Tools for cutting and grinding aren’t the latest idea – it is estimated humans developed crude tool making techniques by at least 2.6 million years ago — but current trends show the tool-cutting manufacturers are entering a new, particularly exciting age, says industry expert ANCA Group.
“It’s been a long journey from chipping away at the earliest Stone Age tools to where we are now,” says Grant Anderson, CEO ANCA Group.
“We’re past making tools by hand, and machines can talk to each other, talk to computers, and let you know when there’s a problem. Next I see that analytics will predict potential problems with the manufacturing process and self-correct to avoid the issue to keep production moving,” Mr Anderson predicts in a white paper entitled “Chipping away during the fourth industrial revolution.
“The system will learn from the data of previous applications to inform future solutions. Essentially production will self-manage without reducing quality – it is an exciting prospect.”
Melbourne-based ANCA has been riding the wave of the smart device market, supplying directly to Apple product-manufacturer FoxConn as well as Boeing, and it recently released a first suite of Internet products in software, a machine maintenance, advice and information system.
The invention of computer numerical control was a serious step to turning tool cutting into an exact science, Mr Anderson says. It has allowed for ever-increasing levels of complexity in end products, the removal of guesswork and human error, previously unimaginable tolerance levels, and ever- greater output.
Since then, there have been needs from customers that have forced continued innovation by tool grinder manufacturers, including the uptake of new materials and composites, and constantly rising demands from end users for elegance and function in products.
“Consider the sleek aluminium backing of a smartphone – one component of a modern work of industrial art – and the manufacture of which is enabled by super-accurate tools,”Mr Anderson said.
Industry 4.0 – including production trends such as robotics, networked machines and analytics making sense of what’s collected by many sensors – is on the minds of machine tool makers, ANCA says.
Robots have been involved for some time in basic functions such as loading, and it is reasonable to guess that as they become more usable they will find more and more uses in conjunction with machine tools.
As robots will become more capable and cheaper, it is likely that they will be integrated with machine tools more frequently, delivering higher levels of automation, productivity and quality, Mr Anderson predicts.
ANCA has successfully and recently integrated multi-robot production cells for several customers. These have allowed for extra workstations within the one cell; to add capabilities such as washing, metrology and laser etching; and for the production of more complex parts.
Customer demand for connectivity is apparent , with users wanting to collect and make use of what was once “trapped data”, as well as monitor operations remotely and be alerted if there is an issue, the White Paper says.
ANCA offers in-process laser measurement and compensation, allowing for software-driven adjustments to maintain accurate tool geometries if there are issues like wheel wear and thermal expansion.
“We’re looking forward to chipping away in the current and Fourth Industrial Revolution, and to all the exciting possibilities it offers toolmakers and the works of art their innovations enable,” Mr Anderson says.
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