Keywords: Machine Tools, Flexibility, Machine Safety, Integration, Machine-to-Machine Communication, M2M Communication, Energy Efficiency, Resource Efficiency.
A number of trends drive the machine tool market. These include the need for increased flexibility, speed of production, machine safety, and energy and resource efficiency. Machine tool manufacturers also face increasing price competition, particularly in emerging markets. Machine tool manufacturers must address these trends if they want to remain competitive. Automation suppliers can help by providing solutions that enable machine tool original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to react to their customers' demands. While all suppliers strive to provide appropriate solutions for their customers, some appear to be better positioned than others to do so based on their specific expertise and scope of supply.
Based on a recent briefing with Siemens, this ARC View provides a brief summary of the market trends and how that company is striving to address these trends with its extensive product portfolio for machine tools and deep domain knowledge.
Industry 4.0 and Machine Tools
Since the 1990s, product lifecycles have shortened drastically, while product variety has increased. This trend has heavily influenced both machinery design and requirements for the associated controllers and automation.
The concept of "Industry 4.0" describes a self-organizing system of machinery and equipment that links the product, production, and order data that today largely resides in the cyber world, to the physical world of the machinery that actually makes stuff. This requires machine tools to become more integrated into the overall production process. Automation technology must enable machine tool users to react quickly and effectively to changes in customer demand.
Machine Tool Automation Trends
Several different trends drive today's machine tool market. While some are specific to the machine tool industry, others address manufacturing as a whole. The following table shows the relevant trends and associated technologies.
Trends in the Machine Tool Industry
Today's machine tool market demands flexible solutions that allow manufacturers to swiftly react to changes in their customers' product design and specification demands. In the past, optimization focused on the ease of use of the machine. However, this approach only met the requirements on the shop floor. Now, integration of the machinery and engineering in the whole production process supports flexible production at each step within the value chain. To realize this degree of integration, PLM solutions enable a stream of information from design to production based on a consistent set of data.
Siemens PLM's scalable NX CAM PLM software can provide a complete solution for machine tool manufacturers, from small, customized to high product volumes. NX CAM PLM increases the flexibility by virtualizing products and production to shorten cycle times and commissioning of machinery. During operation, changes made on the shop floor are fed back to the virtual model. Multitasking also supports increased flexibility by enabling machine tools to perform several different tasks simultaneously within one machine (milling, turning, nibbling, grinding, and drilling).
In addition to providing flexibility, multi-tasking machine tools help simplify machine operation and production processes and improve efficiency. The company's 840D sl CNC enables multitasking functionality. This includes simultaneous mill-turn and turn-mill operations.
Another way to increase flexibility on the plant floor is to employ modular machine concepts that can be expanded and adapted to changing production needs. The Siemens 840D sl supports modular machinery with its decentralized design. In this case, components in the machine can be positioned up to 100 meters apart through decentralized components for operation, drive, and peripherals.
Machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, which machines use to communicate their status, machine conditions, tool conditions, and so on to their peers, is another key to improving production flexibility. Siemens views integrated M2M communications as critical to intelligent machine control and has integrated M2M communication functionality into its panel-based SINUMERIK 828D computer numerical controllers (CNCs) and its premium 840D sl CNCs.
Siemens provides products to realize flexible production with its set of machine tool controllers and the NX CAM PLM software package. It connects the shop floor with the virtual world to provide an integrated solution that covers the complete range of automation for machine tool manufacturers that seek highly flexible production.
Speed of Production
While the manufacturing world is gradually moving toward a low-volume/high-mix, "mass customization" style of production, many standard components will still require mass production. Mass production of standard components requires high speed and an integrated path control optimization tool for machine tools to reduce the path length, energy consumption, and time needed.
Machine safety is becoming an increasingly important factor for increasing production, resource efficiency, and productivity. When handling a work piece, the tool can collide with other parts inside the machining work room. This can occur due to programming errors, frequently in the jog mode. If the tool or other moving parts are damaged, it can take a lot of time and money to restart production. Integrated collision avoidance prevents such collisions to avoid both costly production interruptions and potential worker safety issues. Siemens now provides this functionality along with integrated safety in its portfolio of machine tool controls.
Energy and Resource Efficiency
To stay competitive, manufacturers need to increase their energy and resource efficiency. Efficient motors, drives, and recuperation technologies all contribute to energy efficiency, but just represent a first step. Further improvements can be obtained by identifying other areas where energy is being wasted in operations and implementing effective remedies. This can include shutting down pumps for cooling liquids and lubricants, fans, motors, and air compressors when they are not actually needed for production. This approach requires a certain degree of intelligence in the control architecture, but can contribute to significant decreases in energy and resource consumption.
With its Ctrl-Energy package of energy-efficient products for machine tools, Siemens provides the needed intelligence and functionality. The company's SINUMERIK control software also includes several functions for energy management and evaluating energy consumption.
Price Competition in Emerging Markets
A look at the machine tool market in emerging regions shows that those markets have different automation requirements than in industrialized countries: tasks are simpler, more manual work is performed, production is less integrated, and there is more sensitivity to price. This results in a highly competitive machine tool environment in which price is a main criterion. Suppliers need to have price-competitive solutions that fit the increased requirements for simplicity, ease-of-use, and robustness in automation technology in emerging regions.
In response, Siemens introduced its 808D controller, which is specialized for smaller and simpler machine tools, while providing user-friendly interfaces. It also completes Siemens' product portfolio to provide control systems for any machine tool type on the market. ARC expects that Siemens will benefit from this decision as several emerging markets are on the verge of moving from manual to automated production and need simple, lower cost automation solutions.
As is often the case, the trends in the machine tool market are largely intertwined and often interactive. For example, improvements in one area can alternately improve or degrade performance in another.
With its broad portfolio of CNCs, PLCs, machine safeguarding solutions, communications solutions, PLM and other associated software and services, and integrated solutions for design and production, ARC believes that Siemens is well-positioned to help OEMs around the world address current market demands for high availability, flexibility, and efficiency.
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