Artificial intelligence (AI) , the Internet of Things (IoT), and real-time data analytics are moving metalworking technology into the next generation of equipment. These sophisticated concepts are bringing at least one traditional technology with it. Sinker electrical discharge machining.
A new, AI-infused machine was one of the highlights of an EDM open house held Sept. 26 by MC Machinery Systems, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corp.
The event, which was essentially a mini-trade show with a problem-solving theme, showcased the SV12P sinker EDM. The SEDM was displayed in the sparkling showroom of the company's headquarters in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.
Situated amid other EDMs, including the also new MV4800S—an easy-to-use wire EDM for large workpieces—and multi-functional milling machines, the SV12P utilizes a proprietary AI technology designed to make logical use of condition monitoring data. It can diagnose real-time problems and predict future maintenance and quality issues, among other broader-picture uses, and help machine operators produce the complex cavities and shapes that die-sinking EDMs are known for—even if the operator has little experience.
The technology is not necessarily new to the company. Its Japan-based corporate parent, Mitsubishi Electric, has developed much of this technology for other uses, and is now bringing that capability to the shop floor, according to Keiji Takahashi, deputy general manager of the EDM manufacturing department.
"This is not just a machine tool," said Takahashi, over the sounds of the operating machinery around him. "This is an air conditioner. This is an appliance."
By monitoring a number of parameters, such as temperature and humidity, water quality and energy usage, the machine can be more efficient. It can more accurately predict machining times, traditionally a difficult task, and calculate work time that helps workpiece set-up and project management.
The SV12P, which won the 2019 Energy-Efficient Machinery Award from the Japan Machinery Federation, can determine the fastest and most efficient route to remove material and produce a quality cut. Or, as Pat Crownhart, SEDM Product Manager for MC Machinery, explained it during his presentation, “Taking Advantage of Advances in Sinker EDM Technology,” the spark is “like a shovel, and the machine determines the best way to remove the material with the fewest shovel fulls."
AI technology, unlike conventional diagnostic technology that uses the same conditions for detecting problems regardless of a machine's current operational state, analyzes current sensor data to determine optimal conditions and detect abnormalities.
Temperature sensors, for instance, can track differentiation of oil temperature in the machine. "Everything should be the same, or it could shock the system, and things can move. It can be the difference between 5/10th and 2/10th vs. a 1/10th [movement], and that is when temperature starts becoming a big issue."
Improving quality consistency, no matter the operator's skill level, was a critical consideration for the SVP12. "We tried to make it easier to understand, easier to go step by step in real time. It can tell if it is stable cutting or unstable cutting," said Takahashi.
The machine features the company's M800 controller and can be outfitted with the company's Remote360 diagnostic technology and a video camera for remote visualization. The large-format, intuitive controller makes it easier for the operator to use, said Crownhart. “It provides them the little details that make all the difference in efficiency and making sure it doesn't break an electrode or anything like that.”
The event was more than just the SV12P show, however. In all, approximately 17 MC Machinery machines were displayed, including EDMs and milling machines. One example was the MV4800-S wire EDM that also utilizes the M800 controller. It featured other improvements such as a wide tank door window, built-in 55 lb. wire spool system, and the “Thermal Buster” that circulates chilled dielectric fluid to key areas throughout the machine structure.
The machine can be outfitted with the company's Remote360 technology, a remote monitoring tool that was the subject of a presentation by Chris Jarrell, MC Machinery's sales service and parts manager. The diagnostic program helps track EDM usage and can provide a detailed analysis of data with about a 7 to 10 second delay that is tailored to the needs of the person.
When this technology was launched, it was geared to the company's laser processing systems. Today, that technology has expanded to new devices such as the company's MV wire and SV sinker EDMs.
According to Jarrell, using Remote360 with data such as power output, wire consumption, gas and consumable usage and other condition monitoring data, users can monitor the machine and effectively manage resources.
Improving productivity and efficiency was not just the goal of the experts wearing MC Machinery or Mitsubishi nametags, however. More than 20 accessory suppliers and vendors displayed products and services such as CAD/CAM software, tooling, materials, workholding and more.
Several of these companies gave seminars focusing on real-world issues. For instance, reducing setups and secondary processes required to complete a workpiece was the topic of a presentation by Jay Ball, product manager for Seco Tools.
The presentation, “Hard Milling Tips and Tricks,” looked at ways to rough and finish in a single process and produce complex parts while reducing leads times and increasing productivity. Barr provided a number of tips such as maintaining a constant chip load and feed rate, and utilizing rigid shrink-fit holders to hold tools.