IMTS Aims at Honing the Competitive Edge

Aug. 21, 2008
Manufacturing remains a robust contributor to the U.S. economy despite a general perception that global competition and outsourcing have U.S. OEMs on the run.

According to the Assn. for Manufacturing Technology, based in McLean, Va. (amtonline.org), manufacturing is a significant contributor to GDP, responsible for more than 70% of privatesector R&D, and has increased productivity more than 50% in the past decade — far outpacing the much-vaunted service sector. And manufactured goods make up more than 60% of U.S. exports.

Nonetheless, rising raw material and energy costs are making it tougher to maintain a competitive edge. These concerns are expected to bring more than 90,000 visitors to IMTS — The International Manufacturing Technology Show, slated for Sept. 8-13 in Chicago. According to show organizers more than 15,000 new machine tools, controls, software, and subsystems will be on display, most aiming to help parts-makers improve efficiency and productivity.

Real-time monitoring of cutting action at the tool face is one hot trend. These systems combine rugged sensors and high-speed servocontrols and actuators to measure cutting forces or vibration, and instantly compensate for any irregularities or imbalances.

Researchers at Penn State, part of the show’s Emerging Technology Center, will demonstrate one such machine for grinding more-accurate parts from difficult materials such as hardened stainless steel, silicon, and ceramics. Similarly, a device developed at the Univ. of New Hampshire monitors tool wear, runout, and stability during cutting and estimates part quality on the fly. The wireless sensors workw with commercial toolholders.

Other innovations include magnetic- field-assisted finishing that lets magnetic tools access surfaces hard to reach by conventional machining techniques. According to Univ. of Florida researchers, it produces nanoscale, mirror-finish surfaces on capillary tubes, bent tubing, and other free-form parts. And engineers at Mori Seiki will showcase developments such as rotating turning tools that spin as they cut to evenly cool the tool and distribute wear, extending life.

Presentations at the show will also feature MTConnect, a new open communications standard for connecting machines, devices, and higher-level business systems. And about 20 exhibitors will be linked via Internet and MTConnect with illustrative computer displays offering live demos. For additional information and to register, visit imts.com.

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