Machining Technology Radar-based collision protection moves closer to the shop floor

Editor: Eric Culp

Machine tool crashes can destroy the tool and damage the machine as well as, in certain circumstances, expensive workpieces. German researchers are using radar to recognise imminent collisions and eliminate them.

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This will be expensive. The damaged interior of a machine spindle after a collision of the tool with the workpiece.
This will be expensive. The damaged interior of a machine spindle after a collision of the tool with the workpiece.
(Source: GMN Paul Müller)

Collisions due to operating error are among the prevailing causes of breakdown in standard processing centres. As the result of mechanical overload after a collision between an already clamped tool and workpiece or other machine parts, components such as the tool clamping system, the main spindle bearing or even all the handling systems can be damaged. The result is high costs for downtimes, repair and restarts, with possible follow-on costs from reject production and damage claims. The firm Ott-Jakob Spanntechnik, in collaboration with the department for high frequency technology at Munich Technical University, is currently developing a sensor system intended to quickly recognise the risk of collision during machine set-up and avoid it by switching off drives.

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Miniature semiconductor heralds breakthrough

One of the major challenges here results from the energetic dynamics and the high rapid motion speeds such as those encountered in modern processing centres. In this case, a method is used that has for decades guaranteed safety in air and shipping traffic, namely the recognition and locating of target objects with the help of radar technology. As a result of the breathtaking progress in semiconductor technology, radar systems are no longer only hall-covering sites with huge rotating antennas. With the highly integrated, high-frequency electronics available today, radar sensors can also be created significantly more compactly and cheaply. Subsequently, they have already been standard equipment in cars now for years and occupy many fields of application as miniaturised motion detectors.