CNC machine tools networked for intelligent production

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A manufacturer of machining centres has selected Advantech's CNC machine tool industrial IoT system for collecting data from spindle-mounted accelerometers and temperature sensors so end users can maximise productivity without sacrificing quality, as well as managing the entire production process.

CNC machine tools networked for intelligent productionAfter several decades of development, the related technologies of computer numerical control (CNC) machine tools have gradually matured, resulting in increasingly fierce competition among machine tool suppliers. If they want to break free from the vicious cycle of price competition, product differentiation is the best way to give them a better competitive advantage over their competitors and to earn profits higher than the industry average.

However, conventional CNC machine tools mostly use closed control systems, that only provide fixed user interfaces and prohibit users from adding or changing any of the functions. Consequently, it is difficult for machine suppliers to enhance equipment functionality and carry out product differentiation through secondary development. In addition, Industry 4.0 is changing production patterns; manufacturers are hoping to transform their standalone automation equipment into intelligent factories. Since CNC machine tools are regarded as important production equipment, machine suppliers face a major issue in providing network monitoring capabilities for their products.

Advantech's industrial IoT systems for CNC machine tools provide a variety of data acquisition modules and industrial-grade panel computers for equipment suppliers to develop production management, intelligent monitoring, cutting tool management and other kinds of applications to optimise machining efficiency, while enabling CNC machine tools to be networked through Ethernet. By offering WebAccess/CNC software for gathering information from various machines to the Cloud platform, managers can not only immediately grasp device status, but also can analyse the large amounts of collected data to improve the production process and achieve the goal of intelligent production management.

Case study

A Taiwanese company manufacturing CNC milling machines and machining centres has a reputation in aerospace, wind energy, automotive, electronics, panel and many other industries. Although its high-quality machines are favoured by international manufacturers, it still feels tremendous pressure and threat from the rise of the 'red' supply chain. The company has always been actively involved in innovative research and development, and recently wanted to increase the functionality of its products so as to continuously create better sales results in a highly competitive market.

In order to accelerate the completion of the spindle monitoring development project of a milling machining centre, the company decided to use a PC-based operating platform, and to collect accelerometer and temperature information by adding computers and data acquisition modules, thereby controlling cutting vibration and spindle temperature to enhance the machining accuracy.

In the early stages of planning, the company had wanted to adopt a business computer as the human-machine interface (HMI) but considered that the use of CNC machine tools in the factory is a more demanding environment - with steam and oil vapours - plus business computers have a faster upgrade cycle and cannot provide long-term supply guarantees. It was assumed that the new machining centre might be vulnerable to malfunction in the future and that it might be difficult to find the relevant replacement parts, or that other difficult maintenance problems might be encountered.

For various reasons the company eventually decided to choose an industrial-grade touch-panel computer. In addition, the size and appearance of the new computer needed to be consistent with the existing scale and character of the machine design. Since this CNC milling machine will be exported overseas, compliance with international safety regulations and global warranty coverage were also necessary.

In addition to upgrading the machine's functions, the company also wanted to provide complete turnkey services for customers through an Internet of Machines platform. It therefore required full-featured online monitoring software to upload the front-end device information to the back-end management system in real time, making users more efficient in managing the machinery and equipment in the workshop.

Network-enabled equipment

According to the project requirements, Advantech's CNC machine tools networking systems provided the related hardware and software products for single-machine data collection and for network-enabled equipment in the factory. For the spindle monitoring part, Advantech offered an open platform to conveniently develop applications and collect equipment information through integrating the PPC-3100 industrial-grade touch computer with the USB-4716 multifunction data acquisition module and ADAM-6018 multi-channel isolated thermocouple module. As for the Internet of Machines, Advantech's WebAccess/CNC software enabled the machine developers to significantly reduce project development time and easily integrate a variety of device data to create an informational, visualised and intelligent production management system.

In addition to using USB-4716 and ADAM-6018 to acquire accelerometer data and spindle temperature, the PPC-3100, as an HMI, has many excellent features to meet the machining centre developers' needs, such as: providing a convenient and user-friendly touch input method to replace the traditional keyboard and mouse; a fanless design to avoid oil and water vapour damage to the computer; excellent dustproof and waterproof protection through the IP65 rating; 10.4 inch screen size with a textured grey-black enclosure to directly embed in the machining centre and match the original machine design; and compliant with CB/CCC/BSMI/UL international certifications to meet safety regulations in different countries, thus enabling selling worldwide.

Featuring browser-based SCADA software and a networking equipment platform, Advantech's WebAccess/CNC provides real-time monitoring ability for CNC machine tools. It not only has a wealth of CNC software management functions (including instant machine status, machining program management, equipment utilisation analysis, parameter setting compensation and maintenance information), but also supports a number of major CNC network-type controllers and various communication protocols, enabling the CNC machine tools, HMI computers, I/O modules, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and other underlying devices to all be included in this remote monitoring platform for unified management.

A closed system does not have cross-platform versatility. Although it can focus on performing the designated functions without external influences, it can also stifle cutting-edge research and innovation opportunities. Fortunately Advantech has rich hardware and software products to provide one-stop shopping integrated systems for underlying data collection or upper management platform, helping CNC machine tools manufacturers to conduct machinery product differentiation design. The company's customised services are able to meet customers' special requirements. The local branches and global warranty ensure that developers get timely professional technical support, and that manufacturers can confidently sell their innovative products to many countries and areas.

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