This year’s MACH exhibition got off to a celebrity start with cycling superstar Sir Chris Hoy cutting the ribbon on Monday, 11 April to officially open the biennial manufacturing technology show. And some stands demonstrated a connection with the UK’s cycling Olympian by means of a display of bikes or bike parts. The Engineering Technology Group (ETG, 01926 818418) had a finish machined innovative cycle frame that caught Sir Chris’ eye. The frame was produced by North Bucks Machining on an ETG-supplied Quaser 5-axis machining centre.

Sir Chris Hoy speaks before the ribbon cutting

Another company with a biking theme was tooling company WNT (0114 249 6249), which supplies tools to UK manufacturer Hope Technologies, as well as sponsors Team WNT Elite Ladies cycling team, which ride bikes sporting Hope Technologies’ goods. It also had an Empire VX8 mountain bike on its stand; its tools and workholding are used to produce parts for this, too. And Citizen Machinery UK was, coincidentally, raffling a Hope Technologies mountain bike.

Joining Sir Chris on the podium at the entrance to hall 5 at the NEC, Birmingham, was Bloodhound SSC’s chief engineer, Mark Chapman; the 1,000 mph land speed record challenger vehicle once again had a presence at the show and drew large crowds. Many of the companies exhibiting at MACH 2016 have a connection with the project, supplying technology or services to help the car take shape (http://is.gd/IM5AEK).

But it was show organiser the Manufacturing Technologies Association’s president, Guy Mollart, who underscored the event’s major thrust. “It is a pivotal time for UK manufacturing. The opportunity to transform the sector is huge. Technological change is opening up new frontiers and possibilities. The technology that we have on show in the halls this week is at the leading edge of that change.

“But it is not just the technology that makes MACH what it is, it is the people and their ideas, too. That’s why it is so important to retain an exhibition of this size and scope in the UK, something the MTA is committed to doing. Something else the MTA is committed to is bringing young people into the industry and we can use MACH, as an industry, to do that.” That latter comment was a reflection of the expanded training and education area (see Machinery, April 2016, p14). But with that, the main business of the week commenced.

The MTA reveals that there were some 25,627 visitors to this year’s edition of MACH, representing a 10% increase on 2014’s figure. But it’s not in the numbers; it’s in the business that ultimately flows and for that it is too early say, but anecdotal post-show news has started to drift in.

T W Ward CNC Machinery (0114 276 5411) saw a significant two-machine order placed by Bridgeforth Engineering on the second day. The machines, a Hyundai-Wia KBN 135CL and a Hartford PBM 115A horizontal boring and milling machine to be installed in June, represent a key element in Bridgeforth’s £4 million plan to re-align its business into a single-source supply operation involving materials supply, heat treatment, welding, machining and coating (this began prior to the oil and gas downturn).

Automation was a theme at this year’s MACH, shown here on ETG’s stand

ETG managing director Martin Doyle was also positive, but observes the longer burn nature of such business events. “The nature of these shows necessitates considerable investment, so obviously exhibitors are looking for a payback,” he observes, adding: “While they grab a few headlines, the reality of selling machines off the stand is outweighed by the longer term benefits where new leads and contacts from the show will develop into projects and sales down the line.

“Across Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – by far the busiest days – our sales and demonstration teams were very busy and the quality of leads, in terms of seniority and decision makers, has been excellent.”

Mike Duignan, managing director of Jones & Shipman (0116 201 3000), is also positive: “Levels of interest in the machines were very good. We took two orders off the stand and close on 200 good quality leads, so we really have no complaints.”

XYZ Machine Tools’ managing director, Nigel Atherton, is enthusiastic: “We consider MACH was a roaring success. We have had 23 orders so far, some of which we almost expected, but five were from companies we had never heard of. All in all, a cracking show for XYZ [01823 674200].”

Sawing and storage specialist Kasto (01908 571590) is another happy exhibitor. Says managing director Ernst Wagner: “We are delighted to have secured multiple orders, which are always a bonus, as the priority at trade shows is to plant seeds for future business.”

Says Gewefa’s managing director, Keith Warner: “MACH 2016 for Gewefa UK was a tremendous success. Initially the show started slowly, but by the Tuesday the enquiries were flooding in, exceeding our expectations significantly.” Gewefa (01225 811666) has already signed up for MACH 2018, in fact.

Interactive graphics on this Morgan Rushworth pressbrake proved a draw for MACH visitors

WNT (UK)’s managing director, Tony Pennington, offered this swift, light-hearted but still relevant observation: “The show was fantastic. We had well over 1,000 visitors to the stand by Thursday lunchtime, as we ran out of the 1,000 goodie bags I had ordered – 2,000 for next MACH.”

And HK Technologies’ managing director, Steven Wilcox (01788 577288), adds: “It was worthwhile being here; we are planning to rebook our two stands straight away.”

He said that leads were up 50% versus 2014, while its Mitsubishi MV2400S wire-cut EDM on show was sold. (For more show comment, visit www.machinery.co.uk/118418).

New products are at the heart of any MACH show and Machinery will catch up with many of those in our ‘Launched at MACH’ supplement to be published in June. But for the moment, we’ll note a few developments that we feel are just plain neat.

TECHNOLOGY HIGHLIGHTS

Many of the machine tool developments, although new to the UK or getting their first UK public outing, did receive debuts at last year’s EMO show in October. Technological highlights here included the combined metalcutting and additive manufacturing machines of DMG Mori (0247 651 6120) and Yamazaki Mazak (01905 755755), and particularly the OPM250E unit from Sodick (Sodi-Tech, 024 7651 1677), which saw its official European launch at MACH (it was not shown at EMO).

A trend this show was automation, mostly combined with machining centres. Companies in this camp included: 2D CNC (0844 871 8584); ETG; GF Machining Solutions (024 7653 8666); Hurco Europe (01494 442222); Mills CNC (01926 736736); YMT Technologies (01935 428375); and Yamazaki Mazak. And Fanuc UK’s managing director, Tom Bouchier, emphasised that the company (024 7663 9669) would be promoting an automation message with renewed vigour, once in its new UK headquarters next year where all its technology will be housed together – machines including Robodrills with robots will be an element of that. “We want to be seen as a turnkey supplier,” Bouchier told Machinery. Elsewhere, Schunk (01908 611127) was promoting its Pronto system for automated lathe chuck jaw changing. But it is the less well telegraphed items that tended to catch Machinery’s editors’ eyes.

One of the largest examples is the Morgan Rushworth brand mVision pressbrake from the UK Manufacturing Group (01785 214242). The novel element here is the projection of graphics onto the machine’s top blade, above the tooling, with the operator able to interact with those graphics. Items displayed take in both component and tooling, with both bend sequence and part orientation displayed, as well as aligned with the correct section of tooling for that operation.

Elsewhere, we spotted Aberlink Innovative Metrology’s shopfloor CMM, Xtreme CMM, which sports a hexapod structure – a system that employs six legs to position the probe (01453 884461). In fact, although it has six legs, it is constrained to move in three axes by software – the probe body being maintained in the vertical axis and not tilting, as it would were it a true hexapod. This is an easier system to error map, revealed technical director Marcus Eales – error mapping of aluminium structure CMMs is Aberlink’s forte.

Xtreme has a measuring volume of 425 mm diameter by 200 mm tall, offers 3 micron +L/250 measurement accuracy and Aberlink managing director Gavin Bailey is aiming to reach output of 1,000 units/year within two years.

At under £13,000, Xtreme is a quarter to a third of the price of existing CMMs, so may open up a new market where CMMs were never before used.

In the accessories area, Machine Tool Supplies (01204 840111) unveiled two neat products, both hailing from Italy’s MT and heralded as world novelties.

First, a very unusual approach to achieving high driven tool spindle speeds is achieved. Using a turret’s own driven tool spindle as input (6,000 rpm), the turret-held accessory turns that into electricity and then uses that to drive an electric spindle at 80,000 rpm. Internal grinding is a cited application. Also from MT is a bolt-on, lathe turret-held 1 kW fibre laser profiling attachment.

In accessories again, and from Italy again, the SCM Greenchuck toolholder offered by DC Swiss (0114 293 9013) brings through-tool coolant minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) to any machining centre, thanks to its integrated reservoir and a 1% cutting oil, 99% air mix.

And Emuge Franken (01709 364494) showed a spindle speeder for tapping work. Incorporating a 1:4.4 gearbox, it speeds up tapping and also reduces energy consumption by up to 90%.

Machinery will publish a comprehensive new product launch line-up with its June issue, to serve as a memory jog for those that attended and as a short-form new product development list for those that didn’t, and will pick up on some of these developments in more detail over coming months.

BOX ITEM

Transcending the product message

Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence’s stand had a unified message (01952 681300), explains Brett Green, general manager, director, sales and marketing: “What we’re trying to do here this week is move beyond just the products and the individual technologies. So the strapline on the wall here is ‘quality driving productivity’. That’s the message that we’re trying to convey this week: the sum total of all of these technologies, put together in a unified manner, helps manufacturers drive their productivity. It’s not about absolute measurement, it really is ultimately about getting more production: more efficient production, less waste, less cost; I think what most high-end manufacturers are chasing these days is that productivity angle.

“We start people off on a journey from our CADCAM partners or our CADCAM sister company Vero, into conventional inspection and all the different technologies that we have, and around the corner on our booth is Q-Das, which is our SPC [statistical process control] company. Sensing, thinking and acting; that’s the next strapline in a way. We’re using our technologies to sense and capture data, software to crunch that data and make some decisions based on that data, and then another piece of software to take action, all with the emphasis on quality driving productivity.”

This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of Machinery magazine.