Like many other sectors, the industry is in the midst of change. Increasing digitalization and networking give rise to new technologies and processes, but, above all, create significant potential for automation and optimization.
From dental implants to vehicle body parts
How can a high-speed milling machine for dental products be turned into a high-performance automatic machining system for the automotive industry? The Göttingen-based mechanical engineering company Akcurate & CIMT took on the challenge and solved it with a complete package of solutions from Bosch Rexroth.
What do dental implants and vehicle body parts have in common? The same high demands as regards precision and economy apply to both product groups. High-performance machines which meet these requirements are produced in Göttingen. Here, the companies CIMT and Akcurate manufacture measuring and high-speed milling machines for the medical and dental sector as well as the automotive and aviation industry. The machine manufacturers not only integrate additional functions such as measuring, turning, screwing and robotic automation into the machines – they also carry out innovative projects on the basis of their cross-sector know-how. One project is the further development of an existing dental machine for the mass production of vehicle body parts.
Further development of a dental milling machine
The idea for this unusual project came from an automotive supplier who was looking for a robust, fully automatic high-speed milling machine in order to machine tubes made from high-strength steel and aluminum. “As a basis, we chose a high-performance machine from the dental sector and then thought about how we could further develop it for use in the automotive sector,” recalled Andreas Kirsch, Managing Director of CIMT and Akcurate. “It quickly became clear that our project would only succeed with an integrated approach. In view of this, we decided to involve our long-standing partner Bosch Rexroth. It was able to provide the relevant application know-how along with the necessary best-in-class components – all from a single source.”
Transparent high-speed machining
Instead of small blanks for dental implants, the Akcurate Pi5 Tube which was developed with the help of Bosch Rexroth now machines tubes up to seven meters in length which are automatically loaded and unloaded by three collaborative robots.
A linear feed axis moves the work pieces into the milling machine where they are cut into 70 cm sections. The pieces are then milled and drilled as required. The rapid five-axis machining process is simulated in real time and shown on a display so that the process is transparent and understandable at all times, even if the machine window is obscured by coolant or swarf. Operating staff can therefore intervene immediately if necessary.
A range of automation services from a single source
The application specialists at Bosch Rexroth were immediately impressed by Kirsch’s idea. “We particularly enjoy exciting projects like this one as we can make full use of the strengths resulting from our integrated approach to automation,” said Account Development Manager Nina Heckt. “With our highly integrative standard modules, we were able to create a futuristic generation of machines which meets all requirements as regards quality, performance and connectivity.”
For the substructure of the machine, Bosch Rexroth supplied a complete range of assembly systems including the subframe for the feed axis, the control cabinet and the base for the front. The complete mechanical systems including the ball screw assembly and roller rail systems come from the linear motion technology portfolio. The overall package contains not only the spindle motor but also the drive and control systems including controllers and converters.
The Pi5 Tube is controlled by a high-performance IndraMotion MTX advanced system. The industrial PC and the operating terminal are also from Bosch Rexroth. The experts added a range of automatic functions to the HMI software for the dental machine. “The new interface caters for the needs of future operating personnel very well,” said Andreas Kirsch. Together with real-time visualization, everyone’s needs are met.”
ctrlX AUTOMATION as a future platform
With the new high-speed milling machine, Akcurate also opens the door to the Smart Factory. After all, the machine manufacturer already uses Bosch Rexroth’s new automation platform ctrlX AUTOMATION in certain areas. The modules used in the first development stage cover a range of areas including cyber security: Special software with a firewall runs on the control hardware ctrlX CORE in order to protect against hacker attacks and unauthorized access. Akcurate is also planning predictive maintenance applications based on ctrlX AUTOMATION and OPC UA. In addition to allowing ongoing improvements, the big data analyses involved will help to define the necessary service intervals and increase the service life of machines and systems. “We want to take full advantage of ctrlX AUTOMATION on a step-by-step basis while still using other apps. In the near future, we would like to put in place remote support via the application layer in order to save us and our customers time and money,” explained Andreas Kirsch.
Quicker and much more compact than laser cutting
With this further development, Akcurate has launched a type of machine which achieves a remarkable throughput thanks to its high degree of automation. With a cycle time of around 20 seconds, it beats even benchmark laser cutting machines. Unlike with these machines, even extruded sections made of aluminum can be machined precisely, with no burrs and without the use of fluids. As Kirsch pointed out, the new system can take up as little as one tenth of the space normally required. “Together with our partner Bosch Rexroth, we have come up with a genuine innovation in the field of automotive engineering and vehicle body construction,” said Kirsch. “The new machine will definitely give our competitors some serious food for thought.”
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