SinuTrain as first step to increasing machine utilization times
Schneeberger: Department manager uses a programming station identical to the actual control system as entry into CNC job planning
How can I establish CNC job planning and leverage the expertise of personnel without having to invest in training? How can I flexibly deploy my personnel – both on the shopfloor and in job planning? At the CNC and offline at the PC? Philipp Lutz posed these questions, and in SinuTrain found a sustainable and substantive response.
Linear guide systems for machines
Schneeberger – a medium sized company at home in the Black Forest, Germany – is a specialist when it comes to state-of-the-art linear technology. They have a wide range of components in their portfolio – extending from gear racks through ball screws up to linear profiled guideways with distance measuring systems. When requested by customers, these components can also be engineered to create highly integrated positioning and motion system solutions, for example, multi-axis motion platforms.
Outstanding precision is their overarching goal. This is why Schneeberger fabricates components in its own production facilities in Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic as well as in China.
Schneeberger operates 22 CNC machine tools at its main facility in Höfen. Five milling centers from AXA and Hedelius are reserved for customized solutions – involving one-off solutions and small series. This is the department that Philipp Lutz heads up.
For small up to medium-sized batches, programming and the type of job planning noticeably impacts the overall costs
Customized guide systems are typically fabricated in batch sizes starting from just 1 up to 300. Generally, these are component masters adapted to address the particular order by modifying geometrical variables. CNC programming based on "Master programs" has been in place for quite some time now and are adapted to the specified geometry by changing parameters. If this is not sufficient, then they are duplicated and individually adapted.
Master programs are prepared offline in the office, while fabrication itself, testing and running-in takes place on the machines in the production environment.
In the meantime, an additional procedure has established itself in parallel. On the newer machining centers, using graphic interactive machining step programming from ShopMill, numerous programs can be completely generated at the machine itself. Although in many cases, this significantly reduces the time the operator requires – it also uses up valuable machining time when performed directly at the machine.
The strategic alignment: job planning at the PC for longer machining times
Philipp Lutz’s strategy is to fully leverage the advantages of CNC job planning, also for customized one-off and small series production. This allows him to maximize the productive machining time on the machines for which he is responsible.
"I became aware of SinuTrain while participating in the programming course provided by the machine builder. After the course, as CNC programmer I also used SinuTrain," explains Philipp Lutz. "SinuTrain for SINUMERIK Operate" – which is the full name of the software – provides the same operating and programming interface at the PC as on SINUMERIK Operate at the machine. But the real game changer is the fact that SinuTrain also has a virtual NC kernel identical to that of the control system. In other words, SinuTrain provides the identical NC functionality as the CNC SINUMERIK 828D or 840D sl at the machine.
In his new role as department head, Philipp Lutz immediately grasped the situation: Operation and programming at the machine and in SinuTrain are identical, which provides a basis for consequential job planning at the PC – and personnel familiar with SINUMERIK CNCs do not require any special training.
This means that qualified technicians can be flexibly deployed on the machines and in the office. As a consequence, the first step toward CNC job planning does not require an investment in a CAD/CAM system or the necessity to train a dedicated CAM programmer.
The same response at the PC as at the individual machines!
The fundamental precondition for offline programming is that the real machine CNC behaves in precisely the same way as the virtual CNC in SinuTrain. To achieve this, SinuTrain must know the parameterization of the real CNC. The machine builder adapts every CNC to the particular machine tool using several hundred pieces of machine data, which of course impacts programming the NC.
To ensure that the SinuTrain installations at the PC precisely match those of the real machines, the SinuTrain software releases that match the machines are ordered first. Using a software option, the commissioning archives – and therefore the individual setup of each individual CNC – are imported into SinuTrain.
"I was amazed to see just how simple it is to import a CNC archive. Using just a memory stick, we uploaded the archive from the machine and imported it into SinuTrain. There, I was immediately able to adapt and simulate previously generated CNC programs to the real machine. Thanks to the telephone support I got from Siemens, we fine-tuned SinuTrain so that the programs also run in the automatic mode – a straightforward process without any fancy tricks.”
New modus operandi
In Philipp Lutz‘s department, all CNC programs are now generated offline in the office using SinuTrain. This represents a real advantage when compared to the classic unidimensional CAM approach: What can be graphically parameterized in SinuTrain using ShopMill or using machining cycles in the G code programs, can also be graphically modified at the machine. If these modifications are imported back into SinuTrain, they can then also be graphically identified there.
The parameterizable master programs, which are still important, also benefit from SinuTrain: As the virtual NC kernel in SinuTrain offers the complete language scope of Sinumerik CNCs, even these complex CNC programs can be generated, tested and run-in offline. The result: Programming time saved at the machines is now also available as additional machining time.
What lies ahead?
"Over the medium to long-term, a CAM system that matches our product portfolio could be on the cards. However, this is a significant step that also impacts the structure of our team," explains Philipp Lutz. But of course, SinuTrain still remains an important medium. Not just for the ability to flexibly deploy qualified technicians at machines or in the office environment: The often very extensive CAM output data can be continually checked for syntax errors using SinuTrain, which reduces the risk of non-scheduled interruptions during machining. Furthermore, the runtime of CAM-generated programs – and in turn, the time for which the machine is operational – is reliably determined in advance on a PC running SinuTrain.