Posted on: July 22th, 2019, | By WayKen Project Manager
Industry 4.0 is happening. No doubt about that now. Major companies and even whole countries are already investing in this initiative and the results seem promising. Industry 4.0 is a new concept of manufacturing that employs all the IT technologies to provide a more efficient automated way to production. This concept is going to influence a lot of modern-day types of manufacturing processes and equipment. One of the most advanced branches of manufacturing is CNC machining technology. Let's see how modern machining methods and machine tools are going to be influenced by the oncoming change in the manufacturing paradigm.
Decision Making With Big Data
One of the major points to the next industry is the so-called Big Data. The database size and the computer's capacity to store and process information have grown so much that it is now possible to keep all the information about the current and previous works of a given CNC machining shop in a single place. Not only that but the computers and the neurons networks will be able to analyze stored machining data to improve the cutting parameters, clamping, cutting tool choice, etc. With that, they can offer advice to the machinist and make his job easier and more efficient.
Machining tools such as 5-axis milling centers, lathes, grinding machine tools, etc. will all be mounted with a multitude of sensors and the big data monitoring systems will ensure that this info is gathered online while the machinist tools are working. This has a lot of advantages. First, the sensors can estimate the tolerance and when the tool becomes too worn, they can compensate for this by changing the coordinates of the tip or the diameter of the cutter.
But it goes further. Say, one of the pneumatic pumps has been provided with a small defect. The pump was working as prescribed but as the time went on it got worn quicker. The sensors can estimate the pressure this pump provides and see what it's going off the normal grid way before it becomes completely unusable. So, the machinist can order a substitute in advance and replace it with just a short downtime of the machine tool instead of having it malfunction and possibly sustain more damage.
Collecting Data to Improve Process Planning
It is not a widely known information but machine tools actually cut the metal alloys only 25-40% of their uptime. 60-75% of the time they spend waiting for those machined parts to arrive from the previous operation. Industry 4.0 machine tool technology implies that all the equipment will be united by a single digital management system and will function as one whole cell. If the management system knows about the operations needed to manufacture the part and actually all the parts in the machine shop, it can calculate different blank routes at a terrific speed. It can adjust the routes once a new part is added and basically create an intelligent manufacturing automated system. The percentage of actual cutting and thus the efficiency will grow considerably.
Automated and Virtual Quality Control
Quality control has always been a complicated issue, you had to keep your own laboratory with high precision measuring tools or outsource those operations, and that requires additional time and resources. When the new technical revolution that brings Industry 4.0 comes, machine tools will be mounted with many sensors and it will be possible to estimate part tolerance, its surface finish, hardness, and other characteristics by evaluating the data that the sensors provide while the machine tools cut the blank. This will also decrease overall control time because the part will be assessed without the need to pause the manufacturing process.
Automated Machine Shop Supply
Complete automated management of the machining shop has a lot of advantages. Some steps have already been made for complete resource management wit the enterprise resource systems as part of product lifecycle management but there are still some improvements to be made. A considerable downtime in production happens when the materials and other supplies have been ordered for a project and you are awaiting shipping. This downtime can be avoided if you know what kind of materials you have and which of them will be needed for the next project. The neuron networks that will manage manufacturing shops can do both. They can monitor supply storages and they can predict, which materials and tools will be required to manufacture a part as soon as its model or design arrives at the machining shop. They can even form the bill of materials and make an automated order from the supply companies. This way, the whole machine shop won't be on standby due to supply shortages. They will arrive just in time as the manufacturing system is set up for machining the new part.
Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) systems and cloud technologies as parts of the internet of things will make it possible for engineers and machinists to access different types of machine tools remotely and set them up for operations from afar. New online machining services will emerge when the client will only have to upload a CAD model of his part and then he will only have to wait for it to be delivered at his door. No more discussing things with engineers and long hours spent waiting for the drafts to be approved. Manufacturing will become the same as online shopping, only every product is custom.
New Automated Manufacturing Systems
When industry 4.0 comes, machine automation and system integration will reach such levels that the layout of the machine shop will need to be modifiedh. Robotic manufacturing equipment will be integrated into the machining process to load/unload, clamp unclamp the blanks, check the part quality, change the cutting tools and so on. A machine tool (or a couple of them ) linked with a virtual management system with the robotic equipment can form a so-called manufacturing cell that can work without the machinist, you just have to provide it with metals and composites for machining.