Study course with Industry 4.0 hands-on

The Institute for Production Technology of HAW Hamburg researches, teaches and puts into practice seamlessly integrated digital production: Students and interested companies experience just how digital production functions in practice – and how it can be deployed with existing machines and in structures that have grown over time. 

Published in the CNC4you Magazine 1/2020

Don't just talk, do it!

The CNC laboratory

If you study machinery construction or process engineering at the Institute for Production Technology of HAW Hamburg, then you know the CNC laboratory. The "Production technology/machine tools laboratory" is a training workshop, research facility and production location all rolled into one. Although it is housed in an old historical building, this is where the "hands-on" digital factory of the future is located.


And, as Laboratory Engineer Thomas Hänert says, this also appeals to many businesses in the region. "While others just talk and present slides, here at the HAW you can see the complete process chain live based on a real example – including its integration into higher-level processes."

The entry level: CNC programming course with a Siemens certificate

An offer (voluntary - during the lecture-free period) for prospective mechanical engineers and production technicians at HAW Hamburg is the course "CNC programming for students", which was developed by Ingo Bartsch (Siemens) as well as Dipl.-Ing. Thomas Hänert (IPT) and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christian Stark (IPT). Here students learn CNC programming according to DIN/ISO, as well with ShopTurn and ShopMill.


Every year 20 students take advantage of this offer. This course is run in cooperation with Siemens and is always fully booked. This is because the course provides hands-on workshop experience and concludes with an official Siemens certificate. This is a huge advantage when students apply for their first job. 


The NX CAD/CAM system is offered in in-depth modules, which are integrated into the curriculum. Here the VNCK (Virtual NC Kernel) is used and the special machine kinematics are examined. Approximately 40 students take advantage of these offers every year - and the trend is rising.

The work: at real and virtual machines

During their course, students not only learn about handling real Sinumerik-controlled machines, but also their digital twins, explains Mario Matschull, a scientist working at the IPT of the HAW Hamburg: The CNC laboratory machines are integrated as virtual machine tools in the NX-CAD/CAM process chain so that they can be simulated.


This is something special, because these used machines belonging to the university are of an older vintage, and in some cases have already been retrofitted. 

The digital twins: created for a CNC retrofit

The digital twins of these machines are based on the manufacturers' CAD data which were augmented to form a virtual mechanical system using the Siemens Mechatronic Concept Designer (MCD).


In conjunction with the virtual NC kernel Sinumerik VNCK, which is identical to the control system, a complete virtual machine is created which can be used in Siemens NX. This can be operated and programmed in precisely the same way as the real physical machine. 

End-to-end integration: simplifies the workflow and facilitates a good overview!

Sinumerik CNCs, the Siemens NX CAD/CAM system and the virtual twins of the turning and milling machines together form an integrated and seamless process and production chain. All the components of this process chain are from a single manufacturer. This means that students, lecturers, workshop supervisors and other persons involved in the project can simply obtain an overview of the process chain, which in turn makes it easier to handle. The part program for the machine tool is generated directly from the CAD design, and is immediately tested and optimized at its associated digital twin. This means that parts can be produced on a real machine without any prior air cuts.  This is a great advantage for producing individualized products on an industrial basis.

In comparison to process chains that comprise a collection of individual proprietary solutions from various manufacturers, a seamlessly integrated system makes teaching and learning a lot easier – not to mention the much simpler design, implementation and maintenance.
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christian Stark, HAW Hamburg 

The Industry 4.0 project

With its end-to-end NX process chain, IPT's CNC laboratory is integrated as a "manufacturing facility" in the higher-level Industry 4.0 project "Smart-Production@HAW". It encompasses all the aspects of a digital production environment, including its interfaces to suppliers and customers. In this project, the CNC laboratory is integrated as a production facility into material logistics, part handling using robots, material and part transport using autonomous transport vehicles – including quality assurance, which checks and documents the processing result with the help of a CNC coordinate measuring machine networked in a network. Within the process chain, this enables comprehensive optimisation of production.


If you're looking for a hands-on Industry 4.0 experience: HAW Hamburg is the right address!

Close to reality simulation

To simulate production, the process chain in the IPT utilizes part programs that have already run through the postprocessor for the specific target machine. The machine and tool data of the real machine are also used. To do this, the Zoller tool measuring system of the CNC laboratory also feeds its data into the NX-CAD/CAM chain. "This is how we achieve a simulation accuracy - measured on the basis of scientific criteria - that is very close to reality", emphasized Prof. Christian Stark. "The only issues that are not taken into account are dynamic effects such as excited tool oscillation."  

Flexible production – also based on 3D scans

In the standard configuration scope, the Siemens NX CAD/CAM software used at the HAW Hamburg already supports an additive production technique. Furthermore, all other relevant additive technologies are available as options. The project uses this, for example, for 3D scans that are fed into production as the source for part programs.

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