The end-users are at the same time demanding increased productivity, security of investment and quality as well as lower cost of ownership. For all those involved, including the automation provider this means: Only the one with the top technology can be the number one in competition.
The innovation ability of the automation provider and his willingness to deal with the customer's problems directly is more important than ever nowadays. Products alone, however innovative they may be, no longer suffice. Recognizing and reacting to trends is the key - whether in the form of innovative products, intelligent solutions or unique services.
The increasing substitution of mechanical components by electronic components (e.g. electronic gears) and the use of distributed automation and drive technology means that modular machines can be designed which are gaining a considerable amount of flexibility. Their mechanics only partly determine their functions. The lion's share is taken over by servo drives controlled by a CNC or motion control software.
Speed plus accuracy is a solvable problem
The use of direct drives shows that high machining speed and high-precision do not necessarily rule each other out: a linear motor instead of a conventional axle drive by motor and ball spindle, torque motors as rotary table drives and complete motor spindles as ready to install modules instead of traditional spindle drives. The new machine tool concepts with parallel kinematics are breaking down the previous barriers as regards dynamic and precision. They offer an extreme dynamic by lower moving masses. Their high rigidity allows high cutting forces without reducing the precision.
Mechatronic Support provides possibilities for recognizing development errors in the early phases of design and for optimally adapting the design and drive technology to each other. The innovative and unique service is already being used very successfully at Siemens and ranges from consulting on machine optimization and machine analysis to machine simulation. It reveals just how much innovation potential there is in the machine platform and what goals it can realistically achieve.
By machine simulation which includes both the mechanical components and the control and drive technology, the machine manufacturer can develop his new machine in a shorter time, gets greater development security because he knows the result before pilot series production and can get the machine to market faster. A concrete example of how Mechatronic Support has significantly reduced development time up to market maturity at the milling machine manufacturer Huron is shown in an article on page 20 of this issue. In a further step, the CNC software will be integrated as a virtual NC core in the simulation system which means that all the process steps and production results can be simulated on the computer. The NC programs can be optimized according to different criteria and simulated with high precision. The simulated "virtual" workpieces then serve to be able to estimate the fine geometry and surface quality before real production.
Such a virtual prototyping will be an absolute must for new machine designs in the future if they are to meet the requirements for higher axle dynamic, greater spindle performance and increased accuracy at low cost.
IT integration for greater productivity
The best possible increase in productivity cannot do without information-technical integration of management components in the CNC production environment nowadays. Whether production data management, NC program management or tool management, without them transparent production processes, cost-effective mastering of type variety, reduced ancillary times and therefore higher product quality and greater throughput are impossible. Added to this are maintenance management with autonomous maintenance which saves service time and costs as well as telediagnosis and online chat with the service partner for quick clarification in the event of a fault.
Fault analysis and troubleshooting via the Internet are becoming increasingly significant. The Machine Services Remote Access offers a safe solution, a system which is compatible with data security concepts such as IT-Safety and firewalls. Communication is scrambled but uses normal standard browsers. Web-based fault management allows fault reporting and elimination from anywhere.
With their innovative products and solutions as well as the unique Mechatronic Support service, Siemens offer optimum responses to today's trends in mechanical engineering and is; therefore, recommended as an extremely profitable partner for machine tool manufacturers.