Intelligence + Integration = Innovation

Feb. 1, 2004
One OEM's equation for machine tool leadership.

One OEM's equation for machine tool leadership.

The Chiba Campus, opened in October 2003, is Mori Seiki's main manufacturing facility for multi-axis machines.

The NV4000 DCG vertical machining center contains five ballscrews —two on the X-axis, two on the Z-axis, and one on the Y-axis—to reduce vibration without sacrificing speed for accuracy.

The NH4000 DCG —Mori Seiki's newest horizontal machining center —contains a twin-ballscrew drive on the X-axis to reduce vibration.

With over 50 years of manufacturing experience and more than 100,000 machines installed worldwide, Mori Seiki knows something about the global machine tool business. The company's strategic plan for meeting the rapidly changing needs of the manufacturing world has evolved out of its reservoir of experience and know-how. In a word, the strategy is to respond more quickly to changing market demands. This means reducing lead times from order, to production, to shipment and improving service responsiveness.

The company's organization reflects its view of how best to meet global 21st-century machine tool needs. The offerings of its three product areas — machines, software, and applications — are optimized and delivered by a system of four business engines: design and development, manufacturing, sales, and service. The infrastructure supporting these operations consists of five manufacturing plants and 33 technical centers in Japan and 22 technical centers throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia, Mexico, and Brazil. Mori Seiki feels the ability to instantly communicate critical information to any part of the organization is key to satisfying customer needs. This enterprise-wide effort is called "Integrated Digital Manufacturing." Each business engine is integrated on a network using advanced IT technology. Design and development time is minimized by powerful 3- D CAD and CAE programs and digital-development models. The company's five manufacturing centers or "campuses" — Iga No. 1 and No. 2, Nara No. 1 and No.2, and the new Chiba plant— are centrally linked with integrated data acquisition and machining operations. Parts supply, inspection, machine repair, and after-sales response programs are handled over the Internet. Sales and technical-service personnel anywhere in the world have insant access to customer, order, machine, and application data via the company's intranet.

The many faces of R&D
The development of new machining technologies is at the heart of Mori Seiki's goal of "striving to be the world's largest and most respected international manufacturer of lathes, machining centers, and multi-axis turning centers." Consequently, the company has established five research laboratories focused on developing practical solutions to complex demands on machining processes. For example, the High-Precision Machining R&D and Die & Mold Machining R&D labs investigate the many contradictory demands of mass production and small-lot, large-item production. The Fixture R&D lab provides fixtures, as an essential element for high-speed machining, under the umbrella concept of "Total Engineering."

The Technology R&D lab, opened in 2001 at the Nara No. 2 plant, studies basic performance issues such as high-speed and high-precision machining. Developments affect core technologies that are the backbone of machine tools. These core technologies include spindles, guide and feed systems, micro and fine machining, multiaxis machine control, and intelligent machining. Also, problems of vibration and heat affecting machining precision and accuracy are studied in depth. The lab maintains a close liaison with development and manufacturing units and is engaged in information-exchange and joint-research projects with universities and research institutions.

The goal of Mori Seiki's DTL (Digital Technology Laboratory) is to promote manufacturing integration by making machine tools and the production floor more intelligent. From two locations — Sacramento and Nara No. 2 plant, both opened in 2000 — the lab analyzes software, operating systems, and basic machine-tool technologies to reduce labor requirements and delivery times and to improve quality and user support. Using dynamic analysis, DTL engineers check system performance and functionality by using computer simulations involving moving 3D models. Dynamic analysis is a type of Finite Element Method (FEM) analysis that expresses the behavior of structures as equations, examining shape changes through thousands of repeated calculations to numerically simulate structural vibration. These studies enhance predictions of a machine's performance and functionality and reduce the development cycle for new products.

The lab pioneered the development of Computer Aided Production Systems (CAPS) software that effectively networks and manages multiple CNC machines. Another major DTL accomplishment was the development of the Mori Advanced Programming Production System (MAPPS) integrated operating panel with user-friendly operations and screen design for networking machines and making them more intelligent.

Quickly responding with solutions
The Iga plant is the central processing unit for all information gathered from design and development, manufacturing, service, and sales. All activities related to integrated digital manufacturing are conducted over a network based on the Internet. Because information is not specific to any one business engine, but shared among sales, service, design and development, and manufacturing, the company provides customers with fast, direct responses.

In 1996, Mori Seiki began switching from 2D CAD systems to 3D CAD systems in the design and development departments at the Iga plant. The company has achieved its goal of reducing new-model development and testing time and improving productivity. For example, after implementing 3D CAD for a horizontal machining center, the most complex structured of its machines, the company reduced design time by 20%. Data from oscillation, heat, and strength analyses are managed from a centralized database and used for new-product development. The result is less need for testing, resulting in shorter design time.

Mori Seiki is switching from a conventional design process (structural analysis, to prototyping, to detail design, to prototype production, to mass production) to one of concurrent engineering where information is shared in real time between design, analysis, and manufacturing. Work progresses in all areas at the same time resulting in the development of quality products in the shortest time.

Less vibration, better performance
The result of this focus on R&D and advanced design is evident in the latest technology development from Mori Seiki. Called Driven at the Center of Gravity (DCG), the development alleviates the problem of speed-limiting machine vibrations created by moving spindles, tables, and other moving components in places outside their center of gravity. Since it is impossible to insert ballscrews exactly in the center of gravity of moving components, Mori Seiki engineers developed the concept of creating a virtual center of gravity by using two ballscrews. Driving force is applied by the DCG drive at a moving component's center of gravity to reduce vibrations during acceleration and deceleration.

The DCG concept is embodied in Mori Seiki's new NV4000 DCG and NH4000 DCG machining centers. To maximize dynamic response of the N machines, twin ballscrews are only used on axes that can benefit from the arrangement. The company claims the reduction of vibrations due to DCG drive in these machines results in improved dynamic characteristics, faster accelerations, better surface quality, and greater contouring accuracy.

Forward-looking planning has positioned Mori Seiki to enhance its leader-ship position in the machine tool world. With 400 engineers working in R&D, out of a total workforce of 2,500, the company promises to satisfy machining challenges with innovative solutions and to continue to deliver high-quality, accurate, and trouble-free machines that increase customer productivity and effectiveness.

Two Programs In The Works For The U.S.

Dr. Masahiko Mori, Mori Seiki's president and representative director, told AMERICAN MACHINIST during an exclusive interview the company is investigating the feasibility of introducing a leasing program with free machine maintenance and service for all equipment offered in the U.S. The company is considering working with a leasing partner or setting up its own leasing affiliate. In Japan, about 200 machines are currently covered in a similar program introduced two years ago.

Dr. Mori said another program under consideration is a machine-renting program aimed at shops needing equipment for short-term jobs. Typical applications include the semiconductor and automotive industries. Shops could rent equipment from three months to two years. At the end of the rental period, a customer could buy the machine, return it, or initiate a lease contract. Machines returned to Mori Seiki would be refurbished and offered for sale.

Such a program was recently introduced in Japan.

Mori Seiki at a glance

Facility (campus) Operations
No. 1 plant

Main manufacturing facility for production of components and parts. Location of High Precision Machining R&D lab.

Iga No. 2 plant
Machine assembly and precision component production. High Precision Facility adjacent to Iga No. 2 plant.

Nara plant
Production center for small CNC lathes, small machining centers, and tapping machines. Head office location.

Nara No. 2 plant
Production center for parts for CNC lathes, machining centers, and tapping machines. Location of Technology R&D, Fixture R&D, and DTL labs.

Newest facility, opened in 2003; specializes in manufacturing multi-axis machines. Technical Centers Japan: 33, United States: 7, Europe: 7, Asia: 6, Mexico: 1, Brazil: 1