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Lou Kren Lou Kren
Senior Editor

Italian Machine-Tool Makers, U.S. Manufacturers Meet in Chicago

June 16, 2023

Nineteen Italian machine-tool manufacturers with operations and markets in North America presented at Vitruv2023, all stressing efforts to add Industry 4.0 features and related automation to their equipment for laser sheet and tube cutting and bending, rollforming, process and part quality control, and machining.

Vitruv-2023-da-vinciNear the end of the 1400s, Leonardo da Vinci drew The Vitruvian Man, an iconic drawing with accompanying notes that resonates to this day. Sometimes referred to as “Proportions of Man,” the drawing and notes reflect the work of Vitruvius Pollio, a Roman architect and engineer from the 1st Century BCE. The drawing, part work of art and part mathematical diagram, reflects da Vinci’s interest in proportion and his belief in the human body as an analogy for the workings of the universe, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

No wonder that the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) adopted this theme for a June conference held in Chicago, IL, titled Vitruv 2023. The conference drew on da Vinci’s belief that “everything connects to everything else.” Toward this end, Vitruv 2023 brought together academia, Italian machine-tool makers and U.S. manufacturers to highlight technology developments and how these developments can enable successful and sustainable production via the evolution of Industry 4.0 and other advancements.


Italy’s Largest Machine-Tool Export Market

A machine-tool powerhouse, Italy ranks third worldwide in machine-tool exports and in machine-tool consumption, according to statistics compiled by the Economic Studies Department and Business Culture of  UCIMU-Sistemi Per Produrre, the Italian association for manufacturers of machine tools, robots and automation systems. Manufacture of machine tools in Italy increased 14.6 percent over 2021, a stat that grows even more impressive considering that 2021 figures represent an 18-percent increase as compared to 2020.

Vitruv-2023-Barbara-Colombo-UCIMU-Italian-Trade-AgencyThe association forecasts an increase in Italy machine-tool manufacture of 4.3 percent in 2023. And, from January to August of 2022—the latest data available—exports of machine tools to the United States grew by nearly 25 percent, the largest gain among destination markets. Given the numbers above, more than 100 Italian subsidiaries call the U.S. Midwest home, noted Thomas Botzios, consul general of the Consulate General of Italy in Chicago, during his Vitruv 2023 welcoming address. The fact that the United States is the largest overall export market for Italian machine-tool manufacturers signifies the importance of close associations between Italian producers and U.S. manufacturers and the need for events such as Vitruv 2023, according to conference speaker and president of UCIMU-Sistemi Per Produrre, Barbara Colombo. 


Robotic Automation Driving Technology Development and Adoption

Robotic automation, including collaborative robots (cobots) and automated mobile robots (AMRs), was a hot topic at Vitruv 2023. Expect automation to be a major market for manufacturers in the coming years as efforts continue to meet labor-scarcity challenges and ramp-up productivity, offered Peter Eelman, chief experience officer at AMT - The Association For Manufacturing Technology, during his presentation.  In providing an economic outlook, Eelman referenced the “extremely high capacity utilization of machinery in the United States.” As U.S. machine-tool orders in 2023 are down just a little bit, consider that “2022 was the third-best year in history,” Eelman told the assembled, adding that more machines must be built to satisfy demand, and automation as a driver will “get us through the short and shallow recession in the next year.”

The robotic industry worldwide has exhibited phenomenal growth in the last few years, said Dan Kara, vice president of robotics and intelligent systems at WTWH Media. Cobots have driven this growth, along with technologies such as AMRs. Kara cites advances in mobile communications, big data, cloud computing, IoT and machine learning as spurring investment in developing robotic technology and interest by manufacturers hungry for ease-of-use automation. Manufacturing with robotics has advanced far beyond machine tending and processing, he offered, and now provides answers to all types of manufacturing, logistics and other challenges in manufacturing operations. Also in development, Kara said: mobile manipulators that combine cobots and AMRs. Stay tuned for the August 2023 issue of MetalForming where we detail a Fanuc demonstration of mobile manipulators and how they can aid metal formers and fabricators.


Sheet Metal Processing Equipment Aplenty

Nineteen Italian machine-tool manufacturers with operations and markets in North America presented at Vitruv2023, all stressing efforts to add Industry 4.0 features and related automation to their equipment for laser sheet and tube cutting and bending, rollforming, process and part quality control, and machining. Here’s a breakdown of what MetalForming saw and heard from companies that serve the sheet metal forming and fabricating industries:

  • BLM Group USA, Novi, MI, manufactures sheet and tube laser cutting and sawing machines, and CNC bending and end-forming machines. The company, recognizing unique North American needs to further process laser-cut 2D sheets, also provides press brakes only to this market. BLM Group USA has in the works a 63,000-sq.-ft. addition in Novi, to come online this summer. At FABTECH 2023 in Chicago, September 11-14 (booth A1338), the company will showcase its LS7 flat-sheet laser cutting machine, available in laser power to 12-kW and coupled with an automated load/unload system. And, see the June/July MetalForming article that highlights successful installation of a BLM Group laser tube cutting machine, flat-sheet laser cutting machine and all-electric press brake at Superior Structures in Kentucky.  
  • Marposs Corp., Auburn Hills, MI, offers its Brankamp monitoring systems for sheet metal processing (stamping, drawing, coining, piercing, blanking and bending), which detect process disturbances such as rising slugs, feed failures, and punch or die breakage. The systems reportedly provide 100-percent monitoring of each individual stroke, and protect machines and tooling from overloads. At FABTECH (booth D41041), Marposs will demonstrate its process-monitoring solution featuring capability for automated ram-height adjustment in a stamping press. The system automatically compensates for variation in sheet thickness, material hardness, tool and machine temperature, speed, and more during the manufacturing process. 
  • Prima Power North America, Arlington Heights, IL, provides machinery and related automation for 2D and 3D laser cutting, press brake bending and more, including metal additive manufacturing, and reportedly has more than 3000 machines installed in North America. This includes the Laser Genius+ laser cutting machine, developed to cut large and heavy workpieces precisely and at high speeds. Rated to a trajectory speed of 180 m/min. and acceleration of 2.8 g, the machines come in three sizes and with a range of laser powers. Integrated software modules simplify processes, according to company officials, and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms provide advanced monitoring and process control functions. Look for more offerings at FABTECH (booth A2145). 
  • Salvagnini America Inc., Hamilton, OH, offers a large product showroom featuring technologies for sheet metal punching, laser cutting and bending, and related automation. Preaching an approach of automation, intelligence and sustainability, the company incorporates Industry 4.0 features into all of its products. At FABTECH (booth A2138), the company will share its view of the next generation of manufacturing, focusing on increasing operators’ abilities to manage and control machines and systems.  Look for the Salvagnini 6-kW L3 laser cutting machine, and new, compact automation for sheet metal loading and unloading.  Alongside the machine will be the company’s P2 panel bender.  
  • Comau LLC, Southfield, MI, part of the Stellantis automotive group, offers robotic automation—cobots, industrial robots and wearable robotics—for automotive and nonautomotive applications. It employs Industry 4.0 technology across its offerings, from AI-based programming interfaces to perception-based picking systems.
  • Gasparini USA, Woodstock, GA, provides rollforming technology, from single machines to full, turnkey automated systems. The machines and full lines take full advantage of Industry 4.0 technology to enable rapid, high-quality production, according to company officials. Look for Gasparini at FABTECH (booth A5057).
  • Monzesi Inc., Orlando, FL, provides centerless and surface grinders to North America, including fully automated units with pallet-loading, pick-and-place and offloading capabilities. More than 900 machines reportedly are installed in North America. The U.S. headquarters is structured to support all new machine sales, installations, training, service and spare parts, and is equipped to handle complete remanufacturing of the company’s Monza centerless and Viotto double-disc grinding-machine lines.
  • Regg Inspection, Wixom, MI, designs and manufactures modular inspection systems. Machines can be equipped with vision systems, mechanical recess control, 360-deg. profile check, eddy-current crack detection, hardness control and more. These units are capable of inspection speeds to 1200 parts/min.

These companies and more will be exhibiting at Italy’s largest metal machine-tool tradeshow, Lamiera, to be held in Milan May 7-10, 2025. Here’s what MetalForming found last year at Lamiera. MF

Industry-Related Terms: Bending, Blanking, CNC, Coining, Die, Drawing, Forming, LASER, Lines, Piercing, Stroke, Surface, Thickness
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Marposs Corp., Prima Power North America, Inc., Prima Power Laserdyne, LLC, Salvagnini America, Inc., Comau

Technologies: Bending, CNC Punching, Cutting


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