Sandvik Coromant has pioneered new technology that will soon be able to tell the user which tools, tool settings and eventually which machines make the best combination to manufacture a specific component in the optimum way.
Computer assisted manufacturing, or CAM, made it possible to programme complex methods in machines with many axes, and CAM has also developed over time to be rather sophisticated software’s with a lot of support functions for the programmer. However, the CAM-programmer still needs a lot of machining skills and knowledge, and support from tooling experts, to create CNC-code that generates high productivity in the machine tool.
Until the early 1980s all support from cutting tool suppliers came from sales engineers on site, or printed tool catalogues with tool data and cutting data start values. Still a very skilled programmer was needed to get good results.
By this time personal computers became more common and powerful, and Mats Allard a young engineer at Sandvik Coromant developed the first tool and cutting data recommendation software, called CoroCut and Varicut. These were intended to be sales support tools for Sandvik Coromant salesengineers,butasmanyofthe customers saw huge benefits with this software Sandvik Coromant started to sell them. This was during the period 1980-85.
When the internet was established, functionalities from CoroCut and Varicut moved to the Sandvik Coromant web.
Many incremental development steps improved the functionality and the level of support of tool selection and cutting data recommendations, and even though the accessibility has improved with APIs (application programming interface), providing data directly into the CAM systems, it is still today a lot of manual work to be done and most of the decisions must be taken by the CAM/ CNC programmer. “Programmers with skills in machining are becoming very rare, and this is a major problem for the manufacturing industry,” said Allard. “It is time for taking the big steps of develop- ment in the area of process planning and CNC programming!”
A key step, and one that really exemplifies Industry 4.0, according to Allard, was defining and using a standard for communicating tool data. First, Sandvik Coromant took the initiative to help establish the global standard for tool definition, ISO 13399. Then it built its CoroPlus® ToolLibrary based on this ISO standard, that basically connects cutting tool suppliers with CAM systems.
The outcome is a vendor agnostic system that can manage any tool data from any manufacturer. “It’s possible to build an assembly with a mix of items from any tool supplier as long correct ISO parameters are used. Being able to communicate tool data in a standard format is one of the corner stones in Industry 4.0 in my opinion.”
Thirty-five years after launching the rst PC-based tool and cutting data software in the world, Mats Allard, Business Development Manager for Digital Manufacturing at Sandvik Coromant, is planning for the future. This tool and process selection technology, he says, should not stop at tools themselves. Sandvik Coromant is exploring the entire process planning chain, where a user can select which machine is best for manufacturing their part and how to connect all the right methods including assembly. “We are moving up in the value chain closer to the designers,” said Allard. “The goal is to say “this is the best way to produce this component, start to finish” and we aspire to this level of complexity in the future.
The end game is to take a component drawing, input this into the software that analyses the component and tells the engineer the best or quickest or cheapest way to manufacture the component, the cheapest way with the best combination of machines and tools in the global catalogue. Leaving nothing to chance or “gut feeling”, this would be the next level of manufacturing automation. The pieces are in place:
- Tool libraries based on ISO standards
- Cutting data recommendations
for most of existing materials
- Recommendation modules and
new way to develop software
For Allard, this is a real example of “Industry 4.0” with clear benefits for all in the value chain. Designers can see what their design will cost in its first iteration, and then calculate new ways of making it to adjust the design to make it affordable. Subcontractors will have accurate manufacturing cost data to improve their quotations, where often small changes could lose a contract or lose the company money. “It has bean a dream for many years,” said Allard. “We are not there yet, but we’re getting close to realising this.”