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CNC training 4.0

Digitalization is inevitable – and it even affects training professions. A CNC training partnership shows how future cutting machine operators can prepare for the digitalization of their processes.

Training today - training tomorrow

Manufacturing using CNC machine tools is technologically a very demanding field and only makes a decent profit if the manufacturing process is optimally organized. The trend toward customization of products, increasingly short product lifecycles and the associated reduction in time to market are forcing operators of machine tools to take further optimization measures. The goal is to completely eliminate unplanned machine downtime whenever possible. The machine only generates revenue when it is cutting..

Digitalization solutions for the machine tool are inevitable. The opportunities offered by digitalization are already having an impact on job profiles, such as that of a cutting machine operator, for example. In the future, the operator’s role will no longer be limited to operating and programming the CNC machine tool. The implementation of digitalization in machining will gradually call for more and more higher-level process knowledge. This means that tasks will be redistributed between production planning and manufacturing.

The skills of tomorrow

Skills such as expertise in machining, including correct selection of cutting speed with regard to the component material, or CNC operation and programming, will continue to be required, but will increasingly be supported by IT processes. Competent handling of these IT processes is therefore a very important prerequisite for the practical implementation of digitalization. CNC training can readily tap into this trend.

Dr. Peter Marx is the managing director of vem.die ilw gGmbH, the cross-company training center for industry in the region of Koblenz, Westerwald and Eifel, Germany. He sees himself as a visionary in this area. “As a training provider, we have to offer our clientele the most pioneering training possible under the best conditions,” explains Marx. As a provider of CNC equipment and a leading provider of digitalization solutions for the industrial environment, Siemens sees it as its duty to support commercial education and training as one of the pillars of the industry, particularly when it comes to preparing for future challenges.

Valuable CNC training partnership

It was this shared motivation that gave rise to a CNC training partnership between vem.die ilw and Siemens Machine Tool Systems. The objective of this partnership is to make a core part of the course material – CNC operation and programming – as sophisticated and as pioneering as possible. “The theoretical part of CNC training takes place on Sinutrain, a training software used in training facilities that is identical to the control system,” explains Marx, adding: “This is the first benefit of digitalization. Sinutrain provides a virtual map of material removal and can thus be used for training and as an offline programming system in the industrial environment of CNC production planning.”

Practical implementation is then carried out on modern turning and milling machines equipped with Sinumerik CNCs. “You have to have felt the material in your hands. This is why we build up the training step by step. First, the trainees learn conventional turning and milling, and then the CNC comes into play. Following virtual training with Sinutrain, the trainees must be able to independently manufacture workpieces on the CNC machines,” explains Marx.

The digital twin of the machining process

The process chain, based upon NX CAD/CAM and Sinumerik CNC, forms an essential part of the training partnership from the beginning as more and more CNC manufacturers are choosing CAM systems over traditional CNC programming on the machine. The ability to simulate CNC programs created offline using CAM with a virtual Sinumerik on a virtual machine greatly increases process reliability, and it also enables the virtual introduction of CNC programs.

This first important step toward digitalization of the machining process shifts the work away from the machine and toward CNC production planning. Marx believes that the production process using machine tools is poised for change: “The digital twin to machining will be indispensable in the medium term. It means that the machine starts cutting earlier, therefore increasing productivity. However, cutting machine operators now have to master the corresponding IT processes. Teaching these skills will now be part of our specialist cross-company courses.”

Next steps in the digitalization of CNC training

The CAD/CAM CNC process chain is far from the end of this development. Further steps toward digitalization of the machining process must be implemented in CNC training. Examples include planning of tool requirements, or management of CNC programs. A key buzzword in the context of digitalization is the Internet of Things. Cloud services for machine tools are already being offered.

“Training providers need to come to grips with this matter as early as possible,” emphasizes Marx. “As digital natives, young trainees will already have a great deal of affinity for such topics. However, we still have to approach them in a methodical way. Knowledge of production data could become a field of expertise for cutting machine operators in the long term. Such information is also interesting for mechanics working in maintenance, as well as for the electronics engineers who have to set up the information system in the first place.” Siemens also sees this as its duty: MindSphere, the open, cloud-based operating system for the Internet of Things, provides the optimum basis for future-proof training in this digitalization application.

04/26/2018 | Author: Andreas Grötzinger