Stone+tec ‘11: Smaller is Good

NUREMBERG, Germany – Looking for a theme at this year’s Stone+tec? When it comes to stone-fabrication equipment, there’s one trend that’s easy to spot: Small is beautiful.

While some manufacturers came to the Nurnberg Messe exhibit halls with big, beefy equipment (which we’ll get to later on), several companies went lean-and-mean with downsized machines for fabricators looking for something easier to fit in the shop – and in the budget.

Some of these machines are bound to reach the North American market, although current economics dictate that introducing a new product line across the Atlantic may be later rather than sooner. However, a few deserve mention now.

Gmm S.p.A. of Gravellona Toce, Italy, offered the Tower, a vertical flat-edge polishing machine with a relatively small footprint – one model, the 62 Standard, is slightly more than 9’ in length and 4.5’ wide. (Other models are a bit longer at 11 ¼’ long.) The compact size packs some grinding power, though, with nine to 11 spindles – depending on the model – taking on stone from 1cm-6cm and a minimum width of approximately 2”.

• While the Krea first made its appearance in March at a factory presentation for Gualdicciola, San Marino-based Denver s.a., Stone+tec marked the trade-show debut for the 3-axes mini-CNC. With a nominal working area of 82” X 43”, it’s not going to take on full-slab production, but it’s large enough to handle plenty of countertop, vanity and fixture jobs (including drainboards, with a special 3° pitch for grooving). The 12 HP spindle can operate up to 10,000 rpm, and can make good depth work with an 11.8” X-axis stroke.

• The sharp-eyed at Coverings 2011 in Las Vegas spotted the small-CNC movement with the Co.b.a.l.m. srl IDEA work centers offered by Intermac America. Co.b.a.l.m. also joined the mini-CNC movement with the IDEA Smart Top – a machine in full working order, but without product details, although it’s in the sub-80” working length class.

• With hand tools, Stenheim, Germany-based FLEX-Elektrowerkzeuge GmbH (known to folks stateside as just “FLEX”) aimed for the stone market with the L 12-3 and LE 12-3 wet grinders. Both sport a 1150-watt motor with a maximum no-load speed of 3,700 rpm; they also feature a new design with the water feed and control below the housing for more free space in the tool grip. The LE also lets users vary tool speed from 1,200-3,700 rpm. The maximum tool diameter is 115mm.

Not everyone looks to downsize equipment, though, as several German manufacturers set up some robust equipment in the exhibit halls, including:

Burkhardt GmbH, as it showed variations on its 598 bridge-saw line. The series from the Bayeruth company can be configured a number of ways – including an optional waterjet cutter – but the exhibition piece featured a continuous belt feed that also provides material holddown. For true factory work, the bridge can accommodate up to seven blade spindles.

Löffler Engineering + Service GmbH unveiled its LDZ 2000, a programmable bridge saw with a big 12.3’ X axis and an expandable Y axis from 9.75’ to 21 1/8’, powered by spindles running between 21.4-26.8 HP. The Langenaltheim plant also set up its Powerjet 2011, with a working area of 11.7’ X 5.2’ with accuracy to 0.38mm, powered by a 60.3 HP intensifier pump.

M. Kolb Steinbearbeitungmachinen GmbH of Illertissen is a new incarnation of the Martin Kolb line of stone machinery often available in the United States. For this Stone+tec, the company brought the MKD-HEXA, a 6-axes CNC saw in a monobloc frame. The machine includes a cutting head with full 360° rotation and a production area of 11.3’ X 5.6’ with a standard 14.75 HP spindle.

Stone+tec 2011 wasn’t the new machinery festival of years past, and there’s no guarantee that some – if any – of these products will show up at future U.S. trade shows. However, it shows that manufacturers still count on a continued recovery in the stone market with investments in new products and technology … and that’s a hopeful sign, regardless of size.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at Stone Business Online.

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