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Innovation mandate

By Lauren Duensing

Automation and customization drive cutting-edge tool machinery, says Greg Hoesly, president of Boschert USA

MM 0818 face leadSeptember 2018 - Q: How is the machine tool industry adapting to innovation?

Greg Hoesly: More than ever, the machine tool industry is under tremendous pressure.

Fabricators have more intricate and sophisticated design demands. We are working with exotic materials that require greater force. And we are trying to do it all faster and cheaper—and always with 100 percent spec accuracy. As a result, we are expected to deliver fully automated machines that are more flexible and specialized. Our range of Boschert machines are already incredibly flexible with more than 20 different tooling arrangements and up to five distinct functions on a given machine. But even with that kind of adaptability, more than 50 percent of our flat sheet punching machine projects this year needed some special design due to unique customer requirements.

Q: What is driving this modification?

Hoesly: Automation remains critical to deliver very tight specs and eliminate opportunities for error. At the same time, automation helps to achieve both time and manpower efficiency. The move toward greater customization is driven in large part by the increased sophistication of parts. As parts are refined to meet new production expectations, satisfy regulatory or environmental demands or meet incremental demands for cost efficiency, machine design specs have become more tailored.

Q: Are there specific industries demanding specialized machines and tooling?

Hoesly: It runs the gamut. We are responding to inquiries from the petroleum, food processing and manufacturing, transportation, electrical, computer and telecom industries. One customer needed extreme punching force for making forms up to 0.750-in. high, along with a powerful fiber laser. They had been told by two of the largest global machine builders they could not get such a machine. Boschert had machines that could do one or the other function at the desired extremes but not a single machine. Working with our design team in Germany, we delivered a solution uniquely adapted to this demand.

Q: How is the machine tool industry as a whole responding to these customer requirements?

Hoesly: Some of the bigger machine tool builders aren’t as nimble in meeting these kinds of specialized specs. They can’t as easily adapt their building protocols to produce only one beyond-the-standard machine. But niche or smaller builders have the flexibility to create innovative machines without the expectation to mass produce. They also can collaborate with fabricators who are struggling to get a job done that doesn’t fit a standard mold.

At Boschert, we start with basic designs that are already very flexible. And then we work with our customers to determine what can be adapted. It becomes more difficult to maintain full automation to meet narrow specs and minimize cost, time and handling with multiple layers of extreme specialization in a single machine.

In the earlier case, we started with Boschert’s CombiLaser, which punches, forms, marks and laser cuts. Then, our engineering team increased the punching force capacity from 35 to 50 tons and doubled the laser power from 2kW to 4kW. The result was a completely unique automatic machine that could handle all of the procedures the customer requested.

Q: What do companies need to consider when specifying their tooling requirements?

Hoesly: Understand your customers’ spec expectations and how their parts fit within the larger framework of their project. If companies have extreme requests, they are going to need to work with machine tool builders who are willing to go to extreme measures to modify their standard offerings.

Recently, Boschert requested a tool from a supplier who said it could not be done. Unfazed, our own team created a prototype, and now that tool company is producing them for us. My best recommendation is to seek out machine tool manufacturers willing and able to go beyond their own basic approach.  FFJ

Greg Hoesly is president of Boschert USA, Butler, Wisconsin, the exclusive North American distributor for Boschert sheet metal fabrication machines. Boschert USA also represents Stierli-Bieger horizontal benders, PBT profile benders, AMB Picot plate rolls, and Boschert-Gizelis press brakes and shears.

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