Machine Tooling’s Use of IIoT, 3D Printing

March 12, 2017
The Industrial Internet of Things can make a big impact on predictive maintenance, surface quality, energy use and more in metalworking, which is also working increasingly with additive manufacturing.

In a world where tool wear and replacement is commonplace, machine tooling is a prime candidate for the predictive maintenance that can be leveraged with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). “We already see numerous examples of predictive maintenance. You can really foresee online if something’s going to change rapidly, and you can react,” said Wilfried Schäfer, president of the German Machine Tool Builders’ Association (VDW).

Traditionally, tool wear has been calculated based on some thousand processes, knowing when a part will likely be worn out. But that predictability is not precise, and a machine operator might be able to get more use out of the part, or might also face unplanned downtime if the part wears out sooner than expected.

“It’s always something you try to foresee out of the knowledge you have,” Schäfer said. “But with the possibility to really monitor the machine online, you’re able to decide really short-term…I think the torque is increasing so the tool is wearing.”

Beyond the ability to replace tools before a machine breaks down—or keep tools running for longer to save replacement costs—IIoT is useful for process control as well. “It’s not a question of if something is going to break, but the quality of the surface is being reduced,” Schäfer noted. A trend might indicate that perhaps five more pieces can run, for example, and then there will be a problem with the quality.

One company Schäfer spoke with was able to see that its controlled laser beam on a welding process line was getting out of spec even before the customer noticed it. Not only could it notify the customer about impending failure, but a tool supplier can see failure development that he wasn’t able to see in the past, which could thereby help create better tools. This is even more effective if a supplier can get that data from not just one machine, but 50 machines.

Schäfer made reference to Trumpf, an industrial laser manufacturer that has been so successful with its own IoT platform that it created a new company, Axoom, to offer IT services to machine tool builders to do machine analytics and optimize production processes.

EMO Hannover

Schäfer was in Chicago recently to promote EMO, a key metalworking show that is making its way back to Hannover, Germany, in September. IIoT and Industry 4.0 will be an important theme at this year’s show—which runs every odd year, alternating between Hannover and Milan, Italy. With a strong focus on connected systems, exhibitors at this year’s show will be demonstrating what digitization and networking can do for machine tooling.

EMO Hannover will include a special show on Industry 4.0, including about 40 exhibitors. Called the Industry 4.0 Area, it is a platform for feedback between experts within the international community and also between industry and academia. University and Fraunhofer institutes specializing in production technology will present the status of their research, and industrial organizations will show systems to implement Industry 4.0 in practice.

In addition to the Germany Industry 4.0 Platform, the program will include presentations from other parts of the globe, including the Industrial Internet Consortium from the U.S., France’s Alliance Industrie du Futur, Made in China 2025 and the Industrial Value Chain Initiative from Japan.

Energy savings

Dave Koepp, president and CEO of Roscoe, Ill.-based All World Machinery Supply, was also at the press briefing this week to talk up EMO Hannover and expressed his excitement about IIoT capabilities not only for predictive maintenance but for energy savings as well.

All World offers hydraulic and cooling units that are IoT-ready, including its newly announced ClampMax hybrid hydraulic system for clamping and workholding machine applications. It uses Daikin hybrid hydraulic power units (All World is a member of the Daikin group), IFM digital switches and Hydrocomp intensifiers.

“IFM is a huge partner for us,” Koepp said. “We specifically chose them as our switch and sensor manufacturer because of their IoT capabilities.”

Koepp is very gung-ho about energy savings, and doesn’t understand why more U.S. companies are not. “Europeans understand it’s about energy savings, not just cost,” he said. “They really appreciate the environmental aspect of things with IoT.”

U.S. companies, on the other hand, tend to balk at the upfront cost despite the long-term savings, to which Koepp responds, “Do you want to pay for that technology, or do you just want a hydraulic unit that pushes and pulls and does stuff? With IoT and energy savings, it’s tremendous stuff.”

Europe is actually working on a new energy savings directive, and machine tools are in the crosshairs, Schäfer noted. “There will be a regulation coming out, saying what machine tool producers have to do in terms of energy savings,” he said. “In the next weeks, there will be a final hearing at the EU in Brussels.”

The EU’s last Energy Efficiency Directive aimed to reach a 20 percent energy savings target by 2020. Near the end of 2016, the European Commission proposed an update to the directive, including a new target of 30 percent energy efficiency by 2030.

Additive manufacturing

Another hot topic expected at EMO Hannover this year is 3D printing, or additive manufacturing. There has been a lot of hype around additive manufacturing the past few years, but the discussion is getting more down to earth now, Schäfer asserted.

EMO Hannover will feature a half-day additive manufacturing program, organized with the European Association of the Machine Tool Industries (CECIMO) and the Additive Manufacturing Working Group in the German Engineering Federation (VDMA).

A recent study commissioned by VDW shows that 3D printing, though still a niche market, is growing exponentially. “This is an important technology in the value chain of production now,” Schäfer said. “All major classical manufacturers of machine tools are now presenting hybrid machines. This is a very strong upcoming trend—an additive machine with cutting, milling, boring or other processes on it.”

Perhaps a plastic 3D-printed part could be sold as is, Schäfer commented, but any metal piece is going to need more processing. “A lot of parts have to be produced with cutting, grinding and so forth, at least in metal,” he said. “The surface quality is not high enough.”

There is still a small spectrum of materials that can be used for additive manufacturing, Schäfer added, compared with everything that can be used in cutting processes. The cost and time to produce a part with 3D printing is also still prohibitive in many cases. “If you reduce 50 percent of the weight of an aerospace part, it can be 10 times more expensive, but it pays off in the operation of the airplane,” he commented. “But this does not pay off in a refrigerator.”

Classical requirements

All the more reason, perhaps, that the classical requirements of machine tooling should not be forgotten.

Mechanical sturdiness, dependable components, reliable machinery control systems, and intelligent process design and control are still key foundations for quality, productivity and cost-efficient manufacturing—regardless of the excitement of trends like Industry 4.0 or 3D printing.

“At the end of the day, you need a part,” Schäfer said. “There’s ongoing development and innovations in increasing accuracy, flexibility and more productivity.”

Much of that innovation will be on display at EMO Hannover. Though 41 percent of the visitors to EMO Hannover 2013 were from outside Germany—a tremendous number of industrial tradeshows—only about 2 percent of the total were from the U.S. Organizers hope for better and aim to help U.S. manufacturers understand the breadth of the show.

Quite often, U.S. companies consider IMTS, which runs every even year in Chicago, their go-to show. But Larry Turner, CEO of Hannover Fairs USA, argues that the culture and breadth of products are vastly different. “You see products over there that you don’t see here,” he said. “The new products and new technologies are being rolled out in Hannover. We might see them a couple years later. I go to Hannover to identify the trends that are going to come into my market.”

The tradeshow culture is also very different in Germany, Turner added. “In the U.S., it tends to be sales engineers in the booth. In Germany, you’re going to see design engineers,” he said. “It’s not uncommon to see somebody pull out designs and drawings, and sit down with a design engineer.”

All World’s Koepp agreed. “The scale is huge. The scope of products is larger than anything I’ve ever seen,” he said. “You go to a booth and you’re talking to a president, and they’ll pull someone over from the next booth and they are down to business. It’s quite a different feel from any other show.”

There’s real innovation going on at the show, Koepp added. “It’s like a trip to the future. You see where manufacturing is heading. And when you get back, it’s not just a big pile of cards you’ve got. You’ve got ideas.”

About the Author

Aaron Hand | Editor-in-Chief, ProFood World

Aaron Hand has three decades of experience in B-to-B publishing with a particular focus on technology. He has been with PMMI Media Group since 2013, much of that time as Executive Editor for Automation World, where he focused on continuous process industries. Prior to joining ProFood World full time in late 2020, Aaron worked as Editor at Large for PMMI Media Group, reporting for all publications on a wide variety of industry developments, including advancements in packaging for consumer products and pharmaceuticals, food and beverage processing, and industrial automation. He took over as Editor-in-Chief of ProFood World in 2021. Aaron holds a B.A. in Journalism from Indiana University and an M.S. in Journalism from the University of Illinois.

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