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CNCs' role in the digital factory

Computer numerical controls (CNCs) are playing a larger role in the digital factory and are able to make programming easier, reduce downtime, and provide users with more options and flexibility.

Chris Pollack
08/11/2017

Computer numerical controls (CNCs) such as Siemens’ Sinumerik 808D Advanced are designed to improve accuracy, safety, and communication on the digital factory floor. Image courtesy: Siemens

Computer numerical controls (CNCs) are playing a larger role in the digital factory as Industrie 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) continue to become more prevalent, according to a Control Engineering discussion with Chris Pollack, dealer and importer support manager, Siemens Industry Inc., about the role of CNCs in the digital factory. Pollack also discussed how mobile technologies are helping improve machine control and making CNC programming easier.

Computer numerical controls (CNCs) such as Siemens’ Sinumerik 808D Advanced are designed to improve accuracy, safety, and communication on the digital factory floor. Courtesy: SiemensControl Engineering (CE): What are the advantages of a digital factory and how are machine controls helping with that?

Chris Pollack: The one greatest advantage when implementing a digital factory is the reduction of downtime. By creating a digital twin of the manufacturing floor you can validate the production process before actually implementing it in real life. Think about being able to run first article machining processes while the actual machines are manufacturing something else.

CE: What aspects of the digital factory or Industrie 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are helping with machine control and why?

Pollack: Not sure if I would say the digital factory is pushing development of machine tool controls as much as advanced controls can enable the possibility of a digital factory.

CE: How is CNC software becoming part of the integrated workflow from product inception through machine programming, and what are the benefits and differences with more traditional CNCs?

Pollack: With the ability of the CNC to have an independent digital twin, we can truly simulate the production process down to actual cycle times. Without having the actual CNC kernel running virtually, external simulation packages need to make assumption on how the CNC control will respond. This obviously leads to the potential of incorrect process simulation. In addition, by having a virtual twin of the actual machine tool that was created from data extracted from the machines CNC, we can anticipate the machine's physical motion, even taking into account the acceleration and deceleration of the physical machine. For example, a machine tool emulator for the PC can build a virtual twin from a machine archive. Customers can have controls with their unique original equipment manufacturer (OEM) commissioning differences represented virtually.

CE: How is CNC software and hardware simplifying integration with robotics and other motion control systems?

Pollack: Some controls have the capability of talking to the robot control and controlling it. No more is it necessary to have two programs with different programming languages needed to manufacture a part. In the past, you would have a program running in the CNC while a separate program runs in the robot control. With appropriate software, the CNC can handle the part program and the robot program. This allows for more complex movement, as well. Instead of the machine having to wait for the robot to finish its operation, it is now possible to have the machine tool and the robot moving in synchronous action.

You can perform such tasks as loading one work-holding while the machine is still machining the second on one common table. It is also possible for the robot to actually perform a light machining task to the part simultaneously with the machine tool cutting. Imagine deburring features on a part while other areas are still being rough machined.

CE: How are mobile and wireless technologies being safely integrated into machine controls?

Pollack: Mobile devices can now be used for preventive maintenance as well as remote monitoring to ensure machine uptime.

CE: How are CNCs accommodating the need for easier programming?

Pollack: I don't believe it is enough to just make a simple conversational control anymore. It is much more important to allow the CNC to adapt to the operator's skill level, then forcing the user to adapt to the control. For example, some controls have been designed to allow for four ways a user can manufacture a part.

  1. Manual machining – Here, a user has access to all of the machine's conversational cycles in the jog area. If a user wishes to machine a rectangular pocket without creating an entire part program, then it is simple to handle this in Jog mode.
  2. Milling and turning – This conversational interface was designed to handle basic programming requirements and complex mixed technology. A user can grow with this programming option. It can handle basic 3-axis milling or 2-axis turning all the way to mixed technology, 5-axis, multi-channel machines. In fact, we find that it is very common when programming complex machine tools that customers tend to leverage shopfloor conversational programming methods to circumvent post-development issues that render computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) systems ineffective.
  3. Programming guidance – Advanced G-code programming environment that combines DIN programming functionality with ISO command structure. Additionally, through flexible programming, an advanced, variable-based programming language can be leveraged for complex machining strategies.
  4. ISO programming compatibility – The control software has the capability to program or import standard ISO programs. This allows compatibility with other CNC programs.

 

CE: How are CNCs accommodating the need for easier setup and operations?

Pollack: By incorporating native probing cycles into some CNC software, users have a vast library of cycles to choose from to simplify part setup. Additionally, these cycles have an inherent intelligence to them. They can change their functionality from automatic probing to manual operation simply by recognizing what is in the machine's spindle. If the control knows that a probe is in the spindle, then the cycles are automatic, but if a manual edge finder is in the spindle, then the same cycles can be used, but they will know to perform a manual operation. This allows the control to have even more versatility and allows the operator to use his skill set.

CE: How are CNC technology advances changing training?

Pollack: With the unique ability of creating virtual machines that mimic real-life machine tools, we can move training into a virtual space. Now, more than ever, people can learn how to use their machine tools without the need for face-to-face instruction. This becomes even more helpful when getting into advanced topics and truly learning how to get the most out of a CNC.

CE: How are CNC and related machine intelligence advances (sensors and situational awareness) changing machine maintenance? What are the benefits?

Pollack: With the new analytics available from an advanced CNC, machine performance and maintenance requirements can be anticipated. This will ensure optimal uptime while achieving the best performance possible.

- Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineeringcvavra(at)cfemedia.com.

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What other benefits can CNCs provide in the digital factory?

 

 

ONLINE extra

Siemens CNC products help with digital factory.

Specific Siemens products related to Pollack's answers include the following Siemens products.

Sinumerik CNC enables the possibility of a digital factory.

SinuTrain is a machine tool emulator for the PC that can build a virtual twin from a machine archive. Customers can have every Sinumerik control with their unique original equipment manufacturer (OEM) commissioning differences represented virtually. Sinumerik can communicate with the robot control and control it.

With the Siemens Sinumerik Run MyRobot, the CNC can handle the part program and the robot program.

Sinumerik control has been designed to allow for four ways a user can manufacture a part: Manual Machining Mode, ShopMill / ShopTurn, programGuide, and ISO Programming Compatibility.

Sinumerik CNC new advanced analytics anticipate machine performance and maintenance requirements to ensure optimal uptime while achieving the best performance possible.

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