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Market Insight

EMO: Machine tool sector amid fears of economic slowdown

October 03, 2019

Syed Mohsin Ali Syed Mohsin Ali Senior Analyst, Manufacturing Technology, IHS Markit

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EMO is the world's leading tradeshow on metalworking technology and takes place every two years in Hannover, Germany. In 2017 the event was visited by roughly 130,000 people over the course of six days and about 8 billion Euro worth of deals were signed. However, this year it won't be the case, as the show opened amid an economic slowdown. The busiest day of the show is traditionally Wednesday but this year there was a drastic fall of roughly 20% in the number of visitors as compared to 2017. Attendees cited political uncertainty, the US-China trade war, a slowdown of the automotive industry and BREXIT as causes of lower attendance and a general cooling down of machine tool demand. The feedback from exhibitors aligns with a preliminary forecast for machine-tool production from IHS Markit’s Q3 update of Machinery Production Market Tracker which forecasts revenues to decline by 2% in 2020.

Digitalization on the rise

Industry 4.0 and digitalization remained the most widely discussed topics at EMO 2019 echoing the motto of the show – “Smart technologies driving tomorrow's production”. Smart systems with cloud-based machine monitoring, open IIoT platforms, augmented reality for machinery maintenance, artificial intelligence, edge and cloud computing remained the center of attention.

In these uncertain times, companies are taking a holistic approach to improve process efficiency through digitalization.  DMG Mori one of the biggest names in the machine tool sector focused on ‘End-to-end digitalization across all processes’ and announced it would provide a DMG Mori connectivity interface with all the new machines free of cost. This interface will connect with ADAMOS, Mindsphere and FANUC field using MQTT, OPC-UA, MTconnect or the newly announced UMATI interface.

Mazak, another well-known company that introduced iSmart Factory back in 2017, exhibited a spindle design terminal that made use of its SMOOTH AI offering to create a component using an existing library where 3D models are stored. This will not only save time and cost but will also make the machining process simpler for the operators.

FANUC showcased the ‘Edge Analysing Unit’ which can be retrofitted to existing machines. This unit performs a synchronous recording of CNC and sensor data making predictive maintenance possible.

Similarly, Okuma exhibited ‘Connect Plan,’ a complete connectivity solution. This solution is company agnostic; the software is openly available and runs on connectivity hardware with TCP/IP based protocols.

UMATI for interoperability 

UMATI, a dedicated communication interface designed for the machine tool industry was one of the leading talking points of EMO 2019. UMATI was born in 2017 from an initiative led by VDW (German Machine Tool Builder's Association) along with 18 partner companies which included machine builders, control manufacturers, and application partners. UMATI is based on OPC UA companion specification making it easy to use. Seventy companies from ten countries networked 110 machines and 28 value-added services at EMO 2019 via the UMATI standard interface. This initiative aims at enabling vendor-agnostic M2M and cloud connectivity so that end-users and machine builders can take advantage of data analytics to improve productivity.

Brace yourself; smart machines are coming

Machine shops in the future that incorporate smart and flexible machines will become a reality, and we saw signs of change at EMO 2019. A small number of autonomous and mobile collaborative robots (cobots) demonstrated the ability to carry tools and parts from machines at the show. Also, many companies - including leading players like FANUC and MAZAK – presented AI-enabled solutions aimed at increasing the efficiency of the machining process. Given the progress that has been made in artificial intelligence, robotics and connectivity, we will start to see fully autonomous, smart and flexible machine shops within the next few years.

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Manufacturing Technology
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