Global language of production

The VDMA and VDW are joining forces to promote the use and dissemination of OPC UA standards throughout the mechanical engineering sector under the ‘umati’ label.

“Cross-industry and cross-technology marketing will take our customers a significant step forward,” says Dr Wilfried Schäfer, executive director of the VDW (German Machine Tool Builders’ Association). “Manufacturing companies have not only machine tools but their own individual mix of equipment, robots and systems. If all these technologies can exist in a common ecosystem that is ideal for producing plug-and-play solutions, it will save end users a lot of time and money.”
Hartmut Rauen, deputy executive director of the VDMA (German Engineering Federation), adds: “Over 30 specialist groupings in more than 17 associations are working on technology-specific interfaces, known as the ‘Companion Specifications’. This high level of collaboration forms the basis of true, open interoperability between machines and software systems, from the shop floor to the cloud. Only the VDMA has the means to unite the necessary integrative forces from the wide range of production domains.”
The mechanical and plant engineering sector adopted OPC UA as the standard for data exchange from an early stage, largely because OPC UA provides a uniform framework for machine and system interoperability. Having adopted a bottom-up approach, it became clear how important it was to have uniform definitions for basic elements for a large part of the diverse range of products in mechanical and plant engineering. The simplest example is machine identification, including features such as manufacturer, serial number,
year of manufacture and machine type.
Here, various VDMA departments – such as Electrical Drive Engineering, Plastics and Rubber Machinery, Machine Vision, Metallurgy, Robotics and Machine Tools – are currently drawing up the ‘Basic Companion Specification OPC UA for Machinery’. The first version is scheduled for publication later this year.
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Tool made using VISI helps COVID-19 plan

An injection moulding specialist helped a public school in Rutland to produce thousands of pieces of PPE for frontline workers during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis.

While Oakham School was closed during lockdown, staff used 3D printers and laser cutters from the Design and Technology Department to begin making face shields. The department approached local company, Rutland Plastics, to help it boost productivity, which took the team from manufacturing just a handful, to 8000 a day.
Rutland Plastics’ technical manager Carl Martin says they were originally asked to 3D print a number of headbands for the shields, but decided it would be more cost effective to manufacture a mould tool using its VISI software package, from which the plastic product could be injection moulded.
“We received the initial design for the 3D printed product, and modified it in VISI to make it suitable for injection moulding,” he says. “Once that was completed and approved, we designed the tool in VISI using a Meusburger bolster with aluminium bolster plates.”
The design then went into the tool room and was milled on the company’s Mazak VCN 530C CNC machining centre, with tool paths created through VISI’s CAM functionality. From taking in the initial 3D design, through turning it into a mouldable product, and finalising the mould tool, took less than a week.
When the two-impression mould was set up on Rutland’s 80-tonne Engel moulding machine, both parts of the headband were formed from a medically-accredited polypropylene every 24 seconds during the production run of 25,000. To complete the full screen face masks, Oakham School arranged for the headbands to be attached to plastic visors, which were then distributed to front line NHS staff.
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Major release from ModuleWorks

ModuleWorks has released its 2020.04 CADCAM software components – the first major release of 2020 – which is available now for download from the ModuleWorks website.

Each ModuleWorks release contains new and enhanced features across the product range. This latest release contains new quality-enhancing features for five-axis and three-axis machining, as well as improved visualisation for the MultiXPost post processor.
In five-axis machining it is not always possible to create a collision-free lead for the machining process. The new automatic tilting feature uses an intelligent algorithm to automatically tilt the tool to avoid collisions, thereby improving the safety and efficiency of the machining process, particularly when working with complex tool shapes such as barrel-mill cutters.
Setting the constraints on the lead tilt angle and side tilt angle enables users to adjust the machining process in different ways depending on the tool’s contact point and the machining surface. To provide even more application flexibility, the user-defined contact point and angle limits can now be measured relative to the surface normal, instead of the initial tool orientation. When working with barrel-mill cutters, this feature gives users better control over the cutting conditions upon tool engagement.
With regard to three-axis operations, floor machining for pocket/boss areas is now available to complete the basic product portfolio of roughing and finishing cycles based on a wire-frame geometry. This new cycle creates engrave cuts at a specified depth. The pattern can be used with open and intersecting drive curves and is suitable for engraving text and single-line font machining. To optimise tool loading, users can now create a specified number of engraving tool-path slices with variable depths.
The posting of three-axis tool paths on a machine usually requires constant adjustments to the position of the table or head, which may not always be desired when viewing the simulation. To provide an improved user experience, MultiXPost is now able to eliminate continuous movement and keep the table or head axis in a fixed position while ensuring the whole tool path is simulated within the machine limits.
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Open Mind helps fast-track COVID-19 project

Letchworth-based Maztech Precision Engineering (MPE), a prominent supplier to the F1 sector, is finding that – with F1 teams so heavily involved in the COVID-19 ventilator project – that is now making component for ventilators.

Indeed, Maztech has won an order to produce 7500 aluminium tube manifold components. The company is now running its four Mazak machining centres 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including a recently installed VariAxis i-300 AWC five-axis model.
“I had a CAM system, but it couldn’t provide suitable post-processors to communicate confidently with the VariAxis configuration,” says managing director Wayne Bouchier. “I also wanted full machine capability, so I could simulate everything, as the machine is a big investment.
“I called Open Mind and had Ken Baldwin come and give me a demonstration,” he adds. “Entering five-axis machining is never easy, but hyperMILL simplified things and made it no more complicated than necessary. After the demonstration, I was very confident in the system and didn’t need to look at any other CAM systems, so we bought our first seat of hyperMILL.”
The company now has three seats of hyperMILL: two seats with a 3+2 axis licence and the third with a full simultaneous five-axis licence. Following advice from numerous motorsport subcontractors, Maztech specified the hyperMILL Maxx Machining package for high-performance metal removal rates.
“Our programming times are at least 35-40% faster with hyperMILL,” adds Bouchier. “One example of this is the mirror function within the software. More than 30% of our work has a left and right-hand variant; hyperMILL and its mirror function is slashing programming times from hours to minutes for these parts.”
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ProtoTRAK update extends ease-of-use

When the latest ProtoTRAK control was introduced it brought with it a range of benefits to improve programming efficiency and ease-of-use, all based around a 15.6” touchscreen that puts the system’s advantages at the users’ fingertips.

Now, with the latest update, users of the control on XYZ RMX bed mills can further simplify the programming of complex features, such as islands in pockets.
New and existing users can take advantage of the islands in pockets feature by utilising the optional DXF converter, which can be added at time of ordering the machine or as a straightforward retrofit for existing XYZ RMX bed mills. With this option installed it is a simple process of importing the DXF file into the ProtoTRAK RMX control. The creation of the island program, for single or multiple islands in pockets, is created in the same easy way as any other machined feature in ProtoTRAK. The program tool path can then be verified on-screen, with an estimated cycle time. For further reassurance, a 3D solid model of the machined part can be generated.
“ProtoTRAK remains at the forefront of programming technology for use on our XYZ bed mills and lathes and continues to be the ‘go-to’ control for those making the step from manual to CNC operation, and for those looking for a machine/control combination that can simplify their manufacturing processes,” says Nigel Atherton, managing director of XYZ Machine Tools. “ProtoTRAK’s popularity has continued through the current COVID-19 pandemic, with customers continuing to order and take delivery of ProtoTRAK-controlled machines; over 250 have been delivered in the past six months.”
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