One of the eye-opening exhibits at last September’s EMO in Germany was the huge array of machine tools presented by DMG, one of the world’s largest machine tool builders. The 70 DMG machines on display ranged from turning centers and turn/mills to multi-axis machining centers in horizontal, vertical and universal configurations. Gildemeister and Deckel Maho are the major DMG brands, but all of the company’s makes and models were represented at the show.
And all of the machines in the latest generation have a new appearance. The unified look certainly strengthens the corporate identity of the product line while giving each brand distinctive design elements that differentiate it. Depending on one’s taste, the various ensembles of colors and styles are strongly appealing. However, there was more to this new look than outward appearance. The look is part of a “New Design” concept that the company says is based on the interaction among functionality, ergonomics and form. The stated purpose is to create added value for the customer.
Significantly, a number of elements in the new design reflect attention to the role of the operator. The intent is to improve visibility—visibility of the machine’s operational status, visibility of the machining actions in the inner work zone and visibility of the control unit interface. Other elements address the operator’s convenience, comfort and safety. Altogether, this attention to the operator indicates that the operator’s role is very important in overall machine tool productivity. An efficient operator enhances a machine’s productive capacity; an inefficient operator holds it back. DMG’s new design concept exemplifies this thinking.
Perhaps the most conspicuous feature of the new design is the use of larger viewing panels in the doors to machine tool enclosures. The new sizes are approximately 40 percent larger than in previous models (in models with double doors, this is as much as 80 percent more viewing area). The idea of the larger panels is to increase visibility of machine operations. It’s simply easier to see what is going on inside. Details of the setup, the positions of spindles and tool turrets, the orientation of coolant nozzles, the state of chip evacuation and other items that an operator checks visually are more viewable.
The company also says that users can now “directly experience high tech machining” because of increased visibility. According to company announcements, “The experience of the machining process leads to a strong identification with the events that take place in the work area, consequently leading to improved quality.” Shops and plants involved in lean manufacturing are likely to be especially responsive to this statement because effective lean implementation and sustainability rely on a high level of engagement among shopfloor personnel.
The larger viewing panels use a new generation of impact-resistant safety glass originally developed for aerospace applications. This material allows a larger expanse without diminishing the protection it has to provide.
Green Is For Go
Keeping operators aware of a machine’s operational status helps them respond more efficiently when attention is required. In this regard, the company has replaced the conventional three-color indicator lamp with the “DMG Lightline.” With this feature, a highly visible strip of light extends up and down the entire height of the machine’s enclosure and over the ridge at the top. The intent is to signal the condition of the machine in a way that is viewable from many angles without creating a glare or a visual distraction.
The Lightline is typically built into a vertical band of brushed aluminum with flush surfaces to enhance the machine’s aesthetic appeal. Located adjacent to the door of the machine enclosure, the band is always in sight and at eye level.
The light strip glows green, yellow or red to indicate machine status. With the trend to multi-machine cells tended by a single operator, these signals keep active monitoring of the cell a visual affair. One glance is enough to keep track of tending priorities.
DMG’s new design program seems to offer the most significant enhancements to operator efficiency with the re-arranged control unit. Called the “DMG Ergoline,” the control provides great flexibility for positioning and adjustment as well as for customization of the display screen. Measuring 19 inches diagonally, the screen is said to resemble a high-end flat TV screen.
Depending on the machine series, the operator can swing the control unit to the right or left of the work area because it is mounted on a cantilevered arm that pivots from below, at the base of the machine. The screen itself can be tilted at any angle between 5 and 30 degrees. Likewise, the keyboard panel can be tilted at any angle between 15 and 70 degrees. The operator can make these adjustments to suit comfort and convenience. A swing-away padded bar for seating and a tilting tray for resting a mouse pad or clipping blueprints are available as options.
The flat surface of the screen minimizes glare and can be wiped clean easily. Its large size allows graphic displays, menu icons and task bars to be magnified for greater visibility. More importantly, the enlarged viewing area makes more room for status displays and on-screen, touch-sensitive push buttons called “DMG Softkeys.” These keys are customizable. That is, the operator can assign the keys for frequently used operation sequences or commonly selected screen content according to personal preference.
Of course, most machine tools are operated by more than one individual. These operators may not share the same levels of authorized use or file access. Likewise, each may have different preferences for the key assignments or display settings. DMG’s solution to this situation is its Smartkey system for control unit setup and security.
This consists of a device that resembles an MP3 player that snaps into a matching recess on the side of the keyboard panel. Once in place, the key’s transponder activates the control and reads in the stored data settings. This allows the control to check for an access code that grants the user the right to unlock the control and operate the machine at the level authorized for this individual. There is no conventional key port and mechanical lock. After activation, stored settings for user preferences and customization are automatically implemented.
Finally, the device stores and transfers digital data from the CNC. For example, logs of operating conditions, job records, part counts, alerts and diagnostic reports can be downloaded to the Smartkey. When the device is removed, the control is automatically disabled until replacing the key reactivates it.
More Than Skin Deep
This focus on the outward appearance and external characteristics of machines at DMG’s EMO display in the new design program is not meant to downplay developments in machining capability. Equally significant were increased axis strokes, larger turning diameters or work cubes, higher torque values and other changes designed to improve the performance of the various machines, 14 of which were shown for the first time. Details about the product introductions and upgrades are available at the company’s Web site, www.dmgamerica.com.