Smooth Technology is the umbrella term Mazak (Florence, Kentucky) is using to describe its new concept for the programming and control of complex, multi-axis machine tools. Smooth Technology is a complete package of control unit, machine hardware and servo systems. All of these components have been engineered to work together for enhanced functionality, speed and ergonomics, the company says. The concept combines part programming, setup, the actual metal removal operations, integrated automation, and monitoring through the collection and transfer of performance data.
The most prominent component of the Smooth Technology package is the new Mazatrol SmoothX CNC. With this CNC, Mazak says that it has quadrupled interpolation speed over previous-generation controls. This development is said to shorten machining times and enhance such operations as full simultaneous five-axis machining and complex mold machining. New functions of the control include Intelligent Pocket Milling (to maintain a constant angle of tool engagement), Seamless Corner Control (to avoid burying a cutter when entering a 90-degree corner) and Real-Time Tuning (to optimize turret indexing when tool loads are uneven).
On the part programming side, new software functions include Quick Mazatrol, Quick EIA and full five-axis 3D simulation. Neil Desrosiers, applications engineer/developer at Mazak, describes Quick Mazatrol as a hybrid born from the marriage of a CAM system and conversational programming. “Shops are now able to use a solid model to obtain part geometries, but still program conversationally. This means that with Smooth Technology, users don’t have to know how to use a CAM system to work from a solid CAD model to create programs,” he says.
Quick EIA enables users to rapidly generate any tool path prior to running the program and view it in full simulation. According to Mr. Desrosiers, the secret behind the blazing fast simulation speed of Quick EIA is that the software uses advanced graphics technology—the same type used to generate the graphics for today’s gaming systems. Mazak also has applied these advanced graphics to the five-axis 3D simulation function to check for errors and machine interferences. These extremely realistic and accurate simulations use the same machine movement parameters as actual Mazak model machines.
Another programming function, View Surf, will soon be added to the software. This feature will enable the programmer to analyze and optimize G code faster and more thoroughly by quickly pinpointing the exact line of code that has an error.
At the human-machine interface (HMI) level, the new control features a multi-touch home screen that, within a single page view, presents all critical data to operators. This enables them to jump from the home screen to any other area or section within the CNC. They can use a fingertip to pan, rotate, zoom or otherwise manipulate a 3D rendering of the component being machined. Or they can flick an area of the screen to scroll through the displayed program G code. Navigation is very similar to using a tablet device.
Mazatrol SmoothX CNC consoles are the same size for all machines. In the past, control units were physically larger or smaller, depending on the number of buttons, options and features required for the machine model. The new controls have a common bank of buttons, which makes it easier for operators to go from one Mazak machine to the next.
For digital manufacturing functionality, Smooth Technology supports MTConnect and includes an NC Data Library—an Ethernet interface to a library of data-accessing functions for programmers if they wish to write software to communicate with the machine via an Ethernet network. This also means machines can have an MTConnect adapter and that users can collect data from the CNC.