Time to benefit from efficiency

11.02.2020 - 10:44

Sustainability in machine tool manufacturing and the metalworking industry/AMB exhibitors on reducing their machines' carbon footprints

Given the increasing awareness of sustainability and rising demands with respect to climate protection, mechanical engineering and metalworking companies are increasingly paving the way towards efficiency and sustainability, while examining where there is further potential for optimisation. Many exhibitors at AMB 2020 are also dealing with the issue of where further major steps can be made to ensure that economic activity is sustainable. This is particularly the case since an increasing proportion of visitors to this year's AMB in September – who are therefore also users and customers – also take an interest in this topic.

Ensuring that products have long service lives

When it comes to conserving resources, clamping device manufacturer Hainbuch primarily focuses on durability. "Many products on the market are immediately thrown away once they have become worn," says Stefan Nitsche, Head of Product Management at Hainbuch. He adds that it is therefore the company's priority that its products have a very long service life which extends beyond the natural wear and tear of individual components. For this reason, Hainbuch offers its customers regular maintenance and inspection services. For instance, this may involve re-vulcanising clamping elements which are in contact with workpieces, levelling any uneven surfaces and recoating any worn areas. The maintenance costs amount to a fraction of the price of purchasing a new product – meaning that it is a win-win situation both for the environment and industry.

However, Nitsche believes that the users themselves can also contribute to the durability of their clamping devices by taking preventive maintenance measures. "In an ideal situation, the machines should be stopped briefly once a day to remove chips and dirt. The issue is that many customers can't afford to do this because they have large quantities of products to manufacture," he adds.

Modular system brings together efficiency and sustainability

An important reason why visitors attend AMB is to make their own company or department economically viable for the future by acquiring the optimum technology from the right manufacturer. Nitsche confirms that, for many users, the profitability of their company remains the top priority, explaining that, from his experience, this is mainly due to the continually increasing competitive pressure. He adds that it is therefore the task of the tool industry to reconcile sustainability and efficiency on the behalf of customers. To do this, Hainbuch provides users with a modular system which can be used to adjust machine tools to different manufacturing orders without any additional effort. This means that the entire clamping device no longer has to be replaced for different workpiece geometries – users only need to insert the relevant adaptor into the clamping device. Nitsche says that this makes a big difference for subcontractors in particular. For this kind of work, manufacturing companies often change their clamping devices several times a day in order to machine different components. When changing entire clamping devices, this changeover procedure takes between 20 and 30 minutes, whereas the modular system only needs between one and two minutes. "Our quick-change interfaces mean that our customers can retool quickly enough to enable entire machines to be saved thanks to the set-up time saved," explains Nitsche. He adds that this makes the tools all the more sustainable.

Avoiding "part tourism"

One important aspect of sustainability is the process of continually reviewing your in-house products and manufacturing processes. An important lever, particularly in the field of mechanical engineering, is also enabling users of machines and systems to manufacture in a more efficient and environmentally friendly manner. Visitors to the AMB can not only greatly benefit from the accompanying programme but also directly ask exhibitors questions in one-on-one conversations at the stands. "Our customers are already trying to manufacture components while conserving as many resources as possible. As a manufacturer of machine tools, we are able to help them by using technology to concentrate as many different machining steps as possible in a single machine," says Olaf Furtmeier, CEO at BURKHARDT+WEBER. He continues that it is still not uncommon, for example, for a component with nine clamping processes to be produced using four different machines (turning, cubic machining, gearing and grinding). "If these steps took place in three clamping processes and only using a single machine, the entire process would be more efficient. And it would also mean that we could prevent 'part tourism'," he underlines.

Moreover, if a component were machined in a single clamping process, delivery times would also be shorter and the level of risk would be lower. "The environmental footprint is reduced by saving resources, energy, time and space. In order to achieve this, the challenge we face as a machine manufacturer is that we have to deal with machining methods that we are not yet familiar with, such as grinding or gearing," says Furtmeier, when explaining the efforts required. He continues that this is especially the case since other options have largely been exhausted. "In order to optimally set our machines up with respect to energy efficiency, we have long used the relevant efficient drive and control packages from our supplier Siemens in our machine tools. We can't do much more in this area," Furtmeier adds.

Flexibility versus specialisation

One aspect of sustainability that is considered by manufacturers of machine tools, and which AMB visitors can see first-hand, is specialisation. "We build machinery for heavy-duty machining. Our customers need to machine very large components very precisely over a long period of time," says Furtmeier. "It's not unusual for machines that we built 25 years ago to still be working with the same level of accuracy today. This is because our engineers design machinery for heavy-duty machining without making any compromises," explains Furtmeier. Other manufacturers would rather take a high-flexibility approach, in other words to produce machines which are very versatile in use, from light metalworking at high spindle speeds and high accelerations to heavy components. "We're not trying to do both but are instead focussing on heavy-duty machining and we design the crucial variables, such as mechanical sizing, with this in mind. This is what makes our machines so durable – which I believe is an important aspect of sustainability," underlines Furtmeier.

"We also see that the tool or machining technology is often far more advanced than the machine on which it is used," he continues. Furtmeier adds that, in many cases, this means that modern tools' performance options cannot be accessed at all. "For us, it's the other way around – we push the tools to their limit. Let's take the example of titanium machining for aeroplane components – we could increase performance in this area by up to 30%. A supposedly more expensive machine pays for itself and is good for the environment because it can be used for longer, has a higher power density and its accuracy is guaranteed for many years," Furtmeier says. He adds that sustainability has a lot to do with getting the maximum out of the entire process, which saves resources such as machinery, working time, space, energy and raw materials.

Less waste, more recycling

However, the process of saving raw materials when machining workpieces is considered to be state of the art. According to Gerhard Knienieder, Managing Director at the tool manufacturer Emuge based in Franconia in Bavaria, the "near net shape" trend has emerged in recent years in the machining process. This means that before being machined, the workpieces are adapted to the shape of the finished component to reduce the machining allowance by as much as is possible. The closer the unfinished part is to the finished component, the quicker the job will be completed and there is the additional benefit that less chipping waste will be generated during manufacturing. As a result, there will be less roughing during milling, while finish machining will become more important, for example.

The process of recycling waste has been integrated into the metalworking industry for a long time. Metal chips and other production waste are collected by the manufacturing companies themselves or by specialised recycling companies and fed back into raw metal extraction. According to Knienieder, this primarily concerns precious metals containing cobalt and tungsten, as they are also used by Emuge in tool manufacturing in an important and commonly used process.

Conserving resources with minimum quantity lubrication

Another sustainability trend in the metalworking industry, which lots of AMB visitors are finding out about, is opting more frequently for minimum quantity lubrication rather than using large quantities of coolants and other lubricants. "In this case, just a touch of oil is required for machining, which, it goes without saying, saves a considerable amount of resources," Knienieder explains. He adds that this technique is already being used, primarily in mass production in the automotive industry, and it is now the task of tool manufacturers to prepare an increasing number of tools for this type of use. Knienieder believes that manufacturing has the greatest potential for saving energy. "We need to ensure that less energy is consumed in production, not only to avoid emitting CO2 but also out of self-interest with respect to saving costs," he says. He states that digitalisation can help with developing processes that consume as little energy as possible. Nevertheless, he believes that, in the long term, it is essential for companies to review their entire production and supply chains with respect to sustainability. For example, his company will in future also have to approach suppliers to find out about the carbon balance for the crude steel it has purchased. "In a few years, we will need to be able to prove the carbon footprint for each of our products.
This means that it is important for energy consumption to be not only documented but also mapped. Needless to say, this is also crucial for ensuring that we continue to reduce emissions in the long term."

High levels of good parts save resources

Given that many options have been exhausted, it is not only because of its greater transparency that many observers view digitalisation of the production process as a major opportunity. It is worth keeping an eye out for innovations when visiting the AMB. "It is only recently that we have set ourselves up with our ESPRIT CAM system for CNC machines. A key aspect behind this decision was the topic of sustainability," says Kai Lehmann, Sales and Channel Manager at DP Technology. He continues that, given the increasing shortage of skilled workers, any software for programming a machine tool must first and foremost be easy to operate. He states that the aim must be for it to be quick and easy to achieve the finished product on the machine. "We have integrated a lot of knowledge into the software to make preparing the machining operating sustainable with respect to programming. It is crucial that we have been able to achieve a high degree of reproducibility," says Lehmann. He adds that if more machined parts are good parts, because the reproducibility of processes has improved, this has indirect effects on conserving resources.

Flexibility also plays a considerable role. "By using elements of artificial intelligence, we have made progress in terms of operational load. If fewer machines are idle and it doesn't take a long time to adjust to an order, this is also better for the environment," says Lehmann. This has been achieved because the software will be quicker to respond to changing situations in the future. For example, a machining job which was originally designed for a Siemens control system can quickly be produced on a Heidenhain system. Equally, a machining task that was scheduled for a milling machine only requires a few steps to be processed on a turning/milling machine.

Automated tool paths
It is difficult to estimate the impact that solving many challenges in the metalworking industry will have on sustainability. What is clear is that protecting tools and using tool paths which are time- and energy-efficient have an impact on the overall balance and this should be taken seriously. "Let's take optimising the tool recess.
The software now proposes methods which are calculated in such a complicated way that this can no longer be done by people manually programming the control system. For example, among other things, this prevents the tool from being struck or experiencing voltage peaks, and therefore chips are formed evenly at a high machining speed," says Lehmann.

In addition to improving aspects related to job preparation and individual machines, Lehmann's experience has shown that there is some potential for optimisation when considering all the machinery and its operation. "When we speak to users, we can see that everyone is at different technological levels. While quite a few have improvements in mind, many aren't able to keep pace with the rapidly changing technology and are keeping an eye on all options," he says. Observations on improving the efficiency of entire systems are a good example. Lehmann says that even in the case of brief analyses of machine models, loads, shift operations, set-up times and maintenance times, approaches have been adopted to reduce downtime. "In this case, anything which helps the ROI is also sustainable," he concludes.

It is clear that, given the challenges posed by climate change, efforts need to be stepped up. From the perspective of a CAD/CAM provider, Lehmann believes that the path is already set out. To leverage the potential with respect to sustainability in the future, the relationship between the software supplier and user must fundamentally change. "Many small companies are no longer keeping pace with the technological advances. At the same time, we need to engage in increasingly customised and deeper analysis and optimisation for companies. In the future, I see us more as a technology partner than as a supplier. This means that aspects of sustainability can be processed even more effectively once more," he predicts, naming a trend which crosses the industry.
The "Digital Way" at AMB 2020 will also present the ways in which digitalisation can be implemented in production and which solutions there are.

Supplementary texts

The first important step towards becoming climate-neutral

In December last year, it was announced that the European Council supports the European Commission's Green New Deal and calls for a concrete plan of action to become climate-neutral by 2050. In response, Matthias Zelinger, spokesperson for climate and energy policy at the Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) said, "today's Council decision shows that the EU takes its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement seriously. The consensus of the 28 Member States is an important first step towards climate neutrality. However, political commitment alone is not enough. The transition to a climate-neutral economy will be a challenge for all sectors of society, including industry. The VDMA has long been calling for a framework that provides the right market incentives for conversion to alternative, climate-friendly technologies. It is encouraging that the EU Council not only reaffirms the objectives, but also calls for a framework to facilitate the transition for businesses."

Solutions which are good for machines and the environment

Manufacturers of lubricants and coolants are also researching and developing their products while taking the issue of sustainability into account. For example, this includes AMB exhibitor Oelheld GmbH, which optimises its products for "Man, Nature & Machine". In addition to working on functionality and compatibility with machine components, the company takes care to ensure that it uses sustainable raw materials and focuses on developing environmentally friendly products which do not waste resources. The business works to make sure that, in accordance with regulations, these products contain neither heavy metals nor aromatic hydrocarbons, while being odourless and skin-friendly. Oelheld has committed to using resources sustainably in its mission statement and opts for energy-efficient plant technology and production plants at its in-house production facilities. Newer buildings, such as its in-house technology centre and a company premises in the USA, have been designed to be particularly energy-efficient. Oelheld states that these are equipped with modern air-conditioning, ventilation and lighting technology.

About AMB

Around 90,000 international trade visitors and 1500 exhibitors are expected at the 20th AMB, which will be held at the Stuttgart Trade Fair Centre from 15 to 19 September 2020.
On an exhibition area of more than 120,000 square metres (gross), the focal points will then be innovations and further developments for metal-cutting machine tools, metal-removing process machine tools, precision tools, measuring systems and quality assurance, robots, workpiece and tool handling technology, industrial software & engineering, components, assemblies and accessories. AMB 2020 will be backed by the promotional supporters, i.e. the VDMA Precision Tools Association, the VDMA Software and Digitalisation Association, and the German Machine Tool Builders' Association (VDW).

For further information, please visit: www.messe-stuttgart.de/amb/en/

The text file, photos from the last AMB and exhibition logos can be downloaded online at www.amb-messe.de/presse

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Photo captions

With the Hainbuch modular system, it only takes two minutes to change clamping devices. With regard to sustainability, this means that set-up time and therefore entire machines can be saved. (Image source: Hainbuch)

AMB20_PM04_Zeit-Effizienz-Fruechte-zu-ernten_FRANKEN-Application-with-Cut-and-Form: With their patented cutting geometry, Franken Cut&Form milling cutters produce polished surfaces with roughness grade numbers from N1 to N3 when performing finishing machining. (Image source: EMUGE-FRANKEN)

AMB20_PM04_Zeit-Effizienz-Fruechte-zu-ernten_EMUGE-PunchTap_Anwendung: Emuge Punch Tap thread technology conserves resources in mass production. It can achieve time savings of up to 75% and is designed for minimum quantity lubrication. (Image source: EMUGE-FRANKEN)

AMB20_PM04_Zeit-Effizienz-Fruechte-zu-ernten_FRANKEN-Circle-Segment-Taper: With its large radii in the cutting area, the Franken circle segment milling cutters offer significant advantages with regard to surface quality and machining time. (Image source: EMUGE-FRANKEN)

AMB20_PM04_Zeit-Effizienz-Fruechte-zu-ernten_AMB-Aussteller-praesentieren-nachhaltige-Loesungen: At AMB 2020, exhibitors and visitors will also discuss how to conserve resources and how to make products sustainable. (Image source: Messe Stuttgart)

AMB20_PM04_Zeit-Effizienz-Fruechte-zu-ernten_AMB-Richtungsweisend: AMB as a pioneer: At AMB 2020, international exhibitors will present their solutions, whether for digitalisation in production, conserving resources or sustainability. (Image source: Messe Stuttgart)

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