Index Provides another Approach to Machine Control

Now available on all Index machines, this control is designed to put all necessary production information at the operator's fingertips.


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Developers in industries across the board are including a growing number of functions for components that need to be machined, leading to far more complex workpieces. Economical production of these workpieces often depends on the power and flexibility of the machine tools. For lathes, this might mean multiple toolholders and a variety of axes, which increases the demands on programmers and operators.

On a recent visit to the Index/Traub manufacturing facilities near Stuttgart, Germany (Esslingen, Deizisau, and Reichenbach), I got a first-hand look at Xpanel, the company’s newly developed operating system that is now being offered on all of the Index single- and multi-spindle machines as well as its turn-mill centers. It is designed for additional user assistance via complete integration into network structures, providing drawings, setup sheets, user manuals, and circuit and hydraulic diagrams directly on the machine (no additional hardware). With a direct connection between the machine control and the operations department, Xpanel provides the operator with the information needed to support the current work.

Two fundamental components of the system include network integration and an 18.5” touchscreen monitor suitable for display of demanding 3D simulations. The touchscreen has a separate controller with an 8-GB memory card and USB port.

The system is designed to incorporate Industry 4.0 functionality. Industry 4.0 is a German-based initiative toward value chain organization aimed at facilitating the vision of the smart factory. It’s an effort to define the future of the shop floor.

The start page reflects the objective of Industry 4.0. When the machine is started, a control screen displays information for axis positions as expected. On the right side, where hardware keys used to be, a vertical control strip shows alpha and numeric keypads, cursor keys and other touch buttons, including the “i4.0-ready” button. Pressing this button launches Xpanel Industry 4.0, changing the right-side control strip to an activity-driven display. This display contains options for production, setup, programming, maintenance, general, and diagnostics.

A button on the touch-monitor allows the operator to toggle between the normal control view and a second page of operational data at any time. For example, if the operator selects the icon for the workpiece name in Xpanel Industry 4.0 mode, it will be displayed on the second screen page, and the operator can then navigate to it repeatedly by pressing a button. Other buttons can be used, for example, to retrieve and view job or quality requirements and to open them at any time, as needed.

The same approach applies to other activities such as accessing setup sheets and tooling setup information, operating and programming instructions, or circuit and hydraulic diagrams. Full-page display of PDF formats in combination with intuitive navigation and zoom functions on the touchscreen enable safe transfer of all information. An editor feature allows the operator to add notes to the workpiece job.

All the above-mentioned functions are included in the standard version of the system. An optional industrial PC (called VPC Box) installed in the control cabinet can be connected with the operating panel via an Ethernet interface and also uses the second page of the control screen. The industrial PC allows the operator to run Virtual Machine (VM), developed by Index, directly on the machine control panel. This “VM on Board” can be coupled with the real machine via the virtual NC core. This setup enables 3D simulation and collision monitoring in a new dimension.


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