Emphasis on speed, integrated automation with digital interconnectivity and fiber innovation revealed at EuroBLECH 2016

At EuroBLECH 2016 the world’s sheet and plate machine manufacturers and software developers exhibited new products and innovations aimed at reducing the time between component development and final delivery. Fiber laser machines, with more power and capabilities to cut thicker material, lead the way.

The concept that fiber laser cutting machines are only good for cutting thin sheet metal was completely blown away at EuroBLECH 2016 that was held in Hannover, Germany in October 2016. On display were 9kW, 10kW and even 12kW fiber laser machines that are cutting thicker sheets at faster speeds than previous generations, and they are delivering edge quality that meets most customer specifications. Fiber lasers continue to gain momentum over CO2 laser-based cutting systems for metal processing because of the advantages they provide that include higher-cutting speeds, improved cutting quality, increased energy efficiency and lower maintenance requirements. You have heard that one from the salesman before.

The need for CO2 machines to perform cutting operations on the thicker end of the scale is being pushed out even more and encroaching on plasma cutting territory.

Trumpf’s 8kW resonator, for example, has been cutting 50mm stainless steel since the last EuroBLECH exhibition held in 2014 and continues to show improved capabilities in this department. This way exceeds the capabilities of Bystronic’s new 10kW fiber laser, a machine that shows its greatest benefits for users to process material from 0.8mm to 12mm thickness but is capable of cutting sheet thicknesses up to 30mm, and Amada exhibited its 9kW power source on its LCG 3015 AJ fiber laser cutting machine.

Then along comes Polish company Eagle. They debuted a 12kW fiber laser cutting machine. The company claims that the 12kW system can process materials from 1mm up to 60mm and it is all to do with the cutting head – the eVa cutting head. The head features two fixed lenses to eliminate moving parts through the laser beam, but the focus diameter and angle of the beam to the material are changeable. The cover glass is far away from the cutting process, so it is much less susceptible to contamination generated during cutting. However, it must be pointed out that US company Whitney, a MegaFab Group company, had already launched a 12kW fiber laser in 2014 but did not exhibit at EuroBLECH 2016.

All the other international machine builders that are well-known in South Africa were also exhibiting. These included Durmazlar, Salvagnini, MicroStep, Prima Power, BLM Group, Voortman, Kaltenbach, Messer, SafanDarley, Ermaksan, Faccin, Ficep, Mitsubishi, Flow, Gasparini, Kasto, Red Bud and Schuler, all offering products and systems that will enhance productivity and quality.

Visitors could view machines and accessories, including automation and robotic systems, across the entire production spectrum. The number of laser-based systems on display were too numerous to count but what was notable was the increase in companies now offering fiber laser cutting systems, and the increase in the number of builders from Turkey.

But the overall theme of the exhibition was on speed – speed of the machines whether it be the lasers or press brakes, speed to cut days off the part-concept-to-delivery window through better design software, speed through integrated automation with digital interconnectivity, speed through integrating processes such as separation and joining on one machine and speed through the integration of the different processing machines in a ‘Smart Factory’ concept, all in an effort to automate the production process due to the increasing demands for productivity.

Everyone was also talking about the “Internet of Things” and “Industry 4.0” that has an emphasis on machine and information connectivity for all aspects of a shop and even the supply chain, so as to increase monitoring and control of production. There is ‘virtually’ nowhere to hide these days as you will be monitored by some camera or sensor.

For example, Schuler introduced its Machine Monitoring System (MMS) at the exhibition. The company said that the MMS provides new insights into presses. “With the aid of comprehensive system monitoring, availability can be increased, production and parts quality can be improved, and energy consumption can be lowered,” the company stated in a press release. The MMS is part of the Smart Press Shop, a collection of Schuler products for networking in the field of forming technology.

Laser processing of ultra-high strength steels
On the development side the Aachen, German-based research group Fraunhofer ILT conducts R&D into laser processing of ultra-high strength steels. Fraunhofer ILT exhibited how its laser-assisted metal processing techniques are significantly reducing component and end-product weight in automobile construction.

Fraunhofer ILT conducts R&D into laser processing of ultra-high strength steels

The automobile industry uses press-hardened and ultra-high strength steels with a tensile strength of up to 2,000 MPa in car body construction to reduce weight. Together with project partners from science and industry, and scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT has advanced the development of separation and joining as well as heat treatment technologies.

Laser combi-head for cutting, joining and additive manufacturing

The ILT says that while laser-cutting and spot welding have already proven themselves as a separation and joining process, respectively, both methods lead to metallurgical effects that can adversely affect component properties. During cutting, hardening occurs in the edge zone of the cut edge and with spot welding, a heat-affected zone forms with a distinct hardening reduction around the weld.

But it adds that by means of local laser heat treatment in the zones of interest, such weakening can be counteracted: “The hardness and ductility of the material can thus be adjusted locally to tensile elongations of 10 to 15%,” it stated.

South African visitor participation
South African visitor participation was again encouraging with a number of first time visitors. I personally made contact with close to 100 and I am sure there were many others that I did not know were there. What was even more encouraging were the firm orders placed by South African companies for the latest technology while at the exhibition.

Paul Dreyer from Lasercraft, Maurice Mawson of Messer Eutectic South Africa and Byron Fergusson of Special Steels

Francesco Tallarico of Talmac

Manus Potgieter of PIM with Bryce Adams of McWade Engineered Products

Mathys Besselaar of Retecon with Dawie and Jasmine Prins of Tubeform Trailers

Hans-Peter Neth of Retecon in front of the second generation Trumpf TruLaser Cell 8030 hot-forming machine. At EuroBLECH the company demonstrated the new functions that can increase the productivity of the machine by up to 20 per cent. The focus is also on so-called x-blast technology that greatly reduces machine downtimes and collisions between cutting nozzle and workpiece. The main field of application for the re-engineered TruLaser Cell 8030 continues to be the laser cutting of hot-formed 3D components, a technology that is primarily used in the automotive industry

Hans-Peter Neth – Executive Chairman Retecon (Pty) Ltd

“Retecon’s principals once again proved a major attraction during the recent EuroBLECH 2016 Exhibition in Hannover, Germany.”

“Trumpf stood out amongst its competitors and demonstrated their leadership in the processing of sheet metal on their various machines. World premiers on new machines and supporting software were shown under the heading of “Increased productivity” and “Get connected” as part of the 4.0 industrial revolution. In order to be more productive than with previous machines, Trumpf exhibited and demonstrated machines that were setup for production and part removal being processed simultaneously to increase production capabilities and efficiencies.”

“Trumpf’s 8kW resonator is still the leader in the world when it comes to cutting of thick materials. That was already shown two years ago when it was demonstrated that the machine can easily cut 50mm stainless steel, an achievement that no one else, even with greater laser power, has achieved. As resonator power is only partially important, it is the productivity of the complete system that is more important when one considers costs per part in the manufacturing industry.”

“The TruLaser Centre 7030 was a typical example of how productivity can be increased with modern designs.”

“A further world premier was Trumpf’s new punching machine, TruPunch 1000, which has been developed with a new unique concept where you can start with a stand-alone punching machine initially and later on add a laser resonator to the machine in order for the machine to work as a combination laser/punching machine, further increasing the flexibility, as well as productivity of your operation.”

“Additional world premieres exhibited by Trumpf were the TruLaser 3030 fiber that has a six kilowatt TruDisk resonator and Bright Line, Detect Line and Cool Line capabilities, all of which improve the cut quality in various materials. The TruBend Centre 7030, as well as TruBend Series 8000 demonstrated Trumpf’s advanced technology in precision component bending. The bend quality is of such high accuracy that it allows immediate laser welding processes to take place thereafter. The TruPrint 1000 exhibited demonstrated additive manufacturing in 3D printing for metal components. This technology will further advance in the coming years and take 3D printing in metal to different levels for industry.”

“Ficep of Italy exhibited their latest development in large plate processing that included a combination of 3D plasma bevel head with drilling and milling facilities, operations that are combined in one set-up.”

“Koike demonstrated various plasma and oxyfuel systems together with their new D420 control and their smart bevel torch.”

“N.KO demonstrated their plate bevelling machines that have further developments and improvements that include increased speeds with insert cutter technologies.”

Willie and Ciska Jones of Jones Masjiene

Father and son Hennie and Henk van Niekerk, both of Ultra Lock with their wives Alta and Wilna

Julian Heynes of Macadams with Hennie van der Westhuizen of Multipunch

Darren Lopez and Jurgen Lecki, both of Retecon

Tony and Clinton Windt, both of TWR Steel with Andrew Poole of First Cut in the centre

Andrew Poole – MD First Cut

“The speed with which fiber laser technology is evolving is quite remarkable. The advancements that manufacturers have made from the last EuroBLECH in 2014 is incredible and certainly Bystronic presented themselves as a leader in this field.”

“Bystronic exhibited their new innovative 10kW fiber machine and the cutting speeds on display were phenomenal. This new machine is based on the old ByStar which, as you know, is the workhorse of the range. The 10kW fiber comes with a new cutting head developed by Bystronic. The power source is IPG although Bystronic showcased their own 6kW fiber source as well. The bridge is the old ByStar model and is 25% lighter with increased rigidity.”

“There was huge interest in the machine all week and Bystronic reported excellent orders. Two orders were received for the South African market with a number of other hot prospects interested. We will be demonstrating the 10kW machine at the Machine Tools Africa 2017 exhibition that takes place in May 2017 and the machine is a must see.”

“Bystronic also exhibited its bending cell capabilities with a mobile robot that was integrated with an Xpert 40 bending machine as well as with an Expert 150, complete with tool changer. At the show, the robot was attached to the company’s small Xpert 40 press brake. This robot can be brought into service to handle repetitive bending jobs and when such jobs are not in production, it can be pulled away from the press brake. This is clearly where the future in press brake bending is going.”

“Automation was also a feature on the Bystronic stand. For the first time the company exhibited a fully automated cutting and bending system that included a ByTower for sheet metal handling, a ByTrans Extended that takes over loading and unloading your laser cutting system and an auto sorting and finishing system for robotic bending”.

“Bystronic has recently agreed an innovation partnership with Lantek, one of the leaders in software solutions and the development and deployment of software systems for the optimised production of sheet metal, tube and profile parts. The aim is for the companies to collaborate to develop an MES system that will be seamlessly integrated with Bystronic‘s machine systems and software, resulting in a solution that will excel in cooperating with Bystronic’s systems, raising them to the next level of productivity and efficiency. The collaboration between these two industry leaders will help in the realisation of the digital factory for both Lantek and Bystronic customers. From now on the BySoft 7 software will be powered by Lantek and I expect there will be some amazing new developments to BySoft in the next 12 to 18 months.”

“In addition, impressive automation solutions from a number of other manufacturers were on display. Although we tend to lag behind Europe in certain respects, I feel that notwithstanding the prohibitive effects of the rand/euro exchange rate, automation most certainly has its place in our market.”

Glynton Reed and Clive Hodgeson, both of Bell Equipment, Chesney Lloyd of Just Refrigeration, Hans-Peter Neth of Retecon with Niraj Adehee and Henk De Villiers, both of Bell Equipment

Rudi Leimlehner of Mechanical Technologies, Eike Woermann of Eico Manufacturing and Stig Rasmussen of Davox

Christoph Maryniok of Sigmanest, Quinton Janse van Rensburg of Mecad Systems with Luis Fernandes and Hershel Ismail, both of Schuurman Lasercut

Rob and Keith Barclay, both of Ideal Trading with Sebastian Dormbach of Neuenkamp

Altan Arda of Durmazlar with Byron Gueffroy of Durma South Africa

Byron Gueffroy – MD Durma South Africa

“I noticed a massive increase in fiber laser manufacturers and it now seems that the laser kW rating is getting a lot higher than what was previously available. It’s definitely a case of bigger, better and faster.”

“Overall I can’t say I noticed any really fantastic new innovations and found improvements on existing technology most prevalent.”

“However, I noticed an increase in exhibitors who manufacture finishing machinery such as grinding and polishing. They have always being present but this year I noticed a marked increase.”

“I found it very interesting to see how strong and diverse the Turkish machinery manufacturing has become. The quality and technology available is easily compared with the best and more well-known manufacturers in the world. I found a lot of new Turkish manufacturers looking for their share of the market. It is however still clear though that the older well established Turkish companies are the preferred and safer choice.”

Peter and Garth Beulich, both of P. Beulich

Jandre TerreBlanche of Sigmatek with his father Ben

Riaan Kirsten, Dean Raymond, Ryan Lipa, and Jens Hartig, all of Amada (UK) Johannesburg Branch

Gerald Anthony of Pinion & Adams, Rick Ferreira Amada (UK) Johannesburg Branch and Warren Marshall of Broleigh

Rick Ferreira – General Manager, Amada (UK) JHB Branch

“After the economic and political rollercoaster ride from December 2015 creating a prudent business climate along came the October 2016 addition of the EuroBLECH exhibition. From a South African business point of view I was expecting somewhat of a decrease in South African visitors to the exhibition and was pleasantly surprised by the number who visited our stand, beating my expectations.”

“As is the norm for an exhibition of this magnitude all manufacturers present go all-out to release their latest range of products showcasing innovation and enterprise, with this year being no different. All manufacturers have targeted the lucrative fiber laser, bending, welding and automation market where global demand just seems to keep growing with machinery evolving in all spheres.”

“This included fiber laser on higher power outputs enabling faster processing of thicker plate with higher surface finish quality, bending geared towards small batch, quick changeover and high quality 3D finishing, automation ensuring constant output with minimal human intervention as well as a number of hybrid auto/human systems using the strengths of both inputs to improve output efficiencies. Welding technologies continue to advance rapidly with setup times reduced and ease of use increasing.”

“This all leads you to think that the top of the pinnacle has been reached in terms of technology now available, however, wait until the EuroBLECH 2018 edition and so the cycle will repeat itself, this is what makes EuroBLECH special.”

Mike Vos of RSI, Steve van Wyk of First Cut and Dale Hughes of Afrilaser

Dale Hughes – Director, Afrilaser

“Afrilaser was invited to attend EuroBLECH, along with other metal fabricating businesses from across South Africa. This was my first show and it exceeded my expectations. The venue was vast with exhibitors from all over the world showing the most advanced metal fabrication technology – in action! I saw more machine tool builders than I knew existed.”

“The most striking thing about the show, apart from returning energised and inspired by the advances in our industry, was the genuine celebrating of relationships with existing and potential customers by exhibitors. It was also fantastic to meet and network with other South Africans in the industry from all across the country. EuroBLECH was well worth the visit and I will certainly be at the next one!”

Werner Terblanche and Gerhard Van Der Walt, both of Afrit

Alistair Simpson of R.A.W. Projects with Andrew Gohl of Vulcan Projects

Eugene Fernandez of First Cut with Javier Hernandez of Bystronic

Shaun Wethager of Truck Shoppe

Marius Bezuidenhout of Allied Steelrode with his wife Tracy

Marius Bezuidenhout – General Manager Stretcher Leveller, Allied Steelrode (Pty) Ltd

“What an excellent opportunity to have been part of EuroBLECH 2016. Having previously visited EuroBLECH in 2012, the 2016 EuroBLECH was approached with high expectation and optimism to evaluate new exhibitors and technological advances during this four year period.”

“The prospect of gaining information on new equipment, technology and information services as well as establishing mutual beneficial relationships with international equipment manufacturers and their South African distributors creates positive possibilities for all companies.”

“To witness the number of market leaders in sheet metal fabrication equipment, new product innovation and global competition all at one venue in Hannover was certainly an eye opener for most South African visitors.”

“South African representation at EuroBLECH 2016 re-confirms the commitment from the South African manufacturing industry to invest in the latest innovation on capital equipment, even during the current challenging economic climate.”

“EuroBLECH is the window to view equipment, innovation and create partnerships for and with South African companies.”

Justin and Melani Cloete of Allied Steelrode, Paul Dreyer of Lasercraft and Arun Chadha of Allied Steelrode

Arun Chadha – CEO, Allied Steelrode (Pty) Ltd

“It was my first visit to the EuroBLECH and I was amazed with the detail that had gone into such an event. The planning of the exhibitors in various halls was well thought of. It was amazing to see so many exhibitors from countries you never thought build steel working machines.”

“As Allied Steelrode our main focus was to see what new technology was available in the machine world. Having had discussions with various manufacturers we came to the conclusion that our Red Bud line is probably the best steel cutting machine.”

“Bystronic put up a great show with their display of machines and fantastic conference facilities. The coffee station was open to all and pulled in lots of people. Well done to Bystronic.”

“Hannover was alive with about 50,000 visitors and it was fun to spend time with fellow South Africans. Thanks to Andrew Poole and Bruce Crawford for arranging the dinners.”

Justin Cloete – Chief Operating Officer, Allied Steelrode (Pty) Ltd

“EuroBLECH 2016 was most certainly an eye opener. We were exposed to up-to-date innovative processing technology, equipment and solutions from across the world.”

“It was clear that OEM’s have heard the call from the sheet metal professionals to offer a complete machine-to-machine automated intelligent process chain, thus substantially increasing productivity and eliminating the conventional bottleneck.”

“The amount of companies offering cold-formed section and the array of shape and forms was astonishing.”

“What I also found interesting, which I was not aware of, is that there are OEM’s from all corners of the world and not only the traditional countries.”

“To cover the 85 000 square meters, try view the more than 1 600 exhibitors, across 15 technology sectors was a task and a half. We walked from 9am when it opened to 4pm each day and I’m sure we never managed to see everything.”

“This is an excellent platform for companies wanting to enter various markets as well as experienced companies in the industry to further advance through innovation.”

Mike Cronin of Elquip, Wolfie Neumann and Quentin Van Hout, both of Inprofile 2000

Cameron Abbott of Commercial Auto Components and Johan van der Sandt of Barrows Global

Johan van der Sandt – Production Operations Manager, Barrows Global

“As a first time visitor to the biggest sheet metal working show in the world I was overwhelmed and impressed to say the least.”

“All the displays by the more than 1 500 exhibitors, spread over 8 halls took us four days to work through and revisit some stalls. For Barrows, being a leader in the jobbing shop environment, there were a lot of processes and products that relate to our environment that can add value to what we do. It was also very interesting to see how many exhibitors already deal with South Africa through an agent or directly with clients.”

“One thing that stood out for me once again is that if you want to go forward in business you have to invest in technology and machinery that will help you drive your business to new heights.”

“These types of shows give you insight into possible opportunities in the market or how you can improve on current processes. Networking with likeminded people from all over the world grows your mind, your vision and opens doors. Retecon, I thank you for the invite and the hospitality given to us, connecting us to people in our local community and the world.”

Izabel and Mike van Zyl, both of Fast Flame Profiling

Ronel and Carlos Figueiredo, both of Ficar Tooling with Henry Xiong of Rate Precision Tooling

Carlos and Ronel Figueiredo – Ficar Tooling

“This has been my second visit to the EuroBLECH exhibition and Ronel’s first. I have also attended the EMO exhibition on a number of occasions. It is interesting to see how the EuroBLECH has increased in size and quality over the years.”

“This shows that the sheetmetal and fabrication manufacturing industry is definitely becoming a very important part of the manufacturing industry worldwide and is symbolised by the quality of the exhibitors.”

“As usual the mainstream manufacturers were out in force including Amada, Trumpf, Bystronic and Prima Power. Interesting developments are that the ‘big boys’ were very focused on full automation (FMS) systems. This shows how the market is changing.”

“Most impressive to me was the Prima Power FMS system exhibited that included storage of material, punching and guillotining on a CNC punch, sorting of components and bending, all incorporated into one fully automated system.”

“What was further interesting was how many Turkish exhibitors were at the exhibition. It seems that Turkey is on the way to becoming the leader in sheet metal and fabrication machinery, and I think the ‘big boys’ are starting to tremble in their boots because the Turkish are offering good quality equipment and systems at a fraction of the price compared to the ‘big boys’.”

“I was also impressed with the quality and amount of machinery manufacturers emanating from China, which shows how this country is developing from supplying “inferior” equipment many years ago to also becoming one of affordable quality equipment.”

“Another interesting observation is how fiber laser is increasing in popularity and it seems that CO2 laser is finally dead. I tend to think that water jet cutting is also starting to suffer because of the development of the fiber lasers that are now currently available with a 10kW power source and more. One manufacturer from Eastern Europe is already offering a 12kW power source. I also noticed that there are many new companies that manufacture fiber laser equipment that have appeared.”

“All in all it was a very good exhibition and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The only problem for us is the excessive amounts that we have to pay in South Africa for the purchase of the new machinery.”

Hiroyuki Tomita of Amada with Barry Page of Amada (UK) Johannesburg Branch

Philipp Zwirner of Trumpf, Duane Ramos of Branch Engineering and Graham Rome of Retecon

Zahoor Sayed of Hadaad Engineering, Vaughn Hanwith-Horden of F&H Machine Tools and Jukka Hakala of Coastone

Vaughn Hanwith-Horden – MD F&H Machine Tools

“During my visit to EuroBLECH I was once again surprised at how many smaller manufacturers were represented. Factories that four years ago were scoffed at, while trying to compete with the big manufacturers, now hold a much larger part of the market.”

“Lasers, particularly manufacturers from China, the old Russian republics, as well as Turkey and others presented products that matched and sometimes surpassed the performance of the big three. It was refreshing to see the pride and humility shown when these products were demonstrated. Most builders are using the same laser source. So to outperform the competition, real innovation is needed.”

“The innovation shown included more sophisticated materials being used in frame construction, giving more rigidity with less vibration and allowing machines to be installed without special foundations, and designs that improve space utilisation and systems that utilise energy more efficiently.”

“Additionally, more and more manufacturers have now designed and built their own control systems, drives and other components and use their own software to improve performance. By using this philosophy they have shortened the value chain and keep prices reasonable. By building their own components the various processes can be tuned and massive gains in productivity attained.”

“The press brakes that were exhibited also showed a large number of previously unknown or small manufacturers that now have substantial representation. Machine builders are also using alternative technology to create bending pressure with servo and belt driven machines matching and beating the speed and tolerances of the bigger manufacturers. They have also included simple user interfaces on the controllers and idiot proof software on the machines.”

“Many machine builders are now taking the smartphone strategy making use of the machinery intuitive. This means that installation and training is taking less time and productivity is up from day one. As a result, highly trained and skilled operators will soon become a thing of the past, I believe.”

“Many of these manufacturers have a huge representation and market share in markets all over the world, some of them building one standard format laser a day. But for South Africans the fear of buying a machine from a supposedly unknown manufacturer is too much. We look around us, listen to the noise generated by the huge marketing engines of the massive manufacturers and pay four times the price for so called peace of mind and in some cases equal or less performance. These smaller manufacturers will in time disrupt the various markets as they are serious about performance, reliability and service. The attention to detail and customer care will be a priority for them. The cost of the euro and US dollar is high and South Africans need to look at alternative suppliers to stay competitive. And it is a matter of time before industry in South Africa takes note.”

Zahoor Sayed Mohamed – Hadaad Engineering

“The EuroBLECH 2016 held in Hannover, Germany in my opinion was a prestigious and highly successful event in terms of showcasing all the latest machinery from in and around Europe as well as the rest of the world, all converging under one roof covering over 88 000m². Extremely impressive and mind blowing!!!”

“Considering my history and known business stature in the sheet metal fabrication industry, my keen interest in Trumpf, Salvagnini and Prima Power, showcasing their complete solutions from raw to finished products, were amongst the profound highlights for me.”

“With factories and machinery evolving technologically we can now monitor all production status via PC, tablet or smartphones that provide educational stable forums for the businessman, which is highly beneficial for our growth in the industry.”

“In consideration, Trumpf was exceptionally impressive and massive. They highlighted their new innovation called TruConnect. Salvagnini, an Italian based company, had sheet metal to bending complete solutions on display with their S4 and P4 FMS lines that include punching, shearing and bending integrated with each other. Prima Power, also an Italian based company, had complete solutions from punching to bending, all showing distinctive advancements in usage and empowerment within the industry. This is providing me currently with a purposeful and technological way forward for my own business at hand.”

“Overall, my experience at EuroBLECH 2016 provided advanced knowledge and keen future interests concluding in an amazing forum of communication platforms with the various manufacturers of machinery globally.”

“I wish to extend a warm, heartfelt note of gratitude to the organisers, sponsors and supporters at EuroBLECH 2016. I will anticipate the arrival of the next EuroBLECH Expo in 2018, an event not to be missed!!”

Bystronic’s Hugo Allermann and Philipp Burgener

Freddie Visser of SPP