Automated Machine Tool Feedback in an Industry 4.0 World

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Industry 4.0 is on everyone’s lips in manufacturing right now, but with that buzz comes a fair amount of intimidation.

Some of the bigger players are already rolling with fully autonomous setups and industrial Internet of Things devices. What about smaller manufacturers, though? For them, Scott Mahrle said, a perfect first step can be to explore automated machine tool feedback.

“I think that, when you start talking about Industry 4.0, a lot of people get intimidated, because they have the feeling that this is something we need to be doing. A lot of companies have set up departments whose responsibility it is to implement Industry 4.0 concepts,” said Mahrle, Director of Business Development for Q-DAS and Hexagon Integrated Solutions. “At the same time, you hear about a lot of companies having trouble getting started.”

“I think the attractiveness of a simple solution like automated machine tool feedback is it lets you take a small step in the direction of Industry 4.0 – a small step toward autonomous systems and greater automation. You are automating a process you’re currently relying on human beings to be responsible for, and, by automating it, you know you’re going to get all the advantages.”

It can be especially helpful in large plants with lots of space, which often have many operators on both the gauging and machining side and lots of physical space between them.

“There, the machine tool feedback has really helped by making sure the data is collected correctly and moved to the right machine destination automatically so that stuff doesn’t get swapped by accident – [sometimes], parts get dropped off at the gauge, and somebody thinks that part came from a different machine,” said Frank Krazer, Systems Engineer at Hexagon. “The whole automated feedback process, collecting the data and organizing it, is really helpful there. That really helps with the efficiency and reducing the amount of errors we’re getting between machines.”

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