Machinists are getting used to the new terminology. Tool manufacturers and their users are now familiar with digital twins, the cloud and the smart evaluation of Big Data. All this is happening in response to the "Industrial Internet of Things IIoT" – one of the key themes of EMO Hannover 2019.
According to Prof. Frank Barthelmä, Managing Director of GFE Gesellschaft für Fertigungstechnik und Entwicklung Schmalkalden e.V., the digitalisation of metalworking stands or falls with intelligent tools. "Even self-optimising machine tools can only function if they communicate effectively, both internally and externally", explains the organiser of the Schmalkalden Tool Conference, which took place in November 2018. "And that's why the tools themselves continue to play a critical role." Manufacturers of precision tools, clamping tools and measurement technology therefore need to pay great attention to digitalisation and networking – including everything from data generation in rotating tools through to cloud-based solutions. Barthelmä: "After all, it is networking which enables integrated services."
New services thanks to networking
Thuringia-based Barthelmä envisages even closer liaison between customers and suppliers in the next five to ten years. In the future, product users will be included in the data transfer chain at a much earlier stage. In his opinion, preparatory or supporting services such as predictive maintenance will come to play an important role as integrated elements of production.
The message is being heeded by industry and is now being acted upon by many manufacturers. One such example is c-Com GmbH, a start-up of Mapal Präzisionswerkzeuge Dr. Kress KG from Aalen. The IT newcomer offers e.g. Software as a Service (SaaS ) on an open cloud platform for tool administration. "Planning, reprocessing and optimising tools take up a lot of time," says Giari Fiorucci, Managing Director of the Mapal subsidiary. "These tasks generate large amounts of data, yet many users still perform them manually." In many cases the different participants need the same data, yet it is generated multiple times and maintained in redundant databases. The situation is different with a cloud-based solution. Digital twins – virtual mappings of the tool data which incorporate many key parameters such as cutting data, tool life or the number of reprocessings – are created on such a platform.
Bringing partners together in the cloud
Central data acquisition makes it unnecessary to generate redundant data records. The cloud not only concentrates the tool data, but also improves the interaction. As Fiorucci states concerning this unique selling point: "We bring all the machining industry business partners together on a cross-company basis." These include machining companies, tool manufacturers and service providers, such as those offering regrinding or coating.
Measurement technology enables rapid control
Prime examples of digitalisation include intelligent tools that can perform new tasks thanks to the new, easy-to-integrate sensors. Measurement technology is required that enables users to intervene immediately and control the process, thus reducing wear and tear and preventing tool damage. LMT Kieninger GmbH & Co. KG, based in Lahr, has created a so-called reverse counterbore for drilling holes e.g. in large gas turbines, for a company in the energy sector.
Christian Krieg, Head of Research and Development: "Sensors indicate whether the individual cutting elements are extended or retracted. This prevents damage to the components or tools." In tool and mould making, integrated sensors within the tool holders monitor the process forces and any vibrations which are generated. This helps to avoid chatter marks. It should eventually be possible to use such intelligent tools in an autonomous control system that adapts cutting parameters to the milling process in real time.