Customized machine controls initiated by facial recognition. Voice-activated operations. Sophisticated, automated processing fueled by AI- and IoT-driven technologies. Eco-conscious equipment that can “wake up” from idle mode as an operator approaches. Off-site monitoring, operating, service and support.
These capabilities might sound futuristic, but they are available today. And they are all on display at AGIC, the nearly 100,000-sq.-ft. AMADA Global Innovation Center that is now open to visitors at the company’s headquarters in Isehara City, Japan.
AMADA’s new facility is the brick-and-mortar embodiment of “monozukuri,” a Japanese term that directly translates to “making things.” There is more to monozukuri, however; it projects the Japanese spirit of craftsmanship and making things with skill and dedication. It is also amplified with an appreciation for the ways that technology can help humans achieve even greater things. When the goal is to make something to the best of one’s abilities, innovation and forward-thinking creativity tend to lead the way.
With monozukuri at its core, AGIC is the home to innovation and ingenuity. It was developed to showcase the company’s products and technology breakthroughs as well as its dedication to addressing the complex needs of today’s manufacturing community. Within its walls, visitors can see and experience the advancements AMADA is developing not just for today’s use, but for the future of manufacturing. Each space within the center was designed to be both functional and inspirational.
AGIC is composed of several dedicated spaces where visitors can learn about new technologies and test and verify them for practical use. There are also spaces to collaborate with colleagues, AMADA staff and engineers. Overall, the center can be seen as an incubator where innovative ideas and solutions can grow.
Setting the stage
This past April, AMADA opened the doors of AGIC for the first time to members of the foreign press. Editors from the United States, Spain, Germany, Sweden and beyond were greeted by Matt Wood, senior product manager of AMADA Europe HQ, who served as host throughout the week.
Upon entry to AGIC, members of the press were ushered into the Future Vision theater, a large white room covered in reliefs that speak to the technologies with which AMADA has become synonymous – laser cutting and welding; bending, punching and stamping; automation, software and cutting-edge drive technologies; and much more.
As the door closed, the room temporarily went dark while the walls, ceiling and floor slowly became illuminated with a fully immersive video experience. As images zipped across the room, a full-sensory panorama depicted a future world where parts are initiated remotely and voice commands guide operator-free factories from part validation to final product, and it is all done in a way that preserves the natural world, a core component of AMADA’s vision for tomorrow’s manufacturing. In terms of inspiration, the stage had been set.
“We’re helping not just our customers, but society as a whole,” Wood remarked regarding the ambitious scope of goals AMADA had in mind during its three-year journey to bring AGIC to fruition. Understanding the impact that manufacturing can have on society – be it the local community or the environment as a whole – AMADA is committed to the initiatives set forth by the Japanese government to achieve a carbon-neutral, decarbonized world by 2050. To do so, the company plans to achieve sustainable growth by setting non-financial targets.
Partnering with the Japanese government is not a new endeavor for AMADA, however. During the tour of AGIC, visitors got the opportunity to explore an exhibition of metal parts and projects produced for a precision sheet metal fair co-hosted by AMADA and the Japanese government. AMADA has operated the fair for 35 years with entries coming from a variety of companies and institutions that are impressive in skill and range. From intricate origami cranes and miniature fabrication equipment to fantastical fortune telling machines, the fair exhibits the best and brightest in metal fabrication.
Putting tech to the test
Prior to the formal AGIC tour, Koji Yamamota, AMADA’s senior executive officer, offered the assembled media members a primer for what they would experience during the trip. Wood’s comment about AMADA’s goal to help “society as a whole” was central to Yamamota’s welcoming speech where he laid out a variety of social issues and challenges that go far beyond environmental concerns – everything from tackling new technologies related to EV battery production to the decrease in the workforce.
To achieve meaningful contributions to society, AMADA will focus on four major areas of enhancement: technology, sales, strategy and management. In terms of technology, AMADA will carry on as it always has, developing new technologies from a customer’s point of view. In terms of sales, the goal is to produce value-differentiated products for customers around the world with a focus on digital transformation.
Strategies will be formulated specifically for the company’s various businesses and regions while additional growth strategies will be developed for medium- to long-term business expansion and earnings. Finally, AMADA plans to enhance its management philosophies to strengthen its environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives.
These sentiments were tangible throughout the AGIC tour and specifically at Innovation LABO, a space for collaborating with customers and putting future processing technology to the test through rigorous verification. Here, customers receive the utmost in privacy for developing and testing their most challenging projects. Each room is dedicated to a separate manufacturing process, such as welding or bending, with an additional inspection room featuring $1.1 million in cutting-edge testing and inspection equipment.
Innovation LABO is dedicated to addressing customer needs, but it was also developed to host university and academic work. The rooms are free to use and, oftentimes, AMADA provides the material to fabricate. And, if a customer’s application challenge isn’t resolved within the LABO environment, AMADA will send it to its solutions group to formulate a new approach.
Next, media members were ushered into Innovation Square, a grand hallway flanked with a massive, continuous video display. This area is what Wood described as the heart of AGIC. Customers and visitors can use the space to strategize growth initiatives and get inspired by the digital messages displayed on the nearly 250-ft. crystal LED screen.
As far as helping society is concerned, tools that can reduce setup times or tasks that are repetitive and physically demanding were on display in abundance at the next stop on the AGIC tour: Innovation Site. With 90 models of sheet metal, cutting and structural equipment installed along with a variety of press equipment, visitors can use this space to see and experience AMADA machines in action as well as the productive technologies that are baked within.
Innovation Site is much more than a machine showroom. It features a variety of eco-friendly technologies that will help AMADA achieve the decarbonization goals of the Japanese government and the broader global community.
As the media members entered Innovation Site, they were met with two large interactive screens that display the eco-summary of the facility, with which visitors are encouraged to interact. To have visitors “interact with the entire facility,” Woods said, they can use the touchscreens to learn more about the efficiency of AGIC’s solar panel installation as well as its AI-driven heating and cooling and lighting systems.
Getting back to the 90 models of equipment on display, Innovation Site is divided into several different stations or departments according to the various technologies for which AMADA is known. Major updates have been made to many of the machine controls to help overcome the social issue of persistent labor shortages.
Facial recognition dictates the language to be displayed, the level of controls available to the operator as well as the mode in which the machine is operating. If there is no operator at the machine, it remains in eco-mode. When an operator approaches, facial recognition initiates the machine’s on-mode. Maintenance videos and processing guidance tutorials are also accessible via the upgraded controls.
Mobile HMI for smartphones and other mobile devices is also on the horizon at AMADA where users can add “urgent jobs” to a machine’s schedule with ease and automatically nest parts on remnant material. These developments fall under AMADA’s 4ie machine interface with the four Es standing for easy, efficient, environment and evolution.
As the largest area of AGIC, Innovation Site is broken into two spaces with three zones in each. Site 1 presents the latest in laser, welding, and punching and combination machines while Site 2 puts press brakes, presses and other machinery in the spotlight. No matter the process or technology, the goal is to be transparent with the machine’s inner workings.
This falls in line with AMADA’s shift of focusing on “what is possible” in manufacturing to “why it is possible.” As Wood said during the tour: “It sounds like a simple change, but changing the question from what to why is fundamental.”
While the tour made a stop at each machine within Innovation Site, the laser department serves as a good example of how AMADA explains the “why.” The company does so by laying out the features within the machine that can help solve today’s social issues. Using the REGIUS 3015 AJe as an example, AMADA machines include an “e” in the model name, which indicates the eco-savings that they deliver.
In terms of why an AMADA laser cutter can reduce setup time, increase quality and precision, and reduce labor-intensive tasks, Wood introduced a slew of new technologies and automation. Several focused on advanced beam shaping to handle challenging or thick materials while others made beam shape modification easier to implement.
The laundry list of technologies included features for easier part removal and sorting, QR codes for part traceability and improved workflows, gas flow technology for compressed air, edge control technology for making sharp corners on thick material, and additional cutting technologies for sheet metal that is rusty or has a bad surface finish. Higher power was also included on AMADA’s ENSIS 3015 RIE tube cutting machine based on customer feedback.
In the welding zone, new robotic systems were on display that have a smaller footprint and no filler wire, which results in the ability to weld in smaller spaces and take tighter turns. Wood also presented new technologies for wide gap welding with beam weaving and other beam modification technologies for increased quality. Cobots made an appearance, as well, expanding the offerings AMADA provides customers with welding needs.
Bending technologies were just as abundant with the EGB ATC serving as the flagship for what’s possible for uninterrupted operations, reducing carbon footprints and voice-controlled processing. Additional features behind AMADA’s line of press brakes include new eco-friendly single servo bending technology, offline programming, in-machine cameras for increased safety and three-finger backgauges for odd-shaped parts. Other models, such as the EGB 6013, showcase AMADA’s aim for nearly labor-free fabricating.
When AMADA first embarked on the construction of AGIC, the world was undergoing dramatic changes, and the company recognized that it, too, must transform itself to adapt. But AMADA also understood that to create the manufacturing technologies of the future, it would need to work closely with its customers. Truly, AGIC is a destination for anyone that wants to witness the dramatic changes happening in manufacturing today and what is yet to come tomorrow.