Market Report

Metal cutting tools see growth

| Editor: Rosemarie Stahl

An alternative to traditional metal cutting tools is the application of robotic waterjets. The advantage of using water is that it includes no chemicals and it is heat, smoke and dust free.
An alternative to traditional metal cutting tools is the application of robotic waterjets. The advantage of using water is that it includes no chemicals and it is heat, smoke and dust free. (Bild: Pixabay)

Technavio analysts forecast the global metal cutting machine tools market to grow at a CAGR of more than 7% during the forecast period, according to their latest report. The research study covers the present scenario and growth prospects of the global metal cutting machine tools market for 2016–2020.

Moreover the report also lists aerospace and defense, shipbuilding, automotive as the four major end-user segments for the metal cutting machine tools market. “The adoption of robotics and automation in manufacturing, which is termed as the fourth industrial revolution, is taking place on a global scale. Increasing investment in the integration of IT in manufacturing to achieve better quality and precisely cut metal products will help in driving the market,” says lead analyst at Technavio for engineering tools research, Gaurav Mohindru.

Technavio heavy industry analysts highlight the following three factors that are contributing to the growth of the global metal cutting machine tools market: Self-optimised metal cutting, robotic water-jets gaining popularity and an increase in cutting accuracy.

Self-optimised metal cutting

Cutting processes are among the most important technologies used in various industries in the manufacturing of products. These processes consist of 5-axis milling and gun-drilling processes and operations, which are primarily used in industries such as aerospace, automotive and medical technology, where it is very important for the cutting processes to be controllable.

To achieve enhanced controllability, the concept of self-optimisation is transferred to the metal-cutting processes. Control and monitoring strategies are developed for the 5-axis milling and gun-drilling processes. Strategies for detection of disturbances and their consequent compensation by closed control loops ensure process stability. Moreover, to achieve an optimum external target value of the production plant, the planning aspects are integrated into the control loops. For decision making in self-optimisation, the development of new technological models becomes an essential requirement. Thus, the implementation of self-optimisation involves the development of sensor systems, execution of empirical and simulative investigations, and the extraction and transfer of process information into knowledge in machine-readable models. Further tasks involve the cross-linking of single components of the overall system to confirm a consistent data exchange.

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Robotic water-jets gaining popularity

The application of robotic water-jets ranges from cutting, cleaning of a variety of materials and drilling. The whole process is carried out by a jet of water or high-pressure water stream. One of the primary benefits of a robotic water-jet is that there is no use of chemical solvents, and the cutting process can be continuous as the water is recycled and circulated in a loop. The high-precision rate helps to reduce material wastage, and the entire operation is dust, smoke, and heat free.

Robotic water-jet cutting is mainly incorporated into high-precision industries like automotive, aerospace, and other industries that require extensive metalworking. The use of robotic water-jet cutting eliminates the need for double coating. “Robotic water-jet welding is replacing many machining operations such as shearing, milling and punching, sawing, and even processes like plasma and laser cutting for composite components and forged parts,” Mohindru adds.

Increase in cutting accuracy

Over the past decade, the plasma-cutting industry has undergone rapid changes in terms of technology to attain increased accuracy. By incorporating such technology, manufacturers of plasma-cutting machines and associated computerised numerical control (CNC) tools have achieved dramatic improvements in the quality of cut, ease of operation, cost of cutting and cutting speed.

The Windows-based CNC that controls and manipulates the set-up parameters completely, consists of a touch screen that contains all the necessary buttons. This configuration enables the efficient handling of height and motion controls. All the essential parameters needed for the cutting process at any desired power level are embedded in the memory of the control system. The operator just needs to perform the primary functions such as loading the metal plate of the desired type and thickness, placing the torch at the initial position and pressing the start button. All other critical processes that require an expert operator are controlled and managed by the CNC controls, thus eliminating possible errors and improving overall consistency and efficiency.

Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software works in close collaboration with the PC-based CNC control to ensure that all the plasma parameters needed for cutting the parts and materials are set correctly. Currently, advanced versions of CAM software can detect complex profiles of parts and materials to be cut and insert the required unique machine codes automatically. This helps modify the lead-outs, lead-ins, cutting speeds and gas mixtures to increase cut quality. This process also eliminates the other supplementary operations that were previously required in older cutting machinery.

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