Rising material & oil prices are affecting machine tools industry

  • Industry News
  • May 25,22
Mastercam creates software and services that solve the world’s manufacturing challenges. During an interview with IPF, Vineet Seth, Managing Director – South Asia & Middle East, Mastercam APAC, spoke thoroughly about the impact of declining auto sales & shift towards electric vehicles on the machine tools industry and the ways to mitigate it.
Rising material & oil prices are affecting machine tools industry

Please brief us about Mastercam APAC
Mastercam’s global network of CAM partners give manufacturers an array of options to make production challenges disappear. Our solutions implement the latest technologies developed by tooling, software, and machine tool manufacturers worldwide. Our 5-axis capability and material removal strategies are top-notch. Attention to detail, superior high-quality surface finish makes Mastercam the definitive tool for the production of everything from dies, moulds, jigs, and fixtures to machine tools, cutting tools, hand tools, and gauges.

We offer CAD/CAM software tools for a variety of CNC programming needs, from basic to complex.
Due to our innovative, flexible solutions and top notch network of support, our software is a complete solution from the start of design through to manufacturing.

What are the latest trends in the industry and how is Mastercam APAC focusing on them?
Modern 3D printing and Robotics are relatively newer technologies – as they have undergone several transformations in the past 2-3 decades, to reach their current avatar. 3D printing has existed for a long time now – and was particularly used as a prototyping tool, when it first evolved. Robots on the other hand were an answer to a string of demands by the Automotive industry’s production speed.

The current day popularity of these two technologies is largely due to the reduced cost of implementation of these technologies in mainstream manufacturing and the fact that the application is no longer limited to what it was 30 years ago. Metal 3D printing, conformal cooling, and light weighting are some of the benefits of modern 3D printers and software technology. Robotic machining, linishing, laser cutting and ape laying are some of the newer areas of application of industrial robots & software technology.

We are working with various IIoT platforms, 3D printer & robotic systems OEMs to seamlessly connect our software to this hardware, while ensuring that the user experience remains simple, yet efficient.

What kind of challenges are machine tool makers facing at present?
Machine tool manufacturers are currently under a lot of pressure due to after effects of Covid, such as semiconductor chip shortages, increased raw material prices, supply chain disruption, return of workforce back to the shopfloor, increase in transport costs, amongst others. A number of components that are imported or sourced out now have a longer delivery cycle, causing a delay in the production of newer machine tools.

Further, the shortage of chips as well as non-visibility of delivery timelines of the same is also disrupting production sequence. A large number of skilled workforce that had to go back home during Covid, is still not back in full strength, while the great resignation seems to be affecting key positions in the machine tool industry. On top of this, rising material and oil costs have also added to the troubles and have significantly pushed the pricing of manufacturing and logistics.

What is the impact of declining auto sales & shift towards electric vehicles on the machine tools industry? How can industry mitigate this impact?
The very simple fact that an electric vehicle has lesser moving parts in comparison with a fossil fuel driven vehicle means that the amount of metal cutting or forming operations that are required by the former are far less in comparison with the latter. Engine and engine components are one of the most demanding parts that require discrete manufacturing. A reduction in these types of components will certainly impact the purchase of newer CNC machine tools. The auto sale decline is happening in the passenger segment, which I feel is just a market correction, since maybe the market is gearing up for the car-as-a-service model.

Further, with lesser moving parts in electric vehicles, the focus is likely to shift to user experience, interiors and mass customisation, all of which will require discrete manufacturing.

How is your organisation adopting digitalisation and Industry 4.0?
Digitalisation is the current buzzword as well as the impending future, in a practical sense. We need to understand that everything we are currently doing in the manufacturing domain is largely digital except for the part where we connect everything together. This gap will be filled by “digitalisation” eventually.

In the mechanical domain, there is plenty of room for innovation, considering that there are multiple sub-domains that still need extensive research and development. We are working with leading Industry 4.0 initiatives to enable e-manufacturing solutions. For example, searching for up-to-date, accurate tooling data can be a tedious, time consuming task for CAM programmers.

A myriad of websites, catalogues, and other sources are available for the task, but typically require manual entry methods that may result in data inaccuracies as the NC program takes shape. Every tooling manufacturer offers their own approach to making their product data available. It’s not only up to the user to find out if a tool is in stock, but equally important to ensure that its associated data files are comprehensive enough to get the job done right in the CAM system.

What kind of new opportunities are you looking to tap? What are your growth plans for your company in the coming years?
We are trying to work with newer customers in the aerospace & defence, medical as well as consumer goods industries. These are, according to us, the industries that have great potential in the near future and will give the machine tool industry some growth. We have also put up a renewed focus on skilling. We are working with many industry and government partners to skill the youth of the country in manufacturing knowledge, so that we have qualified and certified manpower availability, for scaling up in the decades to come.

On the technology front, we are bringing in more and more functionality each year, based on customer experiences and feedback. This keeps our customers happy as they virtually get new software each year!

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