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Control Software Improvements Spurring Manufacturing’s Digitization Push

Pat Waurzyniak
By Patrick Waurzyniak Contributing Editor, SME Media
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Tiansu Jing
Sinumerik CNC Product Manager
Siemens Industry Inc.

Manufacturing Engineering: How important is the software side of today’s CNC development?

Tiansu Jing: More and more manufacturers are seeing productivity as a crucial factor to their business success. In the meantime, business models are changing from the large quantities and few variants to small quantities with frequently changed variants. This change requires high flexibility during production. Keeping a good balance between productivity and flexibility is a challenge for all manufacturing companies. A single machine’s productivity is limited by its mechanical and electrical condition and it is not easy to significantly increase that productivity.

The CNC and the machine itself cannot help the flexibility very much. Software becomes the game-changer in today’s manufacturing. And to support this trend, CNCs are developed that are even more supportive to the software.

ME: How critical is it for manufacturers to fully embrace the current move toward digitization in the industry?

Jing: To avoid falling behind in technology trends, all manufacturers must start changing. Most manufacturers are looking for the best solutions for them to increase productivity. This research and testing need time. If manufacturers cannot fully embrace the move towards digitalization in the industry right now, they will fall behind and lose to competition in the future.

ME: What new software elements are available for machinists in the Sinumerik CNC lineup, with Siemens’ ShopMill, ShopTurn and newer apps like Manage MyMachines?

Jing: There is plenty of new software available now from Siemens to improve customer productivity. The innovations include not only hardware, but also software like Mindsphere, Sinumerik Edge, and Sinumerik Integrate. Together with automation-level innovations, such as the new and powerful 828D panel processing unit (PPU), these new digitalization products can significantly help Siemens’ customers increase their manufacturing productivity and production flexibility.

ME: How common is it for machinists to use shop-floor programming on today’s CNCs?

Jing: I would say it is becoming more common than ever before. It’s because workpieces are not as simple as they were previously. In some cases, it will consume lots of time in programming on the machine, which will decrease the machine’s overall productivity. In other cases, the workpieces are becoming more and more complicated; therefore, software is needed for programming and testing.

ME: How easy is it for new machinists to learn CNC programming on today’s controls?

Jing: Thanks to new software technology, there are many different tools to help a new machinist learn CNC programming. Programming and operating can be taught on a PC with our Sinutrain software, which is a perfect simulator of the Sinumerik control with the real CNC kernel in it. Machinists can also practice on a PC with Sinumerik Virtual NC Kernel (VNCK), which is software with the Sinumerik Operate system and real NC Kernel. Sinumerik VNCK can be integrated into a machine 3D model, which is controlled virtually by the VNCK. With this software, machinists can not only practice programming and test it, but also operate a machine and see how the workpiece is cut with the program.

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With Siemens’ Mindsphere and other software tools, Siemens Sinumerik CNC users can boost their machining productivity with the latest connected manufacturing applications.
(Provided by Siemens)

ME: What kind of aptitude does it take to become a good CNC programmer on the shop floor?

Jing: With advancements in hardware and software technology, it’s not necessary to have any specific aptitude to become a very good CNC programmer. Anyone can easily learn programming and operating by working on the software using a PC instead of an expensive machine tool. If there is one mandatory aptitude, it should be the willingness to embrace new technology.

ME: What does the current manufacturing climate look like for software and automation developers?

Jing: Now is the best time for software and automation developers. More and more entities have realized the importance of software in the manufacturing industry, and more companies are investing in software to embrace digitalization. Take Siemens for example—we have invested more than $10 billion in automation and software acquisitions since 2007. We have spent $5 billion in R&D globally. From the market perspective, the industry is aware of the importance of digitalization to overall manufacturing productivity and flexibility improvement. More manufacturing companies are buying thanks to the value of the software and automation system, which together support digitalization.

Siemens Acquires NVH Testing Assets

Siemens AG, based in Berlin and Munich, Germany, has signed an agreement to acquire the Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH) end-of-line quality testing business of Saab Medav Technologies GmbH, an Erlangen, Germany-based supplier of NVH solutions for industrial quality testing as well as signal processing, communications intelligence, and analysis for air, land, and naval applications.

Siemens said the deal will extend its Simcenter simulation and test offering with the addition of Saab Medav’s NVH business. Quality testing results from Saab Medav systems will provide valuable input to the product digital twin, supporting continuous product improvement and development, the company said. The NVH team and technology complement the Simcenter test portfolio, enabling customers to systematically improve overall product and manufacturing quality.

According to Siemens, Saab Medav’s NVH quality testing solutions have a strong track record and best practices in the domain of end-of-line quality testing of combustion engines, transmissions, electric motors, and motor-driven components and systems. The addition of the NVH business allows Siemens to complement its Simcenter portfolio of testing solutions used in research and development with an integrated solution set for end-of-line NVH quality testing in manufacturing.

With ever-increasing pressure on improving quality, the need for NVH type end-of-line testing for manufactured products such as electric motors, combustion engines, transmissions, axles, and turbochargers is rapidly increasing across the automotive and transportation industries. This is accelerated with the ascent of electric vehicles, which have a low general noise level and are lacking the masking effect from a loud combustion engine.

The NVH team will join the Siemens PLM Software business, based in Plano, Texas, and part of the Siemens Digital Factory Division. NVH technology will be incorporated into the Simcenter portfolio of simulation and testing solutions. The asset sale and purchase transaction is due for completion in the second calendar quarter of 2019. The parties have agreed not to disclose any details of the transaction.

Aras Partners with VCollab on Simulation Process Technology

PLM developer Aras Corp., Andover, Mass., announced a partnership with Visual Collaboration Technologies Inc. (VCollab), Troy, Mich., for simulation visualization, post-processing, and reporting. Aras will use the VCollab technology in its Simulation Process & Data Management (SPDM) processes across the lifecycle. Automatically enabling simulation results in the product configuration—including variants and options—provides a closed loop for traceability to reduce physical testing, verify requirements, and improve design-space exploration. Aras views better tool chaining and data management of simulation results as foundational to digital thread enablement and strategic initiatives such as additive manufacturing, generative design, and digital twin simulation.

VCollab reads simulation results from a variety of formats and makes them available for visualization and analysis purposes. With Aras’ SPDM capabilities and VCollab working together, simulation experts can better perform cross-discipline analysis, analyze results, and create reports that include 3D content.

“VCollab’s tool-independent, multidisciplinary visualization capabilities are well-aligned with our open approach and full lifecycle perspective,” said Malcolm Panthaki, Aras vice president of analysis solutions. “Using VCollab’s capabilities in our SPDM provides automation to make simulation results accessible to everyone across the enterprise through dynamic reports, while reducing cycle times and redundant administrative tasks for the simulation analyst.”

Web-deployed visualization, data mining and automated report generation with dynamic 3D content make key CAE results accessible to everyone on the Aras platform, according to Prasad Mandava, VCollab co-founder and CEO. “By combining Aras’ highly scalable platform with our ultra-fast post-processing of large CAE files, global companies can further improve simulation throughput and analyst productivity,” he said.

Hexagon Updates PC-DMIS Software

Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, North Kingstown, R.I., a division of Hexagon AB, Stockholm, has released an update of its PC-DMIS measurement software that adds workflow, performance, and user-experience improvements. The latest update, PC-DMIS 2019 R1, is the first of two major releases scheduled for 2019, with continued service pack updates to ensure maximum platform reliability.

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The latest Hexagon PC-DMIS 2019 R1 update, which adds workflow, performance and user-interface improvements, is now available via download. (Provided by Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence)

In PC-DMIS 2019 R1, Hexagon introduces the new GD&T Selection and Capture tool, which saves users time and effort and reduces input errors by automatically transferring GD&T data from 2D “blueprints” into the PC-DMIS measurement routine. The software accomplishes this by using optical character recognition (OCR) technology. Other new features include a new PC-DMIS Protect module for customers with stringent process controls and auditing standards, as Protect enables users to control access to measurement routines and track modifications to them (available as a paid option). Only users with permission can amend protected routines and the business can track and audit any changes.

Probe protection also has been improved with enhanced calibration collision avoidance capability. During the user’s regular measuring system calibration, a new layer of intelligence allows PC-DMIS to identify areas of possible collision and ensure collisions between the probe and any fixed surface are avoided. Likewise, PC-DMIS 2019 R1 automatically inserts safe moves needed to avoid collisions around complex parts directly into the measurement routine.

“We are very pleased to release this latest version of our metrology software PC-DMIS,” said Ken Woodbine, product line manager for metrology software at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence. “PC-DMIS 2019 R1 continues the trend towards optimizing each of the three primary metrology tasks of measurement creation, execution, and collaboration. The improvements in this version bring us ever closer to a perfect balance between user experience and capability.”

Other notable enhancements include single-click ability to measure the thickness of a transparent material and calculate and report a 2D thickness and gauge position; and improved customer service with responsive HTML Help, enabling assistance without having PC-DMIS installed and with embedded multimedia support. The PC-DMIS 2019 R1 update is available now for download.

Mitutoyo Releases Updated MeasurLink

Measurement developer Mitutoyo America Corp., Aurora, Illinois, has released MeasurLink 9, the latest version of its real-time process control and data-collection software.

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Mitutoyo’s MeasurLink 9 update adds several new features to the modular data management software for collecting data from a wide range of Mitutoyo measuring tools and systems. (Provided by Mitutoyo America Corp.)

MeasurLink is a modular data management software system that enables collecting data from a wide range of Mitutoyo measuring tools and systems, including calipers, indicators, sensors, vision systems and CMMs.

The updated MeasurLink 9 software adds several new features, including:

• Support for Windows users and single sign-on ideal for teams, groups, and companies,
• The ability to run hypothetical “what-if” scenarios in Process Analyzer,
• A dynamic data display from a data source in high sampling rates,
• An Uncertainty Chart provides a visual representation of how the gage performance affects measurement,
• Copy/paste gage R&R data,
• Improved gage management by importing information from an external source,
• Automatic identification of characteristics during data collection based on tolerancing,
• Better traceability to ensure proper data recording for serial numbers, and
• The ability to import calibration data in Gage Management.

For more details and to download an evaluation copy, see www.measurlink.com.

GE Digital Updates iFIX Software

GE Digital has announced a new version of its iFIX HMI/SCADA software used by industrial organizations for plant-wide connectivity, visibility, and control. Part of the Predix portfolio, the new iFIX 6.0 improves operational productivity by providing plant operators with high performance to give users the most informed view of the problem or task and secure visualization from anywhere at any time, according to the company.

“Building on our heritage as an industrial company, we are intimately familiar with the challenges our customers face every day,” said Matt Wells, GE Digital vice president of product management. “Industrial companies are looking for better ways to quickly build new SCADA applications, improve user performance and respond to changing needs while maintaining the security of the application. By leveraging standards such as OPC UA, integrated support for ISA alarm shelving, and enabling new web development tools, iFIX 6.0 allows organizations to rapidly build new applications while ensuring the stability and security of their operations and empowering operators to respond better to changing conditions in real time.”

iFIX 6.0 includes integrated support for ISA 18.2 standards for consistent alarm shelving and interface presentation, which enables operators to prioritize critical alarms to avoid spending unnecessary resources on less pressing needs—helping plants to increase productivity by up to 70 percent, according to GE. A new alarm summary grid allows operators to filter and focus on the critical alarms that matter, making it easier for immediate responders to review information and deal with the priority situation at hand.

Siemens Launches Embedded Linux Solution

Siemens PLM Software has announced a new enterprise Mentor Embedded Linux (MEL) solution that provides electronics manufacturers secure, scalable and configurable distributions for industrial, medical, aerospace, and defense applications. This new MEL technology is a configurable distribution that provides an operating system platform for embedded systems development and is a result of the continued integration of the recently acquired embedded systems design capabilities from Mentor Graphics.

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The Omni Edition of the Mentor Embedded Linux solution is based on Debian, a broadly used, enterprise-class, open-source Linux operating system. (Provided by Siemens AG)

The solution is based on Debian, a broadly used, enterprise-class, open-source Linux operating system. According to Siemens, the MEL solution offers a proven commercial distribution that reduces risk and accelerates productivity for medical, industrial, aerospace and defense applications; portability across multiple processor architectures; increased development flexibility; and a fully configurable solution for optimal functionality, performance, and productivity.

The binary solution supports multiple leading hardware architectures and will ship in Q2, said Siemens, which showcased it at Embedded World 2019 in February in Nuremberg, Germany. A MEL version based on the Yocto Project is also available. For additional product information, visit the website: www.mentor.com/embedded-software/linux/.

“As more engineering organizations recognize the value of open source solutions, next-generation embedded systems are also redefining software development needs,” said Chris Rommel, executive vice president of VDC Research. “Although many developers have gained experience with enterprise Linux, those traditional solutions cannot meet the performance requirements of most embedded systems. The new Mentor Embedded Linux addresses this issue, providing an enterprise-class solution for those developers looking for a Linux development experience beyond that for the platforms based on Yocto commonly used in the embedded market.”

Wind River Unveils Edge Platform

Wind River, an Alameda, Calif.-based developer, has released the Wind River Helix Virtualization Platform. The offering combines the company’s commercial real-time operating system (RTOS) and embedded Linux distribution into an edge compute software platform, and allows other operating systems to run unmodified within the same framework, providing a software development environment across the Wind River portfolio.

The Helix platform addresses critical infrastructure development needs, from highly dynamic environments without certification requirements, to highly regulated static applications such as in avionics and industrial. Helix also addresses systems requiring the mixing of safety-certified applications with non-certified ones, such as in automotive. The platform maximizes ROI and TCO by increasing asset value and reducing operational costs, according to the company.

“The industry is moving toward heterogeneous systems where the development of many critical infrastructure systems requires both an open source Linux and a proven commercial RTOS, and Helix Platform offers the best of both worlds with VxWorks and Wind River Linux integrated in a single solution, from a single supplier,” said Jim Douglas, Wind River president and CEO.

The offering comprises VxWorks along with its virtualization technology, integrated with Wind River Linux and Wind River Simics for system simulation. It meets safety certification requirements and is operating system-agnostic, providing the capability to run any unmodified guest operating system, such as Microsoft Windows, roll-your-own, and others, according to the company.

Software Update is edited by Contributing Editor Patrick Waurzyniak.

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