INTECH North America challenges fabricators
TRUMPF Inc. brought 80 people from 60 companies representing 23 states, Mexico, and Canada to its INTECH North America 2006 in-house "tradeshow" and educational conference, held May 2-4 at its Farmington, Conn., North American headquarters.
In addition to product demonstrations and seminars, the event featured keynote speaker Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., who emphasized the need for American manufacturers to be on the cutting edge of product and process development, in terms of " human capital as well as machinery and equipment." Johnson cited expanding international markets, commitments to R&D, and enforcement of intellectual property rights as fundamental in maintaining growth of the U.S. economy.
"Fifty-four percent of our export growth is with countries with which we have free trade agreements," she said. "Ninety-five percent of our customers are outside our borders. We must have access to the world's customer base If our manufacturing doesn't do well, none of us will do well."
Fabricators also were offered the first glimpse of three new products: the TC 1000 R compact punching machine, an entry-level unit intended to provide a cost-effective option for newcomers to CNC sheet metal punching; the TSC 1 slat cleaner, a portable power tool which can remove slag build-up on the slats of flatsheet laser machines; and ToPs Unfold, software that can "unfold" solid model files to generate bending programs, even with designs that may be missing necessary bending data.
Seminars on automation, customer service, multiaxis laser cutting, software, and laser welding emphasized the theme that investment in innovation is the key to success for fabricators. Presentations focused on educating fabricators on the role advanced technologies should play in their future competitiveness; the impact various levels of automation can have on a fabricator's total cost per part; the potential for laser welding at the job shop level; calculation of total return on investment; maximization of machine uptime; elimination of secondary operations. These concepts were woven into most of the seminars, which sought not only to position the company's equipment as the means to these ends, but also to challenge fabricators to address the success factors in their own businesses.
"It got me thinking about automation, where we are currently doing very little," said one fabricator.
Another fabricator mused about how much he's spending on nitrogen gas in his laser operations after being introduced to the possibility of laser cutting with shop air in certain applications. TRUMPF has devoted considerable efforts to this concept and expects to make significant progress on it in the near future.
INTECH North America ended with a half-day sheet metal laser welding seminar. It covered the basics of laser technology, the advantages and design guidelines for sheet metal laser welding, presentations by two current users of laser welding in job shop operations, and a demonstration of a robotic sheet metal laser welding cell.