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    Machining

    Will virtual commissioning be the new normal?

    • By MTDCNC
    • March 22, 2021
    • 5 minute read

    For manufacturers producing relatively simple components, machine investment decisions rarely stretch beyond a few parameters such as cost, size, capability, flexibility, finance and maybe a time study to justify the purchase. But what if you are looking for more? What if you are machining complex precision components that require a multi-functional machining cell, a production centre that requires substantial time studies and justification?

    In the current global pandemic, health and safety restrictions have become a significant challenge. Whilst machine complexity increases to cater to single-operation machining; in contrast, the available time to integrate a machine into a production line has decreased continuously. Here, Dipl.-Ing. Thomas Koch, from NILES-SIMMONS Industrieanlagen GmbH, tells MTD magazine how the company and its UK partner McDowell Machining Technologies are innovatively overcoming every obstacle to serve its customers.

    When expanding or converting existing machines, plant and manufacturing lines whereby downtime must be kept to a minimum, the challenge of integration is particularly heightened. In addition, expensive workpiece materials are increasingly used for proving out and run off testing – All of this means that intensive commissioning of machines and technology can quickly become an enormous cost factor. 

    Comprehensive tests of functions and processes are necessary before starting the real commissioning to manage these challenges successfully. As part of the worldwide NSH Group, NILES-SIMMONS has introduced the virtual commissioning (VC) of machines. To overcome the challenges of the pandemic and to streamline the ‘prove-out’ process, we develop virtual machine models that represent the real system and characteristics. If the virtual tests are successfully conducted and programmers can apply realistic machine models for verifying their developments; commissioning and development times of machines and systems can be reduced by anything from 30 to 50%. This represents a considerable increase in efficiency for both the customer, NILES-SIMMONS and McDowell Machining Technologies.

    Functionality

    Virtual Commissioning is where NILES-SIMMONS creates a virtual 3D image of one or more machines to be developed and the model is coupled with real or virtual controls. The mechanical and electrical properties of the machine is simulated as close to a 1:1 ratio as possible in real-time.

    When creating a virtual machine model and connecting the model with real or virtual controls, the virtual commissioning can commence in parallel to the manufacturing process of the machine. The machine functionality as well as the mechanical behaviour of the machine can be tested on the model while the software is being integrated and programmed. This enables engineers to identify any sources of error or inconsistencies and then localise and eliminate the discrepancy. Even critical machine features and applications can be modelled and intensively tested without risk.

    The tests can even incorporate simple toggle functions such as switching on coolant or other ancillaries, as well as following complex sequences. The modelling includes the complete machining processes or complex inter-relationships concerning material flow, robots and automated control. 

    By coupling several machines, manufacturing, and automation systems together, the complete manufacturing process can be simulated. The simulations could model complex manufacturing cells, such as the combination of a Niles crank milling machine, a measuring machine and a part handling system or alternately, the simulation can also represent complete production lines. During the testing phase, both the processes for measuring and transferring quality and dimensional corrections to the machine and all the required alterations to the production control processes are identified. The program is optimised with the help of models that are subsequently transferred to the real system.

    Benefits

    At NILES-SIMMONS, we understand this tool is a valuable enhancement of our development process. Besides the design capabilities, we also use virtual machine models for analysing equipment failures and identifying improvement opportunities for our products and services. In addition to the significant reduction in commissioning time, especially directly at the customer’s site, costs due to rework or expensive material used for tests can be reduced drastically. Furthermore, the reliability of the systems can be increased, assisting us in our aims to guarantee machine uptimes of up to 95%.

    From the customer’s point of view, another advantage of the virtual machine model is that they are highly beneficial throughout the entire life of the machines. In an agile production line, machining centres have to cope with constant machining adaptations. By using virtual models, customers can rebuild entire production lines or add only individual functionalities to the production line. Downtime, re-tooling and re-organisation periods, as well as the associated risks, are reduced to a minimum and customers can easily test new processes with little cost commitment. Virtual machine models enable optimisation of the entire production planning process throughout the entire life cycle of a machine tool. 

    The time and cost advantages are obvious when integrating pre-tested systems. For this reason, the provision of virtual commissioning and the associated possibility of acquiring the resulting digital models is increasingly becoming key criteria. This is especially the case in the context of investment decisions made by customers investing in high-quality machine tools. One certain thing; and that is that the pandemic has accelerated technology adoption in many key areas and industry sectors. In this instance, like in so many other technology areas, it appears that NILES-SIMMONS and McDowell Machining Technologies are once again ahead of the curve.

    https://cdn.mtdcnc.global/cnc/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/22162711/VIBN_5-640x360.png

    Will virtual commissioning be the new normal?

    For manufacturers producing relatively simple components, machine investment decisions rarely stretch beyond a few parameters such as cost, size, capability, flexibility, finance and maybe a time study to justify the purchase. But what if you are looking for more? What if you are machining complex precision components that require a multi-functional machining cell, a production centre that requires substantial time studies and justification?

    In the current global pandemic, health and safety restrictions have become a significant challenge. Whilst machine complexity increases to cater to single-operation machining; in contrast, the available time to integrate a machine into a production line has decreased continuously. Here, Dipl.-Ing. Thomas Koch, from NILES-SIMMONS Industrieanlagen GmbH, tells MTD magazine how the company and its UK partner McDowell Machining Technologies are innovatively overcoming every obstacle to serve its customers.

    When expanding or converting existing machines, plant and manufacturing lines whereby downtime must be kept to a minimum, the challenge of integration is particularly heightened. In addition, expensive workpiece materials are increasingly used for proving out and run off testing – All of this means that intensive commissioning of machines and technology can quickly become an enormous cost factor. 

    Comprehensive tests of functions and processes are necessary before starting the real commissioning to manage these challenges successfully. As part of the worldwide NSH Group, NILES-SIMMONS has introduced the virtual commissioning (VC) of machines. To overcome the challenges of the pandemic and to streamline the ‘prove-out’ process, we develop virtual machine models that represent the real system and characteristics. If the virtual tests are successfully conducted and programmers can apply realistic machine models for verifying their developments; commissioning and development times of machines and systems can be reduced by anything from 30 to 50%. This represents a considerable increase in efficiency for both the customer, NILES-SIMMONS and McDowell Machining Technologies.

    Functionality

    Virtual Commissioning is where NILES-SIMMONS creates a virtual 3D image of one or more machines to be developed and the model is coupled with real or virtual controls. The mechanical and electrical properties of the machine is simulated as close to a 1:1 ratio as possible in real-time.

    When creating a virtual machine model and connecting the model with real or virtual controls, the virtual commissioning can commence in parallel to the manufacturing process of the machine. The machine functionality as well as the mechanical behaviour of the machine can be tested on the model while the software is being integrated and programmed. This enables engineers to identify any sources of error or inconsistencies and then localise and eliminate the discrepancy. Even critical machine features and applications can be modelled and intensively tested without risk.

    The tests can even incorporate simple toggle functions such as switching on coolant or other ancillaries, as well as following complex sequences. The modelling includes the complete machining processes or complex inter-relationships concerning material flow, robots and automated control. 

    By coupling several machines, manufacturing, and automation systems together, the complete manufacturing process can be simulated. The simulations could model complex manufacturing cells, such as the combination of a Niles crank milling machine, a measuring machine and a part handling system or alternately, the simulation can also represent complete production lines. During the testing phase, both the processes for measuring and transferring quality and dimensional corrections to the machine and all the required alterations to the production control processes are identified. The program is optimised with the help of models that are subsequently transferred to the real system.

    Benefits

    At NILES-SIMMONS, we understand this tool is a valuable enhancement of our development process. Besides the design capabilities, we also use virtual machine models for analysing equipment failures and identifying improvement opportunities for our products and services. In addition to the significant reduction in commissioning time, especially directly at the customer’s site, costs due to rework or expensive material used for tests can be reduced drastically. Furthermore, the reliability of the systems can be increased, assisting us in our aims to guarantee machine uptimes of up to 95%.

    From the customer’s point of view, another advantage of the virtual machine model is that they are highly beneficial throughout the entire life of the machines. In an agile production line, machining centres have to cope with constant machining adaptations. By using virtual models, customers can rebuild entire production lines or add only individual functionalities to the production line. Downtime, re-tooling and re-organisation periods, as well as the associated risks, are reduced to a minimum and customers can easily test new processes with little cost commitment. Virtual machine models enable optimisation of the entire production planning process throughout the entire life cycle of a machine tool. 

    The time and cost advantages are obvious when integrating pre-tested systems. For this reason, the provision of virtual commissioning and the associated possibility of acquiring the resulting digital models is increasingly becoming key criteria. This is especially the case in the context of investment decisions made by customers investing in high-quality machine tools. One certain thing; and that is that the pandemic has accelerated technology adoption in many key areas and industry sectors. In this instance, like in so many other technology areas, it appears that NILES-SIMMONS and McDowell Machining Technologies are once again ahead of the curve.