By consistent, and above all uninterrupted, use of a CAD-CAM-CNC chain, it is possible to open up not only extended technological possibilities, but also potential for rationalisation in production. The right software, including the machine control system, plays a major role in this.
The Metav 2016 is showing the complete value creation chain in production technology. On the exhibition grounds in Düsseldorf, 66 exhibitors are taking up the topic of automation in machine tool construction. These firms are showing products ranging from planning to simulation, from design engineering to automation, with an emphasis on machine tools and production systems. Waiting for the visitors are solutions all the way along the process chain. By using a virtual machine and optimised CAM software, machining processes can be visualised and optimised away from the machine. This reduces production times and process chain lengths.
Start-to-finish process chain demands intelligent networking
The start-to-finish process chain in the production of the future demands intelligent networking of machine tools and IT systems. For Hartmut Kälberer, CEO for technology and project management at the F. Zimmermann GmbH in Neuhausen a.d.F., a start-to-finish process chain in the production of the future would look like this: "From the beginning of design engineering onwards, the parts are registered by a computer, NC programs produced and the tools used allocated and called up." This way, production is already informed of capacity and material needs at the beginning of the process chain.
The future will apparently be marked by automatic logging and intelligent networking. Material needs and warehouse stock will be compared constantly. Production monitoring and capacity planning can thus be carried out automatically. For the building blocks in the process chain, simulation will become increasingly important. The aim in all this is a complete simulation. "In the end, it will only be necessary to copy a program onto the machine controller, and the part will be produced," Kälberer anticipates.
Not every controller is suitable for a process chain
Yet, to realise this, more is in fact necessary than simply the right software. "Not every controller is suitable for a process chain, unfortunately there is still no standardised interface. The aim must be a logical linking of different controllers and programs, and thus the standardisation of interfaces. They must all speak a common language," this Swabian expert demands. It would therefore be the best thing for the user, of course, to have all interfaces from one maker. This would, after all, reduce the risk.
In this case, a major role in a functioning process chain is played by the controllers. Controllers suitable for process chain must include those by the Dr. Johannes Heidenhain GmbH from Traunreut. With these controllers from Upper Bavaria, the user has access to all relevant data from his workplace at the machine. According to the maker, it is thus possible to use applications such as managing, documenting and visualising via the controller. For this purpose, the software applications are to be installed on an industrial PC in the switching cubicle or on a PC in the firm’s network. Even tasks requiring extensive calculation apparently have no influence on the CNC processing and the performance of the machine. Additional screens or a PC next to the machine are not necessary.
Visitors who have to deal with questions of automation in machine tool construction will now ask themselves if every controller is suited to process chains, for in the past the following situation prevailed: interfaces from one maker only reduce the risk of something going wrong; Siemens only works with Siemens – a motor only with a controller by the Munich firm. Siemens has therefore taken another path and put together a start-to-finish portfolio. It comprises the PLM software and start-to-finish automation and control technology. "We are thus in a position to offer our customers start-to-finish process chains. It is self-evident that both our PLM software and our Sinumerik control technology are open for use with systems from other providers," says Joachim Zoll, manager of the business segment Machine Tool Systems. From the point of view of this machine manufacturer, Zoll summarises as follows: "With the digital process chain, from the idea to the machine, on one shared database, we help our customers to react more flexibly to individual requirements of their customers. The result: the time-to-market can be reduced significantly." The machine operator, on his part, can draw this firm conclusion: With an optimised CAD-CAM-CNC process chain, from the design of the workpiece and the simulation up to production itself, the user can raise the flexibility and productivity of a machine tool.
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