Smart machines are the next major step in the continuing quest for ever greater manufacturing productivity." That's Cincinnati Lamb's Richard A. Curless explaining participation in the Smart Machine initiative funded by the National Center for Manufacturing Science. At September's International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) Curless, director, Global Research and Development, indicated that Cincinnati Lamb would lead the collaborative effort. The objective, says Curless, is to drive technology that will equip machine tools and entire manufacturing systems with the following capabilities:
- Generate and execute its own process plan.
- Make the first part (and every subsequent part) right.
- Know its capabilities/condition with the ability to be interrogated.
- Know the quality of its work.
- Learn and improve over time.
"It is very important to note," adds Curless, "that this technology is not limited to machine tools. Our goal is to produce plug-and-play standard solutions applicable across different machines and manufacturing processes so that eventually the Smart Machines initiative will be the basis of smart factories, even smart enterprises." (Cincinnati Lamb is a division of UNOVA Industrial Automation Systems.) "What we're doing," he adds, "is providing those responsible for production a real-time window into the manufacturing operation that is also a powerful data collection and trend analysis tool." At IMTS, the company demonstrated the concept with fully functional, fully integrated capabilities for machine-tool validation and monitoring, on-machine part inspection and comprehensive reporting and analysis of both real-time and trend data. The concept includes Web-based interfaces for enterprise-wide access to all relevant information generated by the smart network. Eventually, in a fully implemented system, Curless says any authorized user within an enterprise will be able to track parts back to the machine (and the programming data) that produced it. Spindle mounted probes perform the on-machine inspection and verification. Cincinnati Lamb's ArtiFACT hardware and software provides self-check calibration, trend reporting and certification that the machine is functioning as intended. If the machine reaches a boundary limit, ArtiFACT notifies maintenance personnel and identifies what actions need to be taken.