Intelligent tool systems that connect and exchange process data create new ways of optimizing manufacturing flows and of increasing productivity. As a leader in innovation, LMT Tools brings along the necessary development know-how and application knowledge for digital transformation, and is developing smart solutions with notable advantages for customers. Uwe Kretzschmann, Global Head of R&D at LMT Tools, and David Szillat, Global Head of Product Lines at LMT Tools, talk about the new world of tool technology.
What part do intelligent tool systems have to play in Industry 4.0?
Kretzschmann: Tools are the interface between the machine and the workpiece, so they have an enormous potential for optimizing manufacturing processes. When we integrate the tool into digital, networked systems, entirely new possibilities for process monitoring and analysis open up. This brings incredible chances for considerable improvements in terms of efficiency and process reliability. Intelligent tools are therefore an essential element in future-oriented production processes.
Szillat: It follows that digitization will be making even greater advances, most importantly in the field of complex tool systems.
What are tools for the Smart Factory actually like?
Kretzschmann: Intelligent tools communicate and interact with the machine controller, with measuring systems or with other mobile devices. They collect, save and analyze data on the process and its status, as well as supplying both the user and production control with important information for further action. The advantages of smart tool systems can be seen clearly when fabricating holes with tight tolerances. One feature of our fine boring tools is their cutting elements, which are adjusted automatically by means of electronic components. As a result, the edges can be set digitally, making them absolutely precise and – if so desired – any wear that occurs can be compensated for fully automatically.
Szillat: Our EVOline tangential rolling heads are another example. They are fitted with a sensor for measuring force. The standard curve is measured as the tool is run in, and saved on a chip as a benchmark for the subsequent rolling processes. The saved data provides important information for optimizing the rolling process when the tool is in use. Our service staff can read out the data with an app, and can discuss improvements to the process with the customer.
How does the customer benefit from the communication between the tool and the machine?
Szillat: The topic of process reliability is extremely important for our customers. Intelligent tools make a significant contribution to this. Continuous monitoring and analysis make it possible to detect wear at an early stage, thereby guaranteeing a high degree of component quality with minimum reject rates. This reduces the costs per unit and increases productivity.
Predictive maintenance is a key topic for Industry 4.0. How are LMT Tools positioned for this?
Szillat: Intelligent tools like the rolling head or the fine boring tools are small, complex, high-tech machines, and they must be treated as such. We are therefore working on a proactive concept that will offer optimum support to the customer for commissioning, servicing and maintenance. Intelligent features will reveal their benefits here again. In future, the tool should provide feedback as soon the next maintenance date is on the horizon – initially this is after a preprogrammed time based on empirical values, but later on it also depends on the actual need. We foresee a great potential again here.
Electronics needs electricity…
Kretzschmann: Exactly. For the EVOline rolling head we looked for a new approach – and we found one! The solution was this: the battery that is installed in the rolling head is charged up automatically, through induction, by the rotary movement of the rollers during the production process. Currentsaving functions also make sure that energy is used as efficiently as possible.
How much smarter will tool technology get in the future?
Kretzschmann: Increased communication will take place between the intelligent tool systems and the machines. Much will depend on the "processing" of the information by the various protocols of the machine manufacturers and control systems. Our goal is, together with our partners, to advance the development of suitable solutions at the interface between our systems and the machine.
Szillat: We are also taking innovative approaches to the questions of servicing and maintenance. This also applies to the integration of future technologies such as additive fabrication and artificial intelligence.
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