Sector sets another record for production output in 2015
For 2016, the German machine tool industry is cautiously optimistic. “We’re expecting moderate growth of 1 per cent in 2016,” says Dr. Heinz-Jürgen Prokop, Chairman of the VDW (German Machine Tool Builders’ Association), speaking at the organisation’s annual press conference in Frankfurt am Main.
This prognosis is based on capital investment from the major customer sectors, global figures for machine tool consumption, and finally the order bookings at Germany’s machine tool manufacturers.
For the investments, Oxford Economics, the VDW’s forecasting partner, was in the autumn of last year expecting a global increase of 4 per cent. The principal drivers are traditionally the automotive industry, followed by the electrical engineering and electronics industries, metal product manufacturers, and the mechanical engineering sector. Machine tool consumption is predicted to rise by 4.2 per cent. Europe tops the rankings here (plus 4.6 per cent), closely followed by Asia (plus 4.5 per cent) and America (plus 2.5 per cent).
Order bookings at German machine tool manufacturers, an indicator for medium-term business activity, showed a moderate rise of 1 per cent in 2015, to reach 14.9 billion euros. Production output and order bookings are thus settling at approximately the same level.
During the first three quarters of 2015 Asia and Europe ordered 4 and 3 per cent more German machine tools respectively than in the previous year. Orders from China, which account for around a quarter of the total, were down again, this time by 8 per cent. This shows that the restructuring process in the Middle Kingdom will remain an issue for quite a long time to come. Nonetheless China remains important due to the sheer size of its market alone – the country is responsible for one-third of international machine tool consumption.
In 2015, the sector produced machines worth 15.1 billion euros
The VDW’S prognosis is based on the record year of 2015. Last year, the German machine tool industry produced machines worth 15.1 billion euros, corresponding to an increase of 4 per cent. “That’s once again a record figure, following the last high in 2013,” explains Dr. Prokop.
With an export ratio of around 70 per cent, and exports up by 4 per cent to around 9.4 billion euros, markets abroad made a somewhat greater contribution to the overall result than domestic consumption. Contrary to all expectations, Europe did particularly well, with a plus of 8 per cent.
Asia, by contrast, a few years ago on almost level pegging with Europe, disappointed with a fall in exports of 5 per cent. China, the largest market with a share of still over one-fifth, has been severely affected.
In 2015, the sector’s workforce increased by an annual average of 1.5 per cent to around 68,500 employees. Capacity utilisation was running at an annual average of just over 88 per cent, which was about 2 per cent down on the preceding year’s level. The current figure in January, however, shows a renewed uptrend. The order backlog, at 6.8 months, was averaging half a month below the preceding year’s figure.
“Overall, these figures show the sector has once again performed very well. Some of our member companies have reported the best year in the firm’s history,” is Dr. Prokop’s comment on the figures for 2015.
Global business is getting progressively harder
“Nonetheless, the business environment for our operations has become more difficult, and our options for exerting a direct influence are limited,” says Prokop. The newly industrialising countries, in particular, are under pressure, due to the low prices for raw materials, Russia is suffering from the weak rouble and the low oil price, Brazil is mired in a serious recession, while China, with its faltering growth is weakening the most important trading partners. Then there are the numerous geopolitical uncertainties. “So it’s all the more important for our companies, in time of transformative global change, to be on the lookout for new long-term market potentials,” says Dr. Prokop. This applies both to new sales markets, and to new products and services from the manufacturers.
Market potentials for German machine tool manufacturers
Iran, currently on everyone’s lips, offers potentials for German manufactures as well. In the boom times of the early 1990s, they exported machines worth almost 190 million euros. The figure for last year, by contrast, was a mere 20 million euros. The country’s machine tool consumption is expected to increase rapidly from its most recent 82 million. In particular, German vendors are anticipating good sales opportunities thanks to a very substantial demand for modernization among equipment suppliers for the oil and gas industries, and in the automaking segment. In order to reconnect with the traditionally good relationships with Iranian customers, VDW is joining forces with Messe Stuttgart to host the AMB Iran, a trade fair with an accompanying symposium, in Teheran from 30 May to 1 June 2016.
Mexico is also regarded as an exciting high-growth market, driven predominantly by the automotive and aviation industries Mexico’s machine tool consumption rose by an impressive 85 per cent between 2010 and 2014. With 1.5 billion euros, the country nowadays ranks among the world’s biggest markets for machine tools. Germany is the third-biggest supplier, with a share of 14 per cent. German exports have since 2011 climbed by more than 250 per cent. In mid-April 2016, on the initiative of the VDW and with political support, there will be a German exhibition called “German High-Tech in Metal Working” under the aegis of the Expomaq trade fair in León.
Another promising region is the ASEAN bloc, whose countries represent a market volume of 3.9 billion euros. The Japanese have so far been dominating the market, not least because the Japanese automotive industry has a strong local presence. Japan supplies around half of the machine tools imported, Germany a mere 4 per cent. Nonetheless, German exports to the region have risen substantially in the past few years, and most recently totalled more than 150 million euros. “So greater involvement will be well worth while,” opines VDW Chairman Dr. Prokop.
Upgrading competitive advantage with new technologies
“If you want to continue prospering in the face of international competition, it’s increasingly imperative to offer solutions that others cannot emulate,” adds Heinz-Jürgen Prokop. Keyword Industry 4.0: it’s becoming progressively more difficult to attain major competitive advantages in terms of machine technology. For this reason, machine tool manufacturers are well advised to broaden their viewpoints and to think in terms of holistic production solutions. If these are to be consistently adopted throughout a system, this demands profound knowledge of the process concerned in the context of what are sometimes highly disparate customer’s requirements. “No one knows these worlds better than we do, and this is our great opportunity,” is Dr. Prokop’s firm conviction.
Another issue with a definite future is additive manufacturing. It enriches the range of existing conventional metalworking processes by enabling customised or complex components to be produced, for example. More and more manufacturers are accordingly examining the idea of hybrid machines, which combine conventional machining processes with additive manufacturing. Nonetheless, their use is viable only if it creates an additional benefit for the customers that justifies the higher production costs involved. “In the case of customised or complex components or in small series, this is easy to implement; in medium or large series and mass production, there’s still quite a lot left to do in order to achieve competitive unit costs,” admits the VDW’s Chairman.
125 years of success for the German machine tool industry – 125 years of the VDW
All in all, the German machine tool industry is in excellent shape. It is doing intensive work in the fields that it can influence itself, so as to successfully compete with its international counterparts. The majority of companies are taking globalisation on board and are operating all over the world. They are training young people, researching and developing new products, integrating new technologies, and expanding their spectrum of service capabilities. “If they succeed, they will maintain their international competitive lead,” is Dr. Prokop’s firm conviction.
The machine tool industry has since way over 100 years been demonstrating that it can repeatedly re-invent itself, has met and mastered numerous challenges, and never failed to upgrade its leading position in the world. This is equally true for the VDW, which in 2016 is celebrating its 125th anniversary. Over all these years, the association has provided backing and proactive support for the sector.
“Against this background, it’s all the more important to be properly prepared to identify and maintain a shared course, and never lose sight of the shared goal. What we’re relying on here is tradition and experience. What’s also essential is flexibility and creativity if you want to continue being successful even under altered situational conditions,” to quote Dr. Prokop.
ZEISS unveils a new platform for fast and gentle 3D super-resolution microscopy
ZEISS is introducing ZEISS Elyra 7 with Lattice SIM, a new flexible platform for fast and gentle 3D super-resolution. Lattice SIM expands the possibilities of structured illumination microscopy (SIM): illuminating the sample with a lattice pattern rather than grid lines gives higher contrast and allows a more robust image reconstruction.
Scientists can use 2x higher sampling efficiency to lower the illumination dosage to observe fast cellular processes in super-resolution. High image quality is maintained even at high frame rates.
Fast and gentle super-resolution imaging with Lattice SIM
Lattice SIM enables fast imaging of 3D volumes with up to 120 nm laterally. Thanks to greater light efficiency, the new Lattice SIM technology provides scientists with gentle super-resolution imaging of living specimens with 255 frames per second.
Using less light to illuminate the specimen means scientists can image longer with less bleaching of the sample. The novel Lattice SIM technology allows new mechanistic details to be uncovered and the finest sub-cellular structures in large fields of view to be quantified.
Optimized localization microscopy with SMLM
ZEISS Elyra 7 can be expanded with single molecule localization microscopy (SMLM) for techniques such as PALM, dSTORM, and PAINT. ZEISS Elyra 7’s SMLM module delivers molecular resolution in large 3D volumes and powerful post-processing algorithms for quantification.
Researchers choose freely among labels when imaging with resolutions down to 20 nm laterally. SMLM provides access to molecular mechanisms in both fixed and living specimens. Researchers can count molecules and come to understand, molecule-by-molecule, how individual proteins are arranged within a structural context.
Fast optical sectioning with the new Apotome mode
ZEISS Elyra 7 is highly flexible: users profit from the wealth of options of a research grade, live cell microscope from ZEISS. They can expand their ZEISS Elyra 7 with various contrasting techniques and combine them with optical sectioning. The new Apotome mode allows fast optical sectioning of 3D samples. ZEISS Elyra 7 also works seamlessly with ZEISS SEMs in a correlative workflow.
New perspectives for life sciences research
Life sciences research often requires you to measure, quantify, and understand the finest details and sub-cellular structures of the sample. Scientists may be working with tissue, bacteria, organoids, neurons, living or fixed cells and many different labels.
ZEISS Elyra 7 takes them beyond the diffraction limit of conventional microscopy to image samples with super-resolution. Researchers now examine the fastest processes in living samples – in large fields of view, in 3D, over long time periods, and with multiple colors.
LoRa-enabled IoT solutions connect industrial equipment to cloud
Semtech (www.semtech.com) announced that EasyReach Solutions, an Indian startup specializing in smart IoT solutions for industrial applications, has incorporated Semtech’s LoRa® devices and wireless radio frequency technology (LoRa Technology) into its industrial and smart vehicle monitoring products.
“Semtech’s LoRa Technology allows us to remotely monitor our equipment and vehicles in ways never before thought possible,” said Amol Vedak, Founder and Director at EasyReach. “LoRa provides us the means to more intelligently manage our industrial resources, and the proven, flexible capabilities of the sensors allow the solution to scale to our needs.”
EasyReach’s LoRa-enabled sensors have been developed to include electrical current testing, temperature reading and GPS capabilities. All sensors are compatible with the LoRaWAN™ protocol and have been verified for GPS tracking ability over eight kilometers line of sight. EasyReach’s LoRa-based applications for smart industry include sensors for steam traps, concrete mixers, forklifts, diesel tankers, back hoes, water meters, and trucks. EasyReach has over 600 deployments to date, saving customers money through more efficient industrial management after implementation.
“The benefits of integrating Semtech’s LoRa Technology in industrial asset management solutions go beyond simply providing location information, as supply chain and industrial management companies are looking to more efficiently monitor their equipment health and predict maintenance,” said Vivek Mohan, Director of IoT, Wireless and Sensing Products at Semtech. “LoRa Technology is the ideal choice for low power asset management as the technology enables solutions that are scalable, proven and easy to implement into existing infrastructure and equipment.”
TSN; A Milestone for Industry
The proven communications standard Ethernet has been optimized through the addition of quality-of-service mechanisms. Various new IEEE standards will enable Ethernet to reliably transmit several protocols (including real-time-capable ones) in parallel within predefined maximum time limits. Industrial users and car manufacturer are already getting ready to employ it.
The steel arms move perfectly in step with one another and wave their grippers at the viewer. Not even the minutest delay is noticeable when the two industrial robots perform their graceful machine ballet. This perfect coordination is due to a technology that is currently ushering in a new era of industrial communication: Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN).
For the past 40 years or so, Ethernet has been the undisputed leader when it comes to the transmission of digital data through cables. Siemens has been there from the very beginning and even launched the first Industrial Ethernet network on the market: SINEC H1. As a result, Ethernet was not only used in offices but also, in particular, in industrial manufacturing. However, the standard had a problem from the very start – it could not guarantee that the data packets transmitted by the sender would arrive at the recipient within a certain amount of time. This is an unacceptable situation for industrial controllers – after all, sensor measurements and control signals musn’t take too long to arrive at their destination if a machine is to operate reliably. They need real-time communication within milliseconds – a task for which Ethernet was not originally conceived.
That’s why users who want real-time communication via Ethernet need to employ technological extensions such as the widespread Profinet standard. In machines, for example, this standard connects sensors, actuators, and drives to the central controller by adding real-time data transfer capabilities to Ethernet, enabling applications up to and including the precise control of servo drives. “However, to do that you generally need special hardware components inside the connected devices,” explains Matthias Gärtner, Head of System Management at the Simatic Controller unit of Siemens. “Moreover, the various real-time Industrial Ethernet solutions cannot be run in parallel on the same Ethernet network.”
TSN will enable all data – including real-time information – to be transmitted through a single network in effect simultaneously.
This problem will soon be a thing of the past, because the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which is responsible for standardizing various systems, has extended Ethernet by adding the urgently needed mechanisms for real-time communication. These include time-controlled transmission, synchronization, and bandwidth reservation. In this way, the IEEE is improving the quality of service by means of TSN. This will enable Ethernet to supply the same time information to all of the connected devices that support these extended standards. As a result, the entire network will be precisely synchronized. In addition, reservation protocols ensure that the data packets are transmitted from the sender to the destination via all the intervening switches according to a predefined timetable. The TSN standards also take into account the topology of the network in question – i.e. whether the network is arranged in the form of a star, a ring, or a line and the number of switches between the sender and the recipient. Moreover, the standards also include seamless redundancy processes.
A Single Network for All Data
“It’s a historic moment for Ethernet,” says Gärtner. “In the future, it will be possible to use standard hardware components for Profinet and other real-time industrial communication protocols that are based on TSN. This will enable all data – including real-time information – to be transmitted through a single network in effect simultaneously.” Users will automatically benefit from the steadily increasing bandwidth of standard Ethernet, which will be needed more and more as a result of the increasing IP connectivity of the automation systems. It will also make communication more robust because the switching resources in the TSN switches are firmly reserved for the requested real-time communication needs so that information can no longer be lost due to buffer overflows, for example.
In addition to a rising demand for real-time-capable communication in machines via Profinet, there is also a growing demand for deterministic (i.e. predetermined) data exchange between different machines. Examples include cooperative robots that simultaneously work on the same work piece and so need to precisely coordinate their movements with one another. The OPC UA standard with the PubSub (Publish/Subscribe) extension has now established itself in this area. It can also employ Ethernet with TSN as its transmission medium. “I expect Ethernet with TSN to be introduced into the entire industrial manufacturing process,” says Gärtner. “But that’s not all. Car manufacturer also want to use the new standard to transmit the large amounts of data from reversing cameras within vehicles, for example, or to make autonomous driving possible, which won’t be achievable without onboard networks that incorporate quality-of-service mechanisms.” The time for this has now come. The first TSN components are now being launched on the market and Siemens will use actual TSN products to demonstrate deterministic machine-to-machine communication over OPC UA PubSub at Hannover Messe 2018. These products will be purchasable at the end of the year, when Ethernet with TSN will have finally arrived in the modern world of digitalization and “Industrie 4.0”.
more info at http://www.siemens.com/tsn
Interview about TSN: “Ideally Prepared for the Future”
Siemens is one of the driving forces behind the development of Ethernet with TSN. Sven Gottwald, Head of System and Vertical Management for Industrial Communication and Identification, explains how the application of the new standard benefits users.
Why is Ethernet with TSN such an important development?
Because it means that we no longer need different Industrial Ethernet solutions for deterministic communication in industry. In the future, they will all run on the widely used Ethernet with TSN and can do so in parallel without restrictions. This includes Profinet, OPC UA PubSub, and all other TCP/IP-based protocols. This convergence is a huge benefit for industrial users, because it enables all types of data to be transmitted through a single physical network in which time-sensitive information always has precedence so that it reliably arrives on time. That’s precisely what companies need in order to fully exploit the potential of digitalization and “Industrie 4.0”.
How does Ethernet with TSN regulate the “timetable” for the data?
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which is responsible for the standardization, provides two options for this: It’s either done by a central unit or the connected devices negotiate it among themselves. As a member of the “Labs Network Industrie 4.0” (LNI4.0) testbed, Siemens prefers the second option because the use of a central unit requires extensive reconfiguration every time a change occurs in the network. However, if the system configures itself, it’s easy to integrate new devices. That’s why we talk of “Plug & Work”-capable networks, which greatly benefit our customers.
What is Siemens doing with regard to Ethernet with TSN?
The entire automation industry is working hard on this topic of course. However, Siemens is certainly one of the leading companies in this area. We are actively involved in all of the major standardization bodies, such as the IEEE, the IEC, the OPC-F, and the PI. We also supply the editor for some of the TSN IEEE standards.
The first TSN products will start shipping before the year is out. That’s why our customers are ideally prepared for the digital future with Siemens.
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