The concept of a Smart Factory, although recent, is a system that was envisioned earlier – largely as science fiction. Much of this was due to the fact that there was no internet, no wireless technology, no data analytics system, not a great deal of computing power, as also not enough capability of data exchange. In the Indian context, and especially true of manufacturing organisations, scientific practices have always been a derivative or function of specific work that these organisations are involved with. Adoption of such methods have recently started gaining traction on the ground level.
Many Indian organisations rely on paper data which are prone to errors as well as are vulnerable to physical damage due to handling. In order to completely shift to a digital manufacturing system or a Smart system, each process within the envelope needs to be compliant with digital standards.
Digitisation not only means converting paper documents into e-form, but also upgrading equipment and machinery to provide sensible output to digital systems. Adopting a digital system for manufacturing will help in streamlining disparate processes through a common planning and unifying tool. It will also help in measuring process parameters and process efficiency in realtime thereby making it possible to take corrective or preventive action.
Digitisation will also help all stakeholders in the manufacturing process to come together on the same page, owing to agreed standards, limits and platforms. Management Information that would otherwise be generated periodically, and by involving a lot of time share between various departments, can be optimized using the digital system where input data can be analysed by intelligent algorithms considering current as well as historical data.
Projections and estimation, as a result of a Knowledge based digital manufacturing system can help Finance, Purchase and Stores to work on the Just-in-Time concept more effectively. We should also note that the Indian manufacturing sector is growing rapidly. This factor has therefore pushed the adoption of digital technology and digitization in the manufacturing sector. Our small and medium industries that form the backbone of our manufacturing sector are now looking at innovative methods and means to be more efficient in their processes. The curriculum across our technical education system is also moving at the right pace, and now includes modern methods of manufacturing – of which, topics like Industry 4.0, IoT, Smart Factories etc.
Therefore the preparedness of the industry is not only top down, but all encompassing. A lot of Industry consortia, clusters and associations are also running concurrent programmes and workshops to upgrade knowledge and systems of manufacturing organisations in the country. This further assists the overall shift towards digitization with a collated effort from all stakeholders of the industry.
Mastercam and our preparedness for Smart Factories
Mastercam is by far the most popular CAD/CAM software in the world. We were one of the first few companies who opened up our API (Application Programming Interface) to developers many years back to contribute towards the shift to digital manufacturing. Our products provide paperless manufacturing across various machining operations and also help with extensive customization and automation. We are able to read-in and write-out various formats that help in effective and seamless processing of mechanical CAD/CAM data.
Using our APIs developers can automate the input of information directly from their enterprise planning systems and write back to them, thereby completing the process loop. Collaborating with Industry mechanical CAD software providers, Mastercam offers direct plugin into GUI of leading CAD providers. This reduces the efforts of data translation between systems and also reduces human effort by virtue of automatic recognition of certain CAD parameters and applying relevant CAM strategies to generate NC programs. Our robust Post-processing system also ensures that Machine tools with different controllers are supported organically, without the need to employ middleware.
We are also working with leading Robot manufacturers to further simplify and optimise robotic automation for various machining and non-machining operations. CAD/ CAM products are one of the primary enablers of Smart Factories. An example of this is that from a pre-dominantly 2.5D manufacturing, we now see CAM addressing extremely complex
profiles as well as multi-axis manufacturing. Many methods of manufacturing like Turning, Milling, Grinding, WireEDM, Swiss Turning, Laser cutting, Tape laying, Punching are now programmed by CAM software.
Unlike CAD, CAM needs a lot of information beforehand to creating an NC program – which is the final product that is fed into the machine tool. Often, this pre-requisite data might not be available with novice users for a variety of reasons, and hence delays were a commonly reported issue.
Knowledge-based machining was a big boon to the CAM industry which overcame this barrier. Knowledge-based machining or KBM as it is often abbreviated allows for standards to be pre-fed inside a database which is applied to a select operation. Standard data stored by KBM includes data pertaining to – Cutting tools, Material, Machine data, PostProcessor data, Macros and sub-routines and strategies that are automatically applied to the intended operation. This helps in optimizing the toolpath even before it is run on the machine.
You can imagine the amount of time-savings and accuracies this process brings. KBM is vastly acknowledged for added benefits to the 2.5D manufacturing process. However, when it comes to 3 Axis and beyond there exists a requirement of a little more than just KBM. CAD/CAM is driven by innovations. In the current age, everything is evolving rapidly, we see increased computing capabilities, Machine tools, Cutting tools, Materials all are being innovated each day. Each of these are big time contributors to enabling digitisation across the manufacturing industry.
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