Okuma celebrates over a century’s worth of machining innovations

2018. szeptember 27., csütörtök, 12:25

Címkék: machine engineering machine tools milling machine OKUMA Smartus Zrt. turning machine

CNC machine tools manufacturer Okuma, represented in [your country] by [insert local distributor from list below], celebrates its 120th anniversary. One key idea has remained at the company’s core for over a century: not to wait for technology to catch up with one’s vision, but to push the boundaries of what machining is capable of to achieve the desired results. This philosophy has been driving innovation at Okuma from the company’s early days of manufacturing noodle-making machines to the state-of-the-art smart manufacturing solutions of today.

In 1898, in the Japanese town of Nagoya, Eiichi Okuma founded the company that still carries his name more than a century later. Unlike their modern-day counterparts, early Okuma machines were not used to meet the requirements of industries such as aerospace, automotive and agriculture. Instead, the first products sold under the Okuma name were noodle-making machines. Eichii Okuma was not satisfied with the performance of the machines available at the time. Rather than lowering his standards, he created his own machines to achieve the results he envisioned. This mentality of creating the unavailable is still at the core of the company today and has led to the development of countless machining milestones over the years.

‘Okuma Machinery Works Ltd.’

In the first year, Eichii Okuma manufactured and sold 20 machines. Following this early small-scale success, he redirected his company’s efforts towards manufacturing machine tools in 1904, all the while garnering plenty of attention for his noodle-making machines. In 1914, at the onset of World War I, Okuma obtained his first patent with the then-revolutionary ‘Okuma automatic gear cutting lathe’. In keeping with the company’s new direction, its name was changed to ‘Okuma Machinery Works Ltd.’ in 1918. That same year, Okuma ramped up its production of OS centre lathes, which was met with great success: With a total of 2,000 units shipped in 25 years, the machine tool became one of the best- and longest-selling lathes in the company’s history.

Word of the quality of Okuma’s machines had long since reached people in high places, resulting in various government contracts. Thanks to the company’s continued diversification, it was able to survive the economic depression and the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 by fulfilling orders for woodworking and cigarette making machines. In 1930, in an effort to turn Nagoya into an industrial hub for the automotive industry on par with Detroit, the city’s mayor enlisted Okuma to build an 8-cylinder engine for one of the first Japanese-built passenger cars, the ‘Atsuta-Go’.

Portfolio extension                                                         

By 1937, Okuma had become the leading manufacturer of machine tools in Japan. Instead of resting on that success, the company started working on additional machining solutions, such as its DRA-J radial drilling machines. However, following the outbreak of World War II, the Japanese government limited the production of precision machines to lathes, grinders and milling machines. Despite this momentary set-back, the Okuma brand had still become synonymous with both industrial drilling machines and lathes by 1958. This early instance of diversification showed Okuma’s readiness and ability to provide customers with machining solutions for a wide range of demands. Based on this, the company would later go on to develop highly versatile machining centres, multitasking machines and – most recently – super multitasking machines that provide customers with ‘done-on-one’ machining capabilities by combining subtractive and additive manufacturing on a single machine tool.

Entering a new era – the OSP NC

In the spirit of founder Eichii Okuma, his company continued to develop solutions that pushed the boundaries of what technology was capable of at any given time. To replace mechanical movements with digital control, Okuma’s numerical control (NC) OSP III NC with absolute position feedback was developed in 1963. This is when Okuma became the industry’s first and – to this day – only single-source provider of both machine and control. From this point onwards, many of Okuma’s new products, such as the company’s first double column machining centres introduced in 1966, were available as both manually and NC-controlled versions.

The Third Industrial Revolution

Ushering in yet another machining era, Okuma introduced its first computerised NC in 1972 with a built-in computer mounted onto the LA40-N NC lathe as well as other lathes and boring machines. This milestone paved the way for many of the high-tech solutions Okuma provides today, all made possible by a deep understanding of every single component involved.

Soon after, Okuma developed the OSP 300 with microprocessors. This new generation of CNC played a vital role in the development of simultaneous 4-Axis CNC lathes. It was also a key factor in popularising the use of CNC machine tools around the globe. Throughout the 1980s, Okuma continued to develop new machine tools and greatly contributed to increasing manufacturing productivity. In the 1990s new machine tools, such as the MCR-BIII double-column machining centre for 5-sided applications, went into production and offered unparalleled productivity for machining large workpieces.

Intelligent Technology

The jump into the 21st century meant a tremendous leap forward with regard to manufacturing proficiency, as it saw the introduction of Okuma’s Intelligent Technology solutions. These performance-enhancing applications increase efficiency and productivity by creating the ideal cutting conditions for any given operation. Introduced in 2001, Thermo-Friendly Concept, the first Intelligent Technology, enabled manufacturers to significantly increase machining accuracy by compensating for thermal deformation. Further applications soon followed, notably Okuma’s Collision Avoidance System, which effectively prevents collisions and costly damages during machining. Similarly, Machining Navi helps to minimise chatter during operation to maintain and increase surface quality.

Smart manufacturing

By successfully fusing machine, CNC and software, Okuma built the foundation of its smart manufacturing solutions. In 2013, the company unveiled its start-to-finish automated production plant Dream Site 1 (DS1) in Japan for the production of multitasking machines and medium-sized and large lathes. The smart factory enables Okuma to shorten lead times by half and to double productivity. DS1 has increased Okuma’s production capacity by 30 %. In 2014, Okuma’s CNC became smarter as well: The intelligent OSP suite not only gives operators access to Okuma’s Intelligent Technology apps but also plays a vital role in handling big data in smart factories.

New mission statement, same philosophy

Around this time, highly accurate 5-axis machining centres for demanding industries, such as aerospace manufacturing, also became a staple in Okuma’s portfolio. New solutions for difficult-to-cut materials like titanium and Inconel soon followed. To provide even more application versatility, Okuma also made gear cutting available on its multitasking machines, a process that usually requires dedicated machinery.

With all these technological advancements, Okuma stayed true to its founder’s philosophy of making the seemingly unattainable attainable. To honour this approach, the company decided on the new brand message ‘Open Possibilities’ in 2015. In keeping with this mission statement, Okuma continued the development of new smart manufacturing technologies to increase productivity for manufacturers around the world. In 2016, Okuma unveiled its super multitasking machines: The LASER EX series is capable of milling, turning, grinding, laser metal deposition (LMD), laser hardening and more, thus enabling start-to-finish machining of workpieces.

Meanwhile, Okuma incorporated the learnings from its first smart factory and invested eight million Euros into an additional parts factory. Opened in 2017, Dream Site 2 (DS2) achieved even higher levels of automation than DS1. For this, Okuma has integrated 61 machine tools from its extensive portfolio in an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)-enhanced production environment. A new production planning system, advanced methods of visualisation, real-time data processing and automation via state-of-the-art robotics enable super high-mix, low volume production with productivity on par with that of mass production.

The legacy continues

Eichii Okuma died in 1950, but his legacy will live on in every new idea and technology created to achieve higher manufacturing quality and productivity. 120 years after its foundation, the company, now a global player with subsidiaries and liaison offices in 40 countries, continues to create the unavailable. In 2017, Okuma has implemented the know-how obtained from constructing DS1 and DS2 to provide operators with equally state-of-the-art manufacturing abilities for the age of Industry 4.0: Okuma’s smart factory solution Connect Plan is designed to enhance the entire planning and manufacturing process. The application enables advanced factory visualisation, data processing and analysis as well as predictive maintenance, all in service of maximising utilisation. With this solution, Okuma makes the same powerful tools used in the company’s own smart factories available to customers, thus once again opening possibilities for a new age of machining.  


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