Digitalization At Every Step For Machine Tool Builders
Manufacturing Engineering Magazine December 2018
By Ramona Schindler
Today’s machine tool builder has read many articles and papers about the emerging concept of digitalization. Here are three ways OEM engineering and management teams can view this technology and its impact as it shapes the production and sales process of the future:
- Seeing digitalization as a viable means of building a more effective, reliable and predictable machine from the outset of the design phase;
- Realizing that digitalization adds definable value, as it allows the machine tool builder better ways to present value propositions to customers;
- Utilizing digitalization, builders can fashion new business models for the use of machine tools, as digitalization demonstrates to customers what they can do with the data. It also allows the builder to better position the machine’s value to customers to sell more services, optimize machine uptime and track the performance of equipment in the field, all of which lead to improving the customer experience with machine tools.
Advantages During Design
Having a visual model of a CNC machine for commissioning alone makes the investment in digitalization worthwhile to builders. With the data and design concept in hand, you can use digitalization tools, such as a mechatronics concept designer, which brings the physics of the world to your computer screen, so you can test the PLC, test the NC, run the motion control or load protocols (including full machine kinematics) and conduct overall system component integration, all prior to the first step of the build.
The available digitalization tools provide accurate hardware in the loop emulation, transitioning from CAD to CAM to mechatronic concept designer, then finally to the virtual machine controller. Since the model mirrors the real hardware in operation under power, simulations of machine motion and feedback are more precise than they would be with a pure simulation.
Specific customer challenges can be addressed at this stage and the results for the machine tool builder are faster resolution of design issues and less time to market with its machine.
Improved Customer Experience
The digital twin further integrates virtual and actual machine commissioning and production monitoring so the machine tool builder can fashion new models, presenting their machines with enhanced, augmented reality monitoring, customizable apps for data prioritization and particularly improved requirements and production data evaluation scenarios. This data exchange concept represents a richer value proposition for the machine tool and creates a closer touchpoint between builder and customer.
New business models are also created by the machine tool builder’s ability to help its customers utilize digitalization tools to improve their production. The virtual twin, based upon the virtual NC kernel (VNCK), allows various production, material handling and full motion control scenarios to be sampled in the design stage by the customer, while virtual training for programmers, operators and maintenance personnel is also possible.
As machine tool builders become more capable of tracking the data on their CNC machines in the field, a dual benefit results for the end customer. Improvement in machine uptime is made possible as the resolution of issues on the machine becomes a more streamlined process, plus current and rapidly emerging edge technology can add more precise analysis of the machine and the production process at the end customer.
Digital twins are emerging as viable tools in the design and marketing of many CNC machine tools today, a trend that will continue to grow in the future.