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The Soul of Control

Who would have imagined CNC controls as simple as using your smartphone? IMTS 2022 exhibitors have made significant strides advancing CNC controls — making them more intuitive, flexible, and powerful to address the growing shortage of skilled machinists.
Jun 03, 2022

Who would have imagined CNC controls as simple as using your smartphone? IMTS 2022 exhibitors have made significant strides advancing CNC controls — making them more intuitive, flexible, and powerful to address the growing shortage of skilled machinists. 

DATRON Dynamics, Haas, and Siemens share advancements in their CNC controls from swiping touchscreens and touch probes to integrated robotic arms and the digital twin. 

CNCs for the People

DATRON Dynamics, Inc. (IMTS 2022 booth: 236008) builds intuitive CNC controls featuring a touchscreen that’s as easy to use as a smartphone.  

“The trend is definitely to make CNC controls easier to learn and simple to use,” says Kevin Flanagan, sales manager at DATRON. “One of the key factors driving this is the challenge of finding skilled machinists. We believe the DATRON next control is the easiest CNC control to learn on the market, so machinists of every level can use it.” 

“Honestly, the control and the programming language is the best I have seen in the industry,” says Konstantin Cheyshvili, owner of Kontrast4D in Salem, Massachusetts, when asked about DATRON next control. “The more I learn it, the more I see how far behind other companies are because they are trying to cater to how things used to be done.” 

No Manual Input of Numerical Data 

Not only is it simple to set up a job with a four-step process, but graphic icons make it easy to identify functions as well. Users don’t even need to manually input numerical data. A camera is integrated with the touchscreen display and the XYZ sensor that lets the operator locate material and set the origin of the workpiece with a simple swipe on the touchscreen. This saves time and is ideal for less experienced operators. 

“A touch probe measures the material, so the machine knows exactly how it’s positioned, then the program rotates around the material, so you always end up with a straight part, no matter how it’s loaded,” says Flanagan. “The time required to load material and set up a part isn’t discussed a lot, but it saps a huge amount of time. The DATRON CNC reduces set up and cycle times, so you get better parts faster.”

Integrates Robot Controls

Haas users can now control a robot directly through the Haas machine control and do not need to learn a new pendant. “Users do not need to learn a different control,” says John Nelson product specialist at Haas Automation Inc. (IMTS 2022 booth: 338100) “Everything from the jogging of the robot to setting all its positions is recorded through the machine Haas control, as well as programming those motions into the CNC program.” 

Haas is partnering with FANUC to integrate three different robot packages based on robot size and weight capacity, ranging from seven to 50 kg.  

“We used the robot for loading and unloading 100 parts last week, and it was flawless,” says Don Coffin, owner of RayGinn Manufacturing, a job shop in Bloomfield, Connecticut, which specializes in the laser and printing industries. With eight Haas CNCs in his shop, Coffin is already familiar with Haas next-generation controls. When he decided it was time to automate some of his processes, he chose a VF2 FFANUC robot package.  

It is very easy and intuitive to set the positions of the robot because a video is built right into the control to show the user exactly what to do for each step. The program is then recorded through the touch of a button. 

“We’ve used the robot for about eight months, and I am completely happy with the repeatability and quality it’s bringing to our processes. It makes no mistakes, can easily run unattended, and doesn’t take breaks. We’re already planning to purchase another robot within the calendar year,” says Coffin. 

Winning with the Digital Twin

With so many employees and users working remotely, the pandemic gave Siemens (IMTS 2022 booth: 133346 and 433028) the opportunity to double down on its digital twin approach so that machine tool builders could map their entire development process on a PC before bringing it onto the shop floor.   

“The challenge of the digital twin has been that all the pieces of the whole had to be integrated for it to work because they were from different manufacturers,” says Chris Pollack, technical application center manager, Siemens.  

Now that all parts are integrated, a user can write their programs; import their work-holding, fixturing, and tooling; and run the application in a virtual machine exactly as the real machine would on the shop floor.

It’s Not Kinda, Sort of

“The virtual aspect of the Siemens solution saves us a lot of development time because once the machine is uploaded into the digital twin, we're able to do all the programming and the calibration of the testing before it’s even on the floor,” says Alex Vojinovich, COO, Racer Machinery International in Cambridge Ontario. “As a provider of engineered solutions for customers, we don’t always have the luxury of working out the kinks in machining systems over a large number of machines.”  

“By having a digital twin that has been developed by the actual CNC control manufacturer as the NC kernel, the brain of your machine tool is now in your PC,” says Pollack. “When we build the digital twin,  we  take a system archive out of the physical machine and build the virtual machine from that so you can truly represent each unique machine. That's the game changer — having the ability to duplicate the environment unique to each machine exactly the way that the OEM commissioned it.” 

Speed delivery to customer by six to eight weeks 

“Historically, we would have to wait for the machine to be up and running before we started debugging it, which would push out the delivery time to our customer. Now, we don’t need to wait for a physical piece of equipment to test it, we can do this virtually before the controller is loaded and while it’s being manufactured. This is significant in terms of reducing development time,” says Vojinovich. 

Racer can now deliver a machine roughly six to eight weeks sooner. Additionally, there are savings that come from not damaging tools or workholding in terms of replacement value, repair costs, and lost productivity. Siemens will feature its latest control platform Sinumerik One and its digital twin component at IMTS 2022.

See It All at IMTS 2022

Explore more than 134 companies in the Controls CAD-CAM Pavilion to find digital solutions to empower your manufacturing facility. 

Register now and book your hotel room for IMTS 2022, September 12-17, McCormick Place, Chicago, Illinois. 

Benjamin Moses
Director, Technology
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