Industries in sectors as varied as power generation, aerospace, automotive, rail, and domestic appliances depend on machine tools to create their products. And the Spanish companies that support their efforts—machine tool manufacturers as well as companies that produce accessories, component parts, and tools—provide the necessary means. In 2011, exports from Spain reached 120 countries and accounted for more than 80 percent of the country’s overall business in this sector.
Spain’s machine tool industry has been “supplying technology and production equipment to the main sectors of the economy for more than 65 years,” says José Ignacio Torrecilla, president of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, the Spanish trade association. This has helped Spanish companies “improve their competitiveness and that of the country,” he adds.
Today, Spain’s machine tool sector is the third largest in the European Union, and includes some of the world’s leading companies. “To make things in steel—machinery, foundry, mills, stamping,
lathes—these are traditional skills of people here,” explains Félix Remírez, commercial manager of the machine tool company Fagor Arrasate, referring to the long metalworking tradition along the lush, green mountains in the north of Spain.
Machine tools can transform coils or sheets of metals into all the shapes and components needed for the trappings of modern life. They perform tasks such as rolling and stretching metal into flat
sheets; stamping it into all manner of shapes; cutting, drilling, and grinding to precise specifications. And their precision has increased dramatically in recent years, as companies such as Nicolás Correa, which makes milling machines, and Fagor Arrasate, which designs and builds machines such as stamps and presses, have taken advantage of the latest motors and computer controls to enable faster, more exacting manufacturing.
For the automotive sector, Fagor, which tailors all its machines to a company’s needs, has completed a new line of completely automated and synchronized presses that operates nearly 50 percent faster than previous models. They recently installed one such press for Volkswagen in South Africa. They have also sent the latest development of a blanking line (which creates shapes in sheets of material), 50 percent faster than previous ones, to a company in South Carolina that manufactures parts for BMW.
In fact, many Spanish machine tool companies excel in the automotive sector, combining the national expertise at machining with a history of hosting manufacturing from automakers that include Ford, Volkswagen, Renault, Mercedes, and Nissan.
Last year Nicolás Correa provided milling solutions to British Aerospace, which manufactures parts for military aircraft. And Danobat, another major manufacturer, supplies milling and turning
machines to companies that create parts for aerospace, wind turbines, and railways.
Though many of these companies manufacture their machines primarily in Spain, some also maintain overseas offices and plants. Danobat opened an office in China in 2011, and Fagor has a manufacturing facility there. Spanish automotive companies, including Cie Automotive, Gestamp, Trimplast, and Fagor, are expanding into the rapidly growing South American market, particularly in Brazil.
Spanish machine tool companies have a tradition of pooling and coordinating their resources to benefit the industry as a whole, both in jointly-financed research centers and in national and international projects. Some of these projects have resulted in, to take a few examples, ultraprecise new milling machines; better “intelligent” features to enable higher-precision machines that can be operated more easily; and improved sustainability and energy-saving features of machines and parts, minimizing the environmental impact.
For the food production industry, Spanish companies export their solutions around the world. Spanish food has exploded in popularity over the past few decades, along with the popularity of Spain’s agricultural products, and Spain’s experience in irrigating, cultivating, cleaning, separating, processing, and packing its products has grown as well.
Innovations in technology led Metalquimia to develop machines that dramatically shorten times to cure and dry meat such as salami and chorizo. NC Hyberbaric has created machines that take advantage of high levels of water pressure to kill microorganisms, endowing food with a longer shelf life without extensive processing or salt and additives. Other food sector companies market faster seeding machines, packing machinery that incorporates radio-frequency ID tags, and artificial vision to sort and classify products and produce more efficiently.