JIMTOF – One of the world’s foremost machine tool tradeshows

As a global leader in machine tool design and construction, Japan plays a key role in developing and promoting new metalworking technology.


The impressive entrance that welcomes visitors to the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition facility

JIMTOF – The Japan International Machine Tool Fair – usually does not disappoint in releasing product introductions and new technologies for the first time. The recent edition of the event ran from 30 October to November 4, 2014. It took place at Tokyo’s Big Sight exhibition and convention 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.

A unique aspect of JIMTOF is that each show features a major theme that exhibitors are encouraged to rally around. The theme for the 2014 show was Mono-Zukuri 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.” Others say that it really stands for “craftsmanship along with the latest technology are the best predictors that a manufacturing company can have to succeed in a competitive environment” and “it encompasses how engineering connects to the future and the world.” None can be disputed in the context of the Japanese nation, as the passion amongst both the exhibitors and visitors is clear for all to see. It is further illustrated in the hand craft of Kisage or ‘scraping’, a finishing process used in engineering to produce extremely flat surfaces. In this technique craftsmen use a chisel to shave the surface of a casting. This highly skilled manual method allows flatness’s down to 2µm to be achieved on sliding surfaces.


JIMTOF 2014 drew over 870 exhibitors and 136 196 (International: 10 539) visitors (up 5,8% from 2012) from across the world during its six-day run


The exhibition halls were well organised and always busy

Exhibitors interpreted this theme in various ways. Some showed how new machines and equipment enhance productivity. Others focused on machining concepts for transforming advanced designs into reality (creative product innovation). Many displays could be seen as expressions of both interpretations.

JIMTOF has historically attracted a large amount of attention from Japan and overseas due to its status as a mirror that reflects the technological level of the industrial nation of Japan. Reaffirming its role as an embodiment of the tradition of machine tool technology in Japan and as a showcase for state-of-the-art technologies that will reshape the production floors of the future, the tradeshow’s organisers approached this year’s event with renewed vigour to promote the importance of manufacturing.

As an exhibition that introduces state-of-the-art machine tools earlier than any other exhibitions in its industry, although the Americans will dispute this because their exhibition takes place two months prior, JIMTOF is recognised on the same level as EMO in Europe, IMTS in the USA and CIMT in China. JIMTOF is one of the largest exhibitions organised by Tokyo Big Sight Inc. Holding and the Japan Machine Tool Builders’ Association (JMTBA).

JIMTOF 2014 was the 27th time that the exhibition has been held and marked the 50th anniversary of the inaugural event, which was first held in Osaka in 1962. Because machine tools and related products and equipment form the basis of all industry, JIMTOF has developed into one of the world’s foremost machine tool tradeshows.

JIMTOF has historically attracted a large amount of attention from Japan and overseas due to its status as a mirror that reflects the technological level of the industrial nation of Japan.

Reaffirming its role as an embodiment of the tradition of machine tool technology in Japan and as a showcase for state-of-the-art technologies that will reshape the production floors of the future, the tradeshow’s organisers approached this year’s event with renewed vigour to promote the importance of manufacturing.


The DMG MORI stand attracted many visitors

Too often you go to an exhibition and after reading all the hype and spin on the exhibitors and technology that will be on display you are left wondering why the organisers can’t pay attention to the well being of the exhibitors and visitors. After all they are the most important aspect of the success of an exhibition. Firstly not enough emphasis can be placed on making the access/entry to the exhibition as simple and free flowing as possible. This is closely followed by the visitor leaving the exhibition with the information he needs without being burdened with a load of brochures that inevitably will be thrown in the nearest rubbish bin. We all know how costly it is to print these brochures. Besides we all know the hassles the extra weight causes if your travel to an exhibition includes a flight. So make it easy for the exhibitor and provide a mechanism that (in this electronic age it should be easy) will satisfy both exhibitor and visitor.

JIMTOF virtually covered this gripe of mine. Each visitor was registered via an electronic business card that contained full contact details and each stand was then equipped with a card reader. This contact information was available immediately to the exhibitor, and depending on how well organised the exhibitor was the information was available on your smartphone before you left the stand. In my case, because of the high costs that we incur for data transmission to our smartphone when travelling internationally, the information was sent direct to my desktop. Even the local agent was informed that I had visited the stand in Tokyo.

Besides a whole host of tracking information can be obtained and future plans can be made from this simple system, which I am sure is not that costly.

Another noticeable aspect of JIMTOF was the size of the exhibitors’ stands. An example was the DMG MORI stand. It was only 2 340 m² and this is compared to 10 237 m² that the company occupied at the last EMO in Hannover, Germany. One of the main reasons is the exhibition space available and the number of exhibitors that the organisers have to accommodate. However the smaller stands also fed into the philosophy of the Japanese – you are there to work and learn and not there to relax. As a result the entertaining areas were small and non-existent in most cases.

I was one of a select group of international journalists from the USA, Germany, China, Thailand, Czech Republic, Brazil and of course South Africa to be invited by the JMTBA to attend JIMTOF 2014. I must thank the management and staff of the JMTBA sincerely as we (the international journalists and editors) were treated royally. I personally thank Ms. Keiko Honda, Assistant Manager, International Marketing Department of the JMTBA for so expertly organising all my travel and accommodation arrangements.

The JMTBA is a nonprofit trade association of Japanese metal cutting machine tool builders. It was established in 1951 and reorganised to its present status in 1978, with an eye to ensuring the overall growth of the nation’s machine tool industry and contributing to the sound development of the Japanese economy.

In pursuit of its goals, the association undertakes wide-ranging projects through its standing committees as well as other ad hoc groups including extraordinary committees, panels, and study groups.

This edition of JIMTOF attracted 83 members of the JMTBA and collectively the companies occupied nearly 50% of the exhibition space.

JIMTOF 2014 drew over 870 exhibitors covering approximately 82 660 m², and 136 196 (International: 10 539) visitors (up 5,8% from 2012) from across the world during its six-day run.

In comparison for those of us that visited EuroBlech 2014 in Hannover Germany, the show’s total net floor space was 86 500m² and there were 59 600 visitors over five days, and we thought that was busy. With nearly half the amount of space available and over double the amount of visitors the show layout has to be at a premium. The hustling and bustling in the isles is something I have never seen before and I have been to many exhibitions. Getting close to view the machines or the equipment on the stands, especially those ones where new products were being exhibited, can be a challenge.


Peter and Chris Killian from Hi-Tech Machine Tools attended JIMTOF 2014


Also attending were Terry Nichols of Multitrade Distributors, Teruhiko Masuda of Mitsubishi Materials, Stephan Joubert of Multitrade Distributors and Michael O`Reilly, MMC Hardmetal (Thailand)


Sodick launched a new metal 3D printer, the OPM250L, which is a hybrid laser sintering/high-speed milling machine. The machine attracted huge attention, which made it difficult to get close

However, the hype and crowds are encouraging for the future growth of the Japanese manufacturing industry, which has long relied on the potential for wealth creation inherent in manufacturing. Restoring the pre-eminence of manufacturing aims at helping to secure Japan’s long-term economic well-being.

It was also encouraging to see the amount of young people that attended the exhibition. A career in manufacturing has been shunned in recent years worldwide because the youth find the lure and glamour of other high-tech occupations more attractive. Manufacturing is increasingly perceived as too dirty. Appealing to the creativity and intellectual challenge and encouraging talented young people to see value in manufacturing careers should be a must for every nation. “Making things” has a vital human element that can be as exciting and fulfilling as information technology, computer science or design engineering.

Wide-ranging exhibits in a systematic layout were also among factors behind the resounding success of this year’s JIMTOF. Metal forming and cutting machines were concentrated in East Hall 1-3, while control and related software for computer-aided design and manufacturing, and other associated machinery and equipment, were displayed in East Hall 4-6. West Hall 1-2 were filled with displays of cemented carbide tools, high speed steel tools, and machine tool accessories, and West Hall 3-4 accommodated exhibitors of precision measuring machines and instruments, optical measuring instruments, testing machinery, diamond and CBN tools, grinding wheels and abrasives, oil hydraulic and pneumatic machinery, and gears and gear devices. In the Atrium Hall, various tools and accessories were showcased along with industry magazines.

Additive manufacturing and machining in the spotlight
The explosion in additive manufacturing, or 3D printing as some like to call it, started about three years ago. Since then magazine and website pages have been filled with all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas on how the technology is advancing and yes, you have to be part of it. Machine tool builders are recognising the fact as well.

Earlier this year DMG MORI launched its Lasertec 65 3D Shape, which allows highly compact 5-axis milling and laser texturing of 3D plastic injection moulding tools on one machine and in one setup. After the milling of the mould, a geometrically defined surface structure is applied to the mould by means of a fibre laser. A final erosion or etching is eliminated.

One of DMG MORI’s biggest competitors Mazak Corporation, introduced its new hybrid multi-tasking technology when it unveiled its new Integrex i-400AM. As a fusion of additive technology and Mazak’s most advanced multi-tasking capabilities, the machine will significantly reduce part cycle times while providing high-efficiency Done-In-One® processing, the company says.

The value of adding a milling process to a laser sintering machine continued with the launch of two other machines. The Matsuura Lumex Avance-25 integrates a fiber laser for sintering layers of metal powder with a high-speed milling process that contours a number of successive layers of sintered material. The milling leaves a surface that is smooth and accurate, requiring no subsequent finishing.


Jacob Harpaz CEO of Iscar and President of the IMC Group


An international press conference was held on the third day of the show and the media were addressed by Yoshimaro Hanaki, Chairman of the Japan Machine Tool Builders’ Association (JMTBA), Shigemi Oikawa, Executive Vice president and CEO of Tokyo Big Sight Inc, Yoji Ishimaru, President of JMTBA and Tomohisa Yamazaki, Chairman of International Committee JMTBA


Mazak Corporation introduced its new hybrid multi-tasking technology when it unveiled its new Integrex i-400AM, which offers a milling process to a laser sintering machine


The international media were treated to a visit to Japan Airlines museum and maintenance workshops

Sodick’s new metal 3D printer, the OPM250L, is a very similar hybrid laser sintering/high-speed milling machine. The new concept introduced by Sodick combines selective laser sintering coupled with traditional machining. The OPM250L “One Process Milling Center” can fabricate tooling inserts with complex internal cooling channels that would be impossible to achieve using traditional fabrication methods.

The tool building process in this 3D printer entails the layering of 10 layers of metal powder, with each layer measuring 50μm, that are individually selectively sintered, followed by conventional machining with spindle speeds up to 45 000 rpm. This regular machining at 0.5-mm intervals means very deep fine detail can be machined into the insert.

Kitamura’s “reverse 3D printing” process does not include 3D printing. The company has developed a directly integrated software program that interfaces between a scanner and the machine control. After scanning a 3D model with the scanner connected to the machine, the software converts the scanned points so the machine can cut the 3D object from solid material. This process is the focus of Kitamura’s XrossCut VMC, which uses two parallel X axes, one moving the spindle and one moving the table. While feeding one of these components in the plus direction and simultaneously feeding the other in the negative direction, cutting rates can exceed 230 mpm in aluminium, plastic or other soft materials.

The future is multi-tasking and accuracy
These developments have highlighted the fact that the future machine tool will be all about offering multi-tasking, multi-function and hybrid operations. Multitasking capability continues to expand the operations it includes and the range of travel for integrated B, Y and other add-on axes. Multi-function mill-turn machining centers and vice versa – milling centers with the possibility of turning are already a standard offered by many major world manufacturers, and those that don’t offer this type of machine better get their planning fast-tracked.

Big machines for big parts were well represented. Wind turbine components, frames for construction equipment, engine casings for power generation and parts for large airliners are still in demand, and more machines are needed to produce them. Builders promoted the rigidity, high torque and thermal stability of these machines. Full five-axis capability was the norm rather than the exception.

Machine features designed to conserve energy were also getting attention. Some of the energy-saving provisions on display included gas-charged cylinders instead of hydraulic systems; axis motors with inverters that allow power regeneration; control systems that automatically turn off electrical devices (pumps, lights, motors) when not needed; and gear boxes in spindle drives that allow smaller motors than those used in direct-drive systems to achieve equivalent speed and torque.

Environmental safety was often bundled with energy efficiency as a key end-user benefit. For example, minimum quantity lubrication (MQL), a technique to deliver a fine mist of coolant precisely aimed at the cutting tool/workpiece interface, was promoted by many exhibitors as an “eco-friendly” practice. One booth showed a new toolholder that served as a self-contained MQL dispenser. It operates without connection to a machine’s built-in coolant delivery system.


The media also visited the Tokyo Skytree, which is a broadcasting, restaurant, and observation tower in Sumida, Tokyo, Japan. It became the tallest structure in Japan in 2010 and reached its full height of 634 metres in March 2011, making it the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest structure in the world after Burj Khalifa (829.8 metres) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Another view of the Tokyo Skytree


When you are looking down from the Tokyo Skytree it gives you a perspective of how tall the structure is


Japan is a first world country that boasts a rich culture and a respectful and friendly population

Another common theme was machine tool automation. “Minimum operator involvement” was the goal for the same reasons it’s getting a lot of attention state-side: Good operators are hard to find, and it’s essential to maximize their contribution to the overall productivity of a machining system. Add-ons or accessories such as robotic part handlers are more likely to be included when new equipment is ordered by Japanese shop managers than not, several exhibitors said. Automation is not an option—it’s a must.

Interestingly, the need for automation is reaching deep into machine design and machining strategy. For example, an HMC from one builder is designed to move the spindle, rather than the worktable, in three axes. This configuration keeps the workpiece still so that it is simpler for a gantry loader/unloader or robotic arm to find it. Likewise, shifting prismatic work to turn-mill machines with bar feeders to take advantage of built-in workhandling/fixturing automation is a popular strategy among shops in Japan.

Japan’s machine tool industry enjoying a strong recovery. At an international press conference held on the third day of the show, the organisers reported that orders collected by Japan’s machine tool industry totaled JPY1.092 trillion (about US$8.7 billion) during January-September 2014, up 35.6% from the same period of last year, including JPY354.28 billion from domestic customers and JPY738.1 billion from international buyers, up 24.8% and 41.5%, respectively. Monthly orders have remained above the JPY120 billion level for seven consecutive months, and those in September alone hit a six-year high of JPY135.5 billion.

Another sign of Japan’s thriving machine tool industry is that overall output value during January-August topped JPY756.2 billion, jumping 30.6% year-on-year (YoY), with JPY684.4 billion generated by NC (numerically controlled) models, up 32.6%. Output of machining centers showed the strongest growth of all machine tools, skyrocketing 60.1% to JPY311.6 billion.

The industry’s overall exports grew to JPY616.7 billion during the eight-month period for a 21.8% YoY growth, partly because of recovering market demand worldwide, and partly because of the persistent weakness of the Japanese yen against the greenback. Exports to East Asia soared by 42.2% YoY to JPY255.4 billion, while those to Europe and North America picked up 12.6% and 8.2%, respectively

Other debut highlights included the DMG MORI NRX 2000 – a completely new two-spindle turning center. The NRX 2000 is the ideal solution for efficient mass production of chuck parts (e.g. for the automotive industry). The company also introduced the NZX 4000, a turning center for the production of long workpieces with large diameters.

Eight world firsts were presented by Okuma. These included 5-axis milling centers MU 5000V, 8000V MU and MU 10000H and multi-tasking lathes Multus U3000 and U4000, which are equipped with a H1-milling spindle with dual function (L/M). The H1 dual function spindle head utilizes Capto C6 tooling and has a heavy-duty 30 HP (intermittent) milling motor spindle.

Okuma has developed the “OSP suite,” a next-generation CNC optimised for monozukuri. With core Okuma “Intelligent Technology,” “suite apps,” and “suite operation,” the OSP suite is a next-generation intelligent CNC that provides Okuma’s Premium Solutions.

Visitors to the Mazak stand were able see 21 highly advanced machine tools in action, including five multi-tasking machines from its Integrex range, two of which made their debuts: the Integrex j-200S and Integrex e-1600V/10S.

A total of seven models featured the new high-performance Mazatrol SmoothX CNC, which is the seventh generation of Mazak’s Mazatrol controls.

Alongside Mazak’s new machining centres and CNC control system, the company unveiled two new hybrid machines. Shown for the first time in Japan were the VTC-530/20 FSW, which incorporates the Airbus Innovation Group-developed DeltaN FS friction-stir welding capability, which enables the machine both to machine and join a range of high performance materials in one platform.

A globally known supplier of CNC grinders and machining centers mainly for use in the automotive industry, JTEKT Corp. presented the newest camshaft production line composed of its GC20Mi CBN camshaft grinder, GL32Mi CBN cylindrical grinder, and gantry loader at the show.

The SNK Group demonstrated the RB-300F 5-Axis bridge type machining center aimed at the automotive industry. This cost-effective machining center employs a high-speed, high-power spindle head to handle both high-speed milling and heavy milling, along with an improved cartridge spindle housing for easy maintenance.

Toshiba Machines unveiled its MPJ-2640M double-column type machining center, which features shortened lead time and a rapid X-axis travel of 15m per minute, as well as high rigidity achieved by an integrated bed and bearing anchor. The MPJ-2640M features a spindle speed up to 6000 rpm, 32% faster attachment changes and 37% faster automatic tool changes. A 3D measurement ‘Direct Scale Tester’ indexing head is also built into the machine tool for profiling of moulds.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries displayed its MVR EX series double-column 5-face milling machine designed for the heavy milling of parts and components for wind turbines and other applications.

Another significant trend noted was reshaping CNC units into large, flat panels with oversized high-definition display screens. New operating systems clearly copy the features and functions of the smartphone. Touchscreen navigation, customisable displays, hot-button shortcuts and easy networking make these CNCs appealing to the “connected” generation of young professionals in manufacturing.

In the EDM field, Mitsubishi Electric’s wire-cut MP4800 unit now employs linear shaft motors rather than ball screws for motion control. This enables faster movement and consumes less energy.


International guests and media were treated to an evening of the Japanese spirit of hospitality and culture


International guests and media were treated to an evening of the Japanese spirit of hospitality and culture


Kagami-biraki is a ceremony performed at celebratory events in which the lid of the sake barrel is broken open by a wooden mallet and the sake is served to everyone present. Kagami refers to the lid of the sake barrel and biraki means “to open” so kagami-biraki literally means “opening the lid.” Because of the lid’s round shape, the kagami is a symbol of harmony. The kagami-biraki, therefore, represents an opening to harmony and good fortune

A glance at the many cutting tool suppliers at JIMTOF finds small tools proliferating. One company showed a 0.01-mm-diameter end mill as a standard item, not as a special, indicating that prices are going down and availability is going up. Another company showed a 0.5-mm drill with a coolant hole in the center for work on diesel engine injection nozzles.

All the big names had stands including Sandvik Coromant, Iscar, TaeguTec, Mitsubishi Materials, Kyocera, Tungaloy, Walter, Nikon, Kennametal, Kitagawa, Zeiss and Renishaw.

The show’s organizers arranged business meetings to boost opportunities for doing business between exhibitors and visitors, helping a great number of buyers to source the products they truly needed. In addition, the 16th IMEC (International Machine Tool Engineers’ Conference) also took place in conjunction with JIMTOF, gathering experts worldwide into the Tokyo Big Sight conference tower to discuss the topic of “Innovation to Create the Future – Advanced Machine Tool Technologies.”

What to expect at JIMTOF 2016? Planners are focusing on substantial new exhibit space to be constructed, currency exchange rates that make a visit more affordable, and more opportunities to sample Japanese culture and cuisine. Of course, the main draw again will be the promise of first-time introductions of technology that point to new directions in manufacturing concepts.