Industry 4.0 means different things to different people and, indeed, the phrase very often causes uncertainty among production engineers, especially those in small/medium-sized companies. However, after addressing digitalisation some years ago, Walter has specifically developed for such users its Nexxt digital products and Industry 4.0 solutions.
These include the Comara iCut software tool, which is based on the real-time analysis of incoming machine data. Comara has not re-invented milling or turning with the iCut adaptive feed control but has focused on getting the most out of a machine without making major changes to the existing process or carrying out complex and time-consuming programming work.
The software is integrated into the existing control program and applies the data for the machining process. In the first cut, iCut ‘learns’ the idling output of the spindle and the maximum cutting efficiency per cut. Then it measures spindle output (at up to 500 times per second) and automatically adjusts the feed and, as a result, the machine operates at the maximum feed that iCut has ‘learned for each tool, whenever possible.
If the cutting conditions change, perhaps owing to varying contact angles and depths of cut, fluctuations in allowance or due to signs of tool wear, iCut adapts the speed and output in real time – and the resulting optimised milling increases process reliability and boosts production output, at least by 10 per cent.
In addition, the forces on the spindle are more constant - which increases its service life – and if the tool is in danger of breaking, iCut immediately reduces the feed or stops the action.
Comara has also developed the appCom software platform to make all the data generated during the machining process usable for process optimisation. Comara appCom comprises two components: a PC, which is installed in the machines and integrated in the control system; and the software, which analyses and displays data.
Walter uses the app principle for this and even the basic version of appCom features more than 13 apps which can be used to collect and monitor parameters including machine status, productivity and the stability of the programs being run. Company-specific apps can also be programmed and displayed.
In addition, the system can identify current problems and critical processes as well as analyse all production processes on a machine. Parameters include efficiency, costs per tool or per workpiece and process reliability. This produces live data to be used to optimise and plan production. Comara appCom can also be connected to ERP systems.
“While various factors determine the potential efficiency and savings that result from the use of a monitoring and analysis software platform such as appCom,” says Walter GB, “we can say that appCom users do see a significant increase of productivity and process reliability.”