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CI: Long Heritage & New Technologies

Article from January 2018 issue of Boss Magazine

After a vital acquisition, CI offers small area additive manufacturing for big and small applications.

Change is constant. Changing in the right way, though, isn’t guaranteed.

Across the whole economy, but for manufacturing in particular, technology is driving a wave of change that is pounding and relentless. CI—also known as Cincinnati Incorporated—has the guts and the know-how to weather the oncoming tech storm.

 SAAM in front of BAAM

We’ve had the great opportunity to talk to CI in the past, when the organization—a manufacturer of a wide variety of metal fabrication and additive manufacturing equipment—was in the beginning stages of its rebrand to CI.

This company is proof that even the best of the best should look to the future to continue building on success.

“CI is a company with a long heritage that has spanned many generations building quality machine tools,” shared Carey Chen, President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board at CI. “Although we are proud of and promote this heritage, we are also focused on reinventing ourselves as a company. We continue to improve our core products, but are also expanding into new markets with new technologies.”

Progressive Tools

As Industry 4.0 continues to take hold in manufacturing, customers are demanding tools and services that embrace this trend. At CI, its innovative tools like CIberLink and CIberDash that follow Industry 4.0 methodologies and allow customers to monitor details of CI machines in their shop from a cloud-based, dashboard interface.

“Accessing real-time data from anywhere via a smartphone, tablet, or traditional personal computer provides customers with the flexibility to monitor and adjust their production as needed,” Chen said.

“One aspect of CIberDash and CIberLink that is attractive to our customers is that these products allow CI machines to share information via cellular transmission. This cellular option quickly bypasses companies’ internal networks when they are not easily accessible.”

CI can also remotely monitor customers’ machines for the purposes of providing support. Having this access and function allows proactive support where CI can notify customers when a part needs replacement for preventative maintenance or if there are issues with a machine’s performance.

This proactive approach may prevent or shorten the need for technical support or service, thereby reducing potential downtime for customers.

“Change is a constant with any product; the key is to determine where the change is best suited. Change in CI products is focused on the process and/or the productivity in optimizing that process.”

BAAM & SAAM

 CI Team at November 2017 Fabtech

With BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing), the actual process of extruding thermoplastics continues to evolve with larger volumes and increased accuracy. Improving BAAM’s productivity by streamlining the programing process allows customers to focus on improving the speed of the process vs changing the process itself.

“Conversely, the fundamentals of bending sheet metal has not changed in decades. However, the speed with which a part can be set up and processed and then changed over to another part has significantly changed. This has been accomplished through the evolution of computer controls, graphic displays, importing engineering and job data, and quick die change mechanisms.”

When CI looked at its opportunities for growth in the additive manufacturing market, the company identified that its customers also have requirements for small-scale 3D printing of parts or smaller components. That’s where SAAM—Small Area Additive Manufacturing—comes in.

“SAAM also works well in tandem with BAAM as it can provide a ‘print preview’ of larger designs and reduce cost by first printing a small-scale version,” Chen mentioned. “Also, having SAAM allows CI to strategize on new markets, including education, to proactively market and sell to which would have been unavailable and inapplicable in the past.”

To grow this division of the business, CI acquired NVBOTS, which provides enterprise 3D printing solutions that deliver high throughput production of parts in a wide range of materials for any application.

The partnership was too good to pass up.

“CI’s participation in additive manufacturing has been within the large-scale arena with BAAM. NVBOTS naturally compliments CI’s capabilities with smaller scale additive manufacturing systems, the growing ability to print in a wide array of materials, and automated solutions including cloud based management software,” Chen explained.

“The acquisition also gives CI exclusive access to NVBOTS’ patented intellectual property and talented engineers that will propel additive manufacturing technology to new heights in the coming years.”

Quality and Longevity

When a customer buys equipment from CI, they know they are buying for the long term. The expectation is that a CI machine will last over a long duration, and that CI will support that machine with parts and service throughout its lifetime. This has proven true time after time with extreme examples of CI equipment still in service and supported from the 1920s.

“We want customers to buy from CI because of the products and the company that stands behind them,” Chen said. “We strive for CI to be a company people want to do business with, and a company that makes the lives of their employees better, while making a positive impact on the community and the industry.”