Think Again: System integration, networking for machine tools

Application examples: Machine data integration saves time and increases throughput, according to Mazak; technologies being demonstrated in the plant may be offered on future machines for better asset utilization, among other benefits.

By Mark T. Hoske April 21, 2016

Smart applications of automation technologies save money, time, improve quality, decrease downtime, and, perhaps, in an unintended benefit, can attract younger engineers. These were among application lessons learned from a machine tool manufacturer and other automation users, among presentations shared at the ARC Group Industry Forum, in February, in Orlando, Fla. 

Shop-floor data network

Rocky Rowland, a Mazak production manager, talked about how a shop-floor data network in the Florence, Ky., Mazak manufacturing facility lead to an 8.5% increase in paint line utilization in 4 months. The plant makes 114 computer-numerical control (CNC) lathes and machine center models, more than 200 units per month, and recently completed a $30 million, 100,000 ft2 addition.

MTConnect networking technology provides a shop data network, using a royalty-free software, including Bluetooth communications for manufacturing. Desired measurements include overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), quality, availability, and downtime. A simple dashboard was created so the metrics could be easily viewed and improved upon. First, attention was given to availability (stop, feed hold, and idle).

Monitors (60 in.) on the production floor let operators see data in real time for faster responses. Measurements include vibration, coolant pH, coolant level, ambient air temperature, and in the future a Web camera may be added along with spindle vibration, spindle temperature, coolant level, and coolant pH data collection.

Rowland said he expects Mazak to eventually monitor all machines or systems on the plant floor. The i-Smart Factory Monitoring program will expand to other equipment, Rowland said, with hardware expected to be offered on Mazak machines for sale. Security is built in, and data is processed on the edge, sending a report, rather than a stream of big data.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

ONLINE extra

This online extra to the April Think Again column has more information about the Mazak application, and photos.

Consider this

What automation projects could improve your metrics? Have you quantified those benefits in your proposals? See other automation application examples linked below.