Special Report How design can simplify the operation of machine tools

Author / Editor: Claudia Otto / Eric Culp

Editor Claudia Otto from our sister publication MM Maschinenmarkt looks at purpose-oriented design, which can simplify the operation of machine tools by easing the demands on users to ultimately improve processing.

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Coordinate measurement machines from the Wenzel Group use design to guide the actions of operators.
Coordinate measurement machines from the Wenzel Group use design to guide the actions of operators.
(Source: The Kaikai Company)

Machine tools today are typically characterised by their high complexity. In order to reduce this for the operator, it is important to review the set targets right at the beginning, according to Jürgen Schmid, industrial designer and CEO of Design Tech in Ammerbuch, Germany. “For whom and for what does simplification at which point bring economically relevant benefits? For the user during operation? In service? In the training process?” he asked. Schmid said the answer is clear: “Operation, ergonomy, and handling are the first and the central tasks of the designer.”

Improving usability for the customer, and ultimately the shop

In the end, it’s all about the client, Schmid said. “We want, and demand from ourselves, economically relevant benefits for our customers.” The firm has thus developed the innovation strategy design into a success. “With this tool we can produce, methodically and with clear targets, useful simplifications,” he added. Before the team at Design Tech starts a project, it observes and asks the opinion of operators.

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“In combination with a video analysis, our customers are repeatedly surprised how the workers risk their health, and sometimes even their lives, by very risky actions. This misguided behaviour can be ruled out by targeted measures taken on the machine tool,” Schmid explained. The example of the Kadia HMC 100 control panel designed by Design Tech shows that, by unification and a process-specific operator structure on the user interface, familiarisation times and operator errors can be reduced.

With a modular system of operator units, manufacturing and logistics costs are reduced substantially, according to Schmid. “To take a concrete example, a customer reduced training times by 30% using a intelligent simplification concept.” With smart solutions, it is possible to guarantee, without rebuilding or dismantling, that container and pallet dimensional tolerances are kept, and thus bring down the logistics costs. “A highly complex machine structure with high quality, precise inner technical workings is given clear structures and a quickly graspable allocation system with the aim of significantly reducing the starting threshold for users and service personnel,” Examples are said to be the super-finish machines Cenflex and Race from Supfina Grieshaber, which, according to Schmid, were praised by specialist reviewers on their introduction to the market for the ease and security with which they can be mastered. With the Makino F8/F9, a well thought-through user-oriented machine structure and cladding concept simplified and accelerated access for the user and for crane loading, the designer noted.