Making the cut

Machine Tools/CNC

Machining centres are making rapid advancements and helping achieve faster time to market

by Prerna Lodaya

Technology is driving developments
faster than anyone could ever imagine! While every company was recuperating from the economic slowdown, we witness yet another industrial revolution of sorts – Manufacturing 4.0. The biggest beneficiary in this whole changing shift will be machine tools industry as it’s the one that moves the entire manufacturing sector.

Gone are the days when people would discuss Manufacturing 2.0 or 3.0. It’s the era of Industry 4.0 and includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things and cloud computing. It creates, what has been called, a smart factory.

Smart manufacturing — connected machines talking to each other and the enterprise — are fundamentally changing how products are designed, made, shipped, and sold. The brains in an enterprise are now shared among humans and machines — improving performance dramatically:

In order for companies to serve the growing needs of the markets, manufacturers must maximise the productivity of each worker hired, while helping to create a safety-conscious and desirable workplace to retain workers and fulfill their social responsibilities. Machinery design affects these issues in significant ways. Designing machinery that maximises safety, productivity, and adaptability to a diverse workforce will be critical to the long-term viability of manufacturers, and will help protect machine builders from liability risks and lawsuits. Manufacturers must adopt a machinery safety philosophy that addresses the 3Cs: cultural (behavioural), compliance (procedural), and capital (technical) aspects.

Due to the expected increased demand on industrial production and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the industry is starting to recognise the value of converging the plant floor with the higher level IT infrastructure. However, this convergence is highlighting a skills gap between the control engineer and the IT professional. The Connected Enterprise creates new opportunities for productivity and efficiency gains by reducing costs, time to market and risk. Over the course of 26 versions, Studio 5000 Logix Designer from Rockwell Automation has been a stalwart enabler of control design. Version 27, which debuted at Rockwell Automation TechED in San Diego, adds new feature capabilities in an environment that combines engineering and design elements into one standard framework, enabling designers to build smart machines and systems based on real-world automation design workflows.

“Studio 5000 has four modules now, not just the one,” explained Andy Stump, manager, design software, control & visualisation business, Rockwell Automation. “It places focus on system design and configuration. Version 27 is a multi-discipline, multi-function release that is built around adding new modules into Studio 5000. The result is enhanced automation design productivity for users.”

Personalisation is everywhere, explained Mike Brimmer, product manager, Studio 5000. “By linking smart machines with enterprise systems, we can achieve a faster time to market and a lower total cost of ownership,” he said. “We need to leave behind the outdated set-it-and-forget-it mindset and be able to adapt in real time. The development process is short, but critical. It can be complex and overwhelming, and serial stages can be frustrating. But, Studio 5000 is here to help!”

If all that seems like a giant leap from the First Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th Centuries when rural societies in Europe and North America became industrial and urban, that is because it is.

Industry 4.0 builds on that milestone period as well as the Second Industrial Revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries when advancements in manufacturing and production technology enabled widespread adoption of preexisting technological systems, and the late 1950s to the present day Third Industrial Revolution change from mechanical and electronic technology to digital technology.

In the machine tool industry, Industry 4.0 is also about extending existing system intelligence into adjacent systems and, from there, into complex manufacturing systems where the machine manufacturer, the suppliers and the owner may be constantly connected for providing remote service and process improvements. GF Machining Solutions’ rConnect, the machine tool industry’s most in-depth remote machine tool analysis, is a good example, Roberto Perez, head, Industry 4.0, GF Machining Solutions states. The technology demonstrates how manufacturing’s digital transformation is creating opportunities for manufacturers to increase their machine uptime while operating in the best condition.

“In the near future, rConnect will be a bridge to technologies that could, for example, predict the lifetime of machine components and consumables,” Perez says in summary. “In line with Industry 4.0, rConnect is just one more step toward eliminating process downtime, improving machine performance, and ensuring a fully predictive manufacturing process and product quality.”

In its next phases, the Mazak SmartBox cyber-secure Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform – developed in collaboration with Cisco – will offer the power of Mazak iSmart Cloud connectivity, machine learning and predictive maintenance capabilities, in addition to process analytics at the edge. As a launch platform, the Mazak SmartBox allows manufacturers to access and use real-time manufacturing data to improve overall productivity and agility along with responsiveness to customer and market changes. Mazak iSmart Cloud connectivity evolves the Mazak SmartBox into a truly advanced IIoT platform. Shops gain the information and insight to identify machine issues before they escalate into costly machine downtime. The Mazak SmartBox with such cloud connectivity encompasses integrated services such as secure file transfer, remote access and machine history.

With the global megatrends shaping up, the global machine tools market is predicted to exceed $120 billion by 2020, growing at a CAGR of more than 6%. According to Anju Ajaykumar, lead analyst, tools & components research, Technavio, “Industrial sectors where automation is employed on a wide scale such as automotive, aerospace and defense, electrical and electronics, medical devices, industrial machinery, and renewable energy are showing signs of positive growth which will augur well for the growth of the machine tools market during the forecast period.”

The top three emerging trends influencing the global machine tools market according to Technavio’s heavy industry research analysts follow.

3D printing and machine tools
The original application of 3D printers was to create small plastic models and prototypes. Currently, 3D printers are increasingly used to create prosthetics, full-scale clothing, and electronic products. These printers also have a tremendous potential in the industrial sector. The dramatic changes that 3D printing technology has brought about are likely to have an impact on machine tools and plastic injection molding. 3D printing technology reduces material usage by nearly 30% to 70% as compared to traditional techniques. This results in faster speed to market for new products and a reduction in development costs. Many machine tool manufacturers are incorporating this technology into their machine tools. For example, Japanese machine tool manufacturer Yamazaki Mazak has integrated metal 3D printing technology into its computer numerical control (CNC) product line.

Technological advances
The machine tools industry has evolved with the development of both hardware technology and software applications. This has resulted in machines becoming faster, intelligent, and versatile. Machines have now become multifunctional and are capable of performing a broad range of tasks inside a single set up. Electrical discharge machines, ultrasonic, and electronic beam technologies have revolutionised manufacturing technology. In 2013, the Taiwan-based Tongtai Machine Tool Co.’s TT51-USA ultrasonic machining center was set up in the US. This center offers a user-friendly operational interface together with enhanced machining precision. The German-made TRUMATIC 6000 was also introduced in the same year; this machine combines punching and laser technologies.

Multiple software products can be standardised on one platform. Advanced CAM technology is being used for multi-axis, multi-spindle, and multi-turret machines. Software is increasingly being used in automation of manufacturing and engineering processes. Software applications provide an integrated view of operation through direct integration with product lifecycle management, manufacturing execution services, process planning, and enterprise resource planning systems.

Surge in automation
The growing demand for superior-quality products has propelled companies to undertake automation in manufacturing. Investment in global process automation is continuing to grow at 6% and is projected to reach $120 billion by 2019. This growth is focussed on areas such as technology, hardware, software, services, and the communication protocol used for automation. The machine tools sector in the developed and developing countries, especially those in mid and small-scale industries, are increasingly using NC and CNC machines rather than manually controlled conventional machines. The new and advanced machines operate using programmed commands and computers to enhance productivity.

“Increased productivity is a major factor, which benefits companies that use process automation. Moreover, implementing process automation not only enhances profit margins but also has a positive impact on resource regulation and loss control,” Ajaykumar says.

Industry experts estimate that by the year 2020, 50 billion devices will be connected, with only 7 billion of them being PCs, Smartphones and tablets. More than 40% of all data transmitted will be sent from ‘device to device’ in 2020. This degree of networking creates a huge opportunity in manufacturing to build ‘Smart Factories’. Those who are already using these features are seeing improvements in quality, flexibility and productivity. This also provides threats to incumbent manufacturers for new entrants into the manufacturing sector and the possibility for disruptive technologies.

The way to an autonomous product will go through several phases. First phase is monitoring, the second is control, third will be optimisation and finally autonomy. Walter Tools sees the future of manufacturing belonging to digital applications in the value chain, which contains typical process steps like process design, procurement, stock management, presetting, machining and reconditioning. Our first-hand experience is with iCut, Walter Tool-ID, an application platform and the building of a Smart Factory development center in Germany.

Just like the advent of automation and CNC controls brought about mass changes in manufacturing, networking and connectivity will advance manufacturing to the truly digital age. The future manufacturer will see cutting tools become intelligent devices, machines delivering real time data and device control through apps and having devices being able to control each other.

As per a recent research, the dramatic changes that 3D printing technology has brought about will likely have an impact on machine tools and plastic injection molding. 3D printing technology reduces material usage by nearly 30%-70% as compared to traditional techniques. This results in faster speed to market for new products and a reduction in development costs. Many machine tool manufacturers are incorporating this technology into their machine tools.

The growth in global fabricated metal products market positively impacts the global machine tools market. Fabricated metals are used in ammunition, small arms, cutlery, and utensils, stamped metal products, fasteners, springs, building products, tanks, cranes, and hardware. These metals are manufactured using machine tools. The rising global demand for fabricated metals from the construction and machinery industries is fuelling the global fabricated metal products market, which in turn, drives the global machine tools market.

The global machine tools market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 6.55% during the period 2016-2020. As far as India is concerned, a key trend to watch closely is the emergence of optimised machine tools. The machine tools manufacturing industry needs to increase productivity, offer better quality, and enhance cost saving measures to stay ahead of the competition. These improvements are necessary to help end-users enhance the production rate. In the conservative approach of determining cutting parameters, under-utilised machining resources result in a safer process, but lower output efficiency. In such instances, CNC machine operations may be optimised by installing control systems that monitor cutting conditions in real time.

With Manufacturing 4.0 in sight, the machining industry will have to fasten its seat belt to build on the burgeoning market potential. Only time will tell how Indian companies are playing the fair game!


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May 2019
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