Preview: AMB 2018

AMB 2018: Industry 4.0 and demographic change demand further automation of machining processes. (Source: Messe Stuttgart)

Demands for digitalization, the lack of skilled workers, but also increasing quality requirements, can only be met with greater automation. At AMB, the international exhibition for metal working from 18 to 22 September in Stuttgart, many exhibitors will show how the machining process can be further optimized and made more profitable by means of automation.

The importance attached to automation is reflected in sober figures. The manufacturers are organized in the VDMA sector association “Robotics + Automation”, which recently reported a record turnover of 14.5 billion euros for last year – a year-on-year increase of 13 percent. The forecast for the current year: Another increase of nine per cent to 15.8 billion euros.

“2017 was a very strong year for our industry,” says Dr. Norbert Stein, chairman of the association. “The fact that our expectations were again exceeded is evidence of the extraordinary market dynamics in automation. Between 2010 and 2017, the sector grew at an average annual rate of ten per cent, almost doubling its turnover during this period.”

Companies are facing enormous pressure of time and costs. They are obliged to constantly increase the efficiency of their processes. Example of Chiron: Thomas Marquardt is head of automation at this machine tool manufacturer: “The use of integrated automation and control concepts facilitates the operation of complex systems and supports the user intuitively.” Therefore, a modular, standardized cell control system is currently being developed for all automation cells, which will have an integrated user interface with standardized hardware, software, visualization, and operation.

The latest components in the SmartLine program, which will be presented at AMB, have the same objective. All relevant machine parameters can thus be analyzed fully automatically. Comparison with a factory-generated “digital fingerprint” shows atypical operating behavior and signs of wear at an early stage.

The peripherals are becoming increasingly important, as Hansjörg Sannwald, head of market and product management of CNC systems at Bosch Rexroth, is also convinced: “More and more, end users are demanding complete solutions in order to save costs and to manufacture their products in documented quality. Machine tool manufacturers meanwhile deliver up to eighty percent of their machines with appropriate peripherals.”

He also explained that, for customer-specific solutions, the loading and unloading systems ought to be easy to integrate into existing concepts and control systems. Ideally, the peripherals must adapt to new products in response to a software command from higher-level systems. Decentralized, intelligent drive systems, like those Bosch Rexroth will also be presenting at AMB, already offer this freedom today, he said. Thanks to the OPC UA standard, applicable to all manufacturers, machine-to-machine communication is no longer a problem.

Henrik Schunk, managing partner and CEO of Schunk, draws attention to the significance of gripper systems and clamping devices: “They have a decisive impact on economy, process security, and flexibility in the manufacturing process.” Above all against the background of increasing product and size variety, as well as the skyrocketing cost pressure. At relatively low cost, for example, set-up time could be saved, which today in small and medium-sized companies still takes up ten to fifteen per cent of machine capacity, he explained.

In perfectly adapted automation technology, machine tool manufacturer Yamazaki Mazak sees an important pillar for the future of efficient machine tools. Automation solutions will therefore be one of the company’s main focal points at AMB. With its own intelligent control technology, the company has already created the basis for this. For two machine types, there are ready-to-use automation solutions with which the interplay between machine and automation can be programmed in the control system in accordance with customer requirements. These “plug-and-play” solutions may be complete production cells in which the equipping of the workpieces and the tool changes are carried out by an articulated robot or – for unmanned shifts – by means of integrated pallet storage systems.

Unreliable interfaces are frequently a problem for error-prone Industry 4.0 systems. This experience was also made by the tool presetting specialist Kelch. “Reliable peripheral and automation solutions can only work with optimally conceived software,” says Viktor Grauer, member of the Board of Management and Head of Innovation Management, with conviction. Data must be centrally available, always up to date and correct to enable such a complex system to function. “For all modern production, it’s essential that a digital data flow correctly administers and controls all necessary information.” Precondition: All participants in a process chain can communicate with each other. (Source: Messe Stuttgart)

Link: AMB, Messe Stuttgart, Germany

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