Mazak’s EMO Encore open house is always a popular milestone on the exhibition calendar every two years – but in light of what we’ve all had to endure over the past 18 months, the November 2021 event had special significance as the industry – and indeed the world – slowly recovers from the aftermath of COVID-19. Dave Tudor reports.
As the first major European machine tool show since COVID-19 wreaked havoc across the world, to say there was a lot riding on EMO Milan this year is something of an understatement. The reality was that for exhibitors and visitors alike, no-one could really predict what it would be like. However, while Mazak’s managing director, UK sales division, Alan Mucklow openly admits that there was justifiably some pre-match hesitancy in the Mazak camp, the decision to take a 1,000m² stand in Milan was absolutely the right one.
“On reflection, it was 100% the correct call and there were two main reasons,” he affirms. “Firstly, it sent out the right message – as a leading global technology company, it reinforced our commitment to our customers and suppliers across the world.
“Secondly – and this was an unexpected benefit – it was just fantastic to bring our own people back together and meet up in person for the first time in 18 months. This was such a motivational experience for everyone concerned and it just emphasises the fact that while virtual meetings have their place, there really is no substitute – whether it’s with customers or internal staff – for face-to-face contact.
“And if further justification was needed, we set ourselves a tentative target of 1,000 enquiries during the show and we easily doubled that which, all things considered, was far better than we could have expected. Visitors from the UK were understandably down however, which is why the EMO Encore open house here in Worcester was such an important event for us and our customers. This was evidenced by the high number of pre-show registrations and actual attendance numbers.”
Mazak has never been shy when it comes to developing new products and technology and there was certainly plenty on display at the EMO Encore event. Rewinding a little though, without doubt the standout product for Mazak, certainly over the past couple of years has been the Worcester-developed and manufactured CV5-500 machine which has successfully managed to make a colossal impact in a segment previously inaccessible to Mazak – namely the fiercely competitive 5-axis simultaneous machining entry-level market.
Mazak has a proven pedigree and decades of experience in the 5-axis market with its Variaxis and Integrex machines. Distilling all that knowledge and expertise into a more affordable format was on reflection a natural evolution.
“Since launching the CV5-500 at EMO 2019, we’ve built and sold 200 machines here in Worcester which is fantastic,” Mr Mucklow explains. “It’s a real gamechanger for us because of its inherent affordability and high specification, making it the ideal choice for any company either taking their first steps into 5-axis machining or manufacturers looking to reinforce their existing 5-axis capacity. And we’re here to help customers make the transition – which is why we provide a full week of applications support free of charge.
“The CV5-500 also forced us to totally re-evaluate the way we design and manufacture machines at the Worcester site. It’s a modular build which means less floor time and lower costs, plus they’re standard machines which means less variability. For customers that want extra functionality, we offer performance packages that cover aspects like automation. Essentially, customers only pay for what they need.”
With its high rigidity, compact bridge construction, rapid traverse rates, 12,000rpm (optional 18,000) 18.5kW/119.4Nm spindle and fully supported 500mm trunnion table, the CV5-500’s specification is certainly impressive.
It was also designed from the ground up with automation in mind – which is why at EMO it took centre stage equipped with the new MA-20/400 fully integrated ‘plug-and-play’ part-loading solution – ideal for subcontractors, start-ups and job shops wanting to automate prismatic components in medium to small batch sizes.
This is a side loading arrangement that offers extended production capability through lights out production. No specialist knowledge for either programming or setup is required for the MA, which results in a short learning curve for operators. With the GUI embedded seamlessly into the SmoothX CNC, operating the robot is intuitive. Raw material and finished components are exchanged to and from the machine by a 20kg payload robot with a double gripper hand for simultaneous load and unload to minimise non-cutting time.
The VCE-600: performance and affordability
With the new VCE-600 vertical machining centre, Mazak is taking the CV5-500 philosophy to the next level. This is an entry-level VMC, designed and built in Worcester which, from Mazak’s perspective, breaks new ground in terms of price vs performance. As with the CV5-500, the VCE-600 is designed and built to the exemplary quality standards that Mazak machines are renowned for.
“Despite the VCE-600 being a cost-effective entry-level machine, its structure is actually pretty similar to the much higher priced VCN-700,” Alan Mucklow reveals. “The main differences, to keep costs down, is a slightly lower specification and a brand-new CNC – the SmoothEz which effectively replaces our existing SmoothC control. This has been developed specifically for entry-level machines, features a touchscreen interface and offers programming in two languages – Mazatrol and EIA/ISO for G-code; it’s powerful while being highly intuitive and easy to use.”
Targeted at the subcontract market, the VCE-600 is priced to be ultra-competitive in the marketplace but it cuts no corners in terms of specification. At 1,300mm x 600mm, the table size is generous but the overall footprint (2,938 (H) x 3,126 (W) x 3,143 (D)mm is compact and won’t take up much real estate on the shopfloor. Axis travels are 1,050 x 600 x 60mm (XYZ) offering plenty of space for workpieces and fixturing.
A 12,000rpm/18.5kW/119.4Nm spindle with an electronic two-speed shift provides the power with 36m/minute rapid feed rate on all axes. The machine is equipped with a 24-tool magazine as standard with options available for 30 and 48 tools. The VCE-600 is ergonomic too – a single side-door entry can be operated single-handedly by the operator. Automation options are available.
The VCN-700: dynamic milling with extended Y-axis
The evolution of the new VCN-700 – also Worcester derived – is interesting because it heralds the launch of a new range of VCN VMCs (watch this space – VCN-500, VCN-600 to follow) for Mazak. It sits alongside the existing range of high performance VCN vertical machining centres (the 430 and 530 models) but as Alan Mucklow affirms, a larger Y-axis (700mm) was one of the main drivers behind the development of the machine.
“We’ve known for a while that companies operating in particular industries like mould and die require a larger Y-axis. The existing VCN-430 and 530 machines, while very successful, reach a point with some applications – machining large die-sets for example – where you’d need to consider transferring to a vertical turning centre.
“But some customers prefer a travelling table design rather than a travelling column format and that’s where the VCN-700, with its extended Y-axis capacity, comes in.”
Dynamic milling is where the VCN-700 excels, enabling constant load machining through the combination of high-efficiency CAD/CAM toolpaths, the latest cutting tools, high spindle speeds, optimised feed rates and CNC processing speed.
With its 1,500mm x 700mm table, the VCN-700 offers a large machining envelope with axes travels of (X) 1,300 x (Y) 700 x (Z) 650mm. As standard, it features a newly developed 15,000rpm 22kW highly versatile spindle designed for fast metal removal rates and high-speed finishing. Control is courtesy of Mazak’s SmoothG CNC.
Producing high-performance, cost-competitive machines seems to be high on the priority list at Mazak at the moment. We have the CV5-500 and VCE-600 already mentioned, but what about lathes?
Well Mazak has got you covered with its new range of QTE turning centres. At EMO, the QTE-300 MSY made its debut. This is the latest addition to a range focused on meeting the turning needs of subcontractors who needs high quality machines at a price that won’t break the bank.
Manufactured in Mazak’s Singapore factory, the QTE-300 MSY features a generous swing diameter of 695mm and is a new easy-to-use, high-productivity turning centre equipped with milling capability, a Y-axis (100mm travel) and a second spindle. A 10-inch chuck is included on the main spindle and six-inch variant on the second.
This is a compact machine with plenty of power under the bonnet courtesy of a 4,000rpm, 18.5kW main turning spindle. The machine can handle bar sizes up to 80mm diameter and there’s also a fully contouring C-axis as standard on the main spindle and as an option on the second. Mazak’s brand-new SmoothEz CNC with touchscreen is used throughout the QTE range.
While the new QTE-300 MSY SG made its debut at EMO, Alan Mucklow says the entire QTE range really does include something for everyone: “It’s a range of machines, centred around QTE-100, QTE-200 and QTE-300 product groups with different configurations available,” he comments.
“The base ‘SG’ model is a simple 2-axis turning configuration; the ‘M SG’ machine includes a C-axis for milling; the ‘MY SG’ includes a C-axis and Y-axis for milling; ‘MS SG’ means C-axis for milling and second spindle; and ‘MSY SG’ denotes C-axis and Y-axis for milling and second spindle. It may seem strange talking about simple 2-axis turning centres but this is how many manufacturing companies start and previously we didn’t cover this area of the marketplace.
“The QTE series will ultimately replace our existing QT Compact series,” he adds. “The key for us here is a total focus on price and delivery. From a performance perspective, these are very capable machines, but they’re keenly priced and importantly, we have them in stock at Worcester. Customers don’t want to have to wait months for a 2-axis turning centre. With the QTE range they don’t have to.”
Mazak EMO 2021 360 Tour