Two years ago, at IMTS 2004, machine tool vendor Okuma America launched THiNC, a forward-looking vision of an open architecture PC control.
What will THiNC -- The Intelligent Numerical Control -- be able to do in 25 or 30 years?
- Programming the cutter path and associated parameters (speeds, feeds, depth of cut, tool selection) will be unnecessary. THiNC will develop the optimal machining scheme based on a digital model of the part with no human intervention.
- Fixtures will be intelligent and adaptive, allowing rapid set up with little or no intervention by humans or robots.
- THiNC will be aware of machine capabilities -- accuracy, repeatability, feed-rate, speed, working envelope -- and determine if the part can be machined successfully to specification.
- Machines networked in a factory will determine the best machine for a given part.
- Humans have succeeded as a species based upon the ability to analyze sensory input to accomplish a task. So too, THiNC will use an array of sensors in conjunction with powerful computer technology to achieve a completed part to tolerance and in the best possible cycle time. Sensor technology will include but not be limited to:
- Identifying part location;
- Validating and adapting part geometry to the digital model;
- In process on machine inspection (eliminating post process inspection) -- adapting if necessary;
- Adapting process to changing conditions both ambient and machine related (real-time adaptive control);
- Monitoring machine health and adjusting process accordingly.
IMTS Report: Advancing Factory Automation
- Predict failures but fail gracefully (maintain expected part tolerance and finish by sacrificing cycle time if necessary);
- Report machine condition, spindle utilization and identify bottlenecks;
- Connect with enterprise system to accurately track costs and scrap, and suggest and/or implement process improvements;
- Improve performance and quality;
- Never crash. Actually Okuma THiNC controls already have a viable and reliable collision avoidance system on board many machine models today.