Conference Highlights Hidden "Smarts" in Manufacturing Data
Hexagon’s annual conference in Las Vegas demonstrated how sensors and software can help manufacturers improve CNC machining and other manufacturing processes.
Smarts are hiding in plain sight, said Norbert Hanke, president of Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence Division, at the organization’s annual HxGN Live Conference in Las Vegas June 11-14. In fact, he claimed 90 % of collected data goes unused.
In that unused data lies massive opportunity, he continued. The ultimate aim of leveraging data is to use information from interconnected assets to improve processes at any phase of product development. Traditional barriers, like the ones between design and engineering, begin to break. Quality control becomes not just a means of validating parts and processes, but also a means of driving productivity.
Hexagon insists its sensors and software can make such “ecosystems” a reality in sectors ranging from mining and architecture to city planning and manufacturing — including CNC machine shops. Guest speaker Doug Woods, president of AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, encouraged manufacturing track attendees to think of the smart factory as a journey rather than a destination, noting that most of the technology that can help shops find their hidden “smarts” is already available.
As if to prove the point, Mr. Hanke mentioned various examples throughout his speech, including:
- Pulse is a real-time monitoring system for quality-control assets, particularly coordinate measuring machines (CMMs). Collected data includes information on vibration, temperature, humidity, crash notifications, luminosity and other environmental conditions. What might be revealed by correlating these readings with data from other sources, such as statistical process control (SPC) systems?
- Machine learning/AI. Software from Q-DAS, a unit of Hexagon specializing in SPC, already helps users identify trends and correlations. However, the latest machine algorithms will soon enable the software to do more of the work behind the scenes. In addition to improving processes, this will result in less tension and confusion in manufacturing supply chains.
- SFx. Released this year, SFx is a management system that, among other capabilities, can consolidate information from Pulse, SPC software and various other sources into a series of customizable dashboard displays. Dedicated specifically to quality assets but with a scope that is potentially wider, SFx provides real-time monitoring of machine performance and utilization.
- Fasys software connects tool inventory management to CAD/CAM systems (Hexagon’s own systems include Vero software and Edgecam). This system provides answers to critical questions about whether needed tools are in stock, whether tools have been set up correctly, and whether the right tools are being employed for the right part features.
Other examples of technologies facilitating closed-loop, quality-data-driven production are detailed in the picture gallery above.
While OPC UA and MTConnect are both http-based protocols, there are differences between them, and each is best used in differing scenarios.
Cutting tool manufacturers have worked together to create a generic tool catalog format that helps link cutting tool information with applications supporting data-driven manufacturing.
For two shops in northern Indiana, using MTConnect for machine monitoring was just the start. Both shops are now ready to implement other promising applications.