Latest controls gear and CAD/CAM software can dramatically boost machining productivity
By Patrick Waurzyniak
In today's difficult manufacturing environment, manufacturers can gain optimal machining productivity by using the latest the market has to offer in CNC controls and CAD/CAM manufacturing software.
By employing the latest CAD/CAM software and CNC controls, manufacturers can gain machining efficiencies with their machine tool equipment and compete more effectively. Among the latest improvements in CAD/CAM, software developers are offering increased support for mill-turn equipment, advanced five-axis machining, feature-based machining, and more use of 3-D solid models.
Taking a close look at the machine tool equipment exhibited at IMTS will reveal the significant advance of CNC technology and the sophistication of machines and controls, along with the development of more advanced machines including multitasking machines (MTM) and five-axis mills, notes Bill Gibbs, president and CEO, Gibbs and Associates (Moorpark, CA), who has attended every IMTS since 1978. "CAM has come a long way as well," Gibbs says. "Thirty years ago you were lucky to be able to draw a 2-D part and make a toolpath. They were rarely seen in machine shops. Today, CAM software is everywhere. I can't imagine a CNC machine shop without a CAM system keeping all the machines running at peak performance. You can certainly find CAM software at the 2008 IMTS that will suit your people, your parts, and your machines, producing perfect G-code and keeping you competitive in a challenging economy. You may also view CAM software as a source of entertainment."
For some people, CAM software is simply a tool, Gibbs adds, one more important item they need to be competitive in CNC manufacturing today. "For others, CAM software is a source of joy for the techno-geek in each of us. Dozens of CAM companies compete at each IMTS to attract and capture your attention with the latest new features and capabilities." CAM systems today tout exciting new capabilities, Gibbs says, such as automatic feature recognition, high-speed machining, adaptive milling, generative toolpath creation, integrated solid modeling, automatic part programming, macro-driven programming, virtual machine simulation, associative toolpaths, perfect postprocessors, and volumetric optimal material removal.
At IMTS this year, Gibbs, which is now part of the Cimatron Group (Givat Shmuel, Israel), will show its new GibbsCAM 2008 update, containing a suite of new threeaxis HSM toolpath capabilities, as well as a variety of other enhancements in most of the categories listed above, according to Gibbs.
"Most of the CAM developers work closely with suppliers of related equipment, because modern machine tools and cutting tools are capable of working at speeds that were unthinkable only a few years ago," notes Glenn McMinn, president, Delcam North America (Windsor, ON, Canada, and Birmingham, UK). "However, these speeds cannot be achieved safely without specialized machining strategies that protect the machine and the cutting tool from damage."
Delcam offers a collection of broad solutions for CAD and CAM, and McMinn says the company has picked up new sales from customers who could not meet the demands of production with their previous system of newer equipment, such as high-speed mills, five-axis machine tools, Swiss-type lathes, and turn-mill equipment. "This includes general solutions for reverse engineering, design for manufacturing, advanced machining of complex shapes, general-purpose job-shop machining, specialized packages for artistic CAM and inspection, and both manual and on-machine verification," McMinn notes.
At IMTS, Delcam will showcase two of its products addressing dental market needs, with Delcam's DentMill software, as well as custom orthotics with its Orthomodel product, McMinn notes. The company also will display its entire CAM product line including PowerMill, FeatureCAM, ArtCAM, and PartMaker, in addition to its PowerShape design package and PowerInspect metrology software.
"With this complete line of products we have a solution for nearly any CAD/CAM challenge, for anyone looking to improve their current manufacturing and design processes," McMinn says. "IMTS is the main event for showcasing the relationships we have with machine tool partners, and our toolpaths will be on display in the booths of our many machine tool partners, including Makino, Methods/Matsuura, Okuma, DMG, and Hardinge, to name a few. We will also be working closely with our partner, Renishaw, to demonstrate our PowerInspect Pro product on numerous machine tools on the show floor."
In CNC controls, energy-saving techniques and improved safety features are key for today's machine tool users. "With rising fuel costs, we have been seeing a significant trend toward energy savings in CNC and industrial machines," says Paul Webster, CNC product manager, GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms (Charlottesville, VA). "Direct energy reduction by using energy-saving servosystems and high-speed machining processes that reduce cycle time are key ways to improve energy consumption. At IMTS, we are showing some new five-axis and high-speed-machining features that will improve cycle times. We are also showing large motors and drive technology for industrial machines that can result in over 40% reduction in energy consumption."
Another trend we are seeing is improved safety for machine tools, Webster notes. "Demand for our dual-check safety product, which redundantly checks the machine safety state, has been increasing," he says. "As the speed and complexity of CNC machines have increased, so have the inherent dangers to operators. New safety systems that are integrated into the control have evolved to meet those dangers."
The CNC developer will be showing the latest in its lineup of controls, motors, and drives, including several new products this year, Webster notes. "This year at IMTS we are announcing the release of the Series 0i-D CNC control," Webster says. "The 0i-D is the latest in value-priced CNCs, capitalizing on the performance and reliability of the 30i family. The 0i-D contains standard features such as nanometer interpolation, packaged features, and network connectivity.
In addition, GE Fanuc will announce its new large-spindle motors with rated output of up to 200 kW (268 hp). "These large motors are designed to support the needs of industries such as oil/gas, and also for the retrofit needs of large machines that would not be economical to replace," Webster explains. "To support large industrial machines converting to servo control, we have released the Energy Charge Module. The ECM provides power factor improvement to factories without sufficient peak capacity to supply the needs of several very large servomotors during acceleration."
At its booth, GE Fanuc will also show some CNC features that reduce cycle time and improve finish quality, including Smooth TCP, learning control, interactive force compensation, and improved canned cycles, according to Webster. "We have a 6000-W CO2 laser demonstration that will show the combination of Fanuc laser and highspeed machining technology," he adds. "We will have a number of our custom-engineered solutions on display, along with a powerful demonstration of our latest CNC software releases, including a major announcement regarding our Proficy Machine Tool Efficiency application. You will also see a significant presence in our booth to support AMT's launch of the MTConnect protocol."
Key trends in the controls industry include a drive toward higher productivity through quick tool and fixture setup for job shops, as well as a higher degree of automation on the manufacturing floor, according to Rajas Sukthankar of Siemens Energy & Automation Inc., Machine Tool Business Unit (Elk Grove Village, IL). Greater use of automation is evident in job shops and in mid-size to large-scale manufacturing facilities, he says.
Other factors in today's market are that more turnkey manufacturing solutions are being delivered by machine tool OEMs to their customers, notes Sukthankar. "Network connectivity is emerging as a major factor," he adds. Another trend is the move toward seamless integration of manufacturing design teams with the concept of manufacturing supporting product designs anywhere through technologies such as the Teamcenter PLM software from Siemens PLM Software (Plano, TX).
At this year's show, Siemens will show solutions to improve productivity in job shops, including live demonstrations of its latest ShopMill and ShopTurn software, according to Sukthankar. Siemens also will display the Teamcenter PLM software that enables companies to design and manufacture product in the local/global setting with tight integration of design and engineering resources, he adds. In addition, the company will showcase its Solutions for Manufacturing Excellence, with shop-floor monitoring and productivity-improvement tools for OEMs and end-users, Sukthankar says, as well as safety integrated for automotive manufacturing solutions.
Speed and accuracy gains in CNCs have been a key technical trend in recent years, according to Rick Korte, president, Heidenhain Corp. (Schaumburg, IL). "In the past few years, developments at Heidenhain have been numerous, with an emphasis on speed," Korte notes. "There has always been a need to go faster, but to do so without compromising accuracy and finish has always been the challenge. The balance of memory, processor speed, look-ahead, effective filtering, and an NC kernel to coordinate all of these are key factors in today's control systems.
At IMTS, Heidenhain will display the new TNC 620 contouring control for milling applications, the new MANUALplus 620 turning control, and its proven iTNC 530 control. Heidenhain has also introduced an extensive software library to take advantage of control capabilities with respect to installation, commissioning, optimization, and programming. Along with its controls, Heidenhain will display its line of touch-probe systems, including the TT 140 tool touch probe, as well as the TS 440 battery-free infrared spindle probe, which generates its own power while in operation.
"In conjunction with new control developments is the trend to use high-speed, high-resolution interfaces between control components and peripheral devices, such as linear scales, while at the same time increasing cable lengths and decreasing cable costs," Korte states. "All of this has resulted in the development of our company's new NC Kernel [the basis for all future TNC controls], HSCI [Heidenhain Serial Control Interface], and EnDat [Bidirectional Feedback Interface], which will be displayed as a cohesive approach to machining at this year's Heidenhain IMTS booth.
"At the forefront of Heidenhain's IMTS presence will be an accuracy campaign," Korte adds. "For many years, machine-tool builders have understood the value and importance of linear scales for positioning on CNC machine tools. The statement, 'Warning! Machine tools without linear scales may be inaccurate,' will be evident not only at the Heidenhain booth, but at machine builders' booths as well."
The following products are representative of the equipment that will be shown in the Controls and CAD/CAM pavilion at IMTS 2008. — Patrick Waurzyniak
This article was first published in the August 2008 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.