Among the highlights of Okuma’s recent Technology Showcase event were productivity-enhancing “apps” for the company’s open-architecture CNC; a tool monitoring and adaptive control system; and an auto-tuning system that eases error compensation on five-axis machine tools.
Associate Editor, Modern Machine Shop
Okuma’s 5-Axis Auto Tuning System is designed to eliminate the time-consuming, complicated task of measuring and compensating for geometric errors like axis misalignment. All that’s required is to set a datum sphere anywhere on the table, move a probe directly above it, and hit cycle start. The system then automatically measures and compensates for all 13 errors possible in a five-axis machine tool, including rotary axis pivot, rotary axis tilt, and linear axis squareness.
Thanks to an open API that provides access to the Okuma machine language, the company’s OSP-THINC CNC works seamlessly with various custom applications without requiring anything beyond what comes with the machine. One example highlighted at the event sends alarm notifications to users via email, complete with a screen-shot of the CNC screen, as shown here. Another enables operators to initiate common machining functions the same way, regardless of machine type. For example, an operator initiating a tool change would perform the same procedure on a VMC as he would on an HMC. This is said to be particularly useful for trainees and inexperienced personnel.
The THINC-OSP’s open architecture enables more than just Okuma engineers to get in on the action when it comes to developing applications. This monitoring application was developed by engineers from Okuma distributor Gosiger, which often helps users incorporate custom interfaces and other basic functionality.
Another application developed by Gosiger enables users to perform tool-breakage detection in the tool magazine rather than interrupting production in the workzone. The principle is simple: a rod angles up to touch the tool tip both before and after machining, as shown here. If the angle of the rod changes to indicate a tool break, the CNC issues an alarm. Gosiger representatives noted that although this capability was available before, users can now realize significant time and cost savings during installation by integrating the system via Ethernet rather than through the machine's I/O.
“Smart” machining technology at the event went beyond apps. Caron Engineering, a Partner in THINC, highlighted TMAC, a CNC add-on for tool monitoring and adaptive control that tracks tool wear and adjusts feed rates to compensate in real time. Specifically, the system tracks horsepower, which increases during cutting as tools and spindles deteriorate and is said to provide a better indicator of tool wear than cycle count or cutting time. Feed rates adjust automatically to keep horsepower at a predetermined optimal level, and once wear exceeds a certain point, the system issues an alarm. Among other advantages, the system is said to ease the burden on operators and programmers, who might otherwise have to keep a closer eye on machining or incorporate feed adjustments in CAM routines. Users also report tool-life improvements, the company says. The lines visible here represent the tool’s real-time horsepower, the optimal or “target” level of horsepower, and various tolerance bands.
Another partner, Renishaw, showcased a custom graphical user interface (GUI) for probing routines on Okuma P200M and 300M CNCs. Integrated using the open THINC API, the GUI is designed ot make probing and both contact and non-contact toolsetting more user-friendly while also simplifying the calibration and operation of Renishaw probing systems. For example, integrated probe calibration cycles eliminate the need to dial in a master ring, and users can call up tool-length and diameter-setting cycles at the touch of a button.
Manufacturing technology isn’t just getting faster and more efficient—it’s also getting smarter. That was a major takeaway from Okuma’s 2013 Technology Showcase at its Charlotte, North Carolina headquarters, where the company and members of its Partners in THINC collaboration network highlighted various systems that make machining easier, perform tedious tasks automatically behind the scenes, and customize how users interact with their equipment, among other advantages. The picture gallery below details just a few examples of what I saw.