Leaving inspired – Machine Tools Africa 2014

Resurrection of stand-alone machine tool exhibition mooted

Local and international companies exhibited their products at Electra Mining 2014 and the popular Machine Tools Africa exhibitors showcased their products in Hall 9.

Electra Mining Africa is ranked as the second largest mining show in the world and it offers both exhibitors and visitors the opportunity to make valuable business connections and a forum for discussing the latest developments, technologies, trends, products and services in the mining, construction, industrial and power generation industries.

The show had a remarkable display of new and emerging technologies that will continue to revolutionise the manufacturing world. These innovations, coupled with traditional equipment, offer solutions to all manufacturers who seek increased productivity and lower cost.

I think it’s impossible to deny that this edition of Machine Tools Africa (not its official name) was the most dynamic and inspiring that I’ve seen in years. Virtually every exhibitor I spoke to was in a positive mood and was pleased with the number of quality visitors and serious enquiries that they now have to follow up.

The technology displayed by the exhibitors – from fibre lasers to 5-axis CNC machines – shows that the industry is willing to compete on the world stage. It was evident in the rapidly growing presence of automation in just about every manufacturing process and the emerging uses of software, data and information for a variety of applications on the factory floor.

However, what was noticeably missing was any equipment in the field of 3-D printing (additive manufacturing). Maybe we are slow to embrace the technology that is a buzz worldwide.

Resurrection of stand-alone machine tool exhibition mooted
During the exhibition it was announced that the MTMA (Machine Tool Merchants Association of Southern Africa) intends to resurrect the stand-alone machine tool exhibition. The MTMA last held an exhibition for its members and other companies associated with the industry in 1997. Held every four years, the exhibition name was derived from the year it was held i.e. Machine Tools 97. The history of the exhibition dates back to the 1970s when it was first held at the Milner Park Showgrounds, Johannesburg before moving to the NASREC Expo Centre.

“The exhibition ceased purely for economical reasons,” said Paul Savides, current Chairman of the MTMA.

“We held the exhibition every four years in February and we always seemed to time it as the economy was on its way down or struggling. This placed a huge burden on exhibitors as the majority would import expensive equipment to display the latest technology available and then could not sell the equipment after the exhibition,” explained Savides.

“Over the last decade we have co-exhibited on the Electra Mining exhibition platform, which takes place every two years, and have been located in Hall 9. But this has now reached saturation in terms of space available. The result is that a number of companies have not been able to book space and we have discussed resurrecting our own exhibition.”

“It is still early days but looking forward we are planning a three year cycle and tentatively we are looking at 2017 to hold the first exhibition, under the auspices of the MTMA.”

Metalworking/Manufacturing technology exhibition with a difference
“Metalworking or manufacturing technology” — as the machine tool industry prefers to be known – is difficult to define as an industrial sector. It involves much more than machine builders and distributors, job shops (machining operations), and component parts producers within larger organisations. Purchases of CNC machines and cutting tools are one indicator of the market’s economics, but how should we evaluate for other critical factors, like purchases of raw material, software and automation, and auxiliary technologies and services.”

“As an industrial sector “metalworking or manufacturing technology” has its hooks into numerous sectors including automotive, aerospace, power generation, rail and transport, mining, high-tech manufacturing and general engineering. Today’s machine shop or fabrication centre includes a number of machines capable of creating a precise, useful workpiece. Modern metalworking processes, though diverse and specialised, can be categorised as forming, cutting, or joining processes and includes cutting, forming, metal removal, tooling, materials, robotics, CAD/CAM, quality assurance, cleaning and finishing, and other plant operations.”

“The plan is to encompass all the relevant industry suppliers, associations/institutes and engineering companies that are associated with the metalworking/manufacturing technologies industry.”

“We are in the early stages of our planning and will make further announcements as we firm up on dates, logistics and costs. We also intend to make the exhibition as international as possible and a venue for the rest of Africa to visit,” said Savides.