Heller Machine Tools' factory of the futureClick image to enlarge

Heller Machine Tools has embraced the Factory of the Future and is setting an example of how manufacturers can do the same. The company is one of several machine tool builders (i.e. Mazak's iSmart factory) in recent years that has embraced digital manufacturing concepts in their facilities. 

Heller Machine Tools’ Industry 4.0 approach is to enhance transparency of the current machine status, and evaluate the information gained in combination with existing data to allow purposeful diagnostics, yielding better productivity and value for the user.

Heller Machine Tools' Industry 4.0 approach to manufacturingClick image to enlarge

The unchanging objective in metal cutting manufacturing is to further increase productivity, creating added value for the customer. That is the reason for continual new and further development of machine tools and for complementing them with optional extensions for added capability. For its part, HELLER has been providing high availability and productivity for decades with a broad range of products, comprising four and five axis machining centers, mill/turning centres and flexible manufacturing systems.

The company has now further developed the linkage of industrial production with digitization and network integration of information and production technologies in terms of its machine tools. While achieving this, efficient and productive manufacturing and the reduction of workpiece costs continue to be the main goal.

During AMB 2016 in Stuttgart, Heller presented three examples demonstrating the importance of ease of operation, customized manufacturing of the workpiece, and expanded evaluation of existing sensor data.

HELLER4Operation means an easy-to-use, operator-oriented user interface for HELLER machines. The use of touch controls at the tool/workpiece loading station enables fast and robust operation. In addition to the familiar Siemens standard operation, the new main operator panel allows execution of customer-specific programs from web environments. The 24” touch interface named HELLER Operation Interface can be upgraded with expansion programs, so-called XTENDS, enhancing performance and functionality.

The second area, HELLER4Services, comprises digital services. The HELLER Services Interface focuses on transparency of manufacturing and maintenance processes. The module forms the basis for evaluations and statistics, thus providing support in reducing machine downtimes. Additionally, the visualization of specific information, including status displays of axes, spindles or other assemblies, enables users to determine wear and to take preventive measures in order to avoid unscheduled downtimes.

The third area, HELLER4Performance, comprises the machine analysis for process and performance optimization, time-synchronous extraction of real-time data into the internet as well as evaluation and graphical display, e.g. using the SAP-HANA internet platform. Together with SAP, HELLER has demonstrated the specific benefits of this online streaming function with the mapping of a CAD-designed 3-D workpiece in the cloud.

This enables precise representation of the tool (paths including tolerances) in which tool wear is expected. Subsequently, the workpiece program is run on the machine. The data generated is directly transferred to the cloud. This way the paths to be traversed by the machine/tool can be pre-assessed on the basis of the workpiece design prior to machining to see whether the machine will be able to perform the operation.

Cloud helps to reduce idle times

The example of tool provisioning shows how further savings can be achieved with HELLER4Industry by linking the digital and the real world. Usually, tool magazines are loaded in a way to provide optimal storage capacity. Often, however, the tool access sequence differs from the sequence of the machining operations. It means that the distance from the tool to the spindle has a significant influence on the duration of the tool change.

To reduce these idle times, the stock of workpieces to be optimized can be selected from the pallet management and be transferred to the cloud along with the details. This way, both the tool change times and the tool idle times can be analyzed and evaluated in view of the sorting order, providing the shortest idle times for the given workpiece and the machining operation. Subsequently, HELLER generates the CNC program for re-sorting in the cloud and provides it to the machine to re-sort the tool magazine.

Industry 4.0 made by Heller

Essential for supplementary machine functions are new industry standards in terms of data exchange and data security as well as standardized interfaces. However, for digitization it is important to develop data recording mechanisms capable of generating a real-life image of the machine and mapping it within a network, either in the customer-internal private cloud or in an internet-based public cloud.

For Heller, the aim of all considerations, possibilities and solutions remains the reduction of cycle times, and thus workpiece costs, by providing high productivity. Already today, the company achieves the goal of generating added value for the customer through greater ease of use, optimal integration into the network and expanded functionalities and service possibilities.

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