AMB 2022 The state of digitalisation in the metal-working industry

Source: Press release

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If you want to turn data into information, there are many major and minor parameters that need to be adjusted. These include consistency and unified languages. For a complete picture, it is also important for the maximum number of participants in the process chain to think and act digitally. AMB 2022 in Stuttgart will provide a platform for these solutions from 13 to 17 September 2022.

An important part of AMB 2022: Digital solutions in metal-working.
An important part of AMB 2022: Digital solutions in metal-working.
(Source: Landesmesse Stuttgart)

Decision-makers in manufacturing companies need a continuous overview of productivity and technical availability since these are still the key parameters. In addition, the metal-working industry is subject to challenges including sustainability and the shortage of skilled workers, with the latter demanding a creative approach. Digitalisation is said to help overcome these challenges, based on the motto “knowledge is power”. With a growing number of sensors and smart programs, it is becoming possible to collect more and more data about machine tools. Once it has undergone further processing, this data can offer crucial information to help optimise processes.

DMG Mori has delivered some particularly impressive results, backed up by figures: One of the Group’s digitalisation objectives is to be able to start up production faster using the digital twin. In this process, a virtual representation is made of every real machine tool at DMG Mori. Even before installation, this digital twin provides support when engineering production systems with flexible automation capabilities or when delivering training. It offers a dynamic representation of all components, functionalities and axes, as well as all NC and PLC control functions including the relevant cycles. This gives DMG Mori an increase in speed of up to 40 percent when starting up production. At the same time, costs are reduced by up to 30 percent and collisions are completely ruled out, which is extremely important to ensuring smooth and efficient operations.

Predictive control of systems

Figures like these give people the motivation to engage intensively with digitalisation and the development of new solutions for production and process optimisation. One such person is German Wankmiller, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Grob-Werke: “For mechanical engineering and plant construction, Industry 4.0 offers major opportunities and provides a basis for operating machinery and systems in a way that conserves resources while offering flexibility and productivity. This development is far from complete since it is an agile development process that is in a constant state of flux, with new technical changes arising on an almost weekly basis”.

For Wankmiller, digital solutions have been a firm fixture in the industry for many years given the process of globalisation. In fact, he believes demand for the development of new and advanced solutions and products in the field of digitalisation will continue to rise in the coming years throughout the industry. He thinks the benefits are obvious: “”, says Wankmiller.

In heterogeneous production environments in particular, automation and digitalisation concepts can significantly increase the efficiency of employees and systems. But it is also necessary to establish interfaces for networking these systems.

German Wankmiller

In view of the further development of universal connectivity and more flexible adjustment options, the applications developed on a modular basis by Grob can be used to connect all types of machinery and controllers from all manufacturers — not just Grob — within Grob-Net4-Industry in a comprehensive digitalisation platform. This allows users to analyse the performance of their machines and optimise processes. The company intends to showcase this at AMB, with Grob-Net4-Industry integrated into all the machines that will be exhibited. Visitors will be able to experience first-hand the solutions offered by Grob for increasing transparency in production and manufacturing.

The modules within Grob’s platform allow both the production and support areas relating to machining to be organised with the aim of ensuring optimal utilisation of the high-quality, high-precision machine tools. In combination with the user’s enterprise resource planning system, the MES enables order management, planning and order control to be completed on the machines. From production planning, monitoring and analysis to visualisation of processes in workpiece processing, right through to proactive service and maintenance — every area of production is linked. Grob-Net4-Industry products feature integration platforms for all machine types. The goal is to enable manufacturer-independent digitalisation concepts to be implemented and to offer all customers extensive project support.

Digital twins for agile production systems

MAG IAS, a company in the FFG Group, has investigated the benefits of virtual commissioning using digital twins and its impact on projects. The results of the cost/benefit analysis of digital twins prior to introduction gave a clear picture. Moving or splitting the commissioning process does not lead to a reduction in the volume of working hours required. However, partially moving the commissioning process into the planning and procurement phase — in other words, in parallel with sections that determine the processing time — reduces commissioning and thus the project processing time. Through digitalisation of the commissioning process, functional tests can be repeated automatically at greater frequency even when no operator is present. The results of the investigation showed that detecting and fixing sporadic errors during virtual commissioning reduces the subsequent, unplanned expenditure required for troubleshooting after delivery. Experience with the digital process twin, which has been in use for several years, has demonstrated that an NC program with time and path optimisation can be put into operation without any risk of collisions.

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The digital process twin in the MAG project is a workspace model that simulates the axis movements, the process-related non-productive times, the clamping device, the workpiece to be processed and the required cutting tools. Compared to PLC commissioning, the NC commissioning process is very short but offers clear benefits in terms of quality and time. This made it one of the motivations for developing the digital product twin for virtual commissioning. In the course of the quality and efficiency improvements in the engineering of complex machinery, the mechatronics approach has proven to be the best way to create components as mechanical, electrical and fluid-technology models in parallel, enabling a high level of standardisation to be achieved. In discussions at AMB 2022, users will be particularly interested in the findings relating to how individual the analyses need to be. After all, products are always created on a project-specific basis and are made up of individual mechatronics components: machinery, automation systems, workstations, measuring devices etc. The benefit is provided by the interaction between the three digital twins: process twin, product twin and production/system twin. Whenever production is moved a week earlier or the system ramp-up curve becomes steeper, users enjoy a higher turnover and a positive contribution is made to the overall result.

Innovative control concept for systems

As a leading provider of conveyor systems, filter systems and pumps for the metal-working industry and for automated assembly and logistics systems, Knoll also uses digital solutions to improve processes relating to machine tools. Florian Schomaker, team leader for electrical engineering at Knoll, sees a clear trend: “There is clearly a growing demand for machine data and for connecting this data. The data that is generated anyway and is crucial in providing key indicators for predictive control of systems could be used for process optimisation purposes within a company. However, right now there is little acceptance when it comes to establishing an internet connection for peripherals, since the level of work involved in storing and visualising the data that is obtained is considered to be too high”.

Simple solutions for digital data visualisation are increasingly in demand in mechanical engineering. As a mechanical engineering company, this makes it essential to push digitalisation forward on machine tools in order to survive in the future market.

Florian Schomaker

Knoll sees itself as a pioneer in this regard. At AMB in Stuttgart, visitors will be able to discover Smart Connect, the operating concept that was developed fully independently. “Our Knoll-Smart Connect system gives users data processing capabilities that have never been possible before on machine tool peripherals. The ability to view and evaluate all relevant data using the app allows customers to control peripherals and monitor and optimise processes with minimal installation work”.

Smart Connect is an edge computing solution that pre-processes the stored data on the systems themselves and provides this data to higher-level systems via interfaces — including wirelessly using Bluetooth. “We don’t necessarily need a cloud connection. For example, it’s possible to use a connection to the Umati machine tool interface and/or an OPC UA mechanism”, adds Schomaker.

Clamping equipment with intelligent measuring system

Rather than requesting individual solutions, most users are now concerned with how they can implement a comprehensive and efficient production process. Stefan Nitsche, head of the main products department at Hainbuch, has also found this to be the case: “The trend that we have identified at our company is that customers are no longer simply asking for pure clamping technology. Instead, they want to reduce setup times using quick-change systems or intelligent clamping systems. Another common request is to minimise the scrap rate by taking in-line measurements during the production process. In our view, the integration of electrified products in the workspace has become the state-of-the-art technology”, he says, assessing the situation.

However, this does not mean that the work is over — quite the opposite, in fact. Tangible digital solutions are more important than ever: “Companies can no longer avoid digital add-on-products and services, because virtually everyone today is on the path to a digital future. Even in mechanical engineering, where the gears are moving a little more slowly, customers are looking for more and more digital offerings. In 2018, we set up the Digital Transformation department as a way to digitalise both internal processes and our service offering for customers”, says Nitsche.

The trend that we have identified at our company is that customers are no longer simply asking for pure clamping technology.

Stefan Nitsche

However, if digitalisation is to succeed, there are certain key aspects that need to be considered: “Firstly, the workers and machine operators must be served with a simple and intuitive user interface. The objective must be for people and robots to work in a kind of symbiosis and achieve the maximum for their company. Not every automation solution can be easily connected via plug-and-use. Older, existing machines are often not designed for this. That’s why we added Vischer & Bolli Automation to the Hainbuch Group. They work as a general contractor and shed light on the complete process from an individual, customer perspective. The range of solutions includes the link between the machine tool and automation system, but also covers the clamping system and tool provision. That means they also cover logistics and coordinate this with activities that run in parallel with primary processing time”, explains Nitsche.

Hainbuch will also showcase its new hardware at AMB: “We are bringing clamping systems with an integrated, intelligent measuring system in the shape of our IQ series. It can perform many different measurements and monitoring tasks thanks to the integrated sensors. In some cases, it is even possible to cut back on measuring devices. The measurement data is sent directly to the machine controller and evaluated via contactless data and energy transfer”, says Nitsche, giving some insight into the company’s trade fair appearance.

Clamping equipment with intelligent measuring system

Matthias Rapp, Head of Global Marketing at the Chiron Group, believes there is a clear path towards greater digital solutions, even with all of the customisation within companies: “Every production company has its own production philosophy, influenced by the unit quantities and the complexity of the workpieces being processed. However, all companies are in competition with one another and are under cost pressure. For many companies, operating an unmanned third shift or working unmanned at the weekend is already the standard”.

This is where he sees further opportunities: “Smart automation systems coupled with smart digitalisation solutions add clear value for companies. At the Chiron Group, we see ourselves as pioneers in this area since we are already offering multiple digital solutions in the market. These also form the basis of our digital services: Smart Services. For example, the digital Condition Line system monitors the status of the machine and reports critical parameters. If the ball screws are worn, the customer is given advance warning and can replace them in good time”, says Rapp.

These solutions allow users to contact the manufacturer’s service department promptly and arrange servicing work and maintenance in a targeted way. All of this is driven by dedicated teams from different departments. Digitalisation is often about teamwork, and this is something that the Chiron Group understands well. In cooperation with Chiron, Zoller has developed a system for automatic tool handling and tool exchange called Cora. As a provider of presetting and measuring devices as well as software solutions, it worked together with Chiron to develop a system that communicates directly with the machining centres, enables secure data transfer and boosts productivity in processing operations.

Smart automation systems coupled with smart digitalisation solutions add clear value for companies.

Matthias Rapp

The preparatory work involved in developing these solutions is no small matter: In this case, Zoller needed to use its core expertise in presetting and measuring the appropriately prepared complete tools. The next crucial step in the smart solution is to network the presetting and measuring device with the machining centre. Data transmission via RFID tags is very secure but also extremely costly. A solution that is just as secure while also being simple and inexpensive to implement — even for smaller companies — is data transmission via data matrix code.

On the presetting device, the code is scanned on the tool holder using a handheld scanner, the tool is measured and the actual data is stored in the central tool database. On the machining centre, there is also a code reader for unique identification of the tool. The machine controller automatically retrieves the measurement data – including all other information required for the tool — directly from the tool database and reads this into the machine. The process ensures unique identification while also being automatic and free of errors.

“But secure data transmission is just one of the benefits. Using the production analysis software flash, we can execute live queries of the tool service life on the basis of the traffic light principle”, says Rapp. He explains that once the tools reach a warning limit, a message is sent in the tool presetting area and the new tool can be prepared and provided on time. Another result of the cooperation project with Zoller is the integration of the complete tool model data in Protect Line. All of the tool data – tool geometry and tool holder geometry – is added to the machine’s digital twin in a fully automated process. This achieves a highly efficient process for creating the digital twin, which forms the system basis for preventative collision protection in the machine via Protect Line.

“I should also mention another important aspect of digitalisation: Despite a strict ban on travel during the pandemic, we managed to commission several MILL machining centres at a new production location in Vietnam. This only came together because our dedicated team communicated with the service partner via digital service tools”, reports Rapp with pride.

Digital solutions in a customised window

This trend is being felt throughout the industry, as another example demonstrates. Sharpening specialist Vollmer, based in the Swabia region of Germany, offers web-based IoT gateways for its sharpening machines. These ensure networked data exchange for saving and evaluating manufacturing data. The IoT gateways exchange the process and manufacturing data between the edge and local customer systems or a cloud.

Vollmer is leading the way in this field even though “the market for digital solutions in the area of sharpening technology is still in its infancy. For Vollmer, it is important to push forward digitalisation together with our customers and partners since there are different benefits for each target group. For us, it’s about logical and efficient networking of our machines via different IoT platforms with the aim of improving manufacturing processes and generating new ideas within tool development”, says Dr. Stefan Brand, CEO of the Vollmer Group.

In this context, Vollmer has tailored its digital add-on products and services to the needs of customers through the V@dison initiative. The most recent example is a web-based customer portal that will give customers online access to digital information about their own machinery or to the integrated spare parts shop.

The initiative comprises another four areas: V@screen provides an overview of all relevant machine parameters and networks sharpening machines with end devices. It ensures a high level of transparency through rapid availability and visibility of information. V@check allows tool manufacturers to simulate, test and optimise their manufacturing processes without any loss of material in order to reduce machine downtime. V@boost groups together software tools that optimise the performance of sharpening machines for specific workpieces and expand the familiar range of functions. Finally, V@guide detects errors in a predictive process. It is suitable for predictive maintenance and knowledge transfer through digital modules or automated communication processes.

“At AMB, we will be presenting the complete digital package. Visitors can particularly look forward to experiencing our customer portal. For Vollmer customers, it is a digital and customised window that integrates the majority of digital services”, says Brand, inviting visitors to Stuttgart.

Digital tool monitoring in real time

Information about the status of the tool during the machining process can provide valuable insights for the operator and the organisation. In order to monitor tools in real time, Horn worked in close collaboration with the Kistler Group to develop a real-time tool monitoring system for use in the turning process. Experts at Kistler contributed a dynamic measuring system for recording pressure, force, torque and acceleration.

The result of the partnership is the Piezo Tool System (PTS), which comprises a force sensor integrated into the turning tool that provides information about the tool status during the machining process. It can measure forces from as little as just a few Newtons. The standard sampling rate is 10,000 Hz, allowing even the smallest cutting forces to be measured. This enables machine operators to immediately detect any faulty cutting materials or other materials, as well as broken tools.

As a result, waste is minimised while a high quality level is maintained. In addition, the user can fully utilise the service life of the tools in a targeted way. Horn offers the sensor-monitored tool holder as a square-shank turning holder, as a linear unit for Citizen sliding head automatic lathes and as a base holder for Index multi-spindle automatic machines, as well as for the Supermini tool system. Additional interfaces for other machine manufacturers are currently in development.

At AMB, visitors can discover that the PTS solution is compatible with selected standard turning holders from Horn. It requires no intervention to be made in the CNC controller. It is machine-independent in application and needs only a limited space in the machine. The consequences of using the PTS are reduced production costs and increased production capacities.

A digital view of the process

As a company, WFL Millturn Technologies focuses exclusively on the production of turning-boring-milling centres. But when it comes to digitalisation, managing director Norbert Jungreithmayr believes there a very few limits: “Industrial digitalisation is impacting machinery, processes and systems. Digitalisation is improving industrial productivity by establishing better control over the physical, functional capability of the machines”. The fact that the systems in the production line are better connected and coordinated with employees through digitalisation means machine downtime is reduced, which he says improves the reliability of the systems and ultimately increases production.

“From simulations in Crash Guard Studio to collision monitoring directly at the machine controller, process monitoring with WFL iControl or taking measurements through scanning processes, production data is easily accessible thanks to our ready-made WFL software solutions”, says Jungreithmayr.

As a manufacturer of complete machining centres, it is oriented towards the production of smaller batch sizes. “Automation will continue to grow rapidly, not least because of the shortage of skilled workers. Our motivation behind is this is not so much to create the autonomous factory, but to produce small batch sizes in the second and third shift. This is a crucial development. Obviously, this area relates to issues of digitalisation, data management and information acquisition. Further improvement of machine utilisation is essential. Primary processing times are very highly developed, and optimal machines and tools are used. When it comes to non-productive times, setup times and downtime, there is still potential for improvement. However, we think it is more important to anticipate trends and to identify them in advance so that we already have the right product or the right development ready. Our machines are developed in line with customer requirements. As a provider of complete solutions, we maintain close contact with our customers throughout the entire order process, which allows us to identify trends at an early stage”, says Jungreithmayr, giving an insight into his company.

Our vision is one of smart and secure networking of machines and people. That’s why our company takes a rigorous approach to software and connectivity, and equips customers with the full package.

Norbert Jungreithmayr

At AMB, WFL will be presenting the ICO tronic tool, which is equipped with sensors and provides information on the cutting process as close to the cutting edge as possible. Its purpose is not only to optimise milling processes in future, but also to increase machine productivity. The presentation at AMB will provide some insight into the diverse range of development projects at WFL. Visitors to the trade fair will also be able to enjoy a live demonstration of ultrasonic measuring technology. In addition, the new operational data acquisition system my WFL Cockpit will be on show at AMB. It shows the machine and program status over time, as well as productivity and technical availability. The visualisation is provided on the controller, at a PC or on a mobile device via a browser. It keeps the user informed at all times about the productivity of their machine.

Another innovation is the my WFL Energy energy usage measurement device integrated into my WFL Cockpit, which displays the current performance and energy consumption data as well as the energy consumption for each workpiece. A further highlight of my WFL is the integrated Condition Monitoring cycle. When the cycle is running, the friction values of the axes and spindles, as well as the temperature in the milling spindle housing and the vibration or the rolling bearing condition value of the front milling spindle bearing, are continuously recorded and stored on the control system. Using Condition Monitoring Viewer, it is possible to select the data of the various Condition Monitoring runs on the control system, graphically overlay them and analyse them over time. This allows for the early detection of possible malfunctions and minimises unplanned downtimes.

In view of the anticipated trends, Jungreithmayr says: “It's difficult to look into a crystal ball, but regardless of issues such as digitalisation and automation, it will be just as important in future to continue working in close cooperation with customers so that we understand their challenges and can develop and implement solutions. Complexity is increasing, which is why we see efficient collaboration with customers and partners as the key to success. We are convinced that our specialisation and focus in the area of complete machining, and our role as a system partner with maximum manufacturing expertise, will remain highly attractive in the future, whatever the market needs. In any case, we are looking forward to AMB and to meeting our partners and customers again”.