Pneumatic and electrical automation technology, with over 300.000 customers.
CNC MANUFACTURING ON THE WAY TO THE SMART FACTORY: WITH NC SIMULATION READY FOR CONNECTED PRODUCTION
To remain competitive, an increasing number of CNC manufacturers rely on end-to-end and connected production processes in line with Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT). Using the latest developments, simulation technology provides essential components to connect the physical and the virtual world.
Industry 4.0, which closely integrates production with the latest information and communication technology, may still be a long way off for some; machining manufacturers that use complex CNC machines, however, are facing the challenges of an end-to-end digitalization in manufacturing today. Increasingly more customers place specific orders; as a result, greater flexibility in manufacturing is required.
At the same time, companies are subject to increasing competitiveness and cost pressure. The media gap between CAD supported design and CNC manufacturing is clearly becoming an obstacle: The programs generated are based on CAM data and first, must be manually checked for syntax errors and corrected, sometimes in several stages. Manuals for machine operators are printed on paper. The set-up process may take several hours or days - during which time the machines are not available for production. Starting them up can only be done at a reduced speed to prevent the dreaded, expensive tool crashes.
This, however, is a risk which cannot be completely eliminated, partly because the technicians are not able to monitor the manufacturing processes in the closed machine. Marco Merche, Global Production IT at Festo AG & Co. KG in St. Ingbert, is familiar with the problem.
Every year, the company produces ca. 15,000 customer-specific solutions and has been testing Industry 4.0 technologies at its technology factory Scharnhausen, Germany.
More than eight years ago, the project “Digital Production” was initiated in manufacturing.
To remain competitive, NC manufacturers require end-to-end connected processes - which implies that they are dependent on the advancement of virtual design, programing and simulation, as well as physical manufacturing.
END-TO-END AND CONNECTED PROCESSES
Simulation software providers such as NCSIMUL Machine by SPRING Technologies are meeting these demands. With dynamic and substantial continuous development of their software they are paving the way for a Smart Factory in line with Industry 4.0. Initially, the focus was on preventing clashes and minimizing set-up time.
By simulating the process on the virtual machine, a clash can be avoided with certainty, provided that the tool data has been entered correctly. Simultaneously, the operating program is optimized, thus reducing the processing time. In large-volume production even a few seconds per tool make a difference, says Merche.
Above all, however, the road has been cleared for a more quick and flexible implementation of customer-specific orders. Lengthy set-up times are eliminated, as well as paper prints and complex manual inspections or corrections of the NC code. The simulated processing program is automatically generated as a 3D film.
Programmers and machine operators are able to follow the complete production cycle, simulated in 3D, from the computer or touch pad. This not only saves time and costs, but also makes the setting-up of machines more comfortable; it is a prerequisite for achieving connectivity in manufacturing. Knowledge, which was previously bound in individual and partly manually generated programs, and the know-how based on the machine operator’s experience can now be digitally stored - and shared - as a knowledge base made available to the entire company. “Automatically-generated NC programs can simply be sent to another production site, as well as to suppliers. This creates a digital data hub, which can be put to use beyond company limits,” says Herbert Schönle, General Manager at SPRING Technologies and responsible for the DACH (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) region.
In addition to simulation, SPRING Technologies has recently released the NCSIMUL4CAM module, allowing machine change with just one click - regardless of the machine type, kinematics and control. Data from a large variety of CAM systems, NC codes, as well as APT and CL data can be entered.
“Our software functions like a converter,” explains Schönle. “Obsolete NC programs can automatically be transferred to a new machine type without requiring an external post processor”. In line with a flexible manufacturing process, the focus shifts from the maximum exploitation of a single machine to the optimized use of the entire NC machinery, building an end-to-end integrated system.
The next step, which involves the autonomous organizing of machines with each other, is still a long way away. At Festo, they have begun to test a higher-level control system and generation of programs “on the flight”, restricted to a clearly defined area which focuses on alternative single-unit manufacturing on two types of machines.
TOOL DATA FROM THE CLOUD
Further time savings could be realized by using a tool data platform into which manufacturers feed their data, allowing the users to download them into their own systems as complete electronic data sets. After all, correct tool data is essential to the generation of optimized and collisions-free processing programs.
SPRING Technologies has recognized this fact and prepares its own tool management to support simpler and more intelligent import functions.