As machine tools grow in capability, productivity and accuracy, the CNC (computer numerical control) has evolved into an increasing role as an enabler of customer value. At Florence, Ky.'s Mazak Corp., Brian Papke, president, appreciates that "it is the evolving combination of the control with the machine tool that has played a big role in our growth.
"In order to improve productivity, the machine, the control and the tooling all have to be matched together," Papke adds. He says those relationships originated in 1981 with the introduction of the Mazatrol CNC and have since grown stronger as more of the machine's performance depends on CNC advances.
To understand the increased performance levels of Mazak machine tools, consider the design advances represented by the current sixth-generation Matrix control:
- In hardware, the Matrix processing power has doubled since 1998 and now uses a 64-bit, dual-RISC processor. In 1981, Mazak's first CNC had an 8-bit CPU. By 1982-1985 a 16-bit CPU doubled the calculating power of the original CNC. (Between 1987 and 1989 calculating power benefited from the addition of a dual, 32-bit CPU.)
- Accuracy is increased with new pulse encoder on each linear axis that generates 16 million pulses per revolution.
- Programming increments in both Mazatrol and EIA/ISO programs are in the sub-micron range (0.00001 in.). The system's high-speed-calculation capability delivers high-accuracy, high-speed machining even with sub-micron program commands.
- Crisp 3-D simulations verify program efficiency and check for interferences in machine, tooling and workholding motion.
- The Matrix Voice Advisor alerts the operator to potential setup or operating problems, increasing shop safety.
- Machine programs can be made in the office and checked for machine interference using the Matrix CAM system. Programs are then easily downloaded to the Matrix CNC over a network.
Papke says the CPU power increases in each generation of the Matrix impact more than processing speed and accuracy of the machine tool. "Each upgrade resulted in a growing ability to perform more operations simultaneously instead of sequentially. "Now, for example, tool and pallet changes can be done simultaneously."
Ultimately, the increase in performance, productivity and accuracy results in capabilities such as multi-tasking aiding decisions to retain manufacturing in the U.S., adds Papke.