EMAG L.L.C. is the U.S. subsidiary of a major German machine tool builder that specializes in machine tools for the production of automotive, off-highway, agricultural, and oil field components. The company’s equipment ranges from basic round part turning centers to large-workpiece, five-axis machining centers; gear hobbing machines; and alternative equipment such as laser welding and electrochemical machining centers. This wide variety of machine tools requires an assortment of control technologies to power and manage the motion. For one customer requirement where a major agricultural equipment builder needed grinding, turning, and turn-grind machines, EMAG looked to Siemens for a standardized CNC solution.

VL Series vertical turning machine from EMAG, with short loading and cycle time.

EMAG CEO Peter Loetzner said, “We needed to devise a control solution that would satisfy all the needs of the various machines we were supplying to this customer, based on a common platform, to enable easier design, integration, startup, commissioning on-site, and training for our customer’s operations and maintenance personnel.” After reviewing CNC offerings from various suppliers, the decision was made to use the Siemens Sinumerik 840D CNC for all of the grinding, turning, and turn-grind machines to be supplied. Collaboration was a key element in the decision-making process.

“The control we selected offered great flexibility in application, which was very important to us and our customer. They were seeking a scenario that would allow considerable cross-training of their operators, who might run a turning center one day, then a grinding or turn-grind center the next,” Loetzner said.

The control chosen offered his machine designers and the customer’s production management team an enhanced remote monitoring feature, so changes could be made on the fly with very little downtime. As a result, more than 20 machines of various sizes and styles can be monitored over a wireless network, enabling process engineers to see what the operator sees on each machine.

With the global capabilities of Siemens, the control could function in U.S., German, and Asian factories with seamless data integration. Regardless of the machine tool’s location, EMAG and its customer are able to monitor the performance of any particular machine and even report comparative production data from one continent to another. Because it sells into every industrialized nation, “the cultural differences are substantial sometimes and the control must be programmed to adapt to such variations,” Loetzner explained. Those differences must nonetheless be based on a common technology to streamline the integration of the CNC on the machines under construction.

Universal Control

Said Loetzner, “We were looking at a fairly diverse group of machines being supplied to the customer. Frankly, many of their operators were more comfortable with a CNC that is very popular in the American job shop community; however, we were able to demonstrate the immediate advantages of the Siemens control to them and they accepted our recommendations.” This value proposition, he said, hinged on the greater capability of the Sinumerik 840D to run different machine types, which translated into considerable savings on the training and commissioning side of the equation. Coupled with the remote monitoring and programming aspects of the Siemens control solution, the customer was convinced.

Siemens Sinumerik 840D solution line CNC (left), shown with Sinamics drive package (right).

More than 75 percent of the EMAG machines at this particular customer are equipped with robotic devices, enabling a lights-out manufacturing scenario — another instance where the Siemens remote monitoring via Ethernet feature benefits both the machine tool builder and its customer. “Remote monitoring of the machine tools can be done directly through the Sinumerik CNC in a one-to-one exchange between our customer and us. Alternatively, we can communicate with Siemens and our customer in a three-way exchange of machine data and cycle information, all protected through a firewall for security and customer peace-of-mind,” Loetzner explained.

One customer in the agricultural machine building market has used the remote monitoring capability of the Sinumerik CNC on a wide variety of EMAG machines for more than three years with all data communicated through a single information network, accessible by both EMAG and the control supplier. Significant reductions in downtime, service calls, and troubleshooting identification time have been achieved, translating into documented savings.

As a further advantage to the machine tool builder, the space reduction of more than 20 percent in the control, compared to competitive brands, meant a smaller footprint for the machine, further improving the workspace productivity of the EMAG machines for their customer. Especially in brownfield applications, where a limited space is being utilized to maximize production for an OEM, this physical space-savings combines with other advantages of the Siemens control including reduced wiring and lower power consumption with the attendant lower operating temperatures due to reduced ambient heat.

At this particular customer, the EMAG machines are used to produce gears, gear blanks, shafts, and splines for powertrain applications. Gear hobbing and synchronous support grinding are among the advanced machining technologies performed. Heavy, hardened steels are the most often worked substrates.

The specific control used on these machines is the Siemens Sinumerik 840D solution line — a distributed, scalable, and open control for up to 31 axes of motion, incorporating the CNC, HMI, PLC, closed loop control, and communications functions into a single NC unit. Sinumerik Safety Integrated further provides a comprehensive, efficiently packaged suite of personnel and machine protection functions, fully compliant with internationally accepted standards. The Siemens communication architecture captures, standardizes, and transmits all data in a seamless manner through its legacy tracking.

This article was contributed by Siemens Industry, Elk Grove Village, IL. For more information, visit here.