Mazak iSmart FactoryClick image to enlargeMazak has a vision for the future of manufacturing that embraces the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and that vision was clearly evident at Discover 2015, an annual multi-day event held at the company's sprawling 800,000 sq ft headquarters and North American manufacturing operations in Florence, KY.

The event, being held October 27-29 and November 3-5 was expected to draw more than 2,500 manufacturers from across North America.

Mazak Discover 2015Click image to enlarge

Mazak Discover 2015Click image to enlarge

While the event included the debut of new machining technologies, machine tools and the next generation of the Mazatrol Smooth CNC control, one concept captured attendee's interest: Mazak's iSMART Factory, a data-driven advanced digital manufacturing concept. The system, in use in the company's Florence plant, encompasses advanced manufacturing cells digitally integrated to allow manufacturers to monitor and share data from different machines, cells, devices and processes on the production floor.

Explaining Mazak's iSMART Factory concept to visitorsClick image to enlarge

The newest addition to the iSMART Factory is Mazak's SmartBox, which made its debut at Discover Mazak. SmartBox is the result of a partnership between Mazak, Cisco Systems Inc. and Memex Inc. and it's the next step in the evolution of the digital factory: ensuring data security.

Mazaks SmartBox can be mounted on the side of a machine Click image to enlarge

Mazak's SmartBoxClick image to enlarge

"Our common vision is the belief that manufacturing is going to dramatically change as companies [begin] to want increased digital technology in their operations," noted Brian Papke, president of Mazak Corp. during a press conference. Companies will want to move to a "higher level of integration with more data analytics, monitoring of their devices and more sensors to do things like predictive maintenance and establish more meaningful service relationships with customers."

A smarter way

SmartBox uses Memex's Merlin manufacturing software, which provides operational and machining metrics on any machine, old or new, and uses the MTConnect manufacturing communications protocol for machine-to-machine communication. A key element of SmartBox is the Cisco-managed switch that provides cyber security. According to Mazak, the switch prevents unauthorized access from both directions, to or from the machines within a network.

The device mounts to the side of a machine and can work with any Mazak model or age of machine and it doesn't need to connect to a machine's electrical cabinet, according to Mazak. One box can serve multiple machine tools.

The device is available in different configurations for different production environments.

Attendees to Mazak's Discover event had the opportunity to see the SmartBox in action as part of the company's iSMART Factory at the Kentucky plant.

"One of the principles [of the company] is that our plants use the product innovations we offer our customers," explains Papke.

For example, the introduction of the iSMART Factory has resulted in a more than double digit percentage improvement in machine utilization. Mazak also reduced operator overtime by 100 hours per month and brought 400 hours per month of previously outsourced work back in-house.

Machining innovations

As the data-driven digital manufacturing world continues to evolve, so too do the machine tools that work within this environment. The best example is Mazak's hybrid multi-tasking machine tool, the Integrex i-400AM, which made its North American debut during the Discover 2015 event.

Mazak's hybrid multi tasking machineClick image to enlarge

The machine combines turning, milling, drilling, metal deposition via two laser cladding heads and laser marking in a single setup.

"We're the first multi-tasking machine tool builder to tool change a cladding head in and out of the milling spindle," says Joe Wilker, product group manager for the Cybertec Division of Mazak.

In operation, the machine uses fiber laser heat to melt metal powder used to grow near-net shape 3D parts. The dual cladding heads apply the melted metal layer by layer to create the near-net shape of a part. Once that's complete, the cladding heads return to the tool magazine and then the substractive machining processes kick in: full five axis milling, turning and contouring to finish a part.

"The new version of this machine supplies a coolant to keep the cladding head cool and at a constant temperature," explains Wilker. "What's interesting about this technology is that we can grow parts in different alloys. I can grow a part that might have five different types of material in one part and that's never been done before."

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