Innovation & Radical Thinking Simplify Gear Machining | Automation.com

Innovation & Radical Thinking Simplify Gear Machining

April 022012
Innovation & Radical Thinking Simplify Gear Machining
Collaboration between Sandvik Coromant, DMG / Mori Seiki, and Siemens PLM
 
April 2012
 
By Bill Lydon, Editor
 
In a meeting with Automation.com at the annual ARC Forum, Gregory A. Hyatt PhD., Vice President & Chief Technical Officer of DMG / Mori Seiki USA and Matthias Leinberger, Director Business Development of Siemens Product Lifecycle Management Software illustrated how software and automation are making machining of gears significantly more efficient.   Sandvik Coromant, DMG / Mori Seiki USA, and Siemens PLC collaborated to replace multiple machines and cutting tools with intelligent design of a new method to accomplish gear hobbing using one machine and one cutting tool. This eliminates multiple machines, multiple setups and multiple cutting tools. Sandvik Coromant is a leader in cutting tools, DMG / Mori Seiki is a leader in machine tools, and Siemens PLM is a leader in CNC controls, programming and simulation. The three partners brought their strengths together to create this disruptive approach to significantly improve gear hobbing.
 
Hyatt described how his job is to apply technology to improve machining efficiency in an extremely mature industry. The gear machining industry is very conservative and steeped in tradition. Historically, the industry only tolerates very gradual change and annual productivity improvement is in the low single digits, typically less than 3% per year. Sandvik Coromant initially came up with the idea and fundamental method for a dramatically different way to cut gears using a single machine tool. They realized they needed partners to commercialize it. Each partner in this new approach has a unique role - Sandvik Coromant provides the cutting tool, DMG / Mori Seiki supplies machine tools, and Siemens PLM provides the CAM system - to deliver the solution that customers can put to use in manufacturing.
 
Hyatt explained that gear design stabilized early in the industrial revolution and has changed little over the decades. The process uses sequential operations with many special purpose machines and cutting tools, sometimes taking 8-12 weeks to complete a gear. He pointed out the majority of gear production is for low volume batches of 5-15 gears. The multiple setup and machines required are a significant part of the cost and time to produce these gears.   The specialized machines for making gears have very low utilization resulting in low return on investment. This new approach reduces this process to one or two operations, both on the same machine. 
 
All three collaborators had independently recognized the value of improving gear production and each independently made efforts to do so, with limited success. All three had been constrained by the hobbing process, in which the “intelligence” is ground into the cutting tool, providing little opportunity to leverage the capability of machines and software to provide compelling differentiation.   The design of using sophisticated cutting tools and simple machines was appropriate in the past. The key change in perspective now is rather than using complex cutting tools, leverage newer software and machine tool capabilities to do gear hobbing more efficiently. The benefits of this new approach include:
 
  • Significantly Lower Setup Time
  • Single Machine vs. Multiple Machines
  • Higher Machine Utilization
  • Reduced Tooling Costs (Eliminate Special Tooling)
  • Lower Customer Order to Delivered Part Time
 
Hyatt discussed the next phase under development is to heat treat the part on the machine to further eliminate labor and speed up production. This will allow heat treating and surface hardening to be done on the machine. Their R&D efforts are focused on applying heat treating precisely where required, which has promise to reduce energy consumption and reduce carbon footprint by 60-80% over conventional heat treating.
 
Hyatt noted that Dr. Mori has charged him to find customer’s areas of pain where there has been insignificant productivity improvement for years and then create solutions.
 
These companies are keeping their minds open to innovation by looking beyond traditional methods. Regarding customer acceptance, Hyatt stated, “There are early adopters and many other customers that say let me know when three of my direct competitors have had this in production for at least three years.” “OK, that is a business plan. We used to hear that a lot in Detroit.”
 
Thoughts & Observations
 
This is a really great idea that is a non-obvious collaboration of suppliers using technology and sound engineering practices in an effort to break out of the box and improve manufacturing.
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