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November 2017

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Process Control Drives Industry 4.0

Renishaw has identified a common trait amongst its productive customers: they control the process. The use of automation, measurement and feedback throughout each stage of manufacturing, delivers optimized process control - monitoring part condition, machine performance and process trends at every stage of production.

When coupled with the new manufacturing capabilities of additive manufacturing (AM), easily accessible process data helps direct the development of unique solutions. This has already had an impact, with applications ranging from aerospace to yacht racing. And, as customer demands increase for more specialized parts designed to save weight or space, process control and AM are leading the way to higher volume production of customized parts for an array of applications.

Control the Process to Make Better Parts

Most manufacturers evaluate machine performance by measuring the quality of finished parts. But, there is a better way; one that reduces scrap and re-work - two infamous productivity killers. Optimized processes monitor not only the condition of parts, but also the performance of machines, process trends, interventions and environmental effects during production. The information gained, and adjustments made, quickly translate into increased efficiency and productivity because adjustments are made before a bad part is produced. And, the best way to reduce scrap and eliminate re-work is to make it right the first time.

Today, any size operation can take advantage of Industry 4.0 strategies to improve production operations. "Continuous improvement and the consideration of key variables when developing new processes play a large role in effective process control," said Howard Salt, President of Renishaw, Inc. "Digital connectivity across our platforms simplifies communication between systems and removes barriers for almost any size operation to reap the benefits of Industry 4.0."

The Industry 4.0 trend speaks to connectivity, making networking a key component of 24/7 data availability across different digital platforms, as well as the integration of sensors for performance monitoring and process control. "At Renishaw, we believe both are essential to successful implementation of automation. The ability to monitor key process inputs, analyze data and continuously improve manufacturing processes is key to increased productivity and higher accuracy," said Salt. "This is precisely what Renishaw's Productive Process Pyramid establishes. It is critical that checks and measurements are made before, during and immediately after machining to control both common-cause and special-cause variation. Simply measuring the output of a manufacturing process is not enough, and often, too late to control all the variability in a manufacturing process."

Solutions - from non-contact tool setting and tool breakage detection to laser calibration and ballbar testing - enable data collection through in-process measurement, and allow manufacturers to understand what causes adverse effects during production. Users benchmark and track the performance of their machines and implement fact-based predictive maintenance, replacing redundant systems and rapidly reducing time and operating costs.

AM Encourages Higher Level of Design Freedom

"AM is having a major impact on the industry," said a company spokesperson. "It is flexible, fast and financially sound in the long term. The production benefits of additive include: less materials used, lower tooling costs, shorter process times, shorter lead times, simpler assembly and the process can be fully automated. Parts produced with AM can be lighter, with better performance and reliability, as well as being custom-designed. Very little material is wasted during the AM process, something that becomes significant as production runs increase. When combined with traditional subtractive machining methods, additive encourages engineering design freedom, while driving lean manufacturing operations."

AM can play a key role in Industry 4.0, because in many cases it answers the question: how? "Engineers design a part, but then the question becomes, how do we make it? Additive has made it possible for design engineers to push the envelope of part design, cutting weight and size," said Salt. "Hydraulic valves, engine parts, aerodynamics, the applications are virtually endless. Shops can also make better parts sooner, because prototyping has always been a strength of AM. Now what used to take weeks, could, in some cases, take only hours.

The Manufacturing Trio: Process Control, Additive and Subtractive

Intelligent machining processes are a critical element in advanced manufacturing technology. Automation, measurement and feedback can deliver process control throughout the stages of manufacturing. Combining the information gleaned through machine monitoring and measurement with the capabilities of additive and subtractive manufacturing is a path to a new type of manufacturing. Shops can produce higher quality, custom designed parts, cheaper and faster than before, with less waste.

When used as a complement to subtractive manufacturing and traditional craft processes, AM is yielding benefits for production costs as well as better part precision and predictability. It has evolved from prototyping and is now used for direct part replacements and custom part installations. AM allows manufacturers to make parts which were previously impossible to make with subtractive methods alone. This new design freedom enables improvements in the functional performance of parts when those parts are designed to exploit these new processes.

Renishaw considers collaboration another key component to the advancement of AM into mainstream production operations. "Customers with special part or production requirements look to designers, material providers and machine makers to develop new methods and techniques, and the answers will come faster through joint effort," said Salt. "The commitment we have made to this approach is evidenced by our network of global Solutions Centers, specifically focused on advancing additive and metrology technology. We want shops of all sizes to see the benefits of advanced manufacturing technology and how it impacts operations."

For more information contact:

Renishaw, Inc.

5277 Trillium Blvd.

Hoffman Estates, IL 60192


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