Mark Albert is editor-in-chief of Modern Machine Shop Magazine, a position he has held since July 2000. He was associate editor and then executive editor of the magazine in prior years. Mark has been writing about metalworking for more than 30 years. Currently, his favorite topics are lean manufacturing and global competitiveness. Mark’s editorial activities have taken him to numerous countries in Europe and Asia as well as across the United States many times. He is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Indiana University (Bloomington, Indiana).
The MTConnect Institute has released a white paper, “Getting Started with MTConnect—Shop Floor Monitoring, What’s in it for You?” It demonstrates the benefits of monitoring a manufacturing plant using MTConnect to collect data and information from the shop floor. MTConnect is a set of open, royalty-free standards intended to foster greater interoperability between manufacturing controls, devices and software applications by publishing data over networks using the Internet Protocol.
The white paper discusses the almost limitless ways companies can use data obtained in the MTConnect format to improve operations, track production and justify decisions that affect plant operations. Topics covered in the paper include many of the common uses for shop floor data, such as:
Displaying a production dashboard
Monitoring alerts, equipment availability and usage
Measuring overall equipment effectiveness (OEE)
Achieving mobile, “anywhere, anytime” access to plant floor information
Applying statistical process control for quality assurance
Maintaining part genealogy and traceability
Improving data security
This white paper is a companion document to the MTConnect Institute’s “Connectivity Guide” white paper. Whereas the “Connectivity Guide” provides the ‘how,’ “Monitoring Your Shop Floor” provides the ‘why.’ Together, these documents present a comprehensive explanation of the benefits of using MTConnect to facilitate monitoring of a shop or plant.
TechSolve is a Cincinnati-based organization that provides consulting and R&D services to the manufacturing and (more recently) the healthcare communities. One of its most important facilities is the M. Eugene Merchant Technology Development Center, an especially well-equipped machining laboratory dedicated to developing advanced machining processes and conducting basic research in machining-related technology.
My most recent visit to TechSolve for its Machining Open House, which spotlighted the organization’s on-going projects in machining R&D, included a tour of the machining lab. The lab’s six main machining resources include these CNC machines:
Mazak Integrex i200s eight-axis mill-turn
DMG DMU 70 five-axis machining center
DMG Deckel Maho DMU 50 3+2 axis machining center
Makino V 55 high speed die-mold vertical machining center
Chevalier Smart B122411 CNC grinding machine
Milltronics HMC 35 horizontal machining center
Each of these machines is equipped with a variety of sensors, dynamometers, and data acquisition systems to collect cutting force and other machine data at very high speed. This enables TechSolve to provide a variety of analytical and development services to manufacturers as well as suppliers of materials, cutting tools, cooling systems and accessories.
Demonstrations on these machines involved a number of current projects or research capabilities that reflect critical issues facing metalworking manufacturers. For example, the lab conducts evaluations of metalworking fluids to determine quantifiable benefits of specific coolant formulations for challenging workpiece materials such as those frequently encountered in aerospace. These tests are usually conducted on the DMU 50 CNC machining center, with results that compare the cooling and lubricating effects of coolants to enable the lab’s clients to select the most appropriate products and apply them properly.
A demo on the DMU 70 five-axis machine showed how problems with unpredictable tool life for certain CBN cutting tools were resolved. Testing indicated that a lack of edge preparation on the CBN segment often led to chipping that precipitated tool failure. Honing the edge prevented this chipping so all of the tools delivered their expected productivity. The lab’s Keyence Digital Microscope capable of 200X magnification was essential to this research.
The Chevalier grinding machine provided a good example of the lab’s extensive use of sensors added to the machine structure for detecting grinding forces, power, vibration, temperature and acoustic emission. These extremely sensitive devices provide data for evaluating grinding processes, optimizing operational parameters.
While not part of a live demo, a Hardinge CNC lathe is currently used to evaluate TechSolve's in-house developments regarding surface treatment of carbide inserts, with specific focus on machining titanium.
Additionally, a of the machines in the lab are used for testing TechSolve’s MTConnect-enabled applications, such as ShopViz, for machine monitoring and energy management. The variety of machine configurations and control types simulates the situation encountered in many machine shops for a realistic evaluation of connectivity issues.
CAD systems have long been able to exchange part geometry files by translating the data into a vendor-neutral format. Translators using the STEP-NC standard are now enabling CAM systems to exchange manufacturing data such as CNC machining programs. These translators are expected to result in new levels of machine tool interoperability.
An open meeting supported by OMAC on June 24-25, 2013 will test and demonstrate prototype translators to facilitate data exchange using the STEP-NC standard. The meeting will be held at the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing in the Richmond, Virginia, area. OMAC (Organization for Machine Automation and Control) is an industry consortium created to help end users, technology providers, government institutions, academia and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) work together to find innovative ways to improve production operations.
The meeting will review tests and demonstrations of CAM to CAM data exchanges for Mastercam, Siemens NX and CATIA V5. Pilot projects to develop the business advantages of these translators to facilitate a more accurate and timely job quoting process, on-machine part inspection and acceptance, improved cutting tool selection and earlier simulation/verification of manufacturing processes will also be announced. The cutting tool pilot is likely to be the first to be deployed. In it, users will send operation descriptions to tooling bendors and receive back tool recommendations with process descriptions that minimize the total cost of tooling.
The concept behind STandard for Exchange of Product model data –Numerical Control (STEP-NC) is to use geometric constructs representing part features and their associated characteristics such as dimensional tolerances to define device-independent tool paths. STEP-NC is intended to enable manufacturing organizations to seamlessly share machining and measurement information between machines and over the Internet. STEP-NC replaces machine input based on M and G codes with an associative language that connects the CAD data used to determine the machining requirements for an operation with the CAM process data that solves those requirements.
Mazak Corp’s “Discover More With Mazak” customer events combine showroom demos of its machine tools, technical/educational presentations, tabletop exhibits by related suppliers and networking opportunities with like-minded machine shop owners and plant managers. These events have been scheduled at selected Mazak tech centers is various parts of the country, with demos and presentations tailored to the special interests of the specific region in which they occur.
I attended the Midwest Event at the company’s Midwest Regional Headquarters & Technical Center in Schaumburg, a suburb north of Chicago. This event focused on multitasking, the technology of combining multiple machining processes such as milling, turning, gear hobbing and so on, on one machine platform. Mazak is a rich source of wisdom and guidance on multitasking (see the company’s recently launched Multitasking Knowledge Center). Because Chicago is at the heart of a substantial concentration of capable, forward-thinking job shops in the Midwest, the focus on multitasking was on target.
Here are some of the new of refreshed insights into multitasking that I gleaned from the presentations and demos:
Multitasking comes in many levels. Mazak has identified five, with machine models for each level. Shops can make their entry into multitasking at the level that suits their needs and readiness.
Multitasking involves looking differently at every aspect of the machining process. This is not tough to do, but it does require a conscious commitment to changing old habits of thought. Ideas such as letting the machine be the fixture, or understanding that five-axis is about tool maneuverability as much as about contouring are examples.
Designing parts to be produced specifically on a multitasking machine is an advantage. Get more out of the machine; do more for your customer; make the job order more secure with an exclusive process.
CAM programming for multitasking makes a big difference. Make sure the software has the right capabilities, provides dependable simulation and has a sure-fire postprocessor.
The right operator can make or break a multitasking implementation. Choose the person carefully. Flexibility, mental openness and strong math skills are key traits.
Here is a brief slide show of highlights of this event.
The next Discover More event is scheduled for May 14-16, 2013 at Mazak’s Northeast Regional Headquarters & Technology Center. The focus is on medical and aerospace manufacturing operations.
"MTConnect: To Measure Is To Know," is a new book by Dave Edstrom. Dave is CEO/CTO of Virtual Photons Electrons and president/board chair of the MTConnect Institute. The book is all about MTConnect, an open-source, royalty-free communications standard intended to foster greater communication and connectivity between manufacturing equipment and devices. The author’s goal is clearly to promote the standard and the substantial benefits he believes it has for manufacturers, especially those in the United States. Dave has been in the computer industry for more than 34 years and deeply involved in manufacturing for the past seven.
The book looks at this standard from two perspectives. The first part of the book is mostly Dave’s personal account of how (and why) MTConnect was first proposed and then aggressively developed under the main sponsorship of AMT—The Association for Manufacturing Technology. This section is a readable mix of the standard’s historical origins as Dave witnessed them and his reflections on the nature of the larger digital technology surrounding it. This treatment puts MTConnect in its conceptual framework and context.
The second part of the book builds on that background to explain the inner workings of the standard and the open system principles underlying them. This part is more technical, but is written for readers who are not Information Technology specialists (although they will benefit from Dave’s clarity). The explanations are designed to encourage machine shop owners and managers of manufacturing plants to adopt MTConnect-enabled equipment and applications by helping them understand the basics. Dave’s message about machine monitoring is especially timely and urgent.
At points, Dave rambles a bit, is gushy with his enthusiasm and lapses into name-dropping, yet none of these minor defects detract from the overall readability of this valuable book on an important development in manufacturing technology.