of this multi-robot solution is that very little programming is required for the synchronous operation or coordinated movement of robots and positioners. Welding and handling processes can therefore be carried out in a single step. All six Yaskawa welding robot models were on display at the show. The Yaskawa VA1400 high-speed welding robot was particularly worth seeing. This is the first industrial robot in the arc welding sector with seven controlled axes. Thanks to its lean design, it benefits from astounding freedom of movement, even in the tightest of work spaces.”
Tony Cimato and Paul Dreyer
Eike Voermann of Eico Manufacturing
Bob Bouwmeesters of Bobfab
Toshio Takagi of Amada Japan, Henry Bushney of Hitech-Gregfor and Jens Hartig of Amada (UK) JHB Branch
Gordon Van Rensburg and Barry Page, both of Amada (UK) JHB Branch with Shawn Welthagen of Truck Shoppe in the centre
Gerald Anthony of Pinion & Adams, Pierre Parente of Jag Engineering, Donovan Hoole of Amada (UK) JHB Branch and Geoff Lass of R&G Sheet Metal
Rick Ferreira of Amada (UK) JHB Branch
Rick Ferreira, General Manager, Amada (UK) JHB Branch
“Grow with our customers – that is the first statement in Amada’s management philosophy.”
“At EuroBLECH 2012 in Hall 12, no less than ten machines were on show in live operation over an area of some 2 000 m². Every one of them represents a further development to an existing solution or a completely new innovation.”
“Amada has developed and released fiber laser machines with in-house-developed oscillators and significantly reduced environmental load, as well as combination machines that improve productivity by integrating manufacturing processes, which make it possible to adapt to diverse global markets.”
“Furthermore, we offer a variety of solutions for in-house processing machines, software, robots, and peripheral equipment that are engineered from the customer perspective. For the emerging markets, Amada focuses on cost-effective mid-range machines.”
“Undoubtedly one of the stars of EuroBLECH 2012 was the Amada Lasbend AJ combination machine, which offers an integrated combination of laser cutting, forming, thread cutting and bending capabilities and opens up a wealth of production benefits for sheet metal working.”
“Overall the whole exhibition was exceptional with the latest technology on display. We were pleasantly surprised with the number of South Africans that visited our stand with a distinct intention of purchasing equipment.”