IMTS 2018: Process,Technology and Service Advancements

Advancements in automation and digital manufacturing took center stage during IMTS last week, but developments in additive manufacturing, cutter technology, machining solutions, simulation software, EDM, laser technology and customer service were other hot items.


Facebook Share Icon LinkedIn Share Icon Twitter Share Icon Share by EMail icon Print Icon

In general, 2018 has been a very good year for MoldMaking Technology and mold manufacturing. This was evident by the booth presence of many technology suppliers supporting this niche marketplace as well as the activity levels of mold builders attending the show, who not only investigated new technology and processes but invested in new equipment on the spot.

Recent U.S. Census Bureau data on industrial mold manufacturing (including molds produced, imported and exported) supports this activity. The U.S. Census Bureau projects the U.S mold manufacturing market to be $11 billion, and recent data reports an average growth rate of 4.6 percent over the next five years.

On top of that, the data shows that mold manufacturers spent $119 million on machine tool accessories and cutting tools. This includes IMTS exhibitors like Iscar, Seco Tools, Ingersoll Cutting Tools, Sandvik, Walter, Haimer and the dozens more that offer lines of end mills and other finishing tools.

If we look just at machinery and equipment, the data shows that last year alone, the market invested over $285 million in equipment. IMTS exhibitors such as Hurco, Makino, MC Machinery, Unisig, Sodick, Matsuurra and Tarus are a handful of companies that have recognized the value and size of the market opportunity and have been marketing heavily in MoldMaking Technology for years. This data clearly shows that the mold manufacturing market is an ideal place for machine tool builders to market and sell their milling, drilling and grinding machines as well as EDM equipment.

It was refreshing to see so many IMTS exhibitors developing and refining technology and process solutions for mold builders. They displayed data management software, more powerful design and toolpath software, scanning and reverse engineering software, programming verification tools, additive and subtractive machine tools, deep-hole drilling and milling machines, 3D printing, automated work cells and laser-welding systems.

Data clearly shows that the mold manufacturing market is an ideal place for machine tool builders to market and sell their milling, drilling and grinding machines as well as EDM equipment.





Although I am still reviewing and organizing my notes from IMTS for follow-up in the weeks to come, I did return home with a few immediate takeaways:

Deep-hole drilling and milling machines. This technology has been something that I have noticed over the past year or so, regarding those types of machine tool builders focusing on our niche market. Drilling is ideal for large, close-tolerance precision components, which is common in moldmaking, so I understand the attraction, but the number of suppliers that have connected with MoldMaking Technology is interesting. And, these drilling and milling machines mean deep-hole drilling waterlines, cross-hole drilling, and machining deep pockets at compound angles, on one machine instead of three (a boring machine, a five-axis machine and a deep-hole drilling machine). This has ramped up efficiency.

Data (or Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things, smart manufacturing, digital manufacturing, etc.) . I saw advancements in software, cutting tool, machine tool and inspection/measurement in the way data is captured and used to catch errors and avoid crashes, connect design to the manufacturing workflow, explore design options, increase collaboration, improve real-time decision making and enable employees to move from extensive data-related tasks to more value-added tasks. I also noted an emphasis on cybersecurity issues.

Automation. Fenceless robots and cobots (collaborative robots) were everywhere performing tasks in automated cells to help streamline processes and remove the need for skilled personnel, which remains an industry challenge.

Additive manufacturing. Moldmakers are serious about additive manufacturing when it comes to making conformal-cooled inserts. This is a growing business opportunity (in new molds and retooling projects) for moldmakers equipped with the right technology.

Service. All technology suppliers that I visited mentioned the importance of customer service. Solutions include more upfront involvement with the customer to find and develop the most appropriate solution, additional technical staff to answer the needs of customers remotely or in the field, expanded service centers, customer education events, machine designs that have maintenance in mind and more user-friendly controls.

It was refreshing to see so many IMTS exhibitors developing and refining technology and process solutions for mold builders.


Check out my interview about mold manufacturing with AMT’s Director, International Events & Sponsorship Bill Herman on IMTSTV at IMTS 2018: 


Here are some exhibitors that showcased technology, products and services for mold manufacturing:

  • Takumi USA’s H12 high-speed, high-precision machine was equipped with a metal 3D-printing head that enables subtractive and additive manufacturing on any CNC machine. Mold repair, engineering changes and conformal cooling are top applications for this head.
  • Autodesk’s Fusion 360 is a 3D CAD, CAM and CAE tool that connects a shop’s entire product development process in a single cloud-based platform that works on both Macs and PCs. It creates tool paths, tests fit and motion, performs simulations, creates assemblies, makes photo realistic renderings and animations, quickly iterates on design ideas with sculpting tools and brings design teams together in a hybrid environment on the cloud. 
  • Seco Tools focused on its growing consultancy for educating customers, as well as its use of Machine Metrics and Idem RFID chips. The company also redesigned its Perfomax indexable insert drill for more aggressive drilling parameters as well as improved chip control and evacuation. 
  • Unisig’ s expanded line of deep-hole drilling and machining centers are designed for moldmakers. These machines complement the company’s existing USC-M series of four- to seven-axis deep-hole drilling and machining centers. Four-sided machining capability enables manufacturers to process large and small parts alike in a single setup.
  • Matsuura's Lumex Avance-25 metal laser-sintering hybrid milling machine is for the mold and die market. It fuses laser sintering with high-speed milling technology to create internal geometry into molds, such as 3D cooling channels that increase cooling efficiency and enable high-cycle injection molding.
  • Haimer’ s new geometries for its Power Mill line of solid carbide end mills and the Duo-Lock line of modular milling heads include designs for aluminum and mold steels.
  • Iscar expanded its milling line by introducing a new family of very small-size indexable 90° cutters in a diameter range of 0.315–0.394 inch (8–10 millimeters), carrying triangular inserts. Also, fast-feed milling continues to be a common strategy for rough milling applications, so Iscar showcased its Logiq4Feed indexable line of small- to medium-sized fast-feed milling cutters (Range: 0.500–1.500 inch).  
  • Marposs offered attendees the chance to use augmented reality glasses to guide them through a sequence of steps and measurements to check part features. The company also emphasized its product portfolio beyond inspection and measurement. It highlighted a scalable monitoring solution for protection monitoring, machine monitoring and process monitoring.
  • Tarus was having its challenges with finding and implementing ERP software, so it developed its TPI Shop ERP software, specifically for small- to medium-sized manufacturers.
  • Hurco’ s BX50i and BX60i machines provide accuracy and improved surface-finish capabilities for moldmaking and high-speed machining applications because the machines’ double-column design offers rigidity and thermal stability. 
  • CGS North America Inc.’s Cam-Tool and CG Camtool for SolidWorks is designed for mold and die work. It uses a surface-based CAM-calculation engine to produce accurate NC data for high-accuracy 3D machining.
  • Open Mind Technologies’s HyperMill CAM software offers greater blending capabilities, 3D-optimized roughing and finishing, global fit­ting, rotational abilities for CAD electrode applications and virtual machining simulation.
  • GF Machining Solutions and 3D Systems announced new, integrated, additive and subtractive manufacturing that includes automation and post-processing to provide more efficient, seamless workflows for advanced manufacturing.
  • Vero Software’s Version 2018 R2 of Visi provides a module for reverse engineering, along with improvements for CAD and CAM processes for mold and die.
  • Mitsui Seiki USA’ s Vertex Hybrid G series five-axis vertical machining centerss offer high-speed, lights-out milling and grinding of mold and die components. The machines are capable of 0.0003-inch precision in 3+2 or simultaneous five-axis machining, and the main spindles rotate as fast as 25,000 rpm.
  • Crystallume’s Demon line of cutting tools are useful for moldmaking applications and designed for extended cuts in difficult materials.
  • Makino’s a51nx and a61nx horizontal machining centers give mold shops access to multiple faces of complex molds in a single orientation. Gravity aids the flow of chips from the component, producing longer tool life and better surface finishes. 
  • DMG MORI focused on integrated digitization across all of its machine tools, but of special note were the DMU 75 monoBlock five-axis mill and the debut of its DMU 340 gantry vertical mill for mold work.
  • Alliance Laser SalesID1 fiber laser welding system is for mold repair. The system uses fiber solid state (FSS) laser technology, which generates laser power through a series of diode pumps instead of crystals and mirrors. This removes many of the intri­cate parts found in typical YAG lasers and results in virtually zero maintenance for the user.