Process automation, additive manufacturing and the rise of electric vehicles are the three core trends that are changing the dimensions of the machine tool industry.
The global machine tool industry is predicted to exceed 120 billion dollars by 2020, according to a report by Technavio. Experts are optimistic about the market but the emergence of certain disruptive technologies may change the future of this sector. Some of the core trends that are altering the dimensions of the current machine tool industry include process automation, additive manufacturing and the rise of electric vehicles.
High quality products with better precision in a shorter period of time can be achieved by automating one’s production processes. The investment in global process automation is expected to reach 120 billion dollars by 2019, according to a report by market analyst, Research and Markets. The surge in this segment is owing to the rise of Computer Numerical Control (CNC) in developed as well as developing economies.
“Computer numerical control (CNC) is the latest trend in the sector. By automating the processes, utilisation of the machines will become better.”, explains P. Ramadas, President of the Indian Machine Tool Manufacturers’ Association (IMTMA). Process automation enables employees to monitor the production process and also carry out timely repairs thus reducing down times and costs.
3D printing has changed the dynamics of the industry and is extensively used in the automobile, defense and medical sectors. Additive manufacturing offers light-weight, cost-effective and quick solutions for concept validation. For instance, Ford Motor Company is producing large-scale one-piece auto parts such as spoilers for prototyping and manufacturing vehicles for the future. A 3D-printed spoiler weighs less than half its cast metal counterpart. Ford also plans to use 3D printing to make larger tooling and fixtures, along with personalized car components.
With several advantages of 3D printing over CNC machining, many believe that it will replace the conventional method of machining. However, experts claim that Additive manufacturing does not and will not replace CNC machining due to the different fabrication nature and purposes the two fabrication methods serve. Instead, 3D printing will work together with CNC machines to deliver productive solutions. Manufacturers have also understood the benefits of this technology and have also merged it into their machines to create ‘hybrid machines’.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are on the rise and every nation is experimenting with innovative ways to get it commercially on the roads. Many would like to opine that with the advent of electric vehicles there would not be many opportunities for the machine tool sector. However, looking at the present scenario, experts believe that there will be a longer transitional period with a high proportion of hybrid vehicles.
Due to the combination of combustion engines and electric motors, the degree of complexity is expected to still require high chip volumes. Apart from this, there will still exist other areas that will require the specialization of machine tools and there is also a growing need for the industry to integrate the latest technologies and come up with smart solutions for the changing market scenario.
In the presence of these trends, the global machine tool industry has to brainstorm and think of innovative new ways to seize the future market.