Mike Bacidore is the editor in chief for Control Design magazine. He is an award-winning columnist, earning a Gold Regional Award and a Silver National Award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. Email him at [email protected].
How many times have you traveled to Florence, Kentucky, to see the future? I made the trip in October, and it was worth every mile.
Mazak hosted Discover 2015 and demonstrated quite a few of its new technologies at the machine builder’s North American manufacturing headquarters.
More than 30 machines, most featuring Mazak’s Smooth technology, performed cutting demonstrations of parts via multi-tasking, Hybrid multi-tasking, five-axis, milling and turning techniques.
“The Smooth control is the next generation in a long line of Mazak controls,” said Mike Kerscher, product manager. “Mazak’s SmoothX is the seventh-generation Mazatrol CNC system, with a mix of improvements in hardware, software and operability.”
SmoothX is a five-axis control matched to machine performance. “We're trying to supply as much control as you need for your operation,” explained Kerscher. “SmoothX is the world's fastest CNC, with a quick programming screen and intuitive HMI for five-axis virtual machining, variable acceleration control, corner control and machining configuration.”
Variable acceleration control is a new function. It calculates optimal acceleration for each block, or each combination of moving axes. It ensures maximum capability of each axis and reduces cycle time while maintaining high accuracy.
“Generally, low acceleration is applied for a rotary axis with a gear mechanism,” explained Kerscher. “The low acceleration used to be applied also for linear axes on conventional models because only one acceleration setting was allowed on the machine. Variable acceleration control allows individual acceleration settings for each axis. Smooth corner control is a new function that reduces unnecessary acceleration and deceleration at corners and curves, makes cornering motion smoother, shortens cycle time and accomplishes a smooth surface finish in keeping high accuracy. This means you accelerate and decelerate a lot faster.”
Smooth machining and tuning are selectable on the configuration screen. “The customer can adjust the tuning and store it as his preferred tuning on the screen,” said Kerscher. “To make a process smoother, you can select the mix of smoothness, speed and accuracy. Once you tweak it, you can assign an M code to it and call it up again in the program. It gives the end user the ability to change parameters, which you couldn't do before.”
The big difference is the Windows 8 tablet-type operating system with touch control. “Intuitive operation is available by touch operation, just like smart phones or tablets,” said Kerscher.
Also read: Mazak improves OEE with MTConnect
The screen keyboard automatically appears when it’s needed. The HMI also provides undo/redo for programming and data setting such as tool data and parameters. “But it doesn't work after the cut,” joked Kerscher.
More often, one operator is running multiple machines. The home screen allows for monitoring of up to five Smooth-controlled machines on the shop floor. “You just click on it and enter the IP address to set it up,” said Kerscher. “It doesn't matter if it's wired or wireless.”
As part of Discover, Mazak also offered tours of its renovated manufacturing facility—536,000 sq ft of the 800,000-sq-ft campus. While investing $30 million in the campus in 2014, Mazak implemented its iSmart Factory, which brings connectivity to on-demand operations. Mazak also discussed how manufacturers can turn data into real-time actionable intelligence using communications protocols such as MTConnect.
The Integrex i-400AM, Mazak’s Hybrid multi-tasking machine, is designed to integrate laser cladding with five-axis milling and turning capabilities and is outfitted with the Mazatrol SmoothX CNC control.
Mazak’s Smart Box includes MTConnect. “It's a product to allow you to connect to a machine tool,” explained Kerscher. “We've had the ability to plug into the machine control for years, but IT guys don't like that. SmartBox is a collaboration with Cisco.”
To allay the fears and resistance of the IT community to have the Internet of Things, SmartBox is a professional outlet that provides a professional method to connect. “It's secure, so it’s IT-friendly,” said Kerscher. “The IT guy sees a Cisco switch, so he's comfortable. He can set up firewalls. We can collect data and analyze it locally.” Plus, SmartBox is expandable, so machines and sensors can be added.
“We’re moving forward into the IIoT or Industry 4.0, that next revolution in industry, where we'll start dealing with data,” explained Kerscher. “On the Smooth suite of controls, Mazak SmartLink is the ability to view and interact with the machine control from a mobile device. SmartLink provides access to real-time monitoring, control and management. We can look at programs, tool management and machine monitoring. And we can make changes.” Of course, a cycle-start cannot be initiated remotely.
No view of the future would be complete without a dab of additive manufacturing. Mazak’s Integrex i-400AM is changing the way engineers and designers view product development.
Integrex i-400AM, Mazak’s Hybrid multi-tasking machine, made its North American debut at Discover 2015. Designed to integrate laser cladding with five-axis milling and turning capabilities, the machine is outfitted with the Mazatrol SmoothX CNC control.