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Grinding, Turning, Turn/Grinding All on One CNC

Feb. 16, 2012
EMAG selects one control and monitoring platform to bring order to one big order
An EMAG VL Series vertical turning machine.
A Universal VLC machine that performs turning, milling, grinding, and drilling.
The Production VSC from EMAG is a “vertical pick-up” turning center capable of milling, turning, grinding, drilling, even gear profiling and honing.
Shaft machining is done on a VTC, with full 4-axis machining plus loading and unloading, all controlled by a Siemens CNC.
Siemens Sinumerik 840D solution line CNC.

EMAG L.L.C. is the U.S. subsidiary of a German designer and builder of machine tools for manufacturing automotive, off-highway, agricultural, and oilfield components. Its machines range from basic, round-part turning centers to five-axis machining centers for large workpieces, as well as gear hobbing machines. It also builds equipment for alternative production processes, like laser welding and electro-chemical machining centers. This range of machine tools needs an assortment of control technologies to power and manage the motion, but recently for one big contract — a farming equipment manufacturer had ordered a number of grinding, turning, and turn-grinding machines — EMAG looked to Siemens for a standardized CNC solution.

“We needed to devise a control solution that would satisfy all the needs of the various machines we were supplying to this customer,” EMAG CEO Peter Loetzner recalled, “based on a common platform, to enable easier design, integration, start-up, commissioning on-site and training for our customer’s operations and maintenance personnel.”

Siemens’s Motion Control business has been a longtime partner to EMAG, developing drives and control systems for the CNC machines it develops. After EMAG reviewed the available CNC offerings from various suppliers, it settled on the Siemens Sinumerik 840D CNC for all of the grinding, turning, and turn-grinding machines to be supplied in this order. Collaboration was a critical element in the decision-making process, Loetzner explained.

“The control we selected offered great flexibility in application, which was very important to us and our customer,” he said. “They were seeking a scenario that would allow considerable cross-training of their operators, who might run a turning center one day, then a grinding or turn-grind center the next.”

There were other advantages, too. Noting that EMAG aims to make its installations as comprehensive as possible, Loetzner said the Sinumerik CNC is an attractive option because it was can be integrated quickly into the motion-control schemes of its designs for gear grinding or hobbing, camshaft grinding, turning/milling or drilling machines, automated assembly stations, and other process, too.

Another advantage is having a common “look-and-feel” of a standard CNC for the operators. A single control hardware and HMI make on-site commissioning faster and cross-training easier.

Lastly, and Loetzner said that an often-overlooked factor is the “expandability” of a control platform if the operator decides to add to its operations or increase its machining functions. In addition, the Sinumerik CNC allows other material handling and part articulation strategies to be implemented into future machine designs, given the expandability of the motion control platform, without the need for radical reconfiguration of the HMI and basic CNC operation protocols.

In this way, Loetzner concluded, regardless of the parts to be machined, all the EMAG machines provided to the OEM could be standardized on a single control platform: the Siemens Sinumerik 840D.

He noted that the Sinumerik control platform offered EMAG machine designers and the customer’s production management team an enhanced remote-monitoring feature, so that changes could be made ‘on the fly,’ with very little downtime. As a result, over 20 machines of various sizes and styles can be monitored over a wireless network, allowing the process engineers to see what the operator sees on each machine.

Furthermore, owing to Siemens’ global capabilities, Loetzner lauded the control’s ability to function in U.S., German and even Asian factories with seamless data integration. Regardless of a machine tool’s location, EMAG and its customer are able to monitor the performance of any particular machine, and even report comparative production data from one continent to another. Because it sells into every industrialized nation, EMAG “…works with its customers on every aspect of a job, from the order process to tooling usage, materials handling strategies to predictive maintenance. The cultural differences are substantial, sometimes, and the control must be programmed to adapt to such variations,” he indicated.

Those differences, Loetzner continued, must nonetheless be based on a common technology to streamline the integration of the CNC on the machines under construction. He cited specific aspects of the project described above.

“We were looking at a fairly diverse group of machines being supplied to the customer. Frankly, many of their operators were more comfortable with a CNC that is very popular in the American job-shop community. However, we were able to demonstrate the immediate advantages of the Siemens control to them, and they accepted our recommendations.”

This value proposition, he emphasized, rested on the greater capability of the Sinumerik 840D to run different machine types, which translated into considerable savings in the training of the operators and commissioning of the machine. Coupled with the remote monitoring and programming aspects of the Siemens control solution, the customer was convinced.

More than 75% of the EMAG machines at the customer’s location are equipped with robotic devices — essentially it’s lights-out manufacturing, and another instance where the Siemens remote monitoring via Ethernet feature benefits both the machine tool builder and its customer alike. Loetzner explained: “Remote monitoring of the machine tools can be done directly through the Sinumerik CNC in a one-to-one exchange between our customer and us. Alternatively, we can communicate with Siemens and our customer in a three-way exchange of machine data and cycle information, all protected through a firewall for security and customer peace-of-mind. That’s important with all our major OEMs, of course.”

Loetzner recalled another customer that has used the Sinumerik CNC remote-monitoring capability on a wide variety of EMAG machines for over three years, currently, with all data communicated through a single information network that is accessible by both EMAG and the control supplier. Significant reductions in downtime, service calls, and troubleshooting identification time have been achieved, translating into documented savings for everyone.

A further advantage to the machine tool builder and the OEM operator was a 20% reduction (compared to competing packages) in workspace occupied by the control system, meaning a smaller footprint for the machine. This counts as an improvement for workspace productivity for EMAG’s customer. Especially in brownfield installations — where square footage is limited but the need for to maximize productivity remains — this space-savings combines with other advantages of installing the Siemens control package. Peter Loetzner said these include reduced wiring and lower power consumption, with attendant lower operating temperatures, due to reduced ambient heat.

At this particular customer, the EMAG machines produce gears, gear blanks, shafts and splines for powertrain applications. Gear hobbing and synchronous support grinding are among the advanced machining technologies performed here. Heavy, hardened steels are the most often worked substrates.

The specific control in use on these machines is the Siemens Sinumerik 840D solution line, a distributed, scalable and open control for up to 31 axes of motion, incorporating the CNC, HMI, PLC, closed loop control and communications functions into a single NC unit. Sinumerik Safety Integrated further provides a comprehensive, yet efficiently packaged suite of personnel and machine protection functions, fully compliant with internationally accepted standards.

Loetzner noted that the Siemens communication architecture easily accepts input from such devices, owing to its ability to capture, standardize and transmit all data in a seamless manner through its legacy tracking. “This service is another example of a forward-thinking supplier, such as Siemens, responding to brownfield conditions in the marketplace,” he noted.

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