IMTS Must-Sees: Robots, Data Visualization, and Hybrid Manufacturing

Thomas.net – September 10, 2014 – The International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) is fully underway in Chicago, and a few trends have surfaced at the show that will affect the machining business. Here are some of the most notable ones, which ThomasNet News will cover in more detail here in the near future. IMTS began at McCormick Place on Sept. 8 and will conclude on Sept. 13.

Trend No. 1: Data Interpretation

Machinery and equipment suppliers are sounding the need for machine shops to adopt software and tools that collect and translate the huge amounts of data generated by production processes and controls into actionable intelligence. Among the forms with which this trend is crystallizing is real-time views of process conditions in key areas, such as machine utilization and part loading and unloading. One company with a product in this area is Makino, whose MPmax (Machine Productivity Maximizer) software analyzes data in real time and displays results that alert operators to problems.

The software isn’t new — it’s been commercial for three years — but it continues to evolve, says Mark Rentschler, Makino’s marketing manager. At its show booth, Makino presented MPmax results on flat-screen displays with color-coded graphics that tracked how its machines at the show and at its headquarters in Mason, Ohio, were running.

Expect more hardware and software suppliers to release such data tools. Other companies showcasing digital data visualization and capabilities at IMTS include machine tool maker DMG Mori, cutting tool producer Kennametal, and machine networking expert Memex Automation.

Trend No. 2: The Democratization of Automation

I noted this trend last week on ThomasNet News, in reference to the Motion, Drive and Automation North America show that is co-located with IMTS in the East building of McCormick Place. Automation, notably robotics, has been a mainstay of large operations for some time. Recently, automation for smaller companies has intensified, as shops learn about the productivity and quality advantages of robots as well as advances in robotics, such as more intuitive robots, robot arms, and collaborative robots. Most important, the cost and simplicity of robots and automation equipment is now well within reach for smaller manufacturers.

Many booths at IMTS have robots on display, integrated with machine tools and tending work cells. Some feature low-cost systems that are no more difficult to program and run than a smartphone, and which are as effective for most operations as far costlier and higher-tech versions. Simple robots may be a niche now but could become mainstream by the next IMTS in 2016. Some players in this field are Universal Robots and Rethink Robotics.

Trend No. 3: Hybrid “Additive + Subtractive” Manufacturing

Specifically the combination of additive manufacturing (3D printing) and milling is about to take the marketplace by storm. A handful of IMTS exhibitors were spotted on opening day with hybrid machines. These can produce prototypes, tooling, and low-volume parts via additive manufacturing (AM) followed by milling to finish the parts on a single platform.

Hybrid manufacturing may not gain wide use for a while, but it represents a step forward in the ongoing development of AM as a viable production process that complements machining. The consistent mantra being professed at IMTS is that additive manufacturing is not eliminating traditional subtractive manufacturing but is rather ready to be leveraged as a supportive technology and a new revenue generator even by small job shops.

One example that highlights hybrid additive and machining is, in fact, the centerpiece of the advanced manufacturing exhibits at IMTS: the live production of a concept car where AM parts will be finished with milling.

As reported in July here at ThomasNet News, Local Motors of Chandler, Ariz., revealed the electric car concept for urban driving, called the Strati, after holding an open design competition. The participants behind the car project intend for the Strati to be assembled and driven around McCormick Place before the end of the show.

Production of the Strati began on Sept. 7 in the Emerging Technology Center in the North building, using an extrusion-based AM process developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Chad Duty, group leader of deposition science and technology at the government facility, told me on opening day that ORNL modified a laser-cutting machine produced by Cincinnati Inc., of Harrison, Ohio, for the project, replacing the laser with an AM deposition head.

Cincinnati wants to commercialize a line of AM machines. The unit that is building the Strati at IMTS, the initial result of the joint effort between ORNL and Cincinnati, has, in fact, already been sold to resin producer Sabic Innovative Plastics for almost $1 million.

Duty says the machine, called the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) system, has a work area of 2 by 4 by 0.87 m (6.5 by 13.1 by 2.8 ft) and is probably the largest extrusion-based AM system in the world. It is building the Strati’s body, layer by layer, out of 15-to-20-percent carbon fiber-reinforced ABS polymer from Sabic.

One feature of the BAAM is deposition speed. The machine builds parts at a rate of 500 to 1,000 cu-in/hr, Duty says, using about 30 to 50 lb/hr of material. The baseline deposition rate for most AM processes is 1 to 5 cu-in/hr, he notes. Conventional AM materials can be expensive — $50 to $100/lb in some cases. The BAAM model uses standard resin pellets that cost $1 to $5/lb.

A problem that remains to be resolved with BAAM is low resolution; surfaces are not smooth or finely detailed. After the Strati body is built, it will be transferred to a CNC machine for finish milling.

Duty expects the issue of resolution to eventually be resolved. He sees the BAAM system gaining use in the rapid tooling market, among others, for its relative speed and low product cost.

However, most talk at IMTS is centered around the fact that AM is not yet sophisticated enough to produce parts without the need for secondary processing and traditional finishing operations, hence the new breed of hybrid machines. Among other machinery suppliers with hybrid manufacturing machines are DMG Mori and Millennium Machinery.

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On the IMTS show floor with Canada’s Memex Automation

Manufacturing AUTOMATION caught up with Burlington, Ont.’s Memex Automation while at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago. Company president David McPhail gave us a demo of MERLIN, Memex’s manufacturing operations management system. Take a look.

Real-time Enterprise-wide OEE From the Shop Floor

Today’s Medical Developments – September 18, 2014 – Astrix Networks Inc., operating under the trade name Memex Automation Inc., is solving the “last meter of productivity challenge” with new CNC hardware solutions that utilize MTConnect, the open, royalty-free standard that is intended to foster greater interoperability between manufacturing devices and software applications.

For older FANUC-controlled machines that still populate about 50% of CNC machine shop floors, Memex Automation’s new Ax760–MTC is a fully configurable hardware adapter that allows you to communicate with your CNCs utilizing the MTConnect standard. The plug-and-play hardware connects into the main FANUC I/O Link bus to transform FANUC signal into the MTConnect software protocol without disrupting the machine. The result is a machine that can passively detect data, on both the X and Y addresses from 0.0 to 127.7, as well as 16 additional digital inputs, allowing Memex’s MERLIN (Manufacturing Enterprise Real-time Lean Information Network) software to track a large number of data inputs that measure overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) in real-time, enterprise-wide, machine by machine, and other operational machine information.

For any machine, the Ax9150 UMI-MTC is a fully configurable MTConnect hardware adapter that allows you to communicate with your CNC utilizing MTConnect. Rather than buying a new controller, you can enhance your oldest legacy controllers so they can take advantage of today’s MTConnect communication standard and take advantage of MERLIN OEE benefits. In many instances, this can substitute for a machine monitoring retrofit. The Ax9150 UMI-MTC offers simple installation regardless of CNC make, model, or type.

“Increasing the utilization of both legacy and new assets is critical to a modern company and MERLIN makes that happen,” said Dick Morley, who is on the Board of Memex Automation and is known as the “father” of the programmable logic controller (PLC). “Memex Automation is clearly on the road to the future for automation and M2M. Finally, we have a company taking a leadership position.”

To see the full article, please click here.

Memex Generates over 800 Sales Leads from IMTS

Proactive Investors – September 18, 2014 – Memex Automation (CVE:OEE) says it substantially improved its sales pipeline at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) held last week, generating more than 800 sales leads.

IMTS is the largest manufacturing technology trade show in North America. Held every two years, this year’s IMTS attracted 114,147 registrants and 2,035 exhibiting companies from 112 countries.

MERLIN, Memex’s MTConnect hardware and software solution, was featured 11 times by the trade press at IMTS, the company said.

“This was our most successful IMTS ever,” said chief executive officer David McPhail.

“Mazak, the world’s largest machine tool manufacturer, demonstrated MERLIN running live throughout their 800,000 square foot plant in Florence, Kentucky.”

“Hundreds of major manufacturers witnessed a thorough demonstration of MERLIN at both the Mazak and Okuma booths.”

The chief executive also said that many said to him that “if [we] can generate productivity similar to Mazak’s published improvements (+42% utilization, July 28, 2014, Automation.com), then that’s good enough for us.”

MTConnect is the open, royalty-free standard that is intended to foster greater interoperability between manufacturing devices and software applications. It is used with the company’s new CNC hardware adapters, bringing OEE network connectivity from the shop floor to management, no matter the make, model or vintage of machine.

The result is a tool that allows Memex’s Merlin software to track a large number of data inputs that measure OEE [overall equipment effectiveness] in real-time, machine by machine as well as other operational machine information.

The Merlin device monitors production and capacity utilization on the shop floor, improving profitability, reducing waste and ensuring compliance with regulations. It enables customers to address production bottlenecks as they happen, converting idle time back into production and ultimately improving throughput and increasing income from plant operations.

The company’s product was recently described in a case study by Mazak, which said that Merlin-related efforts to reduce downtime yielded a 42 percent improvement in utilization for the monitored machines. In addition, Mazak also reduced operator downtime by 100 hours per month, while 400 hours per month of previously outsourced work was returned to the company.

Memex will also be presenting at the Cantor Fitzgerald Technology Conference, to be held in Toronto on September 23, at the St. Andrew’s Club & Conference Centre.

To see the full article, please click here.

Memex to Present at Cantor Fitzgerald Technology Conference and Generates 800 Sales Leads from the IMTS Conference

Burlington, ON, Canada – September 17, 2014 – Astrix Networks Inc., operating as Memex Automation (TSX-V: OEE) (“Memex” or the “Company”), the global leader of manufacturing M2M productivity solutions, is pleased to announce the Company will present at the Cantor Fitzgerald Technology Conference held at the St. Andrew’s Club & Conference Centre, Toronto, Tuesday September 23, 2014.

Memex substantially improved the Company’s sales pipeline at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) during the week of September 8 – 13, generating more than 800 qualified sales leads.  IMTS is the largest manufacturing technology trade show in North America.  Held every two years, the 30th edition of IMTS attracted 114,147 registrants and 2,035 exhibiting companies from 112 countries. MERLIN, Memex’s MTConnect hardware and software solution, was featured 11 times by the trade press at IMTS.

“This was our most successful IMTS ever,” said David McPhail, CEO.  “Mazak, the world’s largest machine tool manufacturer, demonstrated MERLIN running live throughout their 800,000 square foot plant in Florence, Kentucky.”  Hundreds of major manufacturers witnessed a thorough demonstration of MERLIN at both the Mazak and Okuma booths.  Many said to McPhail that “if it can generate productivity similar to Mazak’s published improvements (+42% utilization, July 28, 2014, Automation.com), then that’s good enough for us”.

About Memex Automation Inc.

Memex Automation (TSX-V:OEE) is the leader of the measurement of Machine to Machine (M2M) productivity solutions and the measurement of Overall Equipment Effectiveness (“OEE”) in real-time. OEE is the measurement of plant-wide capacity utilization. MERLIN (Manufacturing Enterprise Real-time Lean Information Network) generates OEE enterprise-wide, plant by plant, machine by machine. On April 15th PEM awarded the Company the 2014 Plant Engineering & Maintenance Award for Best Company Under 50 Employees. Frost & Sullivan awarded MERLIN its 2013 Technology Innovation Leadership Award.  Microsoft picked MERLIN to be its mid-market ERP machine connectivity solution. Mazak, North America’s largest original equipment manufacturer of machine tools, purchased MERLIN to manage its plant and published in Automation.com a 42% increase in utilization of the monitored production machines.  Okuma America Corporation, a world leader in CNC machine tools, announced in April that Memex Automation became a Partner in THINC. For more information, please visit: www.memex.ca.

Contacts:

Sales:
John Rattray, VP Sales and Marketing
Phone: 905-635-0590
Email: john.rattray@memex.ca

Investors:
Thomas Smeenk, VP Business Development
Phone: (905) 536-3138
E-mail: thomas.smeenk@memex.ca

Press:
Leanne Rattray, Marketing
Phone: 905-635-1540
Email: leanne.rattray@Memex.ca

Neither the TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation services provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

 To see the full release, please click here.