EDM and ECM processes are advanced manufacturing technologies with unique capabilities due to their non-mechanical material removal principles can be found in different areas of application in industry offering a better alternative or sometimes the only alternative in generating accurate 3D complex shaped macro, micro and nano features and components of difficult-to-machine materials.
Electrochemical Machining (ECM) is a non-traditional machining (NTM) process belonging to Electrochemical category. ECM is opposite of electrochemical or galvanic coating or deposition process. Thus ECM can be thought of a controlled anodic dissolution at atomic level of the work piece that is electrically conductive by a shaped tool due to flow of high current at relatively low potential difference through an electrolyte which is quite often water based neutral salt solution.
On the other hand, Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) is a controlled metal-removal process that is used to remove metal by means of electric spark erosion. In this process an electric spark is used as the cutting tool to cut (erode) the workpiece to produce the finished part to the desired shape.
Wire EDM beginnings in 1969, the Swiss firm Agie produced the world’s first wire EDM. Image Credit: Pinterest
Challenges Of Machining
The demand for macro- and micro- products and components of difficult-to–machine materials such as tool steel, carbides, super alloys and titanium alloys has been rapidly increasing in automotive, aerospace, electronics, optics, medical devices and communications industries. In spite of their exceptional properties, many of these difficult-to-machine materials seem to have limited applications. These materials pose many challenges to conventional machining processes (such as turning and milling).
For example, titanium alloys are susceptible to work hardening and its low thermal conductivity and higher chemical reactivity result in high cutting temperature and strong adhesion between the tool and work material leading to tool wear. Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) and Electrochemical Machining (ECM) offer a better alternative or sometimes the only alternative in generating accurate 3D complex shaped features and components of these difficult –to- machine materials.
Advantages of ECM
One of the major advantages of ECM is the scalability of the process with the use of multiple electrodes on the same machining setup. ECM using multiple electrodes machined to machine arrays of micro holes results in increased productivity. Taper induced on the workpiece during ECM drilling is a major concern. Some of the tool designs for the reduction of taper include dual pole tools, insulated tools, and tools with shaped ends.
High conductivity, heat resistance and high melting point are the main desired properties for an EDM tool. The most common materials used in EDM tooling are copper, graphite, tungsten and tungsten carbide. Research is being done on many new materials including composites for EDM tooling.
Typical as well as innovative examples of application for the most important areas of application – die and mold manufacturing, turbomachinery component manufacture, tooling and prototyping and medical engineering. In addition, combined and even hybrid EDM and ECM processes are known with superior overall process performance.
Electro-Chemical Machining (ECM) with up to four Axes. Image Credit: Pinterest
In all areas of application, the final surface integrity defines the later part performance. Therefore, the machining processes have to be designed and executed in such a way that the specific operation demands are fully met by the remaining surface modifications of the machined part. From application point of view different manufacturing processes could only compete with each other when providing at least the same part functionality and therefore similar material modifications.
While EDM incorporates thermal energy dissipation, ECM purely relies on a chemical material removal principle. ECM and EDM technologies have been successfully adapted to produce macro, micro components with complex features and high aspect ratios for biomedical and other applications. These processes are also being attempted at the nano-scale.
Japan: On a primitive piece of space rock more than 100 million miles from Earth, two tiny robotic explorers took their first cautious “hops” — the first movements made by any human-made spacecraft across the surface of an asteroid.
APMEN is pleased to conduct an interview with Lim Fang How, Regional Director, Southeast Asia, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific how manufacturers, transportation and logistics (T&L) firms, and retailers are preparing to meet the growing needs of the on-demand economy.
Q: WHAT DOES ZEBRA THINK IS THE IMPACT OF KEY TRENDS, ON RETAIL, MANUFACTURING AND LOGISTICS COMPANIES TODAY?
Lim Fang How (LFH): Ever-increasing technology adoption by customers has resulted in the current on-demand economy, in which customers expect instantaneous service delivery as the baseline standard. Early attempts to address these needs sparked innovation which began at the core of the enterprise. Innovation is now exploding at “the edge” where employees make real-time decisions and interact directly with the people they serve.
The increasing use of visibility technologies, the Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics across various industries—manufacturing, logistics, and retail—has resulted in a hyper-competitive landscape where businesses may struggle to stay relevant—even those that were once dominant.
The rise of e-commerce and omnichannel retail has led organizations to tap on heightened automation, merchandise visibility and business intelligence in the supply chain to compete in this on-demand consumer economy. Companies today need to digitally transform their supply chain to addresses key pain points such as: inventory visibility, resource allocation, reducing backorders and replenishment efficiency.
Zebra’s latest Fulfillment Vision Study surveyed manufacturers, transportation and logistics (T&L) firms to find out more. According to the study, 73% of consumers are omnichannel shoppers today (and they spend more than single-channel consumers), while only 42% of supply chain respondents believe they’re operating at an omnichannel level.
While many respondents acknowledged that accurate inventory visibility was key to delivering a seamless omnichannel experience, they also felt that inventory visibility is not where it needs to be, reporting that their inventory accuracy is only 61%. There is still a gap between where the respondents feel comfortable in offering a seamless omnichannel experience – and this is where visibility solutions will give enterprises the performance edge to thrive in a highly competitive environment. As companies deploy an omnichannel approach, quick and drastic adjustments will be needed, and they need to ensure that they have in place the solutions needed to give them the competitive advantage over their competition.
Zebra has long been a pioneer at the edge of the enterprise, and our portfolio of intelligent edge solutions and devices is designed to deliver a performance edge wherever the frontline may be.
Q: 92% OF THE RESPONDENTS CITED CAPITAL INVESTMENT AND OPERATING COSTS OF IMPLEMENTING AN OMNICHANNEL OPERATION AS A KEY CHALLENGE. WHAT CAN BE DONE TO SOLVE THIS?
LFH: One of the best ways to address these issues is by reassessing an organization’s IT strategies and educating employees. Zebra’s Intelligent Enterprise Study 2017 revealed that while organizations have strong IoT visions, there is still room for improvement when it comes to ensuring robust change management initiatives associated with IoT deployments. Some 50% of respondents expect internal resistance when adopting those IoT solutions, and are either still developing a plan or don’t have a plan to address that resistance. According to the survey, some popular solutions organizations have put in place include educating employees on the impact the solution will have on roles and workflows (60%), educating employees on the value proposition of the solution and putting formal training plans in place (53%).
A separate study from Zebra, the Manufacturing Vision Study, also found that cost, privacy and security and integration challenges were found to be some of the top barriers to adopting an IoT solution. To address these hurdles, enterprises need to design an IoT solution that matches its specific challenges, given that the amount of technology needed to track its goods, assets, people and processes vary widely depending on each operation. This study also affirmed that more education and information sharing can be done to ease IoT adoption.
Q: WHAT ARE THE TECHNOLOGICAL INVESTMENTS THAT RETAIL, MANUFACTURING AND LOGISTICS COMPANIES TODAY SHOULD CONSIDER, TO ENABLE OMNICHANNEL LOGISTICS?
LFH: One of the biggest growth in adoption that will enhance omnichannel logistics will be radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology and inventory management platforms, say respondents from the study—as they see adoption jump from 32% today to 95% in 2028. RFID-enabled software, hardware and tagging solutions, offer up-to-the-minute, item-level inventory lookup. The visibility gained provides the supply chain with a performance edge that heightens inventory accuracy and shopper satisfaction while reducing out of stocks, overstocks and replenishment errors.
On a similar note, 55% of organizations today are still using inefficient, manual pen-and-paper based processes to enable omnichannel logistics. By 2021, handheld mobile computers with barcode scanners will be used by 99% of respondents for omnichannel logistics. The upgrade from manual pen-and-paper spreadsheets to handheld computers with barcode scanners or tablets will improve omnichannel logistics by providing real-time access to warehouse management systems.
In addition, future-oriented decision makers revealed in Zebra’s Fulfillment Vision Study that next generation supply chains will reflect connected, business-intelligence and automated solutions that will add newfound speed, precision and cost effectiveness to transportation and labor. Surveyed executives expect the most disruptive technologies to be drones, driverless/autonomous vehicles, wearable and mobile technology, and robotics.
Q: WHAT ARE KEY CHALLENGES FACED AROUND PRODUCT RETURNS AND HOW CAN COMPANIES RESOLVE THIS?
LFH: As highlighted by the Future of Fulfillment Vision Study, reverse logistics, referring primarily to product returns, has become a significantly bigger concern in an omnichannel marketplace. It is also extraordinarily costly and is eating into already pressured profit margins, with shoppers returning an estimated US$642.6 billion in goods globally each year.
Retailers must look into managing returns efficiently and cost effectively, as 80% of shoppers get turned off when experiencing hassle-heavy return process, according to a ComScore Study. However, many retailers are hesitant to enact changes, and seem uncertain as to how to best improve their processes. In fact, 74% of surveyed retailers agree that returns for online orders are a challenge, with 28% viewing it as a significant challenge. To overcome the cost issue, merchants are increasingly exploring new models to offset the costs of returns. The study uncovered that 58% of retail respondents add a surcharge for returns today and 71% have no plans to change this in the future. Of the 42% of merchants that do not currently add a surcharge for returns, 80% plan to do so in the future.
Decision makers are also testing solutions such as leveraging the store as a product returns hub. A resounding 71% of surveyed executives agree that more retailers will turn stores into fulfillment centers that accommodate product returns. Furthermore, the majority of retailers that currently do not offer free shipping, free returns or same-day delivery plan to do so and expect to engage third-party firms to manage the returns process in the future.
Any supply chain dealing with return logistics should also ensure that they have real-time visibility on their inventory. First, ensure that your systems are up to current inventory levels with accurate inventory visibility. Second, plan for an explosion of returns and make sure your processes are in place to deal with this, lest your warehouse fills up too quickly.
Q: HOW ARE APAC COMPANIES LEVERAGING TECHNOLOGY TO SERVE CUSTOMERS BETTER?
LFH: APAC enterprises are adopting visibility solutions—like those from Zebra—that empower their frontline workers to gain a performance edge. Zebra serves 95% of Fortune 500 organizations globally to provide these visibility solutions. While we have many successful deployments, some interesting APAC examples include those below:
In Australia, MyChemist/Chemist Warehouse Group—the largest retail pharmacy on the continent, successfully deployed Zebra’s TC70 mobile touch computers for its stock management system for its retail chains. The company adopted over 1,600 Zebra TC70s across its network of retail outlets. As a result, MyChemist radically improved staff efficiency, allowing them to complete tasks at a faster rate.
In India, CEAT—one of India’s leading tire manufacturers—has reported significant increases in productivity and reduction of supply chain errors after deploying visibility solutions provided by Zebra. CEAT uses Zebra’s solutions to simplify its processes and build automated workflows that deliver greater efficiencies and business value at its Halol plant. By using Zebra’s solutions, CEAT improved dispatch accuracy, leading to a 20-times reduction in fault finding and customer complaints. This helped increase cost efficiency, customer satisfaction, and overall value for the manufacturing process.
In Indonesia, the leading lifestyle retail conglomerate PT MAP has deployed a suite of Zebra’s intelligent enterprise solutions—including the MC55 mobile computers, the RFD5500 RFID sleds, and the MC3200 mobile computers in its stores. Subsequently, MAP reported a jump in staff productivity, better inventory control, and increased supply chain accuracy.
Schuler offers a variety of digitalization and networking solutions for forming technology – Now, the technology and global market leader in the field of forming technology offers specific solutions for the age of Industry 4.0, also known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) – like the new MSP 400 servo press. Contributed by Schuler
The 400 ton machine is still made of genuine iron and steel and suitable for both progressive and transfer mode, can travel at an oscillating stroke of up to 70 strokes per minute thanks to the highly dynamic servo drives, and thus offers high performance in this price segment. But at the same time, it already features intelligent software applications like the Smart Assist and the Optimizer.
“Schuler is putting forming technology on the fast track to the digital future,” notes CEO Domenico Iacovelli. Schuler has designed the control of the MSP 400 in the style of an intuitive smartphone app: operators can select from predefined movement profiles or program them freely. This significantly reduces the inhibition threshold for exploiting the machine’s potential. Thanks to the kinematics of the knuckle-joint drive, forming at the bottom dead center is also slower in itself. This means that readjustment via the servo drive is not always necessary.
The “Smart Assist” software guides the operator step-by-step through the setup process, supported by small videos and text modules. The electronic assistant optimizes the transfer and slide profiles to maximum output depending on the clearance profiles – a complex process that used to take a lot of time.
At the Hot Stamping TechCenter in Göppingen, Schuler is currently conducting a field test in the area of condition monitoring. Image Credit: Schuler
Process Monitor Integrated In The Control Unit
The process monitor integrated in the control unit offers extensive monitoring options. This ensures overload protection across the entire course of the press force profile and the entire movement profile; a minimum and maximum force can be defined for effective protection of the die. The response times of the electronically designed overload protection device are in the range of a few milliseconds, which is faster than with a hydraulic overload protection device. The press can be used again immediately after an overload has been detected.
The short stopping distances and quick response times are only possible thanks to the low mass moments of inertia in the entire drive train, which also lead to high dynamics during forming and other machine operation. While standard presses normally reduce the force in the event of an overload and drive the slide through the bottom dead center to the upper reversing point, the MSP 400 has a “Smart Release” function: here, the slide automatically runs back over a defined path after an overload has been detected, thus relieving the strain on the die and press.
Comprehensive Condition Monitoring
The integration of additional sensors – e.g. for acceleration, oscillation or pressure – enables comprehensive condition monitoring of the system, which can be displayed in the control system’s visualization. The basis for this is frequency spectra that provide information about possible wear in the gearing, bearing or motor. This prevents unplanned downtime and increases the productivity of the system. Furthermore, the process and condition data allow for complete quality control of the produced components.
Unlike a conventional press, the pressure points of the MSP 400 are not above the slide, but instead on the outside of the actual bed area. This allows the machine to absorb very high eccentric loads, and means that around 25 percent more press force is available to both the infeed and discharge sides. It is therefore possible to form even high-strength materials in the first die stage.
The geometric arrangement also gives the slide a high mechanical tilting rigidity. In addition, the deflection of the entire system is reduced because the drive is located far to the outside of the crown. This makes it possible to achieve die-friendly forming and better component quality. The electronic coupling enables force-independent parallel control: in the event of an eccentric load, the drives are readjusted on one side without any loss of force, and the slide can thus be held parallel.
“More efficient production and fewer rejected parts”
“The digital transformation of the press shop is already well underway,” says Domenico Iacovelli, Schuler’s CEO since April 2018. He adds: “Both major automakers and medium-sized suppliers can use the Smart Press Shop for more efficient production and fewer rejected parts. This means that we can give them the competitive edge they need.”
Schuler has also already demonstrated its ability to fully network different production facilities with its systems for constructing large-diameter piping (“Pipe ID 4.0”) and train wheels. Among other things, this process requires the availability of data necessary for determining and increasing the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). The data is prepared by the system so that a quick glance is all it takes for the production manager to determine the total number of parts produced, how many of these parts are acceptable, and which shift had the best performance.
The collected data also serves as a basis for functions like the tracking & tracing of safety-related parts. Among other things, the system links these parts to information about the starting material used and the material’s origin, about the system’s lubrication and drawing force, and about other production conditions. All of this makes it possible to provide a complete trail of documentation in the event of quality-related complaints.
To monitor the condition of individual components for changes, wear, or damage (a feature referred to as condition monitoring), Schuler is integrating more and more sensors into its machines; such as those which measure vibrations and temperatures, for example, so that this data can be intelligently processed and displayed. Currently, a large-scale field test is in progress in Göppingen involving a 1,600-ton hydraulic die hardening press, which produces parts for lightweight automotive construction from sheet metal heated to 930 °C.
Virtual Training For Operators Of Press Lines
The new virtual training system from Schuler’s Forming Academy serves as a basic training of the operators dealing with the real forming systems in the press shop. This takes place in virtual space while a new system is being put into operation or the production is already running. Thus, the production in the press shop is not disturbed and the operators can be optimally prepared.
These days, the most important thing a press shop is to deliver the demanded level of flexibility—for last-minute orders and smaller batch sizes—without sacrificing profitability. There is no other way to boost efficiency in the press shop than by carrying out an end-to-end optimization, one that also includes the entire flow of materials.
Optimizing the presses themselves is, of course, a key component of this process. What is referred to as overall equipment effectiveness, or OEE, can be determined by examining availability, efficiency and quality. By taking a wide range of different steps to increase OEE, press shop operators can tap into existing potential and increase productivity.
The “Smart Assist” software guides the operator step-by-step through the setup process, supported by videos and text. Image Credit: Schuler
Software Helps To Coordinate Slide And Transfer Movement Curves
One such step is to enlist the help of software. “The specialists at Schuler will then optimize the die and production parameters digitally,” says Schuler CEO Domenico Iacovelli, who also took over as head of Group technology upon being named to his current position. “With the help of software tools, we can perfectly coordinate the slide and transfer movement curves with each die, and can take full advantage of what the presses are capable of.”
In the span of an entire year, significantly increasing the stroke rate or decreasing the setup time will free up large amounts of otherwise unavailable production time. This additional time can be used to produce more parts on the same equipment or decrease batch sizes, and can also be used to perform preventative maintenance. This avoids unplanned downtime while maximizing availability and delivery capability.
A holistic view of the press shop quickly reveals widespread schools of thought, such as the notion that performing frequent setups decreases operating efficiency. After all, a wider variety of parts and larger batch sizes do in fact drive up warehouse volumes, and therefore tie up more capital. In order to reduce batch sizes, internal setup times need to decrease. Enormous amounts of untapped potential are waiting to be utilized with improved methods and preparation. Equally important is the necessity of storing dies in a well-maintained condition, so that sudden changes in the production plan can be responded to flexibly.
Full Mapping Of The Value Stream Improves Efficiency
As an equipment manufacturer and process consultant, Schuler partners with the lean management consultants at Staufen AG to offer extensive press shop analyses. These analyses are based on a quick check which illustrates the shop’s individual efficiency relative to the industry leaders. The analysis process involves a full mapping of the value stream for the flow of materials—from the time the materials are received all the way to the departure of the finished product from the shop—and provides recommendations for customized measures that can be taken to improve efficiency. Additionally, based on actual and target value streams, new ideal or real layouts for the press shop can be developed, both for new press shops (greenfield) and existing production facilities (brownfield).
When it comes to the actual optimization, the deciding factor is the ordering behavior of internal and external customers. In an ideal case, a press shop will produce in line with the customer’s own pace, and can therefore flexibly respond to demand fluctuations without the need for larger inventories. Running consecutively positioned stations as closely in sync as possible prevents an accumulation of large inventories and minimizes lead time.
As a general rule, permanent increases in efficiency will always take precedence over short-term, one-time effects. Huge untapped potential can often be found not only in production, but also in administrative areas such as production planning or container and shop-floor management. In the latter case, managers must have the ability to maintain regular communication while also using key performance indicators to manage and also to control processes. “The biggest benefit arises wherever process and management excellence are developed side-by-side,” concludes CEO Domenico Iacovelli.
Manufactured parts need to be measured to ensure they meet the original design intent. Modern manufacturing techniques allow complex parts to be designed with numerous critical dimensions. A key element in precision metrology is having the right measurement tool for the job. Modern measurement machines use a variety of sensors to collect measurement data. Metrology software analyzes the measurement data, and through numerical and graphical reports, allows the user to make confident decisions about the part design and manufacturing processes. By Terry Herbeck, Vice-President of Asian Operations at OGP
A waterjet is a tool used in machine shops to cut metal parts with a (very) high-pressure stream of water. As amazing as it sounds, if you get water flowing fast enough, it can actually cut metal. By Jessminder Kaur
Hanover, Germany: This year’s 25th International Sheet Metal Working Technology Exhibition will take place from 23rd – 26th October 2018 in Hanover, Germany. A total of 1,500 exhibitors from 39 countries secured their stand at the world’s leading sheet metal working technology exhibition. This year, the show is mainly influenced by the topics Digitalisation and Industry 4.0. The Online Show Preview, which was recently published, provides an overview of new products and technological innovations which will be presented at the show in October.
EuroBLECH will feature main topics are Industry 4.0, big data and digitalisation. Especially for small and medium-sized companies these developments offer enormous potential. These new business approaches offer advantages in terms of streamlined and less complex processes as well as improvement of productivity and efficiency. “While an app for maintenance control of machines or the interaction of machines and robots across the whole production process were still a vision of the future a couple of years ago, today this is the reality in sheet metal working. Currently, not only large companies are gaining ground in this area, SMEs have also recognised their potential here.
Digitalisation, E-mobility, Lightweight construction – these topics currently play a crucial role in the sheet metal working industry. Networked manufacturing is a key development in Industry 4.0 to increase productivity and reduce downtime of machines. E-mobility bears a lot of challenges for sheet metal working, due to the different manufacturing processes and materials required for electric cars. This goes hand in hand with lightweight construction, where composites and new technologies become increasingly important and bear certain challenges when joining or separating materials.
Seeq Corporation will be a sponsor of the annual Ignition Community Conference (ICC) to be held on September 17-19 in Folsom, CA. The ICC is hosted by Inductive Automation for partners and customers of the Ignition SCADA system.
Singapore: CA Technologies announced its participation in a scientific research to discover how Internet of Things (IoT) applications can use a type of artificial intelligence (AI) known as ‘deep learning’ to imitate human decisions. The research will also explore how to prevent that AI-based decisions are not producing biased results.