One word, two figures, and a punctuation mark are sparking plenty of debate — similar to the buzz generated bycomputer integrated manufacturing (CIM), once upon a time. The buzz is about Industry 4.0, the new manufacturing concept with web-based networking. A critical question that follows is, “What role will cutting tools play in this concept? It was a frequent point of discussion at the 2012 Tool Conference in Schmalkalden, Germany, a gathering of insiders from the metal cutting industry.

The controversial issue of Industry 4.0 – some people already are deriding it as “CIMera 2.0” – was not on the agenda in Germany late last year, at the 10th Tool Conference in Schmalkalden, Thuringia. Nevertheless, the manufacturers and users of metal-cutting tools are not indifferent to the issue: take a closer look and you will discover some tools available now with the right stuff for Industry 4.0.

Indeed, the 200 conferees saw for themselves these advances in tooling design, both in the presentations and during a tour of the test bay and the laboratories of GFE – Gesellschaft für Fertigungstechnik und Entwicklung Schmalkalden e.V. (the Society of Production Technology and Development), which organized this symposium devoted to topics concerning high-precision tools.

For example, the experts at GFE unveiled a mechatronic tool designed for retrograde machining of large boreholes, which uses telemetry to acquire the ongoing status of the tool during metal cutting. This tool, which acquires and transmits measured data, fits in neatly with the new concept known as the “Internet of Things,” in which basically all participants communicate with each other just like on the conventional web.

“The use of mechatronic tools with integrated sensor-monitored actuators can help to downsize the amount of work required for producing retrograde counterbores on large-size machining centers,” explained GFE scientist Bernd Aschenbach,“while retaining high levels of process dependability.”