We kick off this month by underlining that automation is not the prime cause of large-scale unemployment or de-skilling, citing a Policy Studies Institute report, rather it is global over-capacity. This is particularly relevant to the global automotive sector, a major buyer of technology, and the UK industry is midway through a massive investment in modern manufacturing technology that is intended to grow the manufacturing base here.

Indeed, the first magazine issue this month has a special report on the UK automotive sector. One of the four features homes in on the £2 billion that the sector invested the previous year (1989), with Machinery offering more than 10 examples of investment in production machinery at various companies.

Our second issue this month argues that the process of hard turning deserves a ‘harder sell’ and we interview a specialist in the area, the David Richards company, and also reveal a subcontractor that is, unlike many other users, happy to talk about its success with the process. Lack of publicity is certainly one issue in lack of uptake, we suggest.

In news this month, we note that the wait for the Manufacturing Automation Protocol (MAP), an interface/communications standard that allows for connection and communication with and between shopfloor equipment, is finally over: MAP 3.0 is now stable. But MAP itself is to be aligned with open standard communication protocols. It is the start of the journey towards the use of broader standards for shopfloor needs that will end with Ethernet. And we also discover that UK machine networking specialist ERT will be putting on a display at a forthcoming exhibition that supports real-time communication needs. It will employ only an element of MAP; perhaps surprisingly, full-specification MAP does not support real-time requirements.

Elsewhere, the Nottingham Industrial Rotary Forging Club is celebrating its creation following the installation of a 200 tonne Schmid press. Matsuura supplier Beaumont Machine Tools is celebrating, too, because so far this year it has taken £1.5 million in orders for aerofoil blade manufacturing projects. Domestic machine tool maker Beaver Machine Tools is eyeing expansion via a new factory in Norfolk and greater international activities.

Looking backwards rather than forwards and UK machine tool maker Dean Smith & Grace has turned up the oldest still-working example of one of its models in the UK – a 77-year-old 4BH that, having changed hands in 1919, has been with the same user since then, Townsend Hook of Snodland, Kent, a fine paper maker – now Smurfit Kappa.

We also report that cutting tool maker Krupp Widia has opened the world’s first plasma CVD coating facility. Tools so coated perform better in threading, milling and plain grooving of plain carbon to high alloy steels, the company says. And in the UK, gauge and toolmaking output grew 17% in 1989, reveals figures from the International Special Tooling Association.

In features this month, we tell how Anderson Tunnelling had to shift business focus as the market for its mining equipment changed. Having just installed a £1 million flexible manufacturing system that comprised a pallet loaded Scharmann Ecocut horizontal machining centre and which replaced 12 other machine tools, demand for its equipment went from 40 machines/year to a quarter of that. Subcontracting was the solution. In a related feature, we look at software packages to help define tooling requirements and the configuration of production cells and systems. And staying with computers, we also review computerised tool management systems and, related to that, off-line cutting tool presetting.

Other articles cover the benefits of a new solid carbide drill – CDX from Dormer; how Scandinavia is developing its powder metallurgy expertise further; the forthcoming BIEMH machine tool exhibition in Spain; and one of Machinery’s regular subcontracting supplements leads on laser cutting.

Events this month

  • US president George H W Bush and Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev meet and urge Iraq to leave Kuwait
  • Industry minister John Banham warns that most of Britain is now affected by a recession and that there is worse to come
  • Gelindo Bordin sets European marathon record (2:14:02)
  • Supreme Soviet gives approval to switch to free market in Soviet Union; first Pizza Hut opens in Soviet Union
  • Leonard Hutton, cricketer (79 Tests for England, 6,971 runs), dies