With Industry 4.0, there is now an increasing trend towards digitalisation in industrial environments. Bystronic’s head of development (CTO) Dr Jürgen Hohnhaus talks about the benefits behind this development. By Oliver Hergt with photos by Manuel Stettler.
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.
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.
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.