CNC Shaping Metal Forming Advancements
May 2, 2023 1:42 pm
During industry talks organised by OEM Update this month, CNC experts discussed the latest advancements in digital manufacturing practices for sheet metal forming. They also delved into trends in automation and Industry 4.0, as well as the competitive challenges traditional manufacturing processes face. Additionally, they addressed the need for a skilled workforce to operate such machines and manage quality.
Computer numerical control (CNC) technology is revolutionising the manufacturing industry with its ability to precisely cut, shape, and form metal parts and components. Sheet metal fabrication is one of the most popular subtractive processing methods for cutting sheet metal into parts. The demand for CNC metal-cutting machines is rising, especially in the automotive, aerospace, defence, medical devices, consumer products, and electronics industries.
The latest advancements in metal forming technologies have further increased manufacturing efficiency. The growth of automation and Industry 4.0 trends has also fueled the demand for CNC machines, as they offer higher automation and connectivity options that can be integrated into the manufacturing process. As a result, emerging economies are adopting CNC metal-cutting machines, presenting numerous opportunities for growth in this sector.
Verifying setups during manufacturing
According to Mr. Daniel Raravi, Director of Marketing & Strategic Initiatives at Mastercam India, safety is a major concern for those working in the metal cutting industry. Unverified setups often lead to accidents involving CNC machines. To avoid such accidents, it is important to model and verify the setup of the part, fixtures, and any additional parts or families of parts using the CAM system. CAM software provides built-in features for this purpose, and proper training is crucial to ensure that best practices are followed before the output is sent to the CNC machines. Additionally, verifying the ISO codes of the CNC output and creating a post-processor that has been tested and proven is vital to prevent accidents and damages.
Mr. Preteesh Singh, Director of NRI Consulting, stated that there is a gradual shift towards using Servo Press instead of Mechanical Press, despite the latter being faster but more difficult to control. The preference for speed is driving this shift.
In the view of Mr. Daniel, designing is a complex field, especially for forming processes. Numerous techniques are available, such as ballooning, which is faster than hydraulic and pneumatic methods. These alternative technologies can be assessed based on the number of shots/components needed and the park’s sustainability. By exploring these options, production cycles can be accelerated.
3D printing will replace the metal forming technology
Mr. Daniel said three-axis CAM software was introduced a few decades ago, and there was speculation on whether the five-axis would become the norm. However, the answer was no; the same is true for 3D printing. Several parameters, such as surface finish, are still being researched in additive manufacturing, whether with metals, polymers, powder beds, or SLS. Many techniques are being experimented with to ensure that the majority of parts that make sense to be 3D printed, can indeed be printed. However, not all components need to be 3D printed as some may cost more than existing ones due to the established processes. In the future, a combination of forming, subtractive machining, and additive manufacturing will likely be used to sustain production.
Mr. Preetesh added that CNC machining is more accurate than 3D printing, but it can come at a higher cost. In critical turnaround times, 3D printing may be preferred as parts can be delivered within 24 hours. However, CNC machining will be partially replaced, especially in automotive and mass manufacturing, but it can assist in reducing lead times in the metal forming industry. Sectors like aerospace and healthcare, which require and are willing to implement complex designs, may shift faster to additive manufacturing. In the future, 3D printing will become inevitable, especially for producing high-precision parts in a short amount of time.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
Mr. Daniel mentioned that the integration of AI and ML practices into CAM has led to significant benefits in improving the reliability of knowledge-based machining. The CAM software operates independently of the CAD software, and new technologies, such as incorporating manufacturing information into the CAD software, have emerged. However, the CAM software often struggles to understand solid or surface models, leaving it unable to determine the presence of a hole and the tolerance applied to it. This is particularly problematic for complex engineering specifications, such as M 12 tapped holes, countersunk, or counterbore holes. Model-Based Definition (MBD) aims to solve this issue by enabling CAM software to interpret part sizes and incorporate MBD information to plan scheduling, tool selection, material usage, speed and feed parameters, sequencing strategies, and other considerations. AI and ML practices can help software suggest optimal options for programmers to determine their suitability for the project. These changes have occurred rapidly and dramatically.
Factors driving the growth for the CNC market
MrPreteesh is expecting significant growth in the CNC machine sector, thanks to the automotive industry, a major contributor. The automotive industry is predicted to grow faster than in the recent past, which will drive growth in the component industry. These components, which utilise CNC machines, will be commonly used across various powertrain technologies, leading to an even faster expansion in these operations.
Implementing Industry 4.0 will create a need for greater efficiency, increasing the utilisation of these operations. When any industry goes through a massive transformation or disruption, sometimes different techniques and older technologies get phased out. But in this case, this technology has a very positive growth rate because even if it shifts from one powertrain to another from electric ethanol, methanol, flex fuel, hydrogen, or anything, this technology will be used. This makes it a well-positioned technology for growth in the future.
Mr. Daniel added that the automotive industry is a major driving force for the growth of machine tools and is also expanding into supply chain management practices. The industry places great importance on competitiveness and encourages innovation, even in the aerospace sector. However, innovation can be costly, and strategies must be developed to create new products with limited resources. Despite this challenge, the automotive industry has sustained growth for over 140 years and will continue to drive the use of CNC machines. As the working population declines, the population of CNC machines is increasing. These machines are useful in automating tasks that traditional systems cannot handle. This shift towards CNC machines is expected to be a major growth driver. The goal is to achieve double-digit growth, and currently, the manufacturing sector contributes around 15.5% towards GDP, while the automotive industry contributes 25%.
Features of CNC machines to improve overall efficiency
The manufacturing industry uses advanced information technology, such as smarter controllers, to transfer information from CAD to CAM to CNC controls seamlessly. However, gaps still need to be filled in the communication of information from designers to the manufacturing floor. Information technology solves these gaps, as there is a shift towards paperless communication systems and reduced reliance on printed drawings and process sheets. CAD models will carry most of the information needed for manufacturing, which will be reflected on machine tool control screens. The growth of CAD, CAM, and CNC technology is interdependent and will continue to change the industry.
Quality parameters to improve productivity
Mr. C. S. Sharma, Joint Director, Quality Council of India, stated that there had been a significant shift in the approach taken by both government and private sectors, representing a paradigm shift in policies and technological interventions at the ground level. Quality management systems have been in place for a long time. Still, with the integration of Industry 4.0, there is a focus on Quality 4.0, where the entire thought process is rooted in digitisation. By utilising software applications that provide real-time data, analysis, risk management, and risk assessment, decision-making can be more accurate, and the cycle time for maintaining quality assurance and control systems can be reduced. The Quality Council of India is also exploring using chat GPT and AI tools to improve the quality of their day-to-day practices. The scope is wide, with many recent technologies providing an edge to quality practices, leading to high-quality products, services, and sustainable revenue growth.
Upskilling of the workforce for CNC machine
Quality involves six factors: man, machine, material, method, measurement, and mother environment. The Quality Control of India is responsible for ensuring quality in terms of professional competencies, particularly for CNC machines. The global system is shifting from a qualification-based system to a competency-based system, where the ability to demonstrate competence is more important than having a specific degree or diploma. The Quality Control of India is creating a system, which is also being developed by the Skill Ministry under the NSPR framework, to endorse an individual’s competence. This means that even if someone doesn’t have a formal degree or diploma, they can still be qualified to work on a CNC machine as long as they demonstrate competence. The current focus is on creating a system that endorses competence regardless of formal education.
Certification of competence is widely used in the US and Europe for various professions, such as crane operators and cybersecurity experts. It differs from a qualification-based system where certification has a limited lifetime and requires periodic updates and endorsement by a third party. In a qualification-based system, the same organisation that provides the training and education also assesses and evaluates the qualification. On the other hand, in a competence-based system, independent certification bodies that are not part of the education and training process evaluate and assess the competence of individuals. These are the primary differences between the two systems.
India has recently adopted the competence-based system for various sectors, graded on a scale of one to ten in the NSQF Quality Assurance Framework. This means that an individual who has received recognition of prior learning (RPL) can be formally endorsed by the Government of India for a particular job, even if they do not hold a formal degree or diploma. The government has approved this system, which is also valid for government jobs. The new education policy also supports this system, increasing the credibility of professionals with competence certification. The certification is also acceptable in the private sector and even overseas, especially if it is done through the globally recognised standard, ISO 17024.
Mr. Preteesh Singh added that CNC technology is a new and prominent player in the manufacturing industry, driving high levels of efficiency and improvement. The workforce skilled in operating these machines will also play a crucial role in the industry’s growth. Government organisations and industry experts are actively contributing towards its development. The industry is moving towards more advanced manufacturing techniques.
Mr. Daniel Raravi, Director – Marketing & Strategic Initiatives, Mastercam
“Training is crucial to ensure that best practices are followed before output is sent to the CNC machines.”
Mr. Preetesh Singh, Specialist CASE and alternate, Powertrains at NRI Consulting and Solutions India Pvt. Ltd
“CNC machining will not be completely replaced, especially in automotive and mass manufacturing, but it can assist in reducing lead times in the metal forming industry.”
Mr. C. S. Sharma, Joint Director & Head- PMU (UAS), Quality Council of India.
“Quality management systems have been in place for a long time, but with the integration of Industry 4.0, there is now a focus on Quality 4.0.”
Mr. Ravichandran Duraisamy, Senior Product Manager, Messer Cutting Systems India Private Limited.
“There are newer trends that will dominate the market in the coming years. This is mainly due to the adaptation to the new digital life.”