Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Mazak demonstrates manufacturing savvy with new modular machine designs, MTConnect adoption

November 1, 2013
By Rob Colman

From October 8-16, Mazak Corporation held its annual Discover Mazak event at its facility in Florence, Ky. More than 2,500 guests toured the company’s factory floor, and had a chance to see 30 machines under power in the Mazak showroom.

To kick off Discover 2013, there was a special pre-event on October 7 focused on the future of manufacturing and promoting careers within the industry. Local-area students and their parents were invited to tour Mazak’s Production-On-Demand manufacturing plant to get an up close look at advanced manufacturing equipment in a real-world scenario.

For manufacturers, the event offered technical seminars and industry-specific metalworking demonstrations together with a wide array of new machine models. Technical seminars encompassed a variety of manufacturing topics and practical solutions presented by industry experts, key Mazak Value Inspired Partner (VIP) companies and other manufacturing suppliers.

The biggest draw, however, was Mazak’s own factory, and the company’s continued investment in and improvement of its three core business structures — the North American Manufacturing Plant, National Technology Center and Center for Multi-Tasking and Manufacturing Excellence, and the North American Parts Center — that are the foundation of its Kentucky campus.


Currently, Mazak is in the process of expanding its manufacturing plant by adding 200,000 square feet of floor space to the Mazak campus. When the expansion is complete in early 2014, the company will be able to produce between 170 and 200 machine tool units per month, depending on product mix. The facility will then encompass 800,000 square feet.

Mazak invited attendees to see some of the new, highly advanced machines that will be key to the plant expansion and will further enhance the company’s Production-On-Demand approach to building machine tools. The new and highly automated Multi-Tasking machines now on the factory floor include an Integrex i-300S with a Fanuc robot, an Integrex i-400, an Integrex i-400S with a Fanuc robot, a Variaxis i-800, and a Quick Turn Nexus 450 MY.

Mazak’s Production-On-Demand is a lean manufacturing approach that gives the company extreme production flexibility to quickly address current market trends while still producing high volumes of machines in a broad product mix. Production-On-Demand also allows Mazak to shorten its production lead times and minimize inventory levels, ensuring that each machine coming off the line incorporates the latest, most innovative technology.  

VCU Series shines light on value of modular design

The company’s new Vertical Center Universal Series is a perfect showcase for the company’s Production-On-Demand approach. With the Series, Mazak takes a simple modular design concept and turns it into a versatile, small-footprint vertical machining center selection with advanced capabilities for cost-effectively handling any small-parts machining requirement.

The series, which consists of the VCU 300, VCU 400 and VCU 500, provides what Mazak considers the ultimate in manufacturing flexibility through 13 different machine configurations, including three- and five-axis versions, various X-axis stroke sizes and pallet changing capabilities.

According to company officials, only Mazak offers such a wide range of machine configurations within one design platform.

National Technology Center and Center for Multi-Tasking and Manufacturing Excellence

Inside the 100,000-square-foot National Technology Center and Center for Multi-Tasking and Manufacturing Excellence, attendees experienced highly advanced machine tools and automation systems in action. With the combination of machines in the National Technology Center and new machines in the Mazak plant, customers saw as many as 40 new machine tool models. Mazak had the machines categorized by industry application, including aerospace, agriculture, construction, energy, medical and transportation.

“With the global marketplace more challenging than ever, manufacturers must stay on top of the latest technology trends, which includes lowering production costs and increasing production efficiency through total manufacturing solutions. We have designed this event to demonstrate new technology of machine tools, software, accessories, tooling and automation, while incorporating opportunities to gain considerable knowledge. This is a technology-driven educational event and not the typical open house events of our industry,” said Brian Papke, president of Mazak Corporation. “In response, we’re putting a stronger emphasis on such solutions by adding even more process capabilities to our machines and making automation more integral to machine functionality.”

Mazak takes next step in efficiency journey with MTConnect

As a first in the machine tool OEM industry, Mazak Corporation is converting its Florence, Ky., manufacturing plant over to the MTConnect open communications protocol. This will allow Mazak to monitor its manufacturing equipment and gather valuable data that will be used to further improve manufacturing operations.

Mazak has been a supporter of MTConnect since its inception, offering all of its machines with MTConnect compatibility. Currently, more than 100 Mazak customers are at various stages of MTConnect integration within their own facilities, involving approximately 300 machines within a wide range of model types.

“MTConnect’s value to our customers is in the ability for them to establish extensive and open channels of communication for plug-and-play interconnectivity between devices,” said Papke. “MTConnect allows software to be universally applied between different types of machine models so that information is readily available for improving machine tool utilization. Using this capability, Mazak is taking another positive step in further increasing the productivity of our North American operations and ensuring the strong competitiveness of our Kentucky manufacturing.”

With MTConnect, Mazak will initially monitor overall equipment efficiency. The company will also use MTConnect for several custom applications unique to its manufacturing operations. These applications include monitoring machine tool spindle sensors for valuable maintenance data, as well as tracking part cycle times to benefit the company’s scheduling department. But most significant, MTConnect working with third-party software, will make it possible for Mazak to incorporate the use of mobile apps as methods for monitoring its manufacturing in real time.

With these apps, Mazak managers and other key personnel will have access to live, real-time data from equipment monitoring dashboards via mobile devices. Additionally, text and/or email alerts and notifications can be received instantaneously when certain manufacturing or equipment issues or conditions arise.

According to Neil Desrosiers, Mazak’s developer of digital solutions, the full improvement potential resulting from MTConnect at the Kentucky plant will be achieved when the measurement data is collected and full potential machine tool utilization is realized in the factory. By the time Discover Mazak 2013 kicked off, most machines in the Kentucky factory could be monitored via iPhones.

“We want to demonstrate to our customers that they, too, can improve their productivity through MTConnect machine monitoring capability. Because when it comes to machine tool performance, you have to measure it before you can improve it,” said Desrosiers.


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