Some NewTech for Manufacturing

From machining centers to robots and plenty in between, here is a look at some recent developments in the field.

Horizontal Machining

When we talk with the people from Makino ( about the a81nx horizontal machining center, they make it extremely clear that this is a machine that is designed, engineered and built for applications—large-part machining applications (think blocks and heads)—in the auto industry. (Sure, it has applicability elsewhere, but automotive is something that Makino knows and serves well).

The machine has travels of 35.4, 35.4 and 40.2 in. X, Y, Z, respectively. It has a standard 10,000-rpm spindle. The spindle provides 305 Nm of duty-rated torque and 45kW of extended-duty power (26-kW continuous output). If that’s not enough, there is an optional 8,000-rpm high-torque spindle that provides 553 Nm of duty-rated torque and 37 kW of continuous output.

Roller-type linear motion guides are used to assure stiffness and reliability in high-load situations. The B-axis table is available as either an index or NC type. The index table features a large curvic coupling diameter; the NC rotary table uses a three-roller-type bearing.

The automatic toolchanger (ATC) can be sized from 60 to 299 tools. Tool sizes can be up to 27.2 in. in length and 14 in. in diameter. Chip-to-chip time is 3.7 seconds. The a81nx has a high-speed servo-driven ballscrew on the ATC shutter door that is reliable and fast.

Speaking of doors, the door on the machine is designed for accessibility.  It has an L-shaped design, helping make it easier to get to the spindle. And while it may seem like a small thing, the top of the door is designed such that the operator doesn’t have coolant drip down when the door is opened.


Shop-Floor Measuring

There are shop-floor measuring machines, and then there is the Leitz SIRIO Xi 6.8.8 for Hexagon Metrology ( This horizontal-arm machine features 28 temperature sensors so there is real-time temperature compensation. Consequently, the measuring machine provides process stability at temperatures ranging from 15 to 40°C.

The unit has an integrated rotary table. It features glass scales. Recirculating ballscrews are used on the drives. There is an automatic stylus changer, and up to 24 magazine positions are available.

The SIRIO Xi 6.8.8 is said to be applicable to gear inspection. Also, gear cutting tools (hobs, broaches, shapers, etc.) can be readily and accurately measured by the machine right on the factory floor.


Composite Mills

The use of composites in automotive production is going to inevitably increase as OEMs work toward light weighting vehicles (and realize that as more use the material, the supply will increase to fit the demand, and so one of the likely consequences is that more capacity will be added, and composite vendors will become increasingly competitive, which will have the result of reducing material costs, which will lead to more deployment . . .).

So Seco Tools ( has developed new tools in its Jabro series. These are end mills. The JC840 double-helix end mill can be used to machine laminated material by directing the cutting forces inward on the workpiece, toward the filler material during slotting and side milling. The tool has a Dura Diamond coating that provides a tool life on the order to 8 to 10x longer than uncoated tools. It is available in metric (6 to 12 mm) and inch (0.25 to 0.5 in.) sizes; lengths are approximately two times diameter.  The JC845 solid end mill is engineered to reduce delamination, pressure build-up and heat during slotting and side milling. The tool geometry is designed to create cutting/shearing conditions during composite machining. It, too, has a Dura Diamond coating. Its substrate has 6% cobalt.


Universal Grinder & Laser Measurer

Small to midsize parts internal cylindrical grinding required? The CT960 from Fritz Studer AG (or via United Grinding in the U.S. []) is a machine designed to handle parts made with tool steel, tungsten carbide, ceramic, and glass. It has four spindles and a fully interpolating B-axis. And a measuring probe.

The spindle turret has a direct drive. This means speed and precision. The swivelling time for 90° is < 2 seconds and for 270° < 3 seconds. The angular position of the grinding spindles is infinitely variable from –5° to +30° in all four positions. The B-axis has a direct drive, as well; its workhead has a swivelling range of +61° to -91°. The precision is < 1/10,000°.

And while on the subject of grinding, WALTER (also available via United Grinding) has developed a CNC measuring machine for measuring cutting tools that uses a 3D laser scan of the tools. The scan is then measured against a 3D model of a master, using a newly developed software, 3D Tool Analyzer, which matches the two models. 

New Control Tech

One of the most important parts of any modern machine tool is its controller, especially as workpieces become more complex and cycle times must become ever-more optimized. What’s more, multi-tasking machines can add their own sets of challenges.

So Mazak ( has come up with a new CNC control technology for its equipment and has packaged it in its MAZATROL SmoothX CNC. According to the company, its processing capability is four times faster than its own previous-generation controller, and it claims that it is “the world’s fastest” machine tool control.

There are a variety of functions provided by the SmoothX CNC like Seamless Corner Control, which shortens cycle times by making cutter path adjustments when the cutter is going into a 90° corner. That is, there is a preset radial tolerance uses as  the cutter moves into the corner, thereby eliminating any dwell from the deceleration that is typical during corner cutting. There is Variable Acceleration Control, which maintains optimum acc/dec rates throughout the machining process in multiple axes. There is Intelligent Pocket Milling that maintains both a constant tool engagement angle and cutting loads, which contributes to up to a 35% improvement in cutting times.

Programming time is faster, too, as it allows 3D CAD input. The controller features a 19-in. screen and can be used like a smart tablet. The number of inputs required to create programs has been minimized, but there are simulation capabilities that provide assurance that the programming has been effectively performed.

What’s more, any single control can monitor five additional machines.  And while this isn’t a technical feature, the SmoothX CNC really looks cool, too.


Additive and Subtractive

While there is an increasing number of additive manufacturing (AM) machines that tend to vary in terms of how they build up parts out of plastic or metal, the LASERTEC 65 3D from DMG MORI ( is something else entirely. Yes, it has a 2-kW diode laser that is used to melt metal powder, powder that can be deposited at a rate of up to 2.2 lb/h, which is said to provide a process that is 10x faster than producing parts using a laser and a powder bed. The powder is deposited in layers and forms what is effectively a welded bond. The use of an inert gas prevents oxidation during the additive process. Wall thicknesses of 0.004 to 0.2 in. can be achieved.

But what makes a big difference is that the LASERTEC 65 3D is also a five-axis machining center that comes with a standard 10,000 rpm spindle. So this means that as a given workpiece is being built up, machining can occur between the lasing processes. One benefit is that surfaces can be machined during part build that otherwise may be inaccessible after the part is finished.


Improved integration

Integrated automation is more readily achievable now thanks to Fanuc and Rockwell Automation getting more closely together, or at least their systems getting more plug-and- playable. In this arrangement, Fanuc CNCs, robots and machine tools and Rockwell Automation’s programmable controllers and information systems can be readily integrated. Benefits of the two companies working in close collaboration are simplified architectures, faster startups, improved synchronization between platforms, lower maintenance, improved productivity and transparent data access across the entire connected manufacturing enterprise—and this means going all the way from the factory floor to the managerial offices. Nodes on the network can be widely dispersed, even crossing international boundaries. Yet they also go down to sensor level, indicating how extensive and granular the collaborative undertaking is.