Data-Driven Manufacturing Brings Efficiency to the Shop Floor

Developments in data-driven manufacturing, or digitization of the shop floor, are going far beyond merely knowing whether or not machines are in cycle.


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In the quest for improved profitability, process control and quality, shops should look at the ways they measure overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). Developments in data-driven manufacturing, or digitization of the shop floor, are going far beyond merely knowing whether or not machines are in cycle. Up until recently, for the most part, sensors in machine tools have been located from the spindle nose back, outside of the cutting zone.

Cutting tool suppliers such as Sandvik Coromant are now providing sensor data directly from the cutting zone to provide vital information such as whether or not the machine is actually cutting chips. CoroPlus is the umbrella name for the company’s platform of connected tools and software, essentially comprising technologies that can send and/or receive data. The concept makes it possible to reduce data waste and improve manufacturing processes, from pre- to post-machining, through the use of connected technology and existing machining knowledge.

“Users not only get access to Sandvik Coromant product and application data through connected software and hardware, but with sensor-equipped tools they can adjust, control and monitor machining performance in real time,” says Göran Näslund, head of digital machining. “The entire machine shop can be controlled via accurate on-site data dashboards, through the cloud and via integration with the user’s software and machine environment.” CoroPlus connects into existing software environments through open application programming interfaces (APIs), offering two-way connectivity and accurate data quality.

The principle benefit for production managers is the ability to optimize manufacturing through better understanding and insight into what’s happening in real time in the machining environment, on either a micro or macro level. From a CAM programmer’s perspective, connection with accurate tool and application data means that recommendations can be adapted to specific tasks. There are also advantages for operators as machining processes can be monitored remotely. Furthermore, specific sensor-equipped tools can be controlled to ensure that breakages are avoided and performance is secured with data intelligence collected live throughout the machining process.

An IMTS introduction of the CoroPlus platform showed an offer that will be comprised of software solutions in CoroPlus Tool Guide and Adveon Tool Library, as well as Silent Tools+ and CoroBore+ cutting tools, and the Promos 3+ machine monitoring IoT system, for starters.

The tool guide and tool library are software products designed for the preplanning process. When a CAM programmer starts to develop a machining strategy, instead of selecting cutting tools from a catalog and entering the necessary information into the CAM environment, he or she can now be connected digitally to the tooling information and cutting data. Adveon and the CoroPlus Tool Guide deliver all the necessary information about the tooling, how to use it, how to apply it, what the speeds and feeds are, and what machining strategies to use.

As more data is gathered through monitoring of the machining process, it can be fed back into the process development system to make the programming process even more efficient over time. “You start to customize the planning system to the shop’s capabilities,” says Jeff Rizzie, senior manager of business development at Sandvik Coromant. “You know the best approach for each machine, each material, each type of operation. You know what tools you have, and you can determine the best approach using those available tools.”

On the machining side, CoroBore+ is a micro-adjustable boring bar for finish boring that uses digital technology to allow easier configuration. Instead of using the traditional method of engaging a wrench with a dial on it, the machinist uses an app for adjustments. The app connects using Bluetooth via a device such as a phone or tablet, but this functionality could eventually be built into the machine control to eliminate the additional hardware.

Silent Tools+ adds yet another level of functionality, allowing accurate positioning of the boring bar. “One of the most difficult and critical things about using a vibration dampening boring bar is aligning the top of the insert to the centerline of the bore,” Mr. Rizzie says. Instead of using a level, or even simply eyeballing it, the sensor technology provides an accurate reading of where the bar is in relation to the machine centerline, allowing the operator to rotate the bar and easily lock it in when it hits zero.

The embedded sensors also have the capability of pulling data during the machining process. They run calculations of vibration and movement. They also monitor the temperature of the vibration damping unit, as extreme temperature changes affect its operation. This data is pulled into the app and translated into necessary adjustments to improve surface quality. The app also can provide tools, such as quality control graphing, that support traceability requirements.

Promos 3+ is a unit that hooks directly into the machine tool and is housed within the control cabinet. It is engineered for adaptive control capability and allows monitoring at a finite level by reading information directly from the machine such as whether it is on or off, in cycle, or in cut. It looks for patterns or anomalies that would require adjustments such as stopping the machine for a broken tool or slowing the feed rate for a hard spot in the material. It also has capabilities to handle machine maintenance functionality, with sensors indicating when parts of the machine need attention, such as low fluid levels.

Machine monitoring is a common topic of discussion, but the bigger picture is device monitoring. The machines are an important component of that, but the tools are devices as well, and they can provide information above and beyond what the machines can provide. The information gathered among these devices collaborates for better efficiency, reliability and accuracy.

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