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Digitalisation in machine tool industry and metalworking

Source:International Metalworking News     Date:2020-05-29
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Apprentices and trainees learn how digital solutions improve production in the TRUMPF training centre. Photo: TRUMPF Group

The virologists who are constantly searching for answers surrounding the corona epidemic should be able to use the large quantity of anonymised data of mobile phones in order to better understand how the population is behaving and thus make better predictions on curbing the spread.

The importance of well-known digital tools for communication and remote visualisation is increasing significantly in light of the need for isolation and physical distancing and they are being used across all economic sectors. Politicians, doctors and boardrooms are holding meetings in video conferences, schools are transferring their lessons to moving image clips and remote maintenance tools obtain the status of a “system-critical” component.

The industry has long been aware of the potential of digitalisation. The hopes and goals are varied, be it the faster development of more flexible machines, better reliability and smooth (remote) maintenance, better documentation, a higher degree of automation, learning effects from comparability in the swarm and self-learning capability – the list of possibilities is endless.

When faced with the current challenges quite a few people wish that more progress was already made in the digitalisation and expansion of the necessary networks, such as the new 5G mobile radio standard: "Industrial 5G opens the door to the extensive wireless networking of production, maintenance and logistics. High data rates, extremely reliable transmission and ultrashort latency periods will enable a significant increase in efficiency and greater flexibility in the industrial added-value", says Eckard Eberle, CEO of the Siemens Business Unit Process Automation.

Eberle is responsible for the Siemens 5G Test Center. In fact, a machine tool (still) cannot be seen here, but the road for the wireless networking of the factory of the future is clearly mapped out. Over the last few months Siemens has already been testing the 3.7 - 3.8 GHz frequency band in Nuremberg with logistics components in a real industrial environment, e.g. with Simatic controls and IO devices.

And even without 5G exciting applications for digital support for automation engineers can already be seen: In order to determine, for example, sources of errors for quality problems with free-form workpieces, Siemens uses a software that performs all neuralgic points of the process chain and checks the stations between CAD system and the tools used.

Because the sources of errors can be manifold: the output of the CAD system itself, the output of the CAM system or the post-processor, the parameter settings of the CNC and the drive controller, the mechanics of the machine, the tools, the cooling agent, and in theory even the material of the workpiece. The Analyse MyWorkpiece/Toolpath programme checks the output data of the individual system parts, like the STL file of the CAD system, the MPF file from the CAM system or the post-processor, the recording of the position values and finally, how the drive controller and the machine mechanics, as well as the tool, implemented the data. This way quality assurance of CAD/CAM data of, for example, large-format workpieces can already take place before production.

These optimisation systems in the vicinity of the machine tool will also play an important role at AMB 2020. The big hits in Stuttgart are likely to be so-called edge solutions. They offer additional computing power for the digital production support and in many cases use algorithms based on artificial intelligence in order to assist machine operators in their work.

In September the focus will be on finding practical ways out of the crisis, as well as sales growth and cost savings, particularly through increased productivity and increased efficiency of systems and machines, in preparation for when the order books are filled again.

Between opportunity and challenge

With new solutions such as Edge Computing, digitalisation offers diverse opportunities in the heterogeneous production environments in metalworking. But there are also numerous challenges. In order to make digitalisation available across the board, it needs standards, says Markus Horn, Managing Director of Paul Horn GmbH: “The VDMA is promoting the issue within the framework of GTDE. I gladly welcome this and, as a company, we are also playing our part by making available the corresponding data”, he adds.

GTDE is the abbreviation for the association Graphical Tool Data Exchange-Standard Open Base e.V. and acts as a competence centre, stakeholder and service provider in the area of tool data exchange. Members and partners of the association include well-known tool manufacturers and users, software companies and the VDMA Precision Tools Association. The aim is to design the tool data exchange in a future-oriented manner through internationally recognised standards, as well as support the relevant companies in this area. The association supports the implementation for the tool data exchange and thus the standardised provision of tool data through the operation of a separate server, via which participating manufacturers can arrange to have tool data, such as tool properties, 2D and 3D graphics checked according to DIN and ISO and make the tool data available free of charge.

But Horn also clarifies: "The money is earned on the edge. Complemented, not replaced by digital means. For us as a tool manufacturer this means: If the tool does not offer the quality and precision that is required, then digitalisation also does not help", he points out.

At present there are a great deal of players on the market who offer digital services: software manufacturers, machine manufacturers or tool manufacturers. However, without any standards it is generally complex and expensive to realise these for the customer and they are also not flexible in use.

“Digital add-on products or services should only be used where there is an actual benefit. In the future we are also focussing on the tool itself, making available the corresponding data and offering digital solutions for the applications where they will have a beneficial effect”, says Horn.

Source: AMB


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