Following a four-year break, the EMO trade fair for the metalworking sector will once again be held in Hanover from September 18-23, 2017. “Under the motto of “Connecting systems for intelligent production”, manufacturers of production technology from all over the world will be showing what solutions exist for generating maximised customer benefits from the digitisation and networking of production operations.” A point emphasised by Dr. Wilfried Schäfer, Executive Director at the EMO’s organiser VDW (German Machine Tool Builders’ Association), Frankfurt am Main, Germany, speaking at the EMO press conferences in Chicago on March 9, 2017. At the same time, of course, he added, the aim is also to improve the competitiveness of the machine tool vendors with these new solutions.
As the world’s premier trade fair, the EMO Hannover scores highly in terms of sheer size, internationality and the number of innovations unveiled there. In the middle of February 2017, almost 1,900 firms from 42 different countries had signed up, with round about 160,000 square metres of net exhibition area. The current registration status “is significantly above the comparable figure for the previous event,” explains Schäfer. There are plenty of indications that the EMO Hannover 2017 is heading for a record participation level.
The EMO Hannover is the absolute hot-spot for international experts in the metalworking sector. This is reflected in the visitor figures: in 2013, around 143,000 trade visitors from more than 110 different countries attended the EMO in Hanover. The proportion of visitors from abroad was 42 per cent. No other event for production technology anywhere in the world can record such a high proportion of foreign visitors.
In Hanover, exhibitors meet only trade visitors. These are primarily characterised by high quality and decision-making powers. For example, 80 percent stated in the last visitor survey that they exert an influence on procurement decisions in their companies. The exhibitors’ expectations for after-the-fair business were correspondingly high. In fact, the fourth quarter of 2013 saw a turnaround. Following a fall in international order bookings extending over seven quarters, orders rose again for the first time with an increase of six per cent. “We also class this as an EMO effect,” is VDW expert Schäfer’s verdict.
The EMO Hannover is regarded as an innovation shop window for production technology. In many cases, the manufacturers have scheduled the launch of their new products to coincide with the dates of the EMO, so that they can unveil their new products to an international trade public at the fair. “This is why many trends, such as flexible manufacturing concepts, high-speed machining, the use of linear drives, to name only a few, began their triumphal progress in the production environment at the EMO,” explains Wilfried Schäfer. In 2013, 45 percent of exhibitors stated they had come to the fair with newly developed products to showcase.
The paramount topics of discussion in the international world of production technology are digitisation and networking, as the EMO’s motto communicates. Nonetheless, the essentially classical requirements for machine tools and manufacturing systems are still of huge importance. Mechanical sturdiness, dependable components, reliable machinery control systems, plus intelligent process design and control: these are the foundations for quality, productivity and cost-efficient manufacturing. A broad spectrum of different machines for this purpose will be showcased at the EMO Hannover.
Some of these will be affordable standard machines. Simple machinery concepts with abundant modification options can be supplemented at need by available accessories. Maintenance-friendly standard components in sturdy construction, with easy operator control features offer performative advantages that are frequently requested by customers in price-sensitive markets. For instance, it is possible to create entirely new scenarios for firms engaged in steel construction, in simple mechanical manufacturing or multi-purpose machinery production by simply upgrading a triple-axis machine with a fourth axis that can be linked up at need. Standardised concepts for part and tool clamping, by contrast, can minimise the ancillary costs involved when purchasing a new machine.
Another major grouping subsumes machines for tool and die construction. They offer particular support when it comes to programming complex free surfaces, and can also cope with lengthy part runtimes very largely without an operator. For repairing expensive tools, additional processes from additive manufacturing can be integrated. New customer requirements for specialised haptic surfaces are met by using laser or ultrasonic systems for surface structuring.
Another category in the range of corporate capabilities on show comprises productive multi-purpose and specialised machines for ultra-high-quality requirements in large-series and mass production runs. They integrate numerous automation solutions, from simple pallet change-overs to fully automated storage and handling systems, and ensure favourable unit costs through complete machining and technology integration while providing maximised reproducibility and availability.
The performance features described are linked up to new options of the digital world, in order to optimise the processes at the customers’ plants, and to increase availability or output.
It is here, for instance, that big data come into play, one of the topics that’s being intensively discussed. For special applications in the production environment, the numerous measured and sensor data acquired on the machine’s status have to be liberated from their “data graves”. Detailed analyses extending over large quantities of data contribute towards ensuring early detection of imminent failures, e.g. of main spindles or feed axes, and to predict the moment when maintenance is going to be needed more precisely than had previously been possible. The new approaches being used in predictive maintenance, based on teachable algorithms, extend far beyond classical condition monitoring of individual machines. The statuses of all machines in a manufacturing system are acquired, centrally monitored on a continuous basis, and the requisite action initiated in response to real status data.
Entirely new options are thus also opened up for performing maintenance or service jobs. What is called augmented reality supersedes the traditional maintenance manual. A service technician finds out what to do using a smartphone or a tablet. Here, a software system detects the section of the machine in which the technician is currently located. Online communication with the machine’s control system thus makes it easier to find a fault. Superimposed step-by-step instructions for repair replace elaborate and costly product training courses on the customer’s premises. Even personnel who’ve not been specially trained will then be able to take initial measures for remedying the malfunction.
The EMO’s organisers are confident that the EMO Hannover 2017 will generate important impetus for implementing the much-discussed concept of Industry 4.0 or the Internet of Things (IoT). “In the machine tool, we have long since implemented digitisation,” says Wilfried Schäfer. “Digital images, for example, for simulations have likewise been possible for quite a long time now.” Under the keyword of Industry 4.0, the task now is to network the entire production operation, and indeed the complete added-value chain.
In a consistently networked manufacturing line, flexible production is possible with optimised sequences, so that even rush orders in small batch sizes can be handled. Complete networking of the entire production line with real-time communication and control will create maximised added value for companies when it implements horizontal communication from receipt of the order all the way through to dispatch. Within the added-value chain, moreover, it’s important to network not only the component suppliers, but also the logistical partners and the customers involved, so as to achieve maximised productivity, flexibility and efficiency.
Small and mid-tier firms, in particular, are still finding it difficult to implement a completely automated and networked smart factory, since this entails very substantial investment. So it’s more realistic to move forward to Industry 4.0 in relatively small steps. Numerous detailed innovations create an added value for machinery users and upgrade the competitiveness of the machinery manufacturer concerned.
At the EMO Hannover, very many of these ingenious solutions will be on show. To give some examples:
• New methods for intelligent tool management with direct transfer of tool data to the machine, thus reducing the workload involved in production planning
• Feedback of offline measured data – for a self-regulating optimal process control system for tool grinding
• Sensor and software systems for simpler, control-system-independent machine monitoring – from the component level to the entire factory
• Approaches for mastering data transmission and data security
• Assistance systems for increasing productivity through cooperative networking of machines and ERP systems
• Business platforms for holistic organising of production operations on the basis of real-time data
• Communication environments for transparent, independent, open and simultaneously secure data interchange along the entire added-value chain
• Apps for individually configurable control systems, designed to ensure improved operator-friendliness and expanded connectivity, and much more
“The inventiveness being displayed in the production environment is enormous,” says Wilfried Schäfer of the VDW in conclusion. The EMO Hannover 2017 will provide numerous specific stimuli for the practical use of new solutions meeting every need, under widely varying preconditions.