The metalworking industry will continue to be characterised by comprehensive digitalisation in 2022. Industry 4.0″ has long since ceased to be just a buzzword, but is fundamentally changing manufacturing strategies, production processes and also customer relationships. To kick off our blog series on current technological innovations in metal processing, we have focused on CNC machining.
For about two years now, the trend towards 6-axis machining centres has been noticeable in milling technology. By supplementing the “classic” 5-axis machining with an additional rotary plane in the C-axis, not only is the cycle speed increased by up to 75 %, but interesting possibilities also arise in the area of complete machining of workpieces in just one clamping. Since the complexity of the workpieces is also constantly increasing, we expect a significant increase in 6-axis machining centres in the machine parks of CNC manufacturers in 2022.
Operating complex CNC machine tools requires several years of training and in-depth technical knowledge. The CNC manufacturing industry has traditionally always suffered from a shortage of highly qualified cutting machine operators – and the Corona pandemic has exacerbated this negative trend even further. Machine manufacturers have also recognised the “bottleneck of operators” and are countering this with intuitively operable CNC lathes and milling machines. Current machine tools are able to simplify operation through integrated feedback systems and the display of visual prompts so that even less experienced operators can understand the handling of the machine in a short time. Further integrations of new, primarily digitally supported support mechanisms are expected for 2022. Above all, augmented reality, the connection of the real environment with superimposed digital instructions via special glasses, is already being successfully used by some manufacturers in test environments.
The days when a lathe consisted of a machine bed, headstock and tool slide are over. Of course, every lathe in 2022 will still have the tried and tested (and indispensable) components. However, we see a cross-manufacturer trend towards highly flexible modular systems and a modular design that allows each lathe to be adapted exactly to the needs of the respective company. Whether automatic grinding units, tool changing systems or milling towers: manufacturers have recognised the trend towards complete machining of turned parts as well and enable the construction of customised machines according to customer requirements.
The traditional concept of a direct customer-supplier relationship is reaching its limits. The demand for CNC-manufactured workpieces remains high, and at the same time manufacturing companies are reaching their capacity limits. With MaaS – Manufacturing as a Service – free machining capacities can be bundled via portals on the Internet. CNC manufacturers benefit from a continuous flow of orders, whereas customers can distribute orders simply, quickly and securely throughout Germany or even worldwide. Manufacturing as a Service as a concept is already a few years old – but we expect the final breakthrough and widespread acceptance in conventionally oriented industries as well in 2022.
Machine tools are also subject to the necessary trend to use existing resources more sparingly. More and more manufacturers are regulating the energy consumption of lathes and milling machines through intelligent, digitally controlled additional functions – for example, by automatically switching off servo drives that are not currently needed or by adapting the motor power to the cutting tasks. The use of operating and auxiliary materials such as cooling lubricants or oils is also “smartly” controlled and consumption is drastically reduced as a result. The big advantage for users: costs are reduced, and at the same time the company’s internal sustainable orientation of the production concepts is communicated.
In CNC production, the machining tools used play a central role – and account for the decisive competitive advantage. Optimised cutting tools, for example polycrystalline diamond tools or the use of solid carbide tools and adapted geometries of the cutting edges, make it possible to achieve longer tool lives, better cutting values and faster machining strategies.
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