If you watched futuristic movies or read science fiction growing up, then you certainly remember being teased with marvelous fantasies filled with cars that drove themselves and houses containing electronics that were all voice activated. Well, it seems that with the technological advancements of the “Internet of Things” (IoT), these prophecies are all coming to fruition.
I recently read an article that proposed major steps to further the advancements of these technologies could come via safety improvements. Citing the I-35 bridge tragedy of a few years ago, the article postured that with the technology of sensor infused cement, or, smart cement, the bridge would have alerted officials to weaknesses in the structure prior to failure thus averting tragedy and saving lives.
This smart cement would not only allow us to better monitor structural issues, but also temporary changes in road conditions as well. The article also suggested that the smart cement would have the ability to communicate with vehicles via wireless, cloud based technology. This could lend itself to possibilities ranging from adjusted speeds during treacherous weather conditions, to increased traffic flow by regulating signals. All coming via wireless communication between machines, objects, and us.
In the plastic injection mold industry we are already seeing advancements in monitoring via sensors in the molds. Progressive Components’ CVe Monitor, allows the user to track data via a USB cable that connects to a cycle counter sized device mounted to the mold. This circumvents the need for rigorous data entry of mold maintenance scheduling, and allows for tracking in a more real-time format. This is a fantastic advancement that has been widely accepted in an industry that is not typically ecstatic about change.
But what about the actual process of building the molds? Well, let’s look at the machining phase of building a mold. With the advancements in CNC tool-path programming software and multi-axis, high-speed machining, it has become possible to achieve near faultless, finished mold surfaces with major decreases in EDM and hand polishing hours. However, the one thing that remains a crucial deficiency of these finishes is chatter. While the best programmers and technicians can learn from past experiences and adjust jobs based on theoretical speculation, the ability to catch chatter as it is happening is extremely difficult if not impossible. But now, with advances in sensor technology, wireless communications, and software, tool chatter may become an issue no more.
The idea is that, sensors contained throughout the machining center, spindle, and even the workpiece, will communicate in unison to sense and detect unwanted vibrations. Once detected, the software would work to adjust factors such as; tool angle, feed rate, and speed to minimize or eliminate the vibrations. This could very well catch an issue in a tool-path and save a critical surface variation from occurring thus minimizing or eliminating work after machining.
This type of real-time compensation could have vast applications in the manufacturing world. The ability of machines to automatically adjust their performance to create better finished parts is a remarkable breakthrough that echoes to sci-fi philosophies surrounding artificial intelligence. The next evolution of this would ideally be a machining center equipped with sensors and automatic compensation that could adjust every aspect of the program to maximize efficiency and eliminate defect.
These ideas have been around for a long time however. When you consider modern automobile safety and control management systems which are essentially micro IoT’s themselves, you can see how sensors working together can be beneficial. Once similar technologies are integrated into the manufacturing world and opened for communication via the cloud, industry will be involved in a new revolution.
Title: Design of a Custom Software Application to Monitor and Communicate CNC Machining Process Information to Aid in Chatter Identification
Author: Valerie Pezzullo, Clemson University
Title: Real-Time Compensation of Chatter Vibration in Machine Tools
Author(s): Dong-Hoon Kim & Jun-Yeob Song, Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials, South Korea; Suk-Keun Cha & Han-kyu Kim, ACS Co., Ltd., SMIC Co., Ltc., South Korea
Title: The Internet of Things is Far Bigger Than Anyone Realizes
Author: Daniel Burrus, Burrus Research via Wired
Title: What the Music Business Could Learn From the Internet of Things
Author: George Howard, Forbes Contributor