How digitalization helps machine tool builders

Inside machines and embedded systems: New technologies will drive the digital factory of the future inside a machine in three ways. Greater efficiency and reliability will add value; new services will add revenue.

By Ramona Schindler, Siemens Industry Inc. July 31, 2018

Machine tool builders have seen a lot of information about the emerging concept of digitalization. Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) engineering and management teams can view this technology and its impact in three ways as it shapes future production and sales processes. Digitalization will help:

  1. As a viable means of building a more effective, more reliable, and more predictable machine from the design phase through the machine’s lifecycle;
  2. Add definable value, as machine tool builders offer better ways to present their value proposition to customers;
  3. Create new business models for machine tools use, as digitalization demonstrates to customers what they can do with data and how better to position the machine’s value to customers to sell more services, optimize machine uptime, and track the performance of equipment in the field, all of which lead to improving the customer machine experiences.

The possibilities are appealing and a bit challenging for each and benefit from further explanation.

1. Effective and reliable design

Having a visual model of a computer numerical control (CNC) machine for commissioning makes the investment in digitalization worthwhile to machine-tool builders. With the data and design concept in hand, digitalization tools available (such as a mechatronics concept designer) can bring the physics of the world to the computer screen for easy testing of programmable logic controllers (PLCs), the NC, run the motion control or load protocols, including full machine kinematics and conduct overall system component integration, prior to the first manufacturing step of the build.

Available digitalization tools provide accurate hardware-in-the-loop emulation by transitioning from computer-aided design (CAD) to computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) to design the mechatronics into the virtual machine (VM) controller. Since the model mirrors the real hardware in operation under power, the simulations of machine motion and feedback are more precise than a pure simulation. Specific customer challenges can be addressed at this stage and helps resolve design issues more quickly while providing less time to market with the machine.

2. Improved customer value and experience

On a functional level, the digital twin further integrates virtual and actual machine commissioning and production monitoring so the machine tool builder can fashion new models in presenting machines with enhanced, augmented reality monitoring, customizable apps for data prioritization, and improved requirements and production data evaluation scenarios. The concept of data exchange represents a richer value proposition for the machine tool. It creates a closer touchpoint between machine builder and customer.

3. Better business models

New business models are created by the machine tool builder’s ability to help customers use digitalization tools to improve production. The virtual twin, based upon the virtual NC kernel (VNCK), allows various production, material handling, and full motion control scenarios to be sampled in the design stage by the customer. Virtual training for programmers, operators, and maintenance personnel is also possible.

This digital twin is a high-value concept with market appeal, plus the embedded software that permits the training can be positioned as a perceptible value-add for the machine builder to pass along to the end-customer. Using a digital twin to support training and design helps machine tool builder customers save machine uptime on the shop floor.

As machine tool builders become more capable of tracking the data on CNC machines in the field, a dual benefit results for the end-customer. Improvement in machine uptime is possible as potential machine issues are quickly resolved in a more streamlined process. Current and emerging edge technology can add precise analysis of the machine and the end-customer’s production processes.

Data availability

The machine tool builder also benefits from studying component and overall machine performance in the field to improve the design and production process of the machines, even with a global installed base, and by making this data available to the end-customer. The machine builder can use the available data to track line productivity, machine-to-machine or facility-to-facility comparisons, production schedule variance, and other key performance indicators (KPIs).

Digital twins are emerging as viable tools in the design and marketing of many CNC machine tools today and are a growing trend in manufacturing.

Ramona Schindler is the business development manager for the digitalization of machine tools at Siemens Industry Inc. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

KEYWORDS: Digitalization, machine tools, CNC 

Digitalization helps machine tool builders and their customers.

Improvements in machine designs, quality, and time to market result.

New service models create new revenue streams and add value.


Has digitalization brought these benefits to your machine tools?