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The Digital Future Of Machine Tools

Machine tool builders such as DMG Mori are focusing on machining solutions that combine both the Internet of Things and increased user operability. By Jonathan Chou 

The “smart factory” is envisioned to be a network of cyber-physical systems that communicate over the Internet of Things and assist people and machines in the execution of their tasks, according to the paper “Design Principles for Industry 4.0 Scenarios” by Mario Hermann, Tobias Pentek and Boris Otto.

“Opening” The Machine Tool

However, the basic principle of the machine tool is changing very little. Several rotatory and linear axes are combined differently in a closed housing. The control units are also not readily accessible, according to Dr-Ing Christian Brecher, chairman of the Machine Tool Laboratory at RWTH Aachen University.

So how can machine tools embrace the Industrial Internet Of Things? Dr-Ing Brecher states that the machine tool must be “opened up”.

In that respect, “future machine tools must contain semantic interfaces in order to provide, for example, process data in high resolution for more in-depth analyses, if possible in real time, or be functionally integrated in networked systems,” he added.

The Machine Tool 4.0

Collaborations with various companies have resulted in new, more concrete applications of the upcoming Fourth Industrial Revolution.

For example, Schaeffler and DMG Mori’s “Machine Tool 4.0” joint project have resulted in a sensor-equipped machine tool. Two prototypes based on the DMC 80 FD duoBlock universal milling and turning machine centre were displayed in JIMTOF 2016.

According to Schaeffler, sensors for measuring vibrations, forces, temperatures and pressures were integrated in nearly all bearing positions relevant for the machining process in order to obtain information about the machines’ conditions.

With the partnership extending through 2017, both companies aim to show how the “Machine Tool 4.0” can be better used for predictive maintenance, increasing efficiency and process optimisation.

These can result in better management of the machining process, as collected data can be used to make qualified predictions, such as potential damage to the spindle.

App-Based Machining

While machine tools are becoming increasingly advanced, machine tool builders are constantly finding ways to make operating them more intuitive and streamlined.

Dr-Ing Brecher adds that “The approach of an action-based operating concept—motivated by modern smartphones—has been successfully validated with multi-modal interfaces, thereby significantly reducing the complexity of current human-machine interfaces. Celos, from DMG Mori, is pursuing an entirely similar approach in this respect.”

As an example, DMG Mori’s app-based machine control interface Celos supports the implementation of process tracking and data-driven manufacturing, with applications ranging from simple monitoring to controlled cutting that could integrate grinding processes into a vertical machining centre. The company states that a 30 percent time saving in tooling times can be seen in day-to-day operations.

For monitoring and analysis of data, parameters can be visualised with the app “Condition Analyser”, with the data recorded are collated, stored and finally analysed in high level cloud architecture.

Technology Cycles

The company is also focusing on simplifying customised processes for machine operators, which combine four elements of the machining process: Machine tools, cutting tools and peripherals, embedded software and Human-machine interfaces such as Celos.

The company has developed 24 technology cycles, which are designed to optimise workshop-oriented programming. These enable operators in the workshop to programme complex machining tasks themselves directly on the machine via a dialogue using parameterised context menus.

These technology cycles are grouped into four functions:

  • Handling to support machine setups.
  • Measuring to perform high-accuracy measurement.
  • Shaping to support complex machining.
  • Monitoring to monitor and detect machining conditions with sensors.

For example, with “Multi-threading 2.0”, operators can generate difficult thread geometries directly on the machine without using a CAD/CAM system.

Other technology cycle highlights include “3D quickSet” for checking and correcting the kinematic accuracy of 4- and 5-axis machines and the “Application Tuning Cycle” for process-oriented tuning of feed drives in relation to the table load.

Increased Security

As with increasingly connected devices, security plays a large role. To that effect, the company has partnered with Microsoft on the “technological cooperation for security of machine tool control systems and implementation of Smart Factory”, according to a recent press release.

The agreement will see both companies making the most of their built-up industrial know-how on a variety of issues such as:

Security

  • Security of products that use Windows, such as Celos.
  • Safe data transfer to aggregate sensor information in the cloud.

Data Handling In The Cloud

  • Data operation in the cloud and application of data.
  • Proactive utilisation of data for preventive maintenance and other purposes, based on analyses of the collected data.

Technological Examination For New Business Models

  • Utilisation of advanced IT technologies.
  • Utilisation of data for operators’ safety.
  • Improvement of machine operators’ efficiency by use of virtual reality/wearable devices.

For A Digitised Future

The premise of an “open” machine tool brings an emphasis on optimal machining driven by data and a focus on user operability.

With such cyber-physical systems becoming increasingly prevalent, it is encouraging to see companies starting to take proactive steps in developing security measures for such systems.

Today’s manufacturing environment relies on providing high-quality service with the lowest cost. But in contrast, the future Industry 4.0 factory will not only have condition monitoring and fault diagnosis; machines will also “talk” to one another, providing a precise health prediction and giving insight on the status of the whole factory.

Such self-aware and self-predicting machines equipment can be managed “cost effectively with just-in-time maintenance”, and perhaps even gain near zero downtime, according to Dr Jay Lee, professor at the University of Cincinnati and director of the Centre For Intelligent Maintenance Systems.

With that in mind, machining in an increasingly digitised age seems to be quite exciting indeed. 

Schaeffler and DMG Mori’s collaborative “Machine Tool 4.0” on the JIMTOF 2016 show floor.

 

(L-R) President of DMG Mori, Dr Masahiko Mori and chairman of Microsoft Japan, Yasuyuki Higuchi.

 

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