IMTS: It Doesn't Get Any Bigger Than This

IT was big.

The International Manufacturing Technology Show at Chicago's McCormick Place was so big that officials were still trying to tally the final numbers in mid-November - two months after the show.

They do know that there were 114,675 registrants, including over 16,000 from foreign countries. They do know that it occupied more than 1.4 million square feet of exhibit space - making it larger than the last show in 1998, when it was the largest trade show ever to be held at McCormick Place.

They do expect that when the final numbers are in, they will top those of '98, when sales on the show floor topped $1 billion - over $715,000 for each of the 1,443 exhibitors, or almost $15 million per hour for the entire eight-day run of the show.

It was billed as "The Vital Manufacturing Show," with the world's leading manufacturing industries gathered in an area nearly equal to 24 football fields to display more than $1.1 billion worth of metalworking equipment, materials, accessories, controls, and component parts.

That's big.

Here's a look at some of the new technology that applies to the trailer-manufacturing industry:

The Alpharex AXB 5000 laser cutter from Esab, Florence SC, cuts plate up to 1" thick, 17' wide and nearly unlimited length, with consistent cut quality over the entire working surface. The large plate-size capability increases plate utilization for better productivity and allows single-step production of large parts. "You can make it as long as you want - that's where we shine over `cookie-cutter' lasers, the guys who are cutting 4x8s or 8x20s on smaller beds," said Bob Scripnick, director of machine tool sales. "With this style of laser, if you're cutting a lot of small parts, the larger sheet you use, the better the chances that you'll increase your plate utilization when you're nesting."

Esterline Whitney, Rockford IL, says its Plate LASER 6000 has "more power, speed, and productivity than any other laser equipment," doing the work of two machines - laser cutting for sheet metal and heavy plate. It does high-speed cutting in sheet or plate up to 1 11/44". Its PlateHANDLER automatic load/unload system handles material automatically onto a shuttle table and unloads completed nests, stacking up to 6". It has an open architecture CNC control, direct-drive linear motors, and can position at speeds up to 6,000ipm.

Koike Aronson, Arcade NY, introduced LaserTex 3560 BC6KW, which it called "the world's first true CNC laser-cutting bevel machine." It has a cutting speed of 48ipm, bevel of 0-45 degrees, long rail of up to 164', and wide span of up to 30'. The machine is designed for automated cutting of thick plate, up to 1" mild steel and 1/2" stainless with a 6kw laser. It features "flying optics," with the resonator mounted on the machine bridge, allowing cutting over multiple plates on an extended bed. Common-line cutting reduces plate scrap and cycle time. The bevel option produces clean bevel cuts in multiple planes. The torch operates on the tool center point, providing true CNC beveling, which delivers high accuracy over multiple parts.

The 3015LZP laser cutter from Mitsubishi, Wood Dale IL, features a new 50/42 resonator, with 5,000 watts of peak power and 4,200 watts of continuous power. It has a cross-flow field, limiting laser gas consumption to only two liters per hour, as opposed to 25-100 liters. Bill Baillargeon said that while most lasers take 8-10 seconds to go through 1/2" material, the 3015LZP cuts processing time in half. It has a center-driven, double-nut ball screw that is elevated above the table and a 64-bit control.

The OptoPath FMS laser cutter sorting system from Mazak Nissho Iwai Corp, Schaumburg IL, saves manual labor and lead time. With its 12-axis robotic arms, the OptoPath automatically picks parts from the cut sheet, then sorts and stacks them on pallets, discarding the skeleton. Programming is quick and easy with the Mazak Smart System. In a small footprint, a double-tower FMS adds organized storage for up to 10 stacks of cut sheets.

The Optiflex 230/13 press brake from Pullmax Inc, Elk Grove Village IL, offers a new shape and different approach to usage, performance, and flexibility. The fully redesigned MP-VDT programmable die has been enhanced to accommodate a larger range of die openings and further increase its flexibility by accepting a variety of different die profiles, all of which can be easily installed by the user. "That's a huge benefit," David Cossey said. "I can control the radius on the sheet metal by varying the die in the process. The die opening virtually gives zero setup time." It can now accommodate from 20 gauge through 1/2" material thickness. All speeds for the ram and back gauge have been increased, some by as much as 400%.

The FPB press brake from Finn-Power International, Arlington Heights IL, provides accuracy regardless of eccentricity of loading and machine length. When the tool pair, sheet properties, and product dimensions are specified in the control system, it automatically calculates the optimal ram movement, back gauge position and retraction, bending force, lower dead point, and automatic return stroke. During the movement, linear encoders provide continuous feedback on the actual ram position, which is compared with the command values for stroke depth, speed change point, and return limit. Any deviation from preset values triggers a feedback signal that activates servo values to direct oil flow to the pistons for the corrective ram movement required.

This was the debut of the Geka Hydracrop 110/SD from Comeq Inc, White Marsh MA, a CNC-controlled flat-bar feeding and shearing system. The 19 11/42' roller-bed conveyer has a heavy-plate capacity of 1,320 lb, and the manually adjusted straight guide and guide rollers accommodate widths of flat plate from 1 11/42" to 24". The DC servomotor with linear encoder is interfaced with a drive-roller-indexing flat plate to a positioning tolerance of plus or minus .002" per foot at a maximum feed rate of 700' per minute. Said John Sobczak, "I don't know of any other ironworker that has a CNC feed system."

District sales manager Andy Gourlay shows the TF 2025 tilt-frame band machine from DoAll, Des Plaines IL. It is available in both manual and numerically controlled models and features angle-cutting capabilities of up to 60 degrees in either direction, standard variable vise pressure controls, hydraulic head tilt with digital readout, full-stroke hydraulic clamp cylinders, and PLC operator controls. The NC model is fully programmable for up to 99 jobs with nine sequences per job.

Engineering manager Mike Hayes shows the V-18APC Series II band saw from Hyd-Mech, Woodstock ON. It's a heavy-duty vertical-tilt head frame saw with hydraulically-powered head tilt, guide-arm positioning, vise, and blade-tension functions. European sales manager Ben Fuschino said the machine is geared toward those who use a lot of tubes and I-beams in their trailers because it automates the system, cutting opposing angles in one go-round. "The angles are quite precise," he said. "Our tolerances are better than 1/10 of a degree on beams." The Mitsubishi 500 controller allows the operator to program as many as 99 different jobs, and has the capability to run five jobs consecutively in the job queue.

Making its debut was the Marvel TouchTech 60 Series 2125 saw from Armstrong Blum, Mt Prospect IL. It features a 20"x25" throat capacity, 60-degree mitering in both directions, and a standard three-degree canted column for maximum versatility and high production cutting. It combines an electric-blade drive with sensorless vector control, full-stroke hydraulic vising, and a 48" index table with electronic measuring for increased accuracy and minimal cycle times. The Windows NT-based control has a user-friendly touch-screen interface that allows operators to choose from a variety of preset or custom parameters while moving easily from one function to the next.

The FaBIII 1030 press brake from Amada America Inc, Buena Park CA, features a new PC-based control that allows the operator to implement event sequence with offline programming. The control with touch screen provides for the transfer of tool setup data, bend sequences, and 3D simulation between control and a network server. The data base loaded on control allows for program storage at the machine while network capability allows for storage of unlimited programs. The bar scanner provides immediate retrieval of programs from the network. Innovative one-touch punch holders assure faster tool changeover. "We're taking a lot of the guesswork out of the operating," Bill Chaidez said. "It results in more production time and less setup time."

The Hankwang Koba 3015TC opticut laser from Opticut Lasers Inc, Fort Lauderdale FL, is a hybrid machine that cuts thicker material (11/16") more consistently. The Constant Beam Delivery System (CBDS) always obtains the best beam density and quality, guaranteeing the highest cutting quality. The CBDS on the Y-axis unit moves without any loading along the axis. Cast Y-axis structure reinforces the stability of CBDS. The new design makes frequent beam alignment unnecessary.

Eric Lind works on the KBS 620-DG, a dual-column, miter-cutting band saw with a MS150SC programmable gripper feed from Kaltenbach Inc, Columbus IN. The bandsaw offers a combination of two-way miter-cutting capability and a large cutting envelope, producing miter angles to 30 degrees acute. The frequency-regulated, stepless drive ensures optimum performance on a wide variety of materials. Cutting capacities: widths of 24.4" at 90 degrees, 21.25" at 60 degrees, 16.9" at 45 degrees, and 11.4" at 30 degrees. It can also be used as a pusher, so it's two measuring systems in one.

Brad Kuchenbecker of Scotchman Industries Inc, Philip SD, demonstrates the 70/110, a dual-operator shear cut that has two cylinders and two separate valve systems, so operators can work on each half at the same time. It has a punching capacity of 70 tons, 9" throat depth, angle-shear capacity of 6"x6"x1/2", 24" bar shear with a capacity of 110 tons and four cutting edges, 3"x5"x3/8" rectangle notcher, tool table work area for optional tooling, and adjustable stripper.

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