The global machine tool market is expected to grow only modestly in 2016.
The German Machine Tool Builders’ Association (VDW) and the British economic research institute Oxford Economics expect in their latest forecast (status: April 2016) a growth of global consumption by only 1.9% to reach € 68.6 billion. As in the previous years, the autumn forecast (2015: +4.1%) was significantly corrected downward, currently, this year by 2.2 percentage points.
Global machine tool consumption boomed from 2003 to 2011, according to Gardner Business Media’s latest survey. Despite the drastic decline in 2009, when it was down 35 percent from the year before, consumption rocketed up the next two years and in 2011 reached the highest level ever. Since then, however, global machine tool consumption has contracted in every year except 2014.
Global production of machine tools declined 11.9 percent in 2015 from the previous year the Gardner Business Media report states. However, Asia was the only region where the decrease was lower than the world total, having fallen 10.7 percent. With Asia also accounting for the largest share of the decline in consumption, it stands to reason that the major producing countries in Asia became more reliant on exports in 2015 than the other regions. In Europe, production decreased 13.1 percent, and in North America production was down 15.2 percent. The order of the top 11 producing countries remained unchanged in 2015 compared with 2014. The United States was a top-five producing country in 2013, and just barely missed being in the top five in 2014 and 2015.
Smart automation solutions has allowed production to be enhanced by machine tending robots
Italian machine tool manufacturers posted a 14.3% annual increase in new orders for the first quarter of 2016, mainly on the strength of the domestic manufacturing sector. Export orders increased only slightly (1.7%) by comparison. The results are reported by UCIMU – Sistemi per Produrre.
According to Anju Ajaykumar, lead analyst at Technavio for tools and components research, “Industrial sectors where automation is employed on a wide scale such as automotive, aerospace and defense, electrical and electronics, medical devices, industrial machinery, and renewable energy are showing signs of positive growth which will augur well for the growth of the machine tools market during the forecast period.”
The top emerging trends influencing the global machine tools market according to Technavio’s heavy industry research analysts follow.
Integration of 3D printing technology with machine tools
The original application of 3D printers was to create small plastic models and prototypes. Currently, 3D printers are increasingly used to create prosthetics, full-scale clothing, and electronic products. These printers also have a tremendous potential in the industrial sector.
The dramatic changes that 3D printing technology has brought about are likely to have an impact on machine tools and plastic injection molding. 3D printing technology reduces material usage by nearly 30% to 70% as compared to traditional techniques. This results in faster speed to market for new products and a reduction in development costs. Many machine tool manufacturers are incorporating this technology into their machine tools.
The machine tools industry has evolved with the development of both hardware technology and software applications. This has resulted in machines becoming faster, intelligent, and versatile. Machines have now become multifunctional and are capable of performing a broad range of tasks inside a single set up. Electrical discharge machines, ultrasonic, and electronic beam technologies have revolutionised manufacturing technology.
Multiple software products can be standardised on one platform. Advanced CAM technology is being used for multi-axis, multi-spindle, and multi-turret machines. Software is increasingly being used in automation of manufacturing and engineering processes. Software applications provide an integrated view of operation through direct integration with product lifecycle management, manufacturing execution services, process planning, and enterprise resource planning systems.
Surge in automation
The growing demand for superior-quality products has propelled companies to undertake automation in manufacturing. Investment in global process automation is continuing to grow at 6% and is projected to reach $120 billion by 2019. This growth is focused on areas such as technology, hardware, software, services, and the communication protocol used for automation.
The machine tools sector in the developed and developing countries, especially those in mid and small-scale industries, are increasingly using NC and CNC machines rather than manually controlled conventional machines. The new and advanced machines operate using programmed commands and computers to enhance productivity.
“Increased productivity is a major factor that benefits companies that use process automation. Moreover, implementing process automation not only enhances profit margins but also has a positive impact on resource regulation and loss control,” Anju says.
Complete, effective remote diagnostics
Manufacturers of all kinds are being challenged to deliver new products in record time using an increasingly complex internal and external supply chain that includes experts who are located all over the world. But equipment downtime, lost production, delays in product reviews and high travel costs to troubleshoot problems can kill the bottom line. With operations often spread across the globe, delayed decisions can cause costs to mount quickly. Commonly, an expert (or whole team of experts) boards a plane to go to solve a problem, causing further delays and incurring expensive travel costs.
The use of outsourced offshore partners, as well as shrinking product life cycles, has increased the demand for an operations-driven, mobile, video collaboration that immediately connects experts. Such equipment can be suitable in a variety of applications including plant maintenance management, internal and field service equipment troubleshooting, heavy equipment maintenance and repair, product and process design, and safety audits and inspections.
Increased productivity is a major factor that benefits companies that use process automation. Using robots is one way of doing this
Of course, this remote connectivity allows some issues to be diagnosed and fixed without the need for an on-site service call. If, however, the diagnosis determines that an on-site service call is required, intelligent dispatch ensures that the service engineer arrives with advance knowledge of the problem, its solution and the necessary parts in-hand.
Machines can be connected on an “as-needed” basis or in “always-on” mode, depending on how the manufacturer chooses to operate. When connected in “always-on” mode, machines can be monitored to provide proactive alerts and regular status alerts, improving information gathering and sharing and decision making.