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Orderfox: CNC Industry’s Globalisation & Digitisation

Orderfox: CNC Industry’s Globalisation & Digitisation

With the emergence of Industry 4.0, the economic rules, value-added networks and the industry’s entire DNA are changing. There are numerous opportunities to CNC Industry’s bring business activities in-line with the new requirements of this global transformation and overall digitisation of all business and production processes.

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EuroBLECH: Where Are You Going Industry 4.0?

EuroBLECH: Where Are You Going Industry 4.0?

When Industry 4.0 took off in Germany it rapidly made it to the headlines. With the digital agenda of the federal government it received highest political priority. But where stands Industry 4.0 in reality? By Dipl-Ing Nikolaus Fecht and Dr Andreas Thoss on behalf of EuroBLECH.

Theory describes Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution as full integration of production and communication technologies. It creates a so-called “smart factory”, where people, machines and processes are well connected by internet technologies for the purpose of increased cost efficiency, higher process stability and greater flexibility. After all, technological innovations should save time and money.

How does that look in real life? On one hand, there is an approach to scrutinise whole factories and to re-think and optimise all processes, from the first customer request to after-sales services. On the other hand many SMEs offer solutions for separate business processes. With special software tools, efficiency can be increased dramatically. Beside consequent digitisation of processes, there is a second trend coming up: While product lines are unified the single product is increasingly personalised. While this can lead to smaller lot sizes (even down to one), the new tools will help to retain profitability even then.

A Management Issue

Friedhelm Loh, the sole proprietor of the Friedhelm Loh Group with more than 11,000 employers, spoke on his experiences with the introduction of Industry 4.0 in the Rittal, Germany, factory for industrial control cabinets.

The product portfolio had been adjusted, until 2015 they reduced the number of products from 465 to 110. Five product lines were combined into one. In future, customers will define their purchase using an online configurator. The data from this configurator tool go directly into SAP and NC programmes. From initial material supply up to final distribution all logistic processes are fully automated. The whole process from “customer to customer” is digitally organised.

The cost savings in the process steps are between 15 percent (purchasing and sales department, after-sales service) and 50 percent (manufacturing). Mr Loh’s conclusion: “Only an integrated end-to-end solution which is consistently based on configuration and data, results in a continuous process.”

Within the Trumpf group, a new production unit Sheet Metal Processing has been set up as a fully connected factory. It is comparable to a conventional sheet metal job shop which is completely converted into a smart factory. They use and develop software tools from Trumpf ‘s proprietary solution portfolio TruConnect and their digital business platform Axoom. For a further optimisation of the production process they introduced a MES (Manufacturing Execution System)-system from the TruConnect tool box.

As the heart of the production planning, it evaluates the machine conditions and allows a paper free production with digital accompanying documents. Also, the topic intra-logistics will be optimised towards Industry 4.0 to automatise error-prone routine tasks.

Solutions For All

Not every company can or wants to implement Industry 4.0 in the form of an entire new factory. Today there are many solutions for separate processes, which serve the idea of higher efficiency by connectivity and specialised software.

It starts with indirect processes, that are all the steps in a job that take place before or after the actual manufacturing of the part, regardless of the batch size. As batch sizes shrink due to increasing individualisation, these indirect processes are no longer in proportion to the actual productive work (ie: production itself).

A study conducted by Fraunhofer-IPA (S-Tec) in collaboration with Trumpf found out that the costs for material planning may shrink by up to 75 percent in a smart factory surrounding.

Dominik Weibel and Marco Wüst, two Swiss entrepreneurs, have implemented a similar tool for a sheet metal processing job shop. Within their company eMDe Blechfabrik AG they developed an online system based on Trumpf’s online quotation calculator WebCalculate. Here customers can upload drawings and set material parameters and they receive a full quotation immediately.

After placing an order, customers can track the order throughout all processing steps including delivery. eMDe saves a lot of time with small lot sizes and retains an opportunity for price negotiations with larger orders. More such tools (or actually apps) can be expected soon when Trumpf’s spin-off Axoom becomes fully operational.

Smart software may also save money in manufacturing processes. For example Bystronic has developed a special software for planning a sheet metal cutting job. The online service ByOptimizer calculates an optimised cutting plan for the laser machine based on more than 300 parameters. Parts are grouped so closely on the metal sheet that the gaps (ie: raw material offcuts) are reduced to a minimum. The online service connects seamlessly with existing software, it needs just a few clicks to upload data and online service takes care of everything else. Cutting paths of the laser are reduced by half when a common cut allows for one cut instead of two. Bystronic promises material savings of up to 10 percent depending on contour shape and lot size.

It becomes more challenging if you have a new process and you want to find process parameters for cutting or drilling processes. It needs a well experienced operator and a number of trials to find optimal laser process parameters for a new material. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have collected simulation know-how for such processes for many years. Adequate simulations usually require a workstation and hours of calculation time, but experts have developed a simplified simulation tool for tablet use. In this app the user can play around with beam parameters such waist diameter and see, the processing result directly. This may reduce make-ready times considerably.

The simulation app from the Fraunhofer ILT allows playing around with process parameters with immediate return of the process changes in a neighboring window.

Another example of smart production will be shown by the Schuler AG at EuroBLECH trade fair. With their concept of a “Smart Press Shop” they want to show how networking solutions in forming technology can increase not only process reliability, but also cost-effectiveness in production.

For this purpose the entire system is simulated and optimised, including all press stages and automation components. The systems provide data measured by sensors installed at numerous points, for example to monitor the press force. This data also allows for a continuous operation control and allows for condition-based maintenance.

Alliances & Initiatives

Industry 4.0 is a key issue for German politics and so there are plenty of projects and events arranged in a national and international frame. Particularly engaged are the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Together with industry organisations and companies they have pooled activities and offerings for small and medium sized companies within the “Plattform Industrie 4.0”. If you think humans will disappear completely from the shop floor, you may consider a look at the so-called “Innovationsallianz 3Dsensation”. Founded within the founding initiative “Zwanzig20 – Partnerschaft für Innovation” of the BMBF companies and research institutions meet here to think about the future man machine interaction. It’s about making men machine interaction more intuitive, safer and more efficient.

With a budget of €100 million (US$112.2 million), partners of the consortium want to work on projects in the fields of manufacturing, mobility, health care and security. Of particular focus are 3D technologies that help machines to capture and interpret complex scenarios rapidly.

Risks & Side Effects?

Putting more services on the net and into the cloud brings a number of new risks on the table. So far, viruses and theft of data are more common on office computers. But with the Stuxnet worm that targeted industrial control systems, it is apparent that machine controls are not secure from fraud. On a recent meeting of the Association of German Engineers VDI the association’s director Ralph Appel said that the number of cyber-attacks on industrial plants or infrastructures of larger and smaller companies is much larger than the news reports, since many companies do not even recognise such attacks.

Accordingly, safety concepts are in high demand. One place where such concepts are developed is the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology SIT in Darmstadt. There they built a Trusted Core Network (TCN) which tests the integrity of network knots to ensure that there are no foreign invaders. New participants such as robots, computers or machines are verified continuously and can be connected to the network.

Industry 4.0 is much more than hype; Many of its ideas are implemented already. Solutions for separate processes are in widespread use but the conversion of full complex process chains is still rare. The conversion of indirect processes promises quick wins, in particular if you try to drive profits for small lot sizes.

Detlef Zühlke, head of the technology initiative SmartFactoryKL eV and leader of the group Innovative Factory Systems (IFS) at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, DFKI, said recently at a large Industry 4.0 conference in Anaheim, CA, USA, that it will some more two or three years until the first systems will be running. But then it will become a global competition: “It’s a worldwide movement. Those who are too late with it will finally be the first to die on the market.”

The simulation app from the Fraunhofer ILT allows dynamic adjustment of the process parameters, immediately returning process changes in the adjacent window

The simulation app from the Fraunhofer ILT allows dynamic adjustment of the process parameters, immediately returning process changes in the adjacent window.

The simulation app from the Fraunhofer ILT allows dynamic adjustment of the process parameters, immediately returning process changes in the adjacent window.

The simulation app from the Fraunhofer ILT allows dynamic adjustment of the process parameters, immediately returning process changes in the adjacent window.

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